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The delights of Italy's south
Puglia is often forgotten in favor of more well-known regions, such as Tuscany and Sicily. On this tour through the heel of Italy, you wouldn’t be able to tell why: from the romanesque cathedrals of Lecce to the bizarre Trulli buildings in Alberobello, this region is packed to the brim with enough culture and history to rival anywhere in Italy, which is no mean feat. Equally important are the grilled octopus, fresh oysters, and robust Primitivo wines—get your fill in the heel of Italy.
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All roads lead to Rome, the eternal city. Try not to get too distracted by your gelato as you walk through the busy streets, from Piazza Venezia to the Trevi Fountain. Sit outside a cafe and watch elegant locals zip around on their Vespas, making their pilgrimage from espresso to Aperol spritz. Among all the imposing buildings and high art, don’t forget Rome’s most important contribution to world culture: spaghetti carbonara.
You won’t have seen anything quite like Matera. Wander through the Sassi, where homes, shops, and churches have been hewn out of solid rock since 3000 BC. Put your legs to the test as you stride up the alleyways to the top of the city, dominated by the Tramontano Castle’s three round towers. Enjoy an ice cold prosecco in the shadow of the castle, looking down on the town below.
Lecce is proof that even the smaller cities in Italy always punch above their weight. Wander through the Piazza del Duomo, where the limestone of the baroque cathedral can appear white, gold, or pink depending on the time of day. Let the splendor of the Porta Rudiae and Basilica di Santa Croce sink in as you tour this city, unsurprisingly known as “the Florence of the South”.
Follow the beautiful coast road north to Ostuni and lose yourself in the meandering old city, which is labyrinthine even by Italian standards. Take a trip to nearby Alberobello, which is almost entirely made up of Trulli, conical grey houses that look more Middle Earth than Mediterranean. End a day with a pizza pugliese, made with red onion and sun-dried tomato, looking over the endless olive groves down to the Adriatic.
Bari is the perfect place to end your tour. Roam the medieval old town, a maze of Norman architecture. Keep your eyes up for the white stone of the romanesque cathedral and murals depicting St Mark and St Anthony, tucked away on the Strada San Marco. Head to the seafood market on the harbor for briny sea urchin with an ice-cold Peroni beer—a winning way to round off your Puglian adventure.
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