As at all good Italian get-togethers, food takes centre stage: fresh fish, melons, figs, olive oils and wines. Puglia produces almost all of the country’s – in fact Europe’s – pasta. Yet although the region may appear Italian down to its boots, the heel of Italy has a very cosmopolitan past; the Greeks, Spanish and Normans all paid visits, leaving a quirky mishmash of architectural heirlooms, from Baroque churches and Romanesque cathedrals to whitewashed villages and the traditional conical dwellings called trulli.
And, if it's in-depth exploring you're after:
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When to go
If you don’t fancy sweltering-hot weather and busy beaches, visit in early or late summer for milder conditions and the chance to bag a decent spot on the sand. Fine, sunny weather starts in spring and lasts well into autumn this far south, and sees the region at its best.
PlanesThere are airports at Brindisi and Bari, both with regular flights from other European cities.
TrainsPuglia’s main towns and cities are connected by rail, though local services are often scenic and slow (www.trenitalia.com). Remoter areas, such as 13th-century Castel del Monte, require a car.
AutomobilesCar hire is essential if you really want to explore. Chancing upon remote villages as you drive along is all part of the fun.
TaxisTrying to hail a cab on the street won’t get you anywhere; go to a taxi rank or ask your hotel to order one for you. They are metered and levy small extra charges for luggage and for travelling after 10pm.
Experience a regal stay with four nights at Borgo Egnazia, a modern-day castle on Puglia's sunswept seashore. Here, you'll find a collection of sumptuous white-on-cream villas arranged like a traditional village, a knock-out spa, delectable Pugliese cuisine and a traditional cookery school.
Worth getting out of bed for
– Explore nearby historic hilltop villages with Adriatic views
– Shuttle down to one of the hotel's two affiliated beach clubs
– Hit the links at the ocean-view San Domenico golf course
Peek under the bed in Cervarolo’s Junior Suite 9 and you find a cisternina (literally ‘a grape-stomping place’); this 16th-century farmhouse once produced its own wine (and today, mixes some knockout liqueurs). The owners have gone to incredible lengths to incorporate the Puglian residence’s 400-year history (antique doors for headboards, traditionally Puglian trulli architecture and the ilk) with modern comforts (Malin + Goetz products; simply enormous swimming pool, modern cookery school) . Every bedroom is individual, thanks to all the original features of the architecture – the alcoves, fireplaces and vaulted ceilings are all unique.