Puglia, all we really knew about the ‘heel’ of Italy were the charming little white stone houses with pointy grey slate roofs. We had a week to explore the area (on the south west coast, the Ionian sea). We started with Sunday lunch at a beach bar with impossibly white sand and blue sea. This wasn’t what I was expecting. Beaches?! Sunshine?! The villa that we had rented was a trullo (plural, trulli). The age-old tradition of the trulli, typical of central-southern Apulia, has proto-historic origins, although the oldest remains discovered so far date back to the sixteenth century. The trulli buildings are composed of a cylinder surmounted by a cone, with the distinction of being built purely in “dry stone”, without the use of mortar or other connecting material. Ours wasn’t white but cream stone coloured and with a flat top, more typical of our side of Puglia.
We took a trip up the area to visit the true home of these cute houses, Alberobello. A bit too touristy but it had to be done. And then onto Locorotondo which was a lovely village to wander around it’s winding streets. It had the feel of a village that was striving to win a best kept village award, with flowers on every window ledge and doorway.
After a brilliant weather on our first day, Saturday, Sunday was terrible, thunder, lightning and horizontal rain! We had a lazy day at the villa and caught up on some business, keeping things running whilst we were away. At 5pm we drove across to the other side of Nardó and took part in a wine tasting at Schola Sarmenti. We learnt more about Italian grape varieties that we didn’t know, Reds; Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera, White; Fiano. It was a great way to while away sometime in such rubbish weather. We returned to eat in their restaurant on our last night as well.
Talking about Nardó, this was our closest town and it was lovely to visit at night and people watch before dinner. Being out of season our choice of restaurants was severely limited, but I suppose that made choosing easier! Our other trip out for dinner was to the walled island city of Gallipoli.
Our favourite thing about our stay in Puglia however has to be Porto Selvaggio, great out of season probably awful in the summer. You walk through a pine forest for 20 mins and are rewarded with a rocky bay. The water is cold in areas due to the natural springs but it was still pleasant to swim in even in October. Swimming shoes are a bonus as you either have to walk over lots of stones and pebbles or get into the sea from the rocks. We took a packed lunch and spent the whole day there, just popping into the next town around 4pm for gelato. The mosquitoes seem to come out just before sunset, I know as I was bitten quite a few times at the villa. In fact Puglia wins the prize for the region of Italy where I got the most bug bites! (They love me and avoid J).
The last word about this fabulous region of Italy has to be about the many olive tree groves. They are vast. And everywhere. Just beautiful. These trees have personalities, they are like old men, gnarled and grumpy.