Hands down, the Puglia region of Italy has the best beaches and you can get confirmation of that from locals, European tourists and American visitors. Puglia, also called Apulia, is in the southeastern tip of Italy or the heel of Italy’s boot. The Adriatic Sea is on the East, the Ionian Sea on the Southeast and the gulf of Taranto is on the South side.
The area has been recognized as an undiscovered gem — think stunning coastlines, miles and miles of olive groves, vineyards, charming towns, historic villages with cone-shaped trullo houses and unique cuisine. The Puglia region produces 40% of Italy’s olive oil, about 300,000 tons a year.
Two of the many areas of note in the region are Bari, the capital of the Puglia region and Matera, a city that truly makes you think you’ve stepped back into Biblical times.
If you’d like to see Bari, Matera and Lecce, nicknamed the “Florence of the South” GetAway Travel can arrange your trip, or, check back with us for details on a trip planned for that area in 2023.
Bari: monuments and pasta
Bari is home to two important monuments, the Basilica di San Nicola, or the Church of St. Nicholas and Frederick II’s castle. It is a bustling harbor town with lovely beaches. The largest port on the Italian side of the Adriatic Sea, it gave Italians numerous access to shipping routes, second only to Naples.
It is still a major ferry port. There are up to 15 ferry crossings a day including an overnight ferry to Dubrovnik, Croatia.
The Church of St. Nicholas is thought to be the resting place of Santa Claus. Built in 1089 to house the remains of the saint, the church is a mixture of architecture styles. The remains of St. Nicholas of Myra were originally in Turkey, but they were moved to Bari when the Saracens attacked Myra in 1087. It is somewhat fitting his remains are in Bari because he is considered the patron saint of travelers, sailors and children. The church interior features beautiful artwork and mosaics.
The city’s main church is the Cathedral of San Sabino. It was destroyed and rebuilt in 1170 in a more Romanesque style. Take some time to study the front facade which is decorated with monsters and other imaginary creatures.
The Castello Svevo was built by King Ruggero in the 12th Century, destroyed and rebuilt by Frederick II in 1233. It became a social hub in the Renaissance when Isabella of Aragon and her daughter, Bona Sforza lived there and hosted famous artists, writers and dignitaries.
St. Nicholas Church and the cathedral are in the Old Town or Bari Vecchia area of Bari. It’s worth taking a walk through the winding streets in Old Town. You will come upon women practicing a craft perfected by their grandmothers and mothers — making orecchiette (little ears) pasta by hand. You can take a walking tour of the area or take a pasta making class.