We first travelled to Italy back in 2013 as part of what we thought would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip around the country. Little did we realise how much we would fall in love with the country and how often we would return. This year we decided to return, first to the Veneto region with which we are now very familiar, before continuing down the Adriatic coastline to a region we had yet to discover: Puglia.
Where is Puglia anyway?
Puglia lies at the south of Italy, the region taking up the entire area of Italy’s ‘heel’. It starts by the Gargano Peninsula which creates the spur of the Italy’s familiar boot shape. Travel southwards along the coast of the Adriatic Sea via Otranto, home to the most eastern point of Italy, continuing along the coast until the Adriatic mingles and merges with the Ionian and up and around the inner heel. We drove along and explored most of that coastline all the way around and yes, it’s as stunning in real life as you would imagine it would be.
Apuglia or Puglia?
You might have heard the area referred to as one name or another or both. So what is correct? Well, it’s either/or, really. Puglia is the Italian name for the region while Apuglia, originally derived from the Latin, is the English version for it. All you need to remember is that both names refer to the same place and both are correct, so use them both interchangeably if you so wish. It’s fine.
Where is Salento?
Right at the end of Puglia is the Salento region – the part that makes up the tip of the heel itself. It runs from Ostuni and reaches all the way around until it ends at Taranto. Salento is where the Adriatic and Ionian Seas meet, and where watchtowers dot the coastline where they would be in use throughout history to spot impending attacks from invaders crossing the seas. These attacks were numerous and each has left its mark in some way on this beautiful landscape.
A brief history of Puglia
There is evidence that Puglia was inhabited from as far back as prehistoric times thanks to the discovery of dinosaur footprints, and the remains of prehistoric creatures as well as a form of Neanderthal man known as the Man of Altamura.
Before becoming a colony of the Magna Grecia thanks to the Mycaenean Greeks, it had already been inhabited by the Dauni, Peucetians and Messapians. Puglia provided a vitally important route for the Romans thanks to its convenient location, enabling the productive trade of wheat and oil. The fall of the Roman Empire saw the area come a part of the Byzantine Empire, and the Greek influence and evidence can still be found throughout the region.
Puglia became part of the Kingdom of Naples in the late 1200s. Army upon army decided that the area was strategically placed to provide a convenient route to further potential invasion possibilities further inland. And so over the next few hundred years, Puglia would come under siege countless times from many invaders including the Spanish, the Normans, the Turks and the Venetians. Every one of them, it seems, has left their mark in some way.
What to do and see in Puglia
We spent approximately a month and a half in Puglia. That would be plenty of time to explore and discover all it had to offer, we thought.
We thought wrong.
The history, the architecture, the activities, the food, the people – there was so much to do, so much to see and so much to discover that we just ran out of time. Having said that, thanks to teaming up with local tour experts touranGo! we managed to participate in many activities and experiences, having so much fun, learning lots and making plenty of memories along the way.
We have so much to share about our time in Puglia, from dinner with the locals…
…lunch with an extremely talented artist and her family…
a spot of dolphin watching with a conservation team, witnessing the return of two injured and now recovered sea turtles…
…marvelling at an archaeological discovery in somebody’s home…
… helping out on an olive farm…
…watching papier mache artists at work, another appearance on Italian television, cave explorations and so much more! The problem is, I don’t think we even began to scratch the surface but you know what that means, don’t you?
We’ll just have to return.
This post featured on Monday Escapes.