The heel of the boot of Italy, the crystal-blue shores of Puglia are where many Italians traditionally go on holiday. Fort towns Gallipoli, Bari, Monopoli and Brindisi are steeped in Byzantine, Roman and Baroque history. They come alive during summer evenings, which can be whiled away strolling around ornate churches, getting lost in the labyrinthine streets and enjoying long, languid al fresco meals.
There’s more to Puglia holidays inland. Way uphill, Ostuni is a whitewashed delight, and Alberobello is home to an array of unique homesteads. Lecce is a delicate beauty, its ancient Roman amphitheatre hosting classical and contemporary concerts to this day. Along the shore, take your pick of the west coast’s lively beach bars, or seek out the more chilled beaches, such as Polignano a Mare’s majestic cove, where you can plunge into the cool waters where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet. In rural areas, stay in ‘masserias’ – working farms – that double up as hotels, and gorge yourself on their local produce. This area is renowned for its olive oil, and generous portions of food will leave no one hungry. So there’s no need to dig your heels in for one thing or another – holidays to Puglia offer something for every type of sun-seeker.
Festa di Santa Domenica
Tiny Scorrano transforms into a day-glo spectacle of neon for a week-long festival of light every July. A food market serves up delicious snacks, too.
This hillside town in Basilicata, comprising abandoned caves, is awe-inspiring. Explore the Unesco-listed Paleolithic limestone ‘Sassi’, some of which have been transformed into understated hotels.
A canny tax fiddle from the 14th century gave rise to stunning ‘trulli’ – houses with deftly stacked stone roofs. You can even stay in some of them.