Every year, I love sharing a collection of my favourite snapshots from our family summer holiday and this year we headed to Puglia in Italy. This region in the south, usually referred to as the heel of Italy, is a popular destination for Italian holidaymakers but less known to the rest of the world. We only had two weeks to explore Puglia and because it’s a really big region I definitely would’ve liked more time to see everything. I would love to return to Puglia in the future because I had such a brilliant time on my recent trip.
Adriatic sea views in Polignano a Mare
As we do every time we go abroad we stayed in our own private accommodation. It’s worth it for total relaxation and a chance to completely switch off, I prefer it to staying in a hotel because I love the freedom of being able to buy local ingredients and being able to cook, it’s not only my profession, but also one of my main passions in life.
Instead of staying in a villa, this year we were extra adventurous and rented a traditional Puglian trullo in the middle of countryside for our fortnight stay. If you were wondering, trulli are whitewashed stone huts with conical roofs, something this region of Italy is famous for and one of the many reasons tourists want to come and visit Puglia.
Alberobello has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the vast quantity of trulli. We all adored Alberobello, it really is one of the most magical places I’ve ever been to especially when it’s all lit up at nighttime. There are several trulli, some converted into enoteche (wine bars/shops), restaurants, gelaterias and shops selling local produce and souvenirs.
Trulli houses in Alberobello
Whenever I’m visiting a different country I love to embrace and delve into that country’s culture. Every region in Italy has its own cuisine, so it was fun to discover a few foods I hadn’t yet tasted before. The reason I keep coming back to Italy is because of the outstanding cuisine, I cook Italian food like homemade pasta and sauce, gnocchi and risotto on a regular basis so I always feel totally at home whenever I’m in Italy.
Taralli pizzaiola – authentic Puglian olive oil breadsticks flavoured with tomato, paprika and oregano
Our holiday rep, Donatello, provided an amazing welcome pack with an array of goodies including prosciutto crudo (Italian dry-cured ham), sweet and juicy cherry tomatoes, rustic crusty bread (perfect for dipping into olive oil), fresh fruit, coffee, biscuits (paste e latte/Italian milk biscuits – pictured below), Puglian rosé and best of all, fresh buffalo mozzarella which we ate on the day it was made. If you love mozzarella, then you’re in for a treat in Puglia because burrata (mozzarella with a delicious creamy interior) originates from this region.
There really is nothing quite like Italian hospitality, if you’re a foodie then there’s no better travel destination than Italy. Italians are passionate about their food and they want you to enjoy and experience the very best of their cuisine and produce. The fresh fruit and vegetables taste so good because they haven’t travelled far and have usually been grown locally, which makes a huge difference.
Puglian olive oil is recognised for its exceptional flavour, taste and quality. Puglia was one of the first places in Europe to produce totally organic olive oil. Fantastic olive oil means this region also harvests amazing olives and no apéritif is complete without a bowl of olives and taralli, which are crunchy ring-shaped breadsticks and available in various flavours. It’s safe to say I got addicted to these delicious snacks during my holiday. Every time we ventured to the supermarket to stock up on groceries, I picked up another pack and I even took several packets of these home, and I’m going to attempt baking some of my own homemade taralli.
Taralli caserecci are plain olive oil breadsticks – an enjoyable evening snack with marinated olives and a glass of wine
If you love seafood, then Puglia is the place for you because it has miles of coastline along the Adriatic sea. Our favourite pasta dish combines gamberi (prawns/shrimp) with garlic, lemon and fresh chilli/peperoncino. All you need to do is add a little butter and a drizzle of olive oil and serve that with cooked linguine or spaghetti. Simple flavours, but amazingly tasty.
Most regions in Italy have their own pasta and in Puglia, Orecchiette is the signature pasta of the area – it’s the ear-shaped pasta slightly heavier in texture. If you visit the old town in Bari you might see people perched on stalls sitting outside in the streets rolling and shaping this pasta.
Focaccia Barese – focaccia al pomodoro / tomato focaccia
Focaccia Barese is a traditional focaccia from this region. I didn’t know this before, but foccacia dough in Bari is made with mashed potato and semolina. Every single piece of focaccia I tasted during my trip was exquisite. Perfectly chewy and crisp around the edges and the tomato topping was gorgeously sweet and lightly flavoured with herbs. If you’re tempted by this, try my recipe for Tomato Parmesan Focaccia!
There were a few foods I didn’t get to try during my trip, but would’ve loved to. Since getting back from Puglia, I was reminded of a traditional Puglian pastry, Pasticciotto, which is a pastry filled with custard. I cannot believe I didn’t get an opportunity to try these as they sound and look like something I would really enjoy. However, I will definitely endeavour to try these on my next visit!
To end this foodie section, I thought I would talk about the incredible gelato. Anywhere you go in Italy you’re guaranteed to taste the best gelato. I particularly enjoyed the fresh and fruity flavours to cool down with during the daytime. During the evening I usually went for something richer like pistachio and nocciola (hazelnut) – this is one of my favourite combinations! The gelato pictured here is from Gelateria Gentile in Alberobello, I highly recommend this shop, the service was wonderful and there’s a fantastic selection of gelato.
The hardest part is deciding which flavour/s you’ll pick!
Strawberry and mango ice cream from Gelateria Gentile in Alberobello
Beach views at Polignano a Mare
Pictured above is Polignano a Mare, which is a town on the coast of Valle d’Itria. The crystal clear blue waters are very inviting and everyone is having fun jumping off the cliffs all day long. Along with Alberobello, this was possibly one of the most “touristy” areas we visited during our trip, but it was still a lovely place to explore and snap some brilliant pictures of the beach.
Flowers on a seaside balcony in Monopoli
Harbour in Monopoli
Monopoli is a highlight from our visit. It was nice to walk around the streets and also to sit back and enjoy a refreshing drink along the seafront in one of the many bars and restaurants.
The harbour is a nice area to stroll around and also the old town streets were perfect to get lost in.
Pretty flowers in Locorotondo
Countryside panoramic views from Locorotondo
For me, Puglia is a region that has the perfect mix of everything, a beautiful coastline, picturesque countryside, lots of history and quaint towns to have a leisurely stroll through. Puglia might just be the your next travel destination if these are all the characteristics you look for in a holiday!
Rundown of my top places to visit during a trip to Puglia:
- Alberobello – UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996 (the year I was born!), visit Alberobello and experience the famous and unique trulli houses. An absolute must see in Puglia!
- Locorotondo – This picturesque town is known for its wine production. The town itself is the main sight, so you might find it pleasant just taking a walk around the streets, capturing some photographs, looking in the shops or even relaxing in one of the cafés and restaurants. There’s also a few churches to look around too. Locorotondo certainly deserves its title ‘Borghi più belli d’Italia‘, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Also, as it’s situated on a hill, Locorotondo is a wonderful place to see the stunning panoramic views of the countryside.
- Monopoli – One of the places we visited on more than a couple of occasions, we enjoyed wandering around the streets and sitting along the seafront. Sit back, relax whilst sipping on an Aperol spritz or a nice chilled glass of wine taking in the stunning sea views.
- Taranto – This is a commercial port and the main Italian naval base. We had just a quick visit here, but if you have more time you can take a look at Castello Aragonese, where parts of the castle date back to 900’s when the Byzantines rule this region of Italy. Also, the National Archaeological Museum of Taranto and Taranto Cathedral are both worth a look around.
- Ostuni – I thought I would save one of my favourite places in Puglia until last. This is a lovely town to walk around the cobbled streets, known as the “White City” for its white washed walls and is more reminiscent of neighbouring Greece but still showcases pure Italian charm. We purchased a lot of pottery and locally made ceramics here. I have some new beautiful bowls, plates and a utensils jug for my kitchen. Buying ceramics during my travels is one of my favourite things to do as it’s always unique to the area you visit.
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