Salento beach, Puglia (Dreamstime)
List Words : Insider Secrets | 19 July

5 hidden gems you must visit in Puglia, Italy

Known as ‘The Garden of Italy’, Puglia combines the best of Italy - the food, the wine, the history, the culture, the art and beaches. Author Chloe Esposito reveals five of its lesser known highlights

1: Alberobello, a (probably) haunted medieval village

Mysterious symbols on the roof of Trulli buildings in Alberobello (Dreamstime)

Mysterious symbols on the roof of Trulli buildings in Alberobello (Dreamstime)

This stunning, if creepy, village is home to the ancient ‘Trulli’, unique white-washed stone houses with conical roofs dating back to the 1480s. Constructed of dry limestone bricks without any mortar, they are still inhabited today, but visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site is like stepping back in time. The weird witchy symbols painted on roof-tops have more than an air of black magic and a midnight walk along cobbled streets is eerily atmospheric.  

2: Lecce, an art lover’s paradise

Oleander flowers frame Porta Napoli Triumphal Arch in Lecce (Dreamstime)

Oleander flowers frame Porta Napoli Triumphal Arch in Lecce (Dreamstime)

Known as ‘The Florence of the South’ because its beauty rivals that of the Tuscan city, Lecce is a hidden gem that few foreigners know about. It’s the kind of place where you fantasize about spending the entire summer. You’d take up painting or some kind of sculpting and spend your days in a sun-filled studio or strolling the streets and soaking up the exquisite baroque architecture. The walls are peeling with hundreds of posters advertising art exhibitions and every winding side street seems to lead to a new gallery. Your evenings would be filled with music at intimate classical music concerts in one of the countless marble churches or at lazy suppers until the small hours at trattorias on the square. 

3: Santa Maria de Leuca, crystal clear waters and cliff-side swimming

Lighthouse of Capo d'Otranto where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet (Dreamstime)

Lighthouse of Capo d'Otranto where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet (Dreamstime)

This stunning region is right at the bottom of the ‘heel’ of the ‘boot’ of Italy. It’s the most south-easterly place on the Italian peninsula. This is where the Adriatic and Ionian Seas meet. Thanks to its remote location, it remains a traditional Italian town where time seems to stop. The seafood is plentiful, fresh and delicious and there’s nothing better than sitting out on a terrace eating carpaccio di polipo and watching the seabirds dance. 

4: Stay at an Agriturismo, eat, sleep and breathe extra virgin olive oil

An ancient olive tree in Apulia (Dreamstime)

An ancient olive tree in Apulia (Dreamstime)

The best thing about food in Italy is the quality of simple ingredients: a perfectly ripe tomato that bursts with flavour, a sweet and juicy sun-warmed fig picked fresh from the tree. At the heart of all Italian dishes is a healthy drizzle of olive oil and it’s a tasty treat to sample different oils from different producers. I love to dip in fresh focaccia and mix the oil with balsamic vinegar. In Puglia, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to farmhouse hotels, where you can indulge in their own fresh oils and, in the case of the Naturalis Bio Resort & Spa, sample their eponymous red wine while gazing out over olive groves.

5: A wine pilgrimage through the glorious vineyards of Puglia

Grapes in a vineyard in Apulia (Dreamstime)

Grapes in a vineyard in Apulia (Dreamstime)

The Salento Peninsula in the south of Puglia, produces Negromaro, Primitivo and Malvasia Nera varieties, the most famous wines being Copertino and Salice Salentino. The Masseria le Fabriche is a chic choice for a stay at a vineyard hotel, covering 20 hectares of centuries-old grapevines and producing wine from organic grapes. I am writing this article sipping a glass of Primitivo Di Manduria, Villa Mottua, 2016 and wishing I was in Puglia. In fact, researching and writing this article has just inspired me to book my next trip!

Chloé Esposito is the author of the Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know trilogy. Bad, the second in the series, is published in hardback by Michael Joseph on 26th July priced £12.99

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