“Evidently, the God of the Jews didn’t know Puglia, otherwise he wouldn’t have given his people Palestine as the Promised Land.” Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Puglia (1194 to 1250 AD).
As we waited at Bari Palese airport for the Ryanair flight home we began to review the holiday to Puglia and to come to some sort of agreed assessment.
We had travelled to Italy before, to Pisa and Tuscany, Naples and Sorrento, the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, Rome of course, to Venice and the Veneto and the EPCOT World Showcase, but we had never before visited the far south east, the heel of the boot.
Despite almost being put off by the guide books we liked the city of Bari with its mazy old town and eclectic night life and one thing I would say to anyone thinking of going to Puglia then do not miss out the capital city of the region and don’t be scared off by the reviews.
The food was wonderful and although we didn’t have time to try all of the two hundred varieties of pasta I am certain that they would all be just as delicious as those that we managed to sample – the sea food pastas were especially good. We also liked the pizzas and I have to confess that my favourite meal was the horse meat stew in Lecce but please do not tell my granddaughters.
Our accommodation was generally good – all booked in advance through www.booking.com my favourite hotel booking website. The exception was the awful dump where we stayed in Ostuni, the Nonna Isa bed and breakfast and the best was probably the Grand Hotel in Lecce but that is a tough decision to make.
Along the coast we liked Polignano a Mare and Molfetta but we didn’t care that much for Monopoli but that might be unfair because neither of us were at our best that day on account of the stress of driving in Italy which wasn’t a great deal of fun and one thing for sure is that I won’t be doing that again in a hurry!
Although we didn’t like driving we did like travelling by train and Trenitalia was generally efficient, value for money and on time as we used the railway to travel from Bari to Polignano, to Lecce, Ostuni and then back to Bari with one final excursion to Molfetta.
Lecce was a revelation and the ‘Florence of the South’ did not disappoint us with a wonderful Baroque old town, good restaurants and a vibrant night life and we both agreed that we would really have liked a little extra time in that wonderful city.
We didn’t like the taxis because generally I resent paying the exorbitant fares but we had no real choice for our last three days in Bari because I had chosen a hotel that was some way out of the city. But it was a nice hotel and they gave me a discount on the final bill and that was enough to cover the cost of the taxi fares so I shouldn’t complain.
La Città Bianca, the White Cities, were a bit of a mixed bag. Ostuni was lovely but busy, Locorotondo was probably the best of them all (in our opinion) because it was less touristy and had a delightful centro storico. The one that we liked least was Martina Franca but once again this might be unfair, it was another day where we were stressed from driving, the weather was quite poor and we arrived in the middle of the afternoon siesta.
And we didn’t like the siesta period very much because every day the towns and villages just put up a collective closed sign, locked the doors and the people retreated to their bedrooms. We have come across the siesta before of course but never as rigidly and as complete as in Puglia.
The highlight of the fortnight was rather predictably the tourist town of Alberobello and our four night stay in a traditional whitewashed, stone-capped Trulli house. Four nights was probably one too many because there are only so many times that you can walk around the same streets but one thing you can do over and again is go to the same restaurant and we thoroughly enjoyed our four meals at the Foggia trattoria where the chef obligingly gave me some important tips on making a perfect risotto.
Other things we liked were the Peroni beer, the ice cream and the Amaretto.
So that is our short assessment of Puglia and as we pulled our list together we both came to the same conclusion. We had enjoyed ourselves but this sort of vacation didn’t really suit our travelling style. For us Italy is a great place for a short weekend break to one of the famous cities but not for driving or beaches so the next time we go to Italy it will be for just a couple of nights or so and we will most likely return to Greece again next year for our main late summer holiday.
If you have been to Puglia and agree or disagree with us then please leave your views and comments.