We are staying the month of December in Lecce, the capital of the Province of Puglia. (The English name is Apulia.) The Italians call this region of southern Italy the land of the Mezzogiorno – the midday sun – with a Mediterranean climate and laid back lifestyle. We set out to explore in our Fiat 500 rental.
It was a beautiful day and we headed north up the coast, retracing our train journey south after arriving in Bari.
Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to a unique architectural style called trulli. The trulli are round, dry-stacked limestone and white-washed houses.
No one knows the origin of the trulli although one popular idea is that they could easily be dismantled in order to avoid taxation.
The whitewash makes them appear to have a dusting of snow.
Alberobello gets its name from the oak forest, Alboris Bello (Beautiful Forest), that used to surround the area. Some survive.
Alberobello has a dense concentration of more than 1400 trulli constructed between the 14th and 16th centuries.
These beehive-shaped houses look like they could be Hobbit houses.
Locorotundo and Cisternino – designated as two of Italy’s most beautiful towns.
The view of the valley below Locorotundo, one of Puglia’s white-washed hill towns.
The sun setting on Cisternino, a white-washed Italian hill town which has a tight warren of alleys.
The Salento is the region of southern Puglia. It is flat, hot and dry – home to olive orchards and 500 miles of Mediterranean coastline. Day two we drove over to the coast to Leuca on the southernmost tip. The weather was dry, but cloudy.
Olive trees near Lecce. 80% of Italy’s olive oil originates from the olive trees of Puglia (in the boot heel) and Calabria (in the boot toe).
Amazing that these olive trees can grow through all the stones. These trees are at the very southern tip of the Salento peninsula.
This beach is only 6 miles from Lecce.
Puglia is Italy’s #1 domestic tourist destination. Forsaken beaches and deserted beach towns will return to life again when next summer’s hoards return.
The coastline has seen many invaders: Greeks, Swabians, Normans, Turks, Spanish, Romans. A form of Greek is still spoken in the southeastern villages of Salento.
Torre del’Orso, Italy
The heel of Italy’s boot juts into the stunningly blue waters where the Ionian and Adriatic Seas meet.
Otranto, Italy’s easternmost city, is a pretty harbor town on the Adriatic and was the main port to the East for 1000 years.
A castle built by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. This guy was loved by the Czech people (remember Charles Bridge?) Same guy, different names – Carlos, Karel, Charles.
During the 1480 Sack of Otronto 18,000 Turks besieged Otranto. The 800 survivors were taken to Minerva Hill and beheaded after refusing to convert to Islam.
Gallipoli is on the west coast of the Salento peninsula.
Gallipoli, population 10,500, a walled fortress town built on an island with a bridge to the mainland.
The Province of Puglia is a foodie destination, home to Italy’s hearty peasant food. The majority of Italy’s fish is caught in Puglia.
Gallipoli, Greek for beautiful coast, has some fine beaches south of town.
If you receive the blog in your mailbox you may have noticed that last week’s blog ended rather abruptly. (Maybe you didn’t, but I was disgusted.) It’s a long story for another day. Although technologically challenged, my guess is that the earlier (unfinished and unedited) version posted because the expanded – finished and edited – version was not completely uploaded thanks to our Stone Age wifi. Link to last week’s post if you want to see what you missed.
Hope you are enjoying your Christmas weekend! Ciao until next time!