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Exploring Puglia

Nov 20, 2007  Spouse accompanying on a business trip
4.5 of 5 bubbles based on 1 vote

Where to go and what to do in Puglia: a week's worth of destinations and adventures in Puglia

  • 1. Puglia
    Puglia, Italy

    Puglia is becoming known as a tourist destination, which is both good and bad. More tourists bring more shops and services, but also more crowding and higher prices. Fortunately, it is still (2007) a lesser-known destination with plenty to do and see.

  • 2. Alberobello
    Alberobello, Province of Bari

  • 3. The Trulli of Alberobello
    I Trulli di Alberobello - World Heritage Site, Alberobello, Province of Bari

    Small, whitewashed stucco dwellings, most in rounded-top igloo style. Alberobello is the place to go to see the trulli. From the town center you cannot miss the hill of white houses (and the rather tacky tourist souvenirs sold from them). But all over the countryside around Alberobello you will find the "natural" trulli: huts of piled stones in fields. Some say there was a dwelling tax that early settlers escaped by having no permanent dwelling, just a pile of stones that could easily (?) be moved if the tax collector came around. Others say the dwellings were constructed by local migrant farm hands as temporary shelters. And another explanation is they were not intended as full-time dwellings but rather storage sheds and places to escape from the hot summer sun while working in the fields. Whatever the explanation, these structures are unique to Puglia and an interesting sight on the landscape.

  • 4. Bari
    Bari, Province of Bari

    An old port and provincial capital, Bari is a delightful city and good base for exploring Puglia.
    The ratio of cars to people seems to be about 2:1 and parking is among the most creative I have seen anywhere. Driving in the city is NOT recommended. But that is scarcely an issue because the city can be easily navigated by foot--there is even a pedestrian-only shopping street. Bari is also a regional train hub. Be aware that there are at least four train stations--for different train lines--clustered in central Bari. The main station on Piazza Aldo Moro is easy to find. But in addition to the tracks numbered 1-10, there are four extra tracks numbered 1N-4N at the north end. And just beyond track 10 are two more tracks and a ticket office for the southeast trains. Then, on the south end of Piazza Aldo Moro are the other two stations, both tucked into a nondescript building of shops.
    The tourist office by the train station was of little help. It was not clear what was the attendant's purpose, because his answers to questions about sigths in Bari or the rest of Puglia were minimal--and it was not a language problem as wel switched back and forth between English and Italian.
    Friends from Bari warned that merchants would try to take advantage of me by shortchanging, substituting merchandise, or jacking up the price. Constantly on my guard, I encountered no real problems--only one issue with a restaurant bill that could have been an honest mistake and was promptly corrected.
    The sights of Bari are worth a visit.

  • 5. Basilica di San Nicola
    Basilica San Nicola, Bari, Province of Bari

    The church of Saint Nicholas (San Nicola), the actual Santa Claus (without the red suit or ho-ho-ho). The plain exterior prepares you for a stark, mostly Norman interior. But descend into the crypt and, if you are lucky, you will see some Orthodox (often Greek or Russian) religious leader leading a service at the tomb of San Nicola. Showing the linkage to the east, you will see religious books written in the Cyrillic alphabet.

  • 6. Castello Normanno-Svevo
    Castello Normanno Svevo, Bari, Province of Bari

  • 7. Cattedrale di San Sabino
    Cattedrale di San Sabino, Bari, Province of Bari

  • 8. Pizzeria da Donato

    via Lattanzio, 59, Bari, tel 080 554 2903

    This popular neighborhood pizzeria has been in operation for thirty years.
    The starters are an amazing assortment of Pugliese dishes, and the pizzas are of good Italian style: thin, simple, and flavorful.

  • 9. Taverna Caprese Accademia della Bufala

    via Putignano, 127, Bari tel 080 522 2267

    Although the name says pizzeria, and many people were eating pizza, we found the starters and first course (pasta) dishes here excellent. Our server was very accommodating. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming. And the prices were reasonable.

  • 10. Al Sorso Preferito (1 & 2), Bari Italy

    Sorso 1 - Via De Nicolò, 40 | Tel 080 5235747
    Sorso 2 - Lungomare A. di Crollalanza, 1 | Tel-fax 080 5240022

    Popular non-touristy restaurants near the old town in Bari. These two establishments are only a block apart. Specialties: freshest fish, typical Pugliese fava bean puree.

  • 11. Barletta
    Barletta, Province of Barletta-Andria-Trani

    Barletta is a wonderful combination of very old, old, and new. The historic district includes a XI century cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Maggiore), several other historic churches, a defensive castle, a local art museum installed in a Baroque era mansion and, of course, the towering statue "Colosseo" that was brought to Barletta in the IV century.

  • 12. Museo Civico e Pinacoteca Giuseppe De Nittis (Barletta)

    A civic art museum dedicated to the works of Giuseppe de Nittis, Italy's major impressionist painter.Even if you don't want to view the collection, you should look inside the Baroque-era mansion. Peeking inside the front door you can see the olvely interior courtyard with frescoes; you will also see the door that leads to the back garden and ultimately to the seafront (regrettably the back garden door has been replaced by a utilitarian modern door, totally out of character with the building. If you go around the block you can view the gardens from the back and get a sense of what living in this town mansion would have been like centuries ago.

  • 13. Risto e Pizza da Franco

    Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 65, Barletta, tel 0883 950 653.
    This tiny restaurant was packed at lunch--by locals (an excellent sign). There is no menu; the meal is set. You just decide which courses you want and you get what they are serving today. Grilled vegetables, fresh mozarella, pasta in brodo, a grilled sausage, fresh fruit: By the end of the meal Franco, the owner, and I were best friends as he patiently worked with my limited Italian to talk about his family, his travels and his business. Good food, an adventure, and great hospitality all in one.

  • 14. Molfetta

    Another coastal town in Puglia with a lovely historic district. Reportedly, Molfetta has become known unofficially as a "priest factory" because of the large number of churches and monasteries.

  • 15. Ristorante Bufi (Molfetta)

    Via Vittorio Emanuele, 15, Molfetta, tel 080 3971597

    Listed in the Michelin guide, restaurant Bufi is well worth a visit. The cuisine if inspired and inventive, but not absurd. Ask for a tour of the wine cellar and see the jars of house-made preserves and vegetable sauces,m as well as the hanging hams and aged cheeses. The chef will leave you with a sense of having experienced some fine cuisine,.

  • 16. Ruvo di Puglia

    A small town with a XII century Norman cathedral. But the real attraction here is the Jatta Museum, a priceless collection of Greek antiquities dating back to the IV century BC.

  • 17. Museo Archeological Nazionale "Jatta" (Ruvo di Puglia)

    Pzza Bovio, Ruvo di Puglia, tel 080 812848

    Not to be missed. In the early XIX century, Giovanni Jatta senior began collecting Greek antiquities, specifically vases and urns. So he began collecting and preserving the priceless works. His son carried on the tradition, installing the works in rooms of the family mansion in Ruvo. During the XIX century, Jatta the younger would entertain guests in the rooms filled with Greek urns and vases. In the early XX century the state acquired possession of the collection, and opened the museum in the family mansion in the 1990s.
    The staff members seem very nonchalant about their excellent holdings. If you can get a guide to give you a tour of the works, you will hear fascinating tales about why these works are among the most important in the world.

  • 18. Cattedrale di Ruvo
    Cattedrale di Ruvo di Puglia, Ruvo Di Puglia, Province of Bari

  • 19. Ristorante U.P.E.P.I.D.D.E (Ruvo di Puglia)

    Vico Sant'Agnese, Ruvo di Puglia, tel 080 3613879

    Off the main square in a tiny alley, this restaurant is easy to miss--take care not to do so. The food is of high quality, served by an attentive and congenial staff. Starters will overwhelm the table, including such treats as meatballs in sauce, roasted peppers, grilled aubergine, balls of fresh mozarella and beans with greens. The pastas are good. Be sure to have an after-dinner drink: They will bring over a basket of probably a half dozen house-made liqueurs, from the typical limoncello (lemon) through ones flavored with berries and oranges. to my favorite, the bay laurel liqueur. Highly recommended.

  • 20. Castel del Monte
    Castel del Monte, Andria, Province of Barletta-Andria-Trani

  • 21. Polignano a Mare
    Polignano a Mare, Province of Bari

  • 22. Ristorante Ca Blu (Polignano a Mare)

    via Porto, 23, Polignano a Mare, tel 080 424 1031

    In the old city of Polignano, this restaurants looks out over the sea from the heights of the town. The fresh fish is a specialty, well done.

  • 23. Masseria San Martino
    Masseria San Martino, Pezze di Greco, Fasano

    A wonderful place to visit. The owners are native Italian but lived for many years in Alberta Canada, so they are comfortably bilingual. The rooms are really apartments, many fitted with kitchenettes. The rooms are all different--some private balconies, some patios, some two-bedroom suites. All clean, modern, well-maintained.
    A bonus is that the masseria is an olive plantation, with over 2600 trees, some over 1000 years old. Depending on the season you can watch the olive harvest. And on St Martin's day (early November), the owners honor the farm's namesake by having the local priest celebrate a mass in the chapel of the masseria to which all neighbors are invited. After the ceremony the owners share some of the year's new wine (similar to the French marking the arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau) and food such as foccacia and taralli and, of course, fresh olives (which are worth a taste if you have had only the brined preserved ones).
    Relax and become part of the family.

  • 24. Cisternino
    Cisternino, Province of Brindisi

  • 25. Ristorante Le Mandorle (Cisternino)

    via Sanb Quirico, 65, Cisternino, tel 080 444 8569

    Just a short walk from the cathedral, this new restaurant has all the qualities that will make it stay. The manager is gracious and accommodating. The service is fast and precise. And the cooking leaves nothing to be desired. The menu is full of typical Pugliese dishes, and the kitchen executes them well. Hg\ighly recommended.

  • 26. Ostuni
    Ostuni, Province of Brindisi