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Puglia Fall 2023 Trip report


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Puglia has become an increasingly popular travel destination over the last couple of decades, with Italians as a summer sea and fun destination while foreigners mainly visit Lecce for the extreme Baroque architecture, Alberobello and the valle d’Itria for the ‘trulli’ and landscapes, and characteristic seaside towns like Monopoli and Polignano a Mare. Matera, which is in Basilicata, but just an hour by car from Bari, is a unique and special place.

There are many reasons why I like Puglia: the landscapes, the Romanesque architecture in pale cream stone, blue sea, good weather, absolutely fantastic food also in the sense of 'raw materials' - fruit and vegetables and fresh fish and cheese at local markets, splendid small towns and villages in the interior – Valle d’Itria but also Daunia, relaxed pace of life, good public transport system (or quiet roads if you’re driving) mean we keep returning. In my opinion it’s an ideal slow travel destination because out of season (avoid July and August) there aren’t an enormous number of tourists and because even the smallest towns and villages have something to discover. There are lots of places in Puglia I could describe as hidden gems. I’ve listed them here. And I've also set part of my second book there. We tend to go back to Puglia every autumn, for at least three weeks: a week each to our two favourite places the first and last week and a visit to somewhere new in between.

In September 2023 we started with 9 days in Vieste, our favourite place on the Gargano peninsula. The weather was splendid, warm and sunny without being too hot. Vieste is on the easternmost tip of Italy so can sometimes be windy but this year we were lucky and just spent the time on the beach, walking up and down the beaches, strolling around Vieste.

Our discovery week this time was in Porto Cesareo, (trip report here) a place which will probably be added to our list of favourites and a good base to visit the area. Gallipoli was packed with tourists and I’m glad we didn’t decide to stay there.

Our last few days were in Trani. I'm starting to lose track of how many times I've visited Trani. The first time was as an afternoon trip from Bari in April 2017. The second time a day trip from Margherita di Savoia in 2019. After that we stayed for over a week in October 2020, five days in October 2021, five each in May 2022 and October 2022. We love Trani and in this post I’ve explained why.

We like to arrive in Trani on a Sunday afternoon, and this year was no exception. Trani is an ideal slow travel destination. Every year I spend several days relaxing and just enjoying everyday life in Trani – walking from the castle past the cathedral, around the harbour amd stopping for coffee, to the park or ‘Villa comunale’ and then down the newer seafront to the abbey Santa Maria di Colonna. Every time we visit, we add a new piece to our knowledge of the area. This year the abbey Santa Maria diColonna on the sea had finally been opened to the public after restoration work. Trani is an excellent place for self-catering. Very few and small supermarkets because there’s an enormous variety of greengrocers, butchers, small food shops, bakeries, take away pizza places and fish stalls down on the harbour, all of which cater to the local population more than to tourists. Trani is on the main train line along the Adriatic Coast and convenient for day trips. This year we went to Barletta. My only doubt when visiting in Trani is whether I’ve stayed long enough……
This is Barletta

These are photos of Trani
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Castles and cathedrals.. lovely architecture.
IIRC it's very heavily influenced by Venetian architecture, as this was an outpost of the Venice in the days when it was a major maritime / trading power.
we're hoping to pull together a trip in May, and now Vieste and Trani are high on my list of places to stay for a few days each......I can tell right now that the challenge is going to be narrowing down the list of things we want to do, see, experience. total of about 18-20 nights on the ground, in Puglia, with a stay in Matera and then a couple of nights in Tropea area, as a flight back to Milan from Lamezia Terme looks like it will be our best option. looking forward to more of your posts, Tina!!

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