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  • sueaitken7


I recently spent a week in this lesser-known region – located in the heel of Italy’s boot. It’s far less developed than other parts of the country, but that’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of hotels and villas to choose from. We decided to stay in a villa, a converted trullo house (typical of the region) in the Valle d’Istria, half-way between the airports of Bari and Brindisi. And we opted to fly into Brindisi as it’s a smaller airport and we thought it would be less complicated to extricate ourselves from the city to get on our way. That proved to be a good call – it was an easy 45-minute drive to our villa, in a beautiful countryside setting amidst olive groves.

Our nearest town was Cisternino – a charming hillside town with a picturesque old quarter filled with shops and restaurants and little alleyways with colourful flowers cascading down from wrought iron balconies.

Our first trip was to Alberobello, famous for its hundreds of trulli houses – it’s one of the must-see sights in the area, and it didn’t disappoint. It was lovely to wander up and down the cobbled streets, and, although it was quite crowded with other visitors, it certainly wasn’t overrun as it must be in the peak summer months. It’s definitely worth spending a morning or afternoon here.

We ventured further afield the following day – to the gorgeous town of Matera. Although technically in the province of Basilicata, Matera was only a 1½ hour drive away from the villa. We were all keen to visit the town, as much of the opening scene of the latest Bond film was shot here and it’s a beautiful place to explore – with its historic buildings, narrow streets and ancient cave houses. Be prepared to climb steep streets though – and make sure you have the right footwear!

Our next expedition was to two towns close to the coast – Polignano a Mare and Monopoli which are within a few miles of each other. Polignano a Mare has a small beach and is very much a holiday town. Its claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of Domenico Modugno who co-wrote the song “Volare”. There’s a statue of him close to the sea.

Polignano is a charming little place, with narrow, flower-filled streets of white houses and plenty of little boutiques and restaurants.

Monopoli, a little further south, is a lovely historic town with quite an extensive old quarter with numerous churches and medieval buildings. Winding streets and alleyways bursting with shops and restaurants. And again, there were flowers and cacti everywhere – are you sensing a theme here? I have to say that the residents of all the towns we visited really pull out all the stops to look after their houses and outdoor spaces.

Our final visit was to the coastal town of Ostuni – nicknamed la Citta Bianca (the White City) because of the clusters of whitewashed houses that cling to the hillside. It’s a steep walk up to the top of the hill (no change there!) This is a lovely spot to while away a few hours – exploring the alleyways of the historic centre. It would be a great choice for a base for a few days.

I really liked Puglia. I’ve travelled extensively around Italy and this was my first visit here. The people are universally friendly and helpful, the towns we visited are really well preserved and looked after, and we ate well. Mind you, they absolutely love their meat in this part of the world and we found that menus were definitely skewed towards meat-eaters. I’d definitely come back here, and perhaps explore further south around Lecce. I'd certainly recommend this region if you're looking for somewhere authentically Italian that's not as busy with tourists as the Amalfi Coast or Tuscany.

Get in touch if you'd like to discuss a holiday to this lovely part of the world.

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