The area of Puglia is a completely different climate than the north of Italy. There are cactuses and the landscape is quite different (though there are still plenty of hilltop towns). The area is filled with places to swim and many nice places to visit.
Things to Do
The whole family really enjoyed visiting the Castellana Caves, about 15 minutes north of Alberobello. You can take a 50 minute tour or a 3 hour tour depending on how far you want to go in. The caves were very amazing and probably our children’s favorite part of the trip.
Another nice place to visit was the town of Alberobello. This is the best town for seeing many of the old Trulli-style houses. There is an entire part of town up on a hill devoted to the small houses which have been converted into shops and restaurants. Very nice for taking pictures and wandering around.
The town of Otranto was also quite nice and also quite small. The view of the sea is beautiful, with clear blue water, and the historic part of town is filled with shops and is very cute. Apparently, they are known for making sandals. I bought some and I have to say they are so far the best and most comfortable pair of sandals I own.
The city of Ostuni, also known as the “white city” because of the color of the houses, was a very nice place to visit with a lot of nice restaurants. However, we did notice that the prices were a little higher in this town. The old part of the city is all white on top of a hill and it’s a very nice maze to walk aorund in. Many restaurants have outdoor seating which is one of the things we really enjoy.
No complaints at all about the food in Puglia (though that’s pretty much true about anywhere in Italy). This being a seaside region, there are many seafood choices. Unfortunately, we don’t eat much seafood so I won’t be able to comment on that.
However, they have a wonderful heart-attack inducing cheese called “burrata” that you should really try. We all loved it, but my husband ate a bit too much and refused to order it after. If you keep your portion down, it’s really wonderful with tomatoes and olive oil.
The local pasta of this region is called “orecchiette.” I felt that it had a different taste to it. It’s an ear-shaped pasta (hence the name ‘orecchiette’) that is often served with a light sauce. Our kids loved this and ordered it for almost every meal.
And now for the restaurant tips….
Ristorante Arte dei Sapori
This was the best place we found on our entire trip. By chance we turned down a small side street in the historical section of Lecce, which we were sure would be filled with tourist traps, and came upon this wonderful place hidden in a corner under a tree. This is the type of place we are searching for on all of our trips. We were the only foreigners there – all the other tables were filled with Italians. The tables were placed in a corner of the street under trees and the food was excellent!
San Vito dei Normanni:
This place was recommended to us by the man who owned the place we were staying. It was a pleasant surprise. There was no menu outside (or on the tables for that matter), which seems to be a practice with about half of the restaurants in the area. But anyway…. there were no menus because they have 3 different choices every day. The appetizers were also wonderful. We had the appetizer sampler, which was about 6 bowls of various appetizers, 3 pasta dishes, a salad, a glass of wine and water. The total came to around €40 for the four of us. Great prices, great food. Also a bit of a hidden restaurant in a back street with only other Italians for customers.
For this trip, we stayed in a lovely agriturismo called “Tenuta Deserto.”
This is a compound of houses out in the country (but really only about 15 minutes from San Vito dei Normanni, where you can get groceries and go to restaurants). The family has been running this place for 30 years and really knows what they are doing. Many of the buildings are quite old and I believe it used to be owned by a shepherd. There are sheep, donkeys, ducks, turkeys and chickens on the property. There are also lemon trees and beautiful landscaping. The pool area was excellent with a very large adult pool and a fairly large children’s pool. We enjoyed this place very much. We stayed in the house called “Il Limone.” While the bedrooms were very nice, the kitchen and living room were a bit small. I would recommend trying one of the other houses.