The region of Puglia can be neatly split into three zones; the flat north plain and Gargano, the heel known as Salento, and the iconic central zones of Bari and Brindisi.
The territory of Leuca, the very tip of Puglia, the so called heel of Italy, is characterised by stones walls, straw stacks and secular olive trees.
These are powerful images made all the more evocative by the smell of origano, thyme, wild fennel and the salty sea.
Spectacular beauty which can be taken in with a round trip of the following towns and hamlets.
Start in Cagliano del Capo where the roads are squeezed between the sea and the bare sun drenched rocks before arriving at the promontory of Ciolo.
Here you can admire a series of gorges which head deep inland. They were natural shleters for the first primitve inhabitants of the zone, in particular the Cipolliane and Prazziche coves or caves.
Monopoli sits tranquilly overlooking the Med much as it must have done when it was part of the Marine Republics of Amalfi and Venice between the 11th and 15th centuries. It is not diifficukt at all to imagine how it must have been 500 years ago.
Head straight to the small port, or Molo Vecchio, where the traditional fishing boats still shore up for the night and marvel at the recently restored 'golden' walls of the castle which contrast spectacularly with the blues of the of the sea and sky. This and the surrounding fortifications date from 1552.
The Extra Virgin Olive Oil Route 'Collina di Brindisi' needs little clarification. If you are looking for an itinerary to discover the extra virgin olive oil of the province of Brindisi in Puglia, then you're on the right track.
The Presepe Vivente or Living Presepe of Tricase in the province of Lecce, south Puglia, takes place every year on the hilltop of Sant'Eufemia. More precisely in the locality of Monte Orco. After 30 years of activity this nativity scene with real actors has reached such a level of importance for Tricase to nicknamed the 'Bethlehem of Italy' and is one of the oldest eight estalbished presepi in south Italy.
A first hand guide of the main Castles of central Puglia
CASTEL DEL MONTE
Frederick II had Castel del Monte built around 1240 and it is the most famous of the numerous Swabian castles in the region, both for the recurrent use of the number eight (external perimeter of the courtyard, shape and number of towers) which is full of symbolic meaning and because of its uncertain function.
UNESCO included it in the World Heritage in 1996. The sixteen trapezoidal rooms are characterised by refined sculptural adornments in which ancient (motifs belonging to the classical repertoire) and modern (elements clearly inspired by gothic European) are blended along with elements from the Arab world. www.castellodelmonte.it
The approach to the cuisine of the province of Foggia in north Puglia can be summed up by the local term: 'a chi è convinto che a tavola non si invecchi'.
In other words if you know how to eat well you'll never grow old. Read on for what they're talking about.
For olive oil, fennel and sausage try Lucera. The town also produces its own DOC the 'Cacc'èmmitte' made from Troia grapes. Also look out for the vegetable paté.
The troia grape is ready for picking at the start of October and the wine is some of the most alcoholic available. It also ages extremely well.
It's so good that the coastal hills of Bari also host the vines. Look out for the 'Rosso di Cerignola', 'Orta Nova', 'Rosso Canosa' and 'Rosso Barletta' all made from the grape.