Puglia – or Apulia – is a rustic region on the ‘heel’ of Italy. It boasts a rugged stretch of coastline, longer than any other mainland region of Italy. On a luxury Puglia holiday, explore the historic city of Lecce, called the ‘Florence of the South’; stroll along the exquisite, narrow streets of Locorotondo; and tour the region’s famous trulli – charming, conical stone houses – or even stay in one. From its ancient fishing villages to its sun-drenched olive groves, Puglia will sweep you off your feet. The delicious food is also sure to satisfy your appetite.
Puglia is Italy’s agrarian work horse; much of the country’s wine, durum wheat and olive oil is produced on the region’s farmland. Its cuisine reflects its character: traditional, bucolic and authentically Italian. Orecchiette – ‘small ears’ in English – is a pretty Puglian pasta named for its distinctive shape. You’ll find it dressed in tomato sauce, accompanying meatballs or served with rapini (sometimes called Italian broccoli) as in favourite orecchiette alle cime di rapa. Cheese is also a staple of the locals, and while here you must try the soft, creamy buffalo-milk cheese, burrata. Made with mozzarella and full of runny, delicious cream, it’s an ideal addition to salad, pasta or prosciutto. For a cheese with a little more bite, nibble on some Puglian canestrato. This hard cheese, made from sheep’s milk, is DOP-certified by the EU in recognition of its cultural significance – and delicious grated over pasta.
Italy’s insatiable appetite for olive oil continues unabated – the country is practically drizzled in it. Puglia’s olive groves keep up with the demand, with almost 40 per cent of the country’s olive cultivation happening here. If you’re an olive enthusiast, follow the region’s strada dell'Olio – or oil route, stopping by the farms that produce this Italian nectar. Alternatively, many luxury villas in Puglia produce their own olive oil, so you can explore the process of production amidst the lap of luxury.
Aside from its gallons of golden olive oil, Puglia is also renowned as a wine producer – almost 20 per cent of Italy’s wine is made here. Of particular note is that produced from the zinfandel grape, known locally as primitivo. This plump, black-skinned variety results in full-bodied reds as well as rosés, a perfect accompaniment to rustic Puglian dishes.