Puglia can surely now take its place in the first rank of Italy’s famous regions.
Clearly, everything the Italophile craves is there in abundance: ancient towns heavy with the tangible past; extravagant churches dreamt up by Europe’s finest architects; the footprints of an endless procession of conquerors and cultures, stamped in stone, gold and marble; seas of olives; olive-green seas; and food the equal of any in Italy. Travellers bored or worn down by the crowds of Campania and Tuscany can find still release in the baroque splendour of Lecce, ‘Florence of the South’, or one of many lesser (but no less beautiful) Pugliese towns.
But it’s perhaps outside of its cities that Puglia shines brightest. From the ancient Forest of Umbra in the north to the fruitful Valle d’Itria and sun-baked Salento, Puglia’s countryside has always been its foundation – the source of its food, its wealth and its culture.