Apulia (Puglia)

The heel of Italy's boot is a fairy-tale land of pointy trulli houses, octagonal castles, whitewashed fishing towns, and baroque cities

The heel of Italy's boot, peninsular Puglia (pool-yah) is the land of sunflowers and Santa Claus, olive oil and orecchiette pasta, Romanesque churches and whitewashed villages.

It's a cultural mélange unequaled in Italy, forming one of the country's most underrated, underexplored, and undiscovered regions.

Nowhere else in Italy is there a more precise balance of east and west, Greek and Roman, Byzantine and Lombard, Arab and Norman. Apulia wears its heritage on its sleeve—or rather in its streets, an intricate urban fabric woven from diverse architectural forms.

But don't expect to see the usual Italian versions of Gothic, Romanesque, or baroque. There must be something in the pristine waters and clear air of Le Puglie that inspires flights of fancy and bursts of genius in any craftsman, artist, or architect.

French, Spanish, and Italian, prehistoric, baroque, and postmodern—Apulia has taken in all influences and channeled them into some of Italy's most incredible syncretic styles.

These range from the prehistoric statue-steles of Manfredonia to Frederick II's weird octagonal Norman Castel del Monte near Bari, from the the whitewashed blind alleys of Saracenic street plans to the idiosyncratic baroque style of Lecce, and from towering Romanesque-Gothic cathedrals in the northern provinces to the curious, pointy trulli houses of Alberobello and the Itria Valley.

The craft industry thrives here, from the papier-mâché statuettes of Lecce fashion to the painted ceramics of Grottaglie.

Apulia is one of Italy's lushest breadbaskets, producing 54% of its olive oil, 19% of its grain, and an incredible 80% of Europe's pasta.

You'll discover dozens of hand-rolled pasta shapes, loaves of bread almost two feet across in Monte Sant'Angelo, delicious mussels in Taranto, and some incredibly full, earthy, but little-known red wines like Salice Salentino, Primitivo, and Locorotondo.

With 784km (470 miles) of grotto- and beach-studded coastline, whitewashed cities, incredible seafood, archaeological museums, glittering caverns, and medieval castles, Apulia is a unique landscape just waiting for the outside world to discover it.

Places in Apulia

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