Once part of the Roman Empire, Bari served as a major gateway to the Adriatic Sea and has remained so through the centuries. Walk the promenade and enjoy the warm evening breezes and bobbing of colorful, small fishing boats tethered for the night. Old Town provides a stunning display of historical architecture juxtaposed against the stark contrast of modern Bari with museums and shopping streets. Old and new is ever apparent in this exciting coastal city.
Renowned for its beautiful, historic structures, Lecce is an exporter of a soft, workable limestone called Lecce Stone. This allowed Lecce to become the center of ornate, over-the-top architecture called barocco leccese. After Hadrian and the Roman Empire, many (as is evidenced throughout the “Florence of the South”) conquered Lecce. Stunning sites such as the Roman Amphitheatre, the Cathedral, and the Basilica are worth a visit. You might want to pick up some of the famous paper mache’.
Intricate, sandy-colored, uber-Baroque façade of the Basilica is extremely impressive especially when illuminated by the evening sun. Martina Franca is the largest town in the area. Elegant palaces and churches dot what use to be a totally walled city. Lovely place to wander about, soaking up the atmosphere, shopping and patronizing the many outdoor cafes.
Located at the entrance of the Itria Valley, these stunning stalactite and stalagmite caves formed over 90 million years ago. With incredible color and brilliance, this natural wonder has attracted tourists from all over the world.
Polignano a Mare is located on the Adriatic Sea. Arguably one of the most romantic spots in the region, Polignano is a craggy slice of land with several caves that has seen its fair share of invaders throughout history along its limestone cliffs. The historical white-watched Medieval town is as pleasant as the adjoining coastline. Polignano is famous throughout the world for cliff diving.
From the Neanderthals to the Romans, Normans, Bourbons, and many in between, Ostuni (meaning New City) spreads out over three hills and offers spectacular views of the sea below. Also called the White City, Ostuni has the feel of a Greek town. No surprise since it is only 70 km from Greece across the Adriatic. Narrow streets wind through neighborhoods that reveal wondrous doors painted blue, turquoise and green decorated with ornate Baroque details. Come for the olive oil and wine!
Matera transports you back to the ancient Holy Land with its sassi (cave dwelings). Natural caves attracted inhabitants 7000 years ago. The sassi, many little more than one-room caves, once contained such appalling poverty and unthinkable living conditions that in the 1950s Matera was denounced as the 'Shame of Italy', and the sassi-dwellers were evacuated. Only in later decades has the value of this extraordinarily built environment been recognized. Famous for the many movies filmed here (including Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ), Matera offers stunning views and wonderful eateries.
Trani is reminiscent of 1950s films set in old-fashioned seaside Italy: historic buildings fading with casual charm, boats in the harbour and sleepy dogs lazing in the midday sun by the deserted waterfront. Lovely restaurants, fabulous, fresh seafood and delicious wines are a highlight.
When the Emperor Frederick II built Castel del Monte near Bari in the 13th century, he imbued it with symbolic significance, as reflected in the location, the mathematical and astronomical precision of the layout and the perfectly regular shape. A unique piece of medieval military architecture, Castel del Monte is a successful blend of elements from classical antiquity, the Islamic Orient and north European Cistercian Gothic.
It is said that from the rooftops one can see 1000 trulli. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is well-worth the visit. The Trulli homes' heritage stems from the Middle Eastern tower-like mounds of stone used as tombs for the dead. Macedonian kings had a role in the Trulli homes, too! Seems the Hellenistic culture decreed these elaborate and complicated structures as watchtowers for military defense. Today one can see pagan and Christian symbols painted on the rooftops. Rumor has it that when the king's men would come 'round to assess taxes for their dwellings, the people would dismantle their rooftops of stone rendering their homes inadequate as living space (no roof) and therefore not able to be taxed. When the king's men would take leave, the people would lay the roofs back onto their houses and be safe for a duration of time. Amazing!
Ceramic production in Puglia is still thriving today. The most important center of ceramic production is Grottaglie. Along the banks of San Giorgio an entire district of expert ceramists have laboratories and kilns. As in the past, they use the rock of hypogeal environments and have succeeded in creating a flourishing ceramic community of artisans that is recognized all over the world.
A Masseria to Remember!
"Home" has never been so lovely.
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