Puglia has the right combination of grit and greatness; nobody is likely to mistake Puglia for a spit-polished Disneyland project, there aren’t enough tourists to warrant such hideous treatment. Puglia is a long way from Tuscany, a long way from the Renaissance, a long way from the glorious excess of a fat Tuscan beefsteak. Yet the carefully calculated and lushly sculpted curves of the southern Baroque carved into the soft surfaces of native rock is enough to captivate your eye, especially in the glittering sunlight, and the platters of seafood served up at modest, rickety-table trattorie laid out along the sea will more than keep the food-motivated traveler’s hunger at bay without breaking the bank.
Fish aren’t the only thing you’ll find to eat here; this land has been famous for vegetables forever. The weather in the Gargano allows for two harvests of its famous agrumi, the citrus fruit that finds its way into much of the cooking in these parts. And the olive oil production, once structured for cheap blending oils, has been improved greatly, and the focus is on quality oils that are stunningly good.
If you like American Zinfandel, you’ll love similar characteristics in Primitivo di Mandura. You can even visit a museum and get a jug of it filled from a pump to take back to your vacation apartment if you wish.
And you don’t have to stay in a boring vacation apartment; even the housing and farms of Puglia express a unique architecture. The huge family farms called Masserie , sometimes fortified against coastal pirates, are being converted to apartments and hotels for discerning tourists—at a price almost any tourist can afford.
How do you access all this? Where can you stay in a Trullo, the little beehive houses concentrated around Alberobello that everyone knows? Where can you stay in a Masseria apartment and take classes in stained glass? Where can get the real scoop on the local foods?