Travelling in Puglia

From Salerno on the Amalfi Coast to Santa Maria de Leuca on the very heel of the boot shaped Italy is a drive of five hours on four lane divided highway over and through the mountains. In the distance one spots hill towns perched high on the mountain sides. 

Santa Maria de Leuca is on the Salento Coast. Beautiful beaches and coastal cities with all the amenities make it a destination spot for local Italians. While not popular with International visitors, it is getting more and more exposure each year as people discover it is much cheaper and quieter than the major Italian tourist cities. 

Leuca is where the Adriatic Sea and Ionian Seas meet. The Salento area is flat and covered in olive groves. About ten years ago a bacterial disease was introduced from a pest, agriculturists think probably on a plant from Thailand, that infected the olive trees. Not all olive trees, only certain strains, but the Salento peninsula is covered in this strain of olive trees. 

Millions of these hundred-year old majestic trees have died. Mile after mile of olive groves have been decimated; particularly in the southern part of the peninsula. In among the devastation families have begun to replace the dead trees with resistant strains of olive trees. 

We spent a week in a dry stacked traditional home on the hillside up from the Adriatic Sea with a twenty metre cliff and a rocky shoreline with ferocious waves bashing the big rocks. The warm Sirocco winds were blowing across from North Africa. At night we sat protected from the wind and watched the olive trees bend in the gale force winds. 

The coastal road north of Leuca to Bari is a wonderful day drive. The road is windy, with lots of elevation change with interesting stops along the way. The scenery is spectacular and breath-taking in some instances. 
Here the beaches become sandy and some stretch for many kilometres on the half-moon bays. Popular ones are spotted with umbrellas and sun loungers where you can lay and relax with chair side service for beverages and food. They cost about $50 per person for the day. 

The really popular beaches have huge gravel and grass parking lots that hold hundreds of cars and campers. All along the coast are small towns that are empty in October when we were there. We drove into a number of them to look around the waterfront. Block after block of enclosed houses devoid of people. Each town had a cafe, bar and restaurant open along with some other basic services  like a grocery store and pharmacy through the off-season from October to April.

Driving inland at the top of the heel brings you to the beautiful Itria Valley - an agricultural valley full of farms with citrus and olive groves punctuated with the distinctive Trulli structures and their cone shaped grey dry-stacked rock roofs and whitewashed mason walls.

Alberobello is the UNESCO Heritage site for the Trulli. The structures are unique to the Bari region and Alberobello has the largest amount of them. We stayed in a Trullo (singular of Trulli) on a farm in the country for a week. I felt a bit like a Hobbit in my cone roofed house each day as I cooked dinner. Staying in the Trulli was a unique experience. 

Puglia is a lovely place to visit. Hardly any tourists, very little traffic, quiet places, great markets, lots to see and do with historic sites and an interesting culture.