The Puglia Region on the heel of Italy’s boot offers crystal clear beaches, rich history, delicious food, a thriving port, quaint small towns, the university-influenced city of Bari, thriving cherry orchards and olive groves despite the rocky soil, and beautiful, welcoming people. We really loved the time we spent getting to know this region, and we’d love to deepen our relationship.
Starting in the port area, our delightful local guide pointed out a beautiful 14th century fortress. The Chapel of Santantonio de Padova inside is no longer a church, but is used for weddings, festivals, and other special events.
Moving on to the Barivecchia (old town area) we were delighted to see artisans busy at work creating beautiful handwork in leather, ceramics, and fresh food. We remarked about the sparkling clean streets and were told that the shopkeepers actually wash the streets in the morning!
There are over 20 churches in the old town, most notably the Romanesque Basilica of Saint Nicholas and the Cathedral of Saint Sabino.
The Basilica houses the mortal remains of Saint Nicholas, which were brought to Bari by 62 sailors. Every May, a three-day festival celebrates the beloved saint who is the patron of children, sailors, and unmarried women. His statue is carried to the harbor in procession with food, music, and traditional costumes. On December 6, young women pay tribute to the saint by circling a red marble column in the church six times. Legend has it that if they do this, they will meet their future husband within the year.
The sprawling Norman-Swabian Castle is now used as a venue for special events.
But the real star of Bari is the food! With sweet cherries and spicy olives, mouth-watering gelato, and homemade taralli, Bari’s real star is orecchiette, an ear-shaped pasta served with a variety of sauces. Women can be seen making these “little ears” all around the old town. Our lunch at Fra-Bo Restaurant was a plate of fresh orecchiette paired with slow-cooked meat sauce and braciole. Yum!
The Musee Teatro Margherita is a landmark former theater that now houses a museum.
Later in the afternoon, we took a drive through the countryside to visit the trulli in the town of Alerobello. Originally built centuries ago as temporary field shelters, this charming style of construction is unique to the Itria Valley. Trulli are built with dry sandstone without the use of mortar. A keystone keeps it all together.
We ended our day at Masseria Papaperta, an 18th century farm that’s now a popular wedding venue.
Puglia is a sun-drenched region that offers everything you’d expect and more! We have some family, the Diomedes, who are from Bari so we knew it would be special, but we had no idea just how special it would be.