Head Over Heel! My Love Affair with Puglia

My love affair with Italy began over 25 years ago but when I went to Puglia, I knew I had found somewhere truly special. Since making it my second home five years ago, I’ve been travelling back and forth as often as possible.

Often described as the undiscovered part of Italy, it’s fair to say it’s increasing in popularity every year. Celebrities are flocking here but it still retains the charm and authenticity that makes Puglia such an attractive destination.

Here are my top three reasons to fall head over heels with the heel:

Puglia

La Cucina Povera

Puglian cuisine has its roots in La Cucina Povera (translation – poor kitchen), but there is nothing poor about the food here.

Food here is a game of two very distinct halves. On the coast there is an abundance of mouth-watering seafood and fish. Mussels are prepared topped with a beautiful breadcrumb of garlic and parsley (Cozze Gratinate) and lobster is served in a thick tomato sauce with paccheri (think oversized penne).

Inland is dominated by meat and its common for butchers to double up as restaurants, serving what hasn’t been sold during the day with a simple salad and potatoes.

Three flavours to savour:

Ricci (sea urchin) – this bright orange, fishy flesh encased in a spiky outer casing has a strong flavour of the sea and is best scooped out with crusty bread.

Olives / olive oil – Puglia supplies around 40% of olive oil production in Italy, and the landscape is filled with olive trees as far as the eye can see. Hence olives and deep, peppery olive oil are in abundance here.

Orecchiette – due to its shape this local pasta is called little ears. Rich tomato and ricotta sauce or cime di rapa (turnip greens) stick effortlessly to it.

Exploration

There is something to do and see for everyone in Puglia.

For culture vultures, the UNESCO world heritage site of Alberobello is home to a mass of whitewashed cone-shaped trulli that are dotted across this beautiful landscape. Originally designed to dodge taxes and fool the authorities, these quaint properties are made of dry-stoned walls with a conical roof. A must see in the region.

Perched on a hill with spectacular views over the Adriatic coastline, Ostuni known as La Città Bianca (White City) is a typical whitewashed city with fantastic restaurants, shopping for local goodies and a beautiful piazza – the perfect spot to watch the world go by with an Apèrol Spritz.

For sun worshippers there are glorious stretches of beach and the Salento region is home to stunning Torre dell’Orso, or if it’s cliff diving you fancy, head to Polignano a Mare where the Red Bull competition takes place every September.

And for shopaholics, head to Puglia’s capital Bari to splash some cash in the many designer stores or head to the delightful port town of Monopoli with boutique shops for something unique and truly Italian.

Authenticity

There is an undeniable charm and authenticity to Puglia, which seems to seep out of every whitewashed building, archway and balcony.

From the nonnas hand kneading fresh orrechiette to the fisherman bashing polpo (octopus) on the rocks and the Piaggio’s nipping around the streets, it is a simple yet endearing life lived here.

In our village, fresh bread, prosciutto and cheese are bought on a daily basis and meals are prepared from scratch with nothing going to waste. In the evening everyone heads out for the passeggiata (evening stroll), where family and friends come together – usually to talk about food!

Simple, understated and eternally beautiful. When will you discover Puglia?

Author: When not daydreaming about being in Italy, Louise Pinchin runs White Rose PR.

Some images are Louise’s own and some are courtesy of unsplash.com

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