Exploring Puglia

As long-standing fans of Italy, Puglia has been on the list for some time now and recently, we finally got to tick it off. Whilst lesser known than some of its Italian counterparts, such as Tuscany or the Amalfi Coast, the area is becoming increasingly popular with locals and those in-the-know.

Situated in the heel of Italy, Puglia is known for its stunning whitewashed hill towns, fantastic food and of course its wine. Home to two main airports, Bari and Brindisi, it’s within easy reach of the UK (flight times are around 2.5 hours) with a wide range of low-cost flight options available. With so much to see and do, hiring a car is strongly recommended, to ensure you get the most out of this special place. Opting to upgrade at the airport to the Fiat 500 convertible, we were able to pop the roof down and whizz through the spectacular scenery, feeling the sun on our skin and wind in our hair!

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The region is home to many beautiful towns, each so different in their personality and equally worth checking out. Lecce, commonly referred to as the ‘Florence of the South’ is home to magnificent baroque architecture, minus the crowds of its more famous counterpart. We spent an easy few hours wandering round its beautiful cobbled streets, checking out the central Piazza del Duomo and the magnificent Cattedrale. Add in the impressive Basilica di Santa Croce and the sunken Roman amphitheatre, cute coffee shops and delicious wine bars and lunch spots, and you can easily spend a day or two soaking it all up. It’s compact so easy to explore, but packed full of things to see or little spots to do as the locals do and sit down and watch the world go by.

As part of our trip we were also lucky enough to spend a lovely few days in Ostuni, staying in a beautiful masseria (farmhouse) set in acres of olive groves, just outside the beautiful hilltown. The site of the hilltown lit up by the orange glow at sunset was truly breathtaking, as we made our way in to visit one of the many excellent restaurants for dinner each night.

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Next up on the must-see list is the Valle d’Itria – home to the three beautiful whitewashed towns of Alberobello, Locorotondo and small-but-perfectly formed Cisternino. The former, Alberobello, is home to the iconic trulli – whitewashed stone huts with conical roofs. Whilst the town is full of rather more tourists, it’s a sight to behold seeing so many of the trullis all clustered together and this UNESCO World Heritage site is well worth a visit.

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Neighbouring Locorotondo is a circular structure. Park up and lose yourself in the narrow streets for an hour or two, listening to the hustle and bustle of the locals going about their daily business.

Quieter still is little Cisternino. Again, only a short hop from Alberobello and Locorotondo, it may be small but it’s still worth a visit. The town is well-known for its small butcher shops, serving one of the local delicacies, bombetta pugliese - slices of pork wrapped around cheese, then roasted on a skewer over wood or charcoal. A great place to stop for a casual yet delicious lunch!

On the topic of food, there’s plenty more to try beyond the bombetta. Think rich olive oils, juicy lemons and of course, the creamiest burrata. Paired with some of the local wine, Negroamaro or Primitivo being two of the best and most well-known, you’re in for a culinary treat. As real foodies ourselves, we were in heaven!

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Once you’re done with exploring and wandering the many historic towns, there are plenty of opportunities to kick back and relax too.  Given its location at the heel of Italy, the region benefits from hundreds of kilometres of Mediterranean coastline, lending itself to spectacular white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters. Whether you’re after a rugged, secluded spot or more of a beach party atmosphere, there really is something for everyone.

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Not only is Puglia perfect for culture vultures or romantic breaks for two, but it’s also a perfect spot for family escapes, with its laidback vibes and beautiful beaches. It’s safe to say there really is something for everyone here – so check out this hidden Italian gem before everyone else does!  

Photography: Rachel Overall | Kate Holstein | Rustica Retro | Hugo Zlotowski

Rachel Overall is the founder behind boutique travel consultancy, Follow in My Footprints, providing travel ideas, inspiration and itineraries for those looking to get off the beaten track. She also owns luxury wedding planning and styling company, Mirabella Weddings.

After 8 years working in the advertising industry, Rachel launched her first company, Mirabella Weddings - switching from planning multi-million-pound media campaigns for global brands, to planning stylish, laidback luxury weddings for fun-loving couples.

Follow in My Footprints was created shortly after, allowing Rachel to not only tap into her expertise and passion for travel (having now visited over 40 countries), but to enable her wedding planning clients an end-to-end planning solution from wedding through to honeymoon. Whether through weddings or travel, Rachel is passionate about creating incredible experiences and memories to last a lifetime, applying the same care, attention-to-detail and personalised service to both of her businesses.

Rachel lives in the Essex countryside with her husband, and when not planning her next adventure, loves checking out the latest restaurants or relaxing with a glass of red wine.