Does this sound like you? Your plane just touched down on the tarmac and the clock is ticking!! You didn’t fly all the way to Southern Italy just to waste time THINKING of what you want to do. You need to dig right in and start enjoying the scenery! Fortunately you can see all the big ticket items in about 3 days or less and still have time left over to lie on the beach a fry like a piece of salt pork.
Everything you need to see is conveniently located on a straight line between the cities of Bari and Lecce – and situated on or near the Adriactic coast, which makes logistics a breeze! Your hotel/motel bed and breakfast accommodations should follow that train of thought: you don’t necessarily want to be too far inland that it takes a lot of time getting to any of your proposed destinations.
For my money – I recommend staying in and around the area between Brindisi and Lecce which puts you right in the middle of all the action. So rent a car, grab a Puglia Tour Guide (about 5 euro at most newsstands) and strap yourselves in, cuz here we go!
Day One: All the locations on this first day are located within 20 kilometers of one another and are easily accessible.
Polignano a Mare (www.Polignano.it).This town gives new meaning to the term “city by the sea”. Nearly half the city is perched high atop sheer rock cliffs, which house a variety of grottos and caves. Local boat tours will take you around for a closer look and several restaurants have their establishments in these rocky holes-in-the-wall as well. Stunning panoramas and great seafood. You won’t want to forget your camera on this one
Grotte di Castellana (www.castellana caves.it): Over 100 meters of twists and turns, stalactites and more. The year was 1922 or there about and a few kids found a small hole in the ground. They peaked inside and lo and behold an incredible 100-meter deep cavern! The Grotte di Castellana has been explored many times since then but it so deep that it has yet to be fully explored. Fortunately, for visitors several 100 meters of caves and grottos are accessible to you. Don’t be fooled – even though you’re under the ground, it’s still a bit humid. The complete tour lasts about an hour.
Alberobello: Trulli houses Rock! What a great way to wrap up your day. Step inside a variety of trulli’s that have been refurbished as shops and boutiques. Visit the famous Trulli Church, taste the always-refreshing and locally-made spirits. Some trulli’s are still maintained the way they were a hundred years ago so you can see how people lived and slept in these fascinating Hobbit-like homes. The Trulli Hotel is in the middle of it all and if you want you can park yourself here for the night for a “trulli” wonderful and unforgettable evening.
Scavi di Egnazia (www.Egnazia.it): The opulence of the Roman Empire! The Appian Way! The Roman City of Egnazia has been painstakingly excavated and preserved and gives visitors a fascinating peak into the lifestyles of the rich, famous and ordinary during the empire’s heyday. An on-site museum displays some of the most stunning mosaic-work to be found in Italy. Make sure you bring sunscreen because you’re going to risk baking during this visit can be enjoyed in 2 hours or more.
Zoosafari (www.zoosafari.it): Located in the city of Fasano, Zoosafari prides itself in being one of the first open-air “ride-by” zoo’s in Italy. With over 1000 animals living the good life, ZooSafari has enough going on to spend an entire day, but you’re on a schedule so I suggest the drive-by tour from the comfort of your car, and then follow-up with the “walking tour” which puts you deep in with monkeys and dolphins and reptiles. The kids will love it because many animals can be fed (from a distance). Depending on how your time goes, ZS has a way-cool amusement park on the premises complete with Ferris wheel and other attractions.
Ostuni (www.Ostuni.it) Puglia’s famous “City of white” because the never-ending network of houses that make up the city-center are painted white each year at the beginning of summer. This long-standing Mediterranean tradition keeps the houses cool and makes for a great photo-op. You’ll enjoy walking through the “centro storico” and peaking in and around the many nooks, crannies, and side-streets where families have maintained the same household for generations. A walk around the city castle is not to be missed. Enjoy the local cuisine – like a steaming dish of hand made paste called orriecheti. A terrific assortment of cafÃ?Â©’s bars and trattoria’s rounds out you visit which can be done at your leisure in a few hours. May be worth scheduling during the second part of your day where you can relax in the shade provided by the many buildings, churches and houses.
The Baroque City of Lecce. The Florence of the South! As you walk through the Centro Storico you’ll notice that the only thing missing in this thoroughly medieval setting is the King and Queen. Check out the Lecce Amphitheatre – where gladiators battled lions, tigers and other slaves seeking freedom. The Duomo sits in a miniature version of St. Peter’s Square – take the Museum tour for some fascinating religious art. Lecce also boasts more Churches per square foot than any other city in Italy. Visit the many Carte-Pesta (paper mache) bodega’s and see these lifelike figurines take shape. Carte-pesta is a dying art form and in all the Puglia region is only found in the city of Lecce. Need a breather? Sit yourself under a tree in the Parco Communale. Feed the pigeons, enjoy an ice cream cone, write a few postcards, and catch your breath! And during your visit why not window shop and see some of the sheik fashions that make Italy so famous.
Whew! You did it! Talk about a whirl-wind trip! Keep in mind that these are just suggestions. There are plenty of variations to this itinerary – other small towns along the way (like Brindisi, Oria, Matera, Gallipoli and Otranto) that you can easily mix and match. It depends on how much time you have. You can also access any number of the many other stories I have written about the Puglia region and the cities listed above for more information.
And you thought it couldn’t be done!