Italy ~ Puglia

01 June 2023

The conical trulli of Alberobello are Puglia's most celebrated tourist attraction.

From Sardinia, I flew on Ryanair (without too much suffering) to Puglia, the heal of the Italian boot. As in Sardinia, I joined an excellent "Classic Journey" trip that again included phenomenal hotels, spectacular meals, and a brilliant itinerary hitting both the region's highlights and walks off the beaten path.

Loved exploring the streets of Alberobello lined with trulli (singular: trullo). Many were built during the 1800s but some were constructed centuries earlier. Shown above with two fine SMU grads.

One hike cleverly took us to see the old town of Matera slowly come increasingly into view until at last we reached this dramatic vantage point. 

Matera is in the region of Basilicata just over the boundary line from Puglia. But, it is so near and so impressive that it gets included in most "Puglia" itineraries.

With Ulisse, our outstanding guide and tour leader, standing in front of Matera's restored Sassi district where cave dwellings carved into the rock cliffs (often with added brick fronts) date back many thousands of years.

Night descends on the revitalized Sassi old town.

This was my room/cave at the unique Aquatio Cave Hotel in the Sassi, much of it excavated from the sandstone centuries ago.

Most days included a beautiful walk. This pic is from our walk near Matera.

We often stayed or ate lunch at a masseria, a large, old country estate that has been restored as a working farm combined with a hotel or inn, usually with unique dining featuring its homegrown ingredients, wine, and bread. More modest agricultural places that welcome tourists are called agriturismos.

Speaking of meals, here we are at two delicious al fresco lunches.

Puglia produces nearly half of Italy's olive oil, so we saw many fields of olive trees. On this walk, Ulisse took us to see some still productive olive trees that are over three hundred years old.

Our final city was Lecce, where its baroque churches extended the style to what became known as "Leccese Baroque." Here is the ornate Basilica di Santa Croce near our hotel. 

Puglia is Italy's leading region for growning sweet cherries, so every May 24 faithful Catholics pay respects to the Virgin Mary of Providence (aka the Virgin Mary of Cherries) carrying this statue through the center of town to a ceremony to bless the cherry crop.

With an ideal Mediterranean breeze, we walked along the pretty coast by Ortrano.

These highlights try to give a sample of this well-designed, superbly guided, charming, delicious week in Puglia (plus Matera)! I should have visited a few more churches and gone to fewer gelato shops. I doubt our walks were sufficient to offset the Italian gelato but at least the steps minimized the damage. Otherwise, it was all perfection.

Gloria all'Italia!