Rome, Florence and Milan may be Italy’s most visited cities, but nothing is more authentic than sun-drenched Puglia in the ‘heel of the boot.’ Discover the white houses of Ostuni, the waterfront restaurants of Gallipoli, and the trulli of Alberobello with our recipe for a perfect get-away weekend in the heart of Salento.
Puglia is surrounded by the gorgeous waters of the Ionian and Adriatic seas and offers delicious food, seriously good wines and sun almost all year round. It’s famous for the wide variety of homemade pasta such as orecchiette (‘small ears’), strascinati, or laganelle, which is very similar to fettucini and usually cooked with beans.
The Unesco World Heritage Site of Alberobello is well known for its trulli: white and grey cone-roofed structures dating from the fourteenth century onwards and still used nowadays as houses in the Itria Valley. Start from Piazza del Popolo and hike the winding paved streets of the city center to the Trullo Sovrano, or Sovereign Trullo, the biggest of all trulli, situated just behind the cathedral (Duomo). And speaking of churches, how about visiting the Parrocchia Sant’Antonio – an actual trullo church? Don’t miss the Trulli Belvedere, which offers a fantastic panoramic view over the pointy rooftops spreading uphill all around the city center.
If walking has made you hungry, stop for a delicious prosciutto sandwich at Antica Salumeria del Corso in Corso Vittorio Emmanuele 76. The place is famous for its traditional cold meats, cheeses and wine, with huge hams hanging from the ceiling. But the superstar in Alberobello is a local sandwich with salami, cheese, tuna, and capers called the Panino Pasqualino. The best Pasqualino is to be had at Franco Girolamo Alimentari, a tiny grocery shop in Aia Piccola. If wine tasting is on your to-do list, we have just the place for you! Cantina Albea winery and museum offers wine tasting and tours of the cellar and is well worth your time.
The White City of Ostuni is less than an hour away from Alberobello and is an absolute must-see on your way down to Southern Puglia. Perched on top of a hill facing the sea, this medieval town looks like it has was built by an amateur cubist without the slightest sense of structure. Ostuni is an authentic open air-museum stratified by centuries of history. The whitewashed houses are built on top of each other and separated by a formidable maze of paved alleys, stairways and arches. The best way to visit the old town is to get lost in it. You might end up in a dead end between two white walls and a bright blue or green door, or at a scenic viewpoint over the azure sea. That’s where I chose to take a nap in the sun four years ago.
Start your visit from Piazza Liberta, where you’ll find the tourism office, and follow the main street lined with souvenir shops up to Piazza Beato Giovanni Paolo II. Buy souvenirs, try on a pair of traditional leather sandals and buy some locally produced olive oil around the main street, but then try to venture into the back alleys to discover more hidden treasures.
Don’t miss two important events in August:
- The Cavalcata di Sant’Oronzo (Aug 24-27): a celebration of Ostuni’s patron saint with a parade on horseback.
- The Sagra dei Vecchi Tempi (Aug 15): a festival of flavors where you can try a myriad of local products.
Head down to Gallipoli’s limestone ancient and modern towns and take in the breathtaking sapphire sea with a glass of white wine on the waterfront. Gallipoli was built on an island, where the Old Town and the fish market are located, and is connected to the mainland by a bridge. Once again, the best way to discover the Old Town is to get lost in the maze of web-like alleys, which spread out all over the island. The Corte Gallo is one of those alleys and looks like an open-air museum where generations of fishermen, tradesmen and craftsmen have stored their tools.
Visit the fish market, the Museo Civico, the Greek Fountain (Fontana Ellenistica) and the Sant’Agata Cathedral with its baroque architecture. Follow the ancient walls and the bastions to the Angevin-Aragonese Castle overlooking the Ionian Sea.
Over the centuries, Gallipoli flourished through fishing and the pretty port remains to this day full of the traditional blue boats with colorful fishing nets. Have a taste of the fresh fish and seafood in any of the restaurants around the port, and try the sea urchins, which are a classic delicacy of Gallipoli. End your day with a stroll on the waterfront promenade at sunset, or a romantic walk on the Spiaggia della Purità.