A couple of summers ago in Ibiza, whilst at a “classy” beach club with a group of “cool” international people, I happened to mention that I was from Puglia, and it was surprising to find how this until-recently unknown region was now so widely appreciated for its beauty, charm and uniqueness.
I had a little blast if I am honest. Over the course of my holidays I kept observing how once such a liberated destination like Ibiza has changed, and clearly saw the direction I DON’T want my Puglia to turn to in years to come.
With its wide and authentic offering, Puglia makes an interesting alternative to the plastic model that places like Ibiza offer
It seems more people are starting to think the same way, and the Heel of Italy is quickly becoming the new kid on the block. Besides its unique beauty, the big attraction is Puglia’s genuine, provincial vibe, which offers a plethora of experiences and discoveries throughout the year, all at a very competitive price for the general quality of offering and service standards. Oh, and the cultural heritage is obviously pretty consistent!
If you want, there is literally something to do every day, from the capital Bari to Lecce and the dynamic Valle D’Itria. With 700 km of coastline, in summer this place comes into its own, it is alive with a general buzz in the air; but to the curious and exacting, winter too can be an experience, you just have to dig a little deeper.
Puglia is home to an interesting circle of artists, designers and creative heads who skilfully merge the boundaries of local tradition with the contemporary scene. Not to mention the music, with a number of local dj’s and musicians who are now making an impact on the global scene.
In general it is hard to go wrong with food in Italy, but Puglia really is one of a kind.
Ten Michelin-starred restaurants, many serious fine dining establishments, an impressive network of affordable trattorias and rural restaurants, quality pizza, excellent seafood, seasonal greens and fruit, great patisserie and tempting street food; if real food is your thing, this is your place.
Also, Puglia is Italy’s first wine producer. Until not long ago local grapes were mostly sold to northern cantinas, but today many Puglian wines are tremendous: Aglianico, Primitivo and Negramaro are world popular right now. Not to mention the emerging Rosè, which is one to keep an eye on.
Made up of nearly 800 km of stunning coastline with white sand and picturesque rocks edged by a turquoise, super clean sea (14 European Blue Flags), this region is the #1 summer spot for Italians, with the rate of international tourists notably on the rise.
Be it a public beach, hip beach club or an exhilarating boat ride, sea lovers will find heaven here, unless it is August (although if you can get a boat there is not much traffic on the sea, and it really is “molto bello”!).
Trulli, masserias, aristocratic retreats, boutique hotels, stylish villas: not many regions in the world offer such a variety of quality and traditional accommodation.
The travel experience in Puglia really starts from within your room, at very competitive prices compared to bigger cities
Clothing, design, arts, antiques, food & wine, property; this region really has a lot to discover – and to buy – again at prices that most often are surprisingly low
While some parts of Puglia are now truly glamurous and a magnet for the super-rich- think Fasano and Savelletri – the Salento area (which in this case includes the province of Taranto) is somehow resisting the “wild globalization”. The vibe is generally provincial but somehow sophisticated, pretty charming for the discerned visitor in search of a more cerebral, intellectual connection. And a more subtle type of style, beyond stereotypes.
There is way more to this remote part of italy than just sun and mozzarella.
And always more people from all paths of life seem catching such vibe, for the curious and the well connected will find it easy to network with interesting locals, expats or other travellers. Also, even though nightlife generally sucks, if you catch the right party it could be surprisingly good!
Now Puglia has become trendy and increasingly exploited, the same old question that other more renowned destinations faced few years ago is now on the lips of the locals:
to attract the super rich or middle class? Globalization or tradition? Big chains or local economy? Money or magic, basically? Why not a mix of both ultimately?
There are some dark sides to this place though; think chronic lack of transport, low environmental sensibility from the locals and sometimes an annoying improvisation in service (although this is improving).
The list could go on! Plus, the monster of gentrification is slowly spreading its tentacles, obviously threatening the region’s authenticity and thousands of years of heritage. It’s the same old song, yes?
Certainly, Puglian culture is too strong and rooted to capitulate to the mainstream easily. But we know how it works, if money can’t buy happiness it can certainly buy land. And building permits.
Really, only time will tell. As of now, this very special part of Italy is ultimately a nurturing experience for the mind, the body and the soul.