Top Reasons Why Puglia
is a Must-See in Italy

Posted by Mary-Frances Walsh on 7/23/2015
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Europe, Hotels, Italy, Puglia

The warmth and style of the Italian people, and their remarkable art, architecture, food and wine attract millions of visitors to Italy each year. In designing our Italy trips, we work hard to find ways to share this abbondanza authentically and personably.

When Tauck guests visit the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel or St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice on our European tours, after hours, they can enjoy them without feeling pressured or rushed by the crowds. When our guests cruise Lake Como, dine and wine in a historic Chianti abbey, or meet a Murano glass blower in his studio, they do so privately. And when they dine in cities like Florence or Venice, we introduce them to small, inviting establishments with an authentically Italian sense of place.

Puglia5So it’s with excitement that we’ve introduced our newest all-small-group Italy experience, A Week In… Puglia. Traditionally known in English as “Apulia,” this strip of land along Italy’s “boot” is wedged between the Adriatic and Ionian seas. Long ago, its location attracted a series of successive rulers: the Greeks, Romans, Normans, Spanish, French and the Swabians of southern Germany each left their mark.

Today, however, Puglia is clearly Italian in style and substance. And it’s gained a reputation as “the next big Mediterranean hot spot,” according to Travel + Leisure Europe. What’s drawing attention are Puglia’s unspoiled beauty and feel. There are miles and miles of gnarled olive trees; stone walls that crisscross fertile farmlands; rolling hills covered with vineyards; whitewashed villages and a Baroque feast in the town of Lecce. Puglia feels real, and as a home to still mostly locals, it’s a special treat as one of our European tours!

To learn about this new trip, I turned to a few of our in-house experts: Kathy Georgette, the Product Manager who designed the trip; Kathy Muller, Tauck’s Art Director who contributed fabulous photos after experiencing the trip; and one of our star Tauck Directors who leads this trip. Below I’ve combined their thoughts about what makes this trip a Tauck-style hot spot.

Masseria Magic
Tauck guests experience a four-night masseria stay, referring to one of Puglia’s farmhouse-estates converted into a cushy resort. At either of the sister properties of Masseria Torre Coccaro (a working farm), or Masseria Torre Maizza (set in a grove of aged olive trees), the rooms are beautiful and the setting wonderfully restful. There are bicycles to use, paths to walk and pristine pools for a dip – along with privileges at a private beach club.

Conical Trulli
Puglia’s iconic circular-roofed houses date as far back as the 14th century. Made from dry limestone with no visible means of support, trulli were designed to be dismantled quickly (before the local tax authorities arrived). Many survived the centuries, and after interior renovations have been transformed into trendy modern-day homes. In Alberobello, guests explore a quaint neighborhood of hundreds of trulli; some in surprising shapes!

A Soul-Nourishing Farmhouse Lunch
Near Ostuni, the owner of Masseria Il Frantoio, welcomes guests for a tour of his gorgeous “farmhouse manor” surrounded by olive trees and gorgeous landscapes. The wine- and olive-oil-paired lunch is a highlight of the trip, with raves about the food, the stories, and the setting.
Matera, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The caves of Matera’s Sassi District were inhabited by humans for millennium; they also served as the setting for Mel Gibson’s film, "The Passion of the Christ." Dug out of soft limestone rock, the roofs of some caves serve as the foundations for others and they were built around cisterns that channeled rain water directly into residents’ homes. In the Middle Ages, resident monks carved numerous churches here and decorated the walls with impressive frescoes.

Octagonal Castel del Monte
As castles go, Castel del Monte is not what you may have in mind. It’s a flat-roofed eight-sided structure with eight octagonal towers built by Frederick II, a Swabian king. In its day, the views from its terraces must have provided key defensive advantages, but the castle’s exact use retains a bit of mystery. Inside, guests take in its stunning vaulted ceilings and the beauty of its 13th-century architecture (featured on the one-cent Euro coin).

Puglian Artistry in Papier-Mâché & Stone
In Lecce, guests meet Claudio Riso who handcrafts meticulous, lifelike figures from papier-mâché. Riso and his apprentices practice the art form of cartapesta, known as the “poor man’s marble” and a Lecce tradition since the 17th-century. South of Lecce, guests meet Renzo Buttazzo, a sculptor creating marvels of modern-yet-rustic shapes in local sandstone.
The Colors of Santa Caterina d’Alessandria
In Galatina, the interior of this “absolutely beautiful” Franciscan church is covered with frescoes and paintings, thanks to a wealthy 14th-century benefactor for whom cost was not an issue. Painted by Francesco d’Arezzo, the frescoes are still amazingly crisp in color and parts of the ceiling are a glory in white, blue and gold.

The World’s Best Mozzarella
Puglia is the home of burrata, a sphere of soft fresh-milk mozzarella with a creamy center to die for. At the Deliziosa Cheese Factory in Noci, Tauck guests watch workers dip waxed hands into vats of scalding water as they retrieve stringed balls of this divine cheese. Meant to be served fresh, orders are shipped out across the globe on the very same day.

Tormaresca Winery
Not far from Castel del Monte, the Antinori family (26-generation-winemakers) operates Puglia’s first organic winery on the “Bocca di Lupo” Estate. While enjoying the views from this stunning white-stone masseria, guests learn about the influence of the local sunlight, soil and a nearby volcano on the wines produced here – and enjoy a private tasting.
Two Nights in Exuberantly Baroque Lecce
In the heart of a town known for its feast of stonemasonry on facades covered with swirls, cherubs, wreaths and beastly figures, guests spend two nights at Risorgimento Resort. Located near Santa Croce Basilica, a fine example of this Baroque exuberance (dating back to Spanish rule), an evening stroll along the cobblestoned streets is highly recommended.

Hilltop Towns
In Puglia’s Valle d’Itria, Tauck guests visit Alberobello, Locorotondo and Cisternino. These hilltop towns share charismatic names, narrow streets that wind gently up to a quaint central piazza, rows of white homes whose color is said to have once protected residents from the plague, and views of farm fields, vineyards and silvery olive trees.  

Puglian Panzerotti, Pastas & Fun!
Dressed in red aprons, Tauck guests take part in a hands-on cooking class that features some Puglian favorites, like panzerotti. Stuffed with buffalo milk, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or pecorino, the pastry gets its name from its bulbous shape and the southern Italian word for “stomach.”

A Fabulous Resort in Savelletri di Fasano
Based on the design of a traditional Puglian village, Tauck guests spend a final night at Borgo Egnazia, a luxe maze of creams and whites that specializes in maximum leisure. “It’s a thing to behold,” said Kathy Muller – with an enormous indoor pool and an easy walk to the beach.

For first-time visitors to Italy, booking a pre- or post-stay is highly recommended. Better yet, combining a post-stay with a Tauck trip like A Week In… Venice, Florence & Rome can make a perfect Italian rendezvous. For experienced Tauck travelers, A Week In… Puglia, a word to the wise: book early!

Click here to view more "A Week In... Puglia" photographs by Kathy Muller. 



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