In just a couple of weeks, we will be leaving our beloved Umbria yet again to return to North America for the winter, so we decided to squeeze in one more trip between our olive harvest and closing up the property for the winter. If you follow my blog at all, you will probably notice a trend. We love seafood of every description, and with Umbria being one of the few landlocked regions in Italy, we tend to plan our trips away to the sea, where we can gorge on fresh seafood daily. Although Umbria has my heart, if I were to choose another region in Italy to live in, I think it would have to be Puglia. The countryside in Puglia is ever changing, the people are exceptionally warm and friendly, and of course the region is surrounded by coastline which for us means unlimited seafood!
Puglia is a fair distance from Umbria, so we planned to be away five days, and I booked accommodations in some of our favorite Pugliese towns, Vieste, Ostuni, Otranto, and Gallipoli, all towns along the coast. We’ve visited many of the interior towns on earlier trips to Puglia, but were more motivated by the lure of seafood this trip than visiting the sites.
Vieste is on the Gargano Peninsula and is one of the most prominent towns along this section of coast due to its sandy beaches and history. The drive along the coastline around the peninsula is simply stunning, and one I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Puglia. There are some sections of the drive where you pass through the Gargano National Park and the road is cut through the forest and tented with towering trees. It certainly is not unexpected to see goats, sheep, water buffalo, and horses walking along the road as you drive through.
After our stay in Vieste, we were heading down to Ostuni, but broke up our trip with a stop in Polignano al mare, one of the coastal towns we’ve never visited. Polignano a Mare is in the province of Bari and its economy is mostly based on tourism, agriculture and fishing. The city seems to grow out of the rocky limestone cliffs on which the town is situated, which is truly an breathtaking view. After lunch in Polignano, we headed to Ostuni, our next stop on our trip.
Ostuni, known as one of Puglia’s “white towns” has always been a favorite destination of ours since we spent a week with family living in a truli just outside the town a few years back. Unfortunately, almost every time we visit Ostuni it is pouring rain and this visit was no exception. Though always a beautiful town, walking around exploring in torrential rain is not all that enjoyable, so we’ll just have to go back soon when we can enjoy Ostuni more.
Otranto was the next stop on our trip and is yet another white washed town along the coast of Puglia, with a rich heritage of Greek, Roman and Biyzantine occupation all apparent in the architecture. The town is however a tremendously popular tourist destination, and even mid October there were many tourists visiting. We had one of our best meals here in Otranto at a small trattoria called L’altro Baffo. The meal was quite unique with a contemporary twist on seafood and amazingly delicious! Very appealing to me personally, was that the chef and kitchen staff were all female, while the servers were all male. The restaurant is situated across from an elementary school that held a concert the night we were there, and we had a lovely evening dining outside being serenaded by Pugliese folk songs.
Our final stop in Puglia was to Gallipoli, one of my favorite Pugliese towns. There is a decidedly different feel to this town that merges the old historical center and marina with a very vibrant, bustling younger section of town. After wandering through town, we headed down to the docks to watch the fishing boats come in. Many folks crowd the docks waiting to see what is on offer, and after separating the seafood that is reserved for local restaurants, the fishermen pull crates of seafood off the boats and sell it right on the dock. The fishermen and townsfolk alike were tasting the raw shrimps and squid while bartering over price. It was quite amusing to watch the older women check out the offerings of each boat, then try some tough bargaining, before moving on to the next boat to start all again. When in Gallipoli we always stop for pizza at Pizza New Style Capri where Massimiliano Stamerra, award winning pizzaiola, preforms magic throwing his dough.
A visit to Puglia would not be complete without a mention of the amazing olive trees growing throughout the region that are hundreds if not thousands of years old. Having 100 of our own olive trees we will soon be harvesting, I’ve learned to love all things olives and took dozens of photographs of some of the wonderful olive trees we spied along our drive through Puglia, and I couldn’t resist getting out and hugging one of the wonderful trees I took photos of.
Although we had planned to stop overnight on our way home since it was almost an eight hour drive from Gallipoli to Umbria, after stopping for lunch in Termoli, yet another beautiful coastal town but one in Molise, we decided to drive straight through and sleep in our own bed instead which was extremely gratifying indeed after four nights away. We had a wonderful break away and certainly had our fill of seafood, but although it is always nice to get away and visit somewhere new, it is even better to return home again, which helps you appreciate your daily life even more than usual.
Peshici, Puglia as seen from our lunch table.
Our lunch at Trattoria Trabucco, built amongst antique fishing stations.
Duomo in Vieste
Nonna making handmade orecchiette. It was so good looking we ate dinner there!
Rocky Gargano Peninsula
Polignano al mare
Castello Aragonese in Otranto
Clear blue waters at Otranto marina.
Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Leuco
Coast of Puglia viewed from the southern most tip of the region.
Grotto next to the southern most tip with sparkling clear water!
Have you hugged your olive tree today? Wish I could have brought this one home with me. AMAZING!
Old Town Gallipoli
Considered to be one of the oldest fountains in Italy possibly gets its name from the Greeks.
Fisherman in for the afternoon repairing their nets and selling sea sponges.
Just some of the fresh seafood sold on the docks at Gallipoli each evening.
One of many of the old fishing boats having just arrived at the dock with the catch of the day.
Just a few of the wonderful dishes we enjoyed in Puglia!