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.
In an area of Italy more often associated with fish and the sea for the casual visitor, the cultivation of olives is one of Puglia's greatest resources and economic certainties. To the extent that it can claim to be an emblem for the area and indeed most of Italy's mass consumed olive oil originates from the region.
It all started in the 18th century when a young Charles Bourbon proposed a reduction in taxes to the larger landowners in return for their help in cultivating olives. Today, 50 million olive trees exist from those initial saplings. There are around 240,000 farms operating in the sector.
A fabulous seafood recipe from Monopoli which is typical of the culinary tradition of the Puglia coast.
cavatelli fresh pasta, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, parsley, cuttlefish cut in strips, clams, mussels and shrimps.
The menu below was sent to us by Rodolfo del Frassino, the owner of trullo Monte Zuzzu. Rodolfo is a professional chef with over 20 years' experience and on request, he will provide you with some typically delicious dishes from the local Apulian cuisine. It features the best seasonal products and a selection of seafood, meat and vegetable dishes to choose from.
Start off with an antipasti, made up of four of the following typical dishes. Desset might be fruit almond cakes. To end a rosolio, a sweet liqueur made from herbs or fruit hand-made by local experts. Our choices are in bold.
Fans of the baroque should beat a path to Lecce, the capital of the territory known as Salento at the most south eastern of Italy's boot or heel.
Inside the 16th century walls of the old city the Piazza del Duomo is the place to discover the so called 'Barocco Leccese' and, according to the tourism authorities, the most dramatic point of contact between faith and art.
The cathedral dates from Norman times but the present building took its form around 1670. It really dominates the square and positively invites the visitor to enter its doors with its enticing promise of unknown riches inside.
The power of the church is symbolized in the pulpit made from Lecce stone and carved with scenes from the Apocalypse.
At the heart of the city is Piazza S.Oronzo. This ancient square dates from medieval times and was for a thousand years covered a Roman ampitheater.
It was only unearthed in 1901 when the foundations for the Banca d'Italia were being laid.
If you are visiting Lecce, the top ten places to see of historical and urban interest are the following, in no special order of preference:
There seems to be a few 'Murgia' in this part of Italy.
From the Murgia Materana around Matera and the west Murgia towards Taranto, it is essentially a continuous territory formed by thousands of years of erosion and running from Bari in Puglia across to Basilicata.
It's absolutely worth discovering, but here we look at the zone which includes the comune of Altamura, Andria, Ruvo di Puglia, Gravina in Puglia, Minervino Murge, Corato, Spinazzola, Cassano delle Murge, Bitonto, Toritto, Santeramo in Colle, Grumo Appula and Poggiorsini.
They can all be found in the territory of the Parco Nazionale dell'Alta Murgia where the canyon di Gravina in Puglia stretching towards Matera marks the south west border of the protected area.
Nevertheless, the 'Alta Murgia retains a rich fauna and flora.
Around Altamura you can see the impressive 'doline carsiche' of Pulicchio and Pulo which are 100 and 70 meters deep.
It is possible to visit the park all the year round and excursions can be made on foot, bike or even in a methane driven coach operated by the Park authorities. Try this one for yourself.
Mottola is situated on a hill spectacularly facing the south west Murgia of Puglia towards the Gulf of Taranto (see image below) and the mountains of Alta Sila inland.
For this reason it is known as the 'Spy of the Ionio'.
The soft rock permitted the first inhabitants of the zone to hollow out caves or dwellings in the ravines; they were inhabited up to the Middle Ages.
These Rupestrian villages were where ancient man lived frugally in contact with others, their animals and nature.
Some of the best are just outside the city and are called Pteruscio e Casalrotto.
The Rupestrian churches are especially interesting and many are full of priceless early Christian frescoes. The Church of San Nicola can boast its own “Cappella Sistina”.
The APT Bari has produced a set of 5 colourful pamphlets called 'Flashtours' of the city of Bari and province.
Subtitled 'A Land to Discover, history, culture and beauty of', the tourist itineraries in the range are 'The City of Bari', 'The Sea and the Caves', 'A Land of History', 'The Trulli Road' and 'The Land of Altamurgia. Keep the following in mind when you next go.
The old town of Bari has the longest sea front in Italy which is an impressive claim. Along the way admire the Liberty style Kursaal Santalucia Theatre and the fascist architecture of the Albergo delle Nazione.
The APT also states that the Arabs also left their mark on the city.
The 'Capa du Turk' is a bas-relief of the head of a Moor who was decapitated because he ventured out during a witch's night having been advised to stay indoors.
The new part of Bari was founded in 1813 and in the Carassi District is the Russian Orthodox Church with its green domes dedicated to Saint Nicholas, the city's patron saint.