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Vacation Flashback: Puglia Edition

Updated: Mar 16, 2020

Finally back from a few of our vacations and still not ready to be back at work. Since the blog is well underway I wanted to update you guys on a few vacation blog posts! So lets start with this one, back in September we decided to look at the other side of Italy and visit Apulia! Let's just say it is to die for gorgeous minus the crowds you see from the more tourist locations. I mean don't get me wrong you can't lose when you visit Positano but, during the peak season it does get over crowded with everyone trying to go there. And even though we love the hype, it is also important to go to places that offer the same beauty but is just a little quieter so that you can really get some peace as well as, relax.

So we got to explore the entire region from Alberobello to Ostuni to Lecce, among others. All beautiful places but each one is it's own community offering their own quirkiness. For example, Alberobello is known for their two story trulli houses and Ostuni is known for being the "white city" famous for its olive oil (which some people says reminds them of Santorini). In general, with any vacation you can't go wrong but it was so nice to see how people lived and continue to live in these incredible small towns, living simple as well as, whole lives.

When you do go to this area you can opt for an airbnb or stay at a hotel of which the best one is Borgo Egnazia and if you want to stay in Polignano A Mare with a little more dough, opt for the hotel Grotto Palazzese. Whatever your budget you will have an incredible time here. Personally, we prefer a more local feel but it really just depends on what you like and what you want to spend your money on.

Also, if you plan on coming back multiple times to the region then you should stay and see up to three or four locations but otherwise you want to try and see as much as you can. Since we went for 10 days we were able to see around 8 different towns. Experience matters and each town has really so much so there will be things you won't be able to do. Highly recommend olive oil tasting in Ostuni which is something we will have to get back to next time! We got to go on a cave tour but there is a show on certain days known as, Hell in the Cave which is another must do we missed.

Now let's carry on to the food. If you don't yet know we love to eat and we pride ourselves on our "high-class" palette haha. I have a motto on vacation and it is to eat local but of course we couldn't help ourselves and eat at the places people noted to be amazing. That goes without saying everyone who comes to this region knows that the Grotto palazzese restaurant is a must do. If you ask the locals, they would undoubtedly say no but if you ask us if you are going here you should definitely be going here for the view more so, than the food. Don't get us wrong the food is great but the whole region has amazing food that doesn't come with the price tag. The view is amazing and I would go back there just for that. We had a beautiful table overlooking the water while literally sitting inside the cave and had a musician above us playing Frank Sinatra. It truly is a surreal experience.

Another restaurant was Pasha which is a Michelin star restaurant close to where we were staying in Conversano. The experience here is also uncanny which explains why it has the Michelin label. Each room looks like you are in someones personal home sitting in the dining room area! The food is beyond belief and I even had the opportunity to try deer as well as, pigeon. This is considered to be a delicacy in that part of the world so I could not say no.

But aside from these restaurants we have enjoyed eating in numerous local places all happen to be amazing. We even did food shopping and ate at our villa. Just so you know the local food products would never be as good, as fresh and even as affordable in the United States.

For things to do, I will always recommend to spend a few days relaxing by the beach. There are different beaches some with rocks and some with sand so you can pick your poison but the water is amazing and was one of the highlights of our trip. So definitely mix up sight seeing with some much needed resting by the beach. There are numerous beach clubs and all are great.

When it comes to shopping Bari has some great shops! It's cheaper than it would be in the United States which is why we always shop overseas. You can get some high end as well as local brands. There is this one street in Bari with all the shops known as, Via Sparano da Bari. Here you can basically have it all shopping, food and the lively Italian people.

One of the days we did a boat trip where we got to sail around the coast and relax out in the sun. We even got to eat a fresh seafood meal made by our amazing captain (the mussels and linguine combo was to die for). We got so lucky because it happened to be one of the more peaceful days to be out in the water. The crew taught us a little bit about navigating the boat and sailing in general which added a nice touch.

Overall, we had an incredible time and could have easily went for a full two weeks due to the flights and the jet lag you deal with as well. I do believe this would be a place I would come back to and now that we have seen the majority we can pick and choose to stop at certain places or see the locations we haven't yet seen. It's so nice to always have a refresher and admire how other people live. We are always waiting for our next vacation but even then learning about the location, the culture and the people. As always, don't forget to eat a bunch of local foods (the specialty here is orecchiete and olives!) but also we can't ever get enough of some gelato.

On that note, we hope you enjoyed this travel blog. Stay humble everyone and we can't wait to be on our next journey. If you want a full list of things we've done and itinerary see the quick summary below:

Day 1: Conversano and Polignano a Mare

Day time walking around and places to see:

  • Castle of Conversano/Pinacoteca Civica Conversano

  • Castello Marchione

  • Modern Art: Vittoria Rutigliano (local artist) and Galleria Cattedrale

  • Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta

We went into Polignano a Mare to walk on the beach Cala Paura (it's full of rocks so beware) and ate lunch at Terrazze Monachile

For dinner we opted for Ristorante Villa Degli Aranci which was one of the best local meals ever (also got a parking ticket here for parking the wrong way lol)

Day 2: Alberobello

Places to see: the UNESCO world heritage site due to the whitewashed stone buildings, must see the trulli

You can eat anywhere here but we opted to head back into town for a little bit, go food shopping and relax before dinner at Grotto Palazzese (the view here is to die for and beware that if you go with more than 4 people you may be asked to stick to the prefixe menu, we got lucky they weren't to busy so we had the option, although the prefixe option might actually be cheaper)

Day 3: Boat Trip Day

- This day was truly one of our favorites. So relaxing and much needed. Ines if you see this thank you for the amazing experience!

- After the boat we docked back in Bari so we got to explore this region a little bit. Here are some recommendations:

  • Historic Center/Bari Vecchia (the old town)

  • Basilica di San Nicola (Bari’s largest basilica)

  • Cathedral and Castello Normanno-Svevo (one of Puglia’s most interesting fortresses)

  • Seaside Promenade

  • Shopping streets: Corso Cavour and Via Manzoni, also Via Sparano

  • Contemporary art: Spazio Murat in Piazza Ferrarese

Some food spots in Bari:

  • Osteria Travi Buco in the historic center (typical pasta dish in this region is the orecchiette con cima di rape)

  • Bunch of bars around Via Venezia and Piazza Mercantile

  • Corso Cavour: several gelato shops and bars

  • They have like a raw seafood lunch that they do daily at lunchtime you just walk up and get all the seafood you want for like 5 euros (in front of the Margherita Theatre)

  • Eat like a local at La Cantina di Cianna Cianne

We did more of a local thing where we walked around the stores, got some gelato, etc. HINT HINT... there were some really GOOD prices on some brand name goods!

Day 4 and Day 5: Headed South to Otranto (Hidden Gem)

- This is a beautiful seaside town with a historic center and port (the port is really nice and it feels unreal to walk around here)

- Popular beach club is Lido Gold (located in the “Maldives” of Salento)

- You can swim in the shade of the ancient city walls

On the way to Otranto we stopped by Castellana Grotte which was a really cool and totally unique experience. After this, we got to a local hotel outside of Otranto and relaxed by the beach there. We got to see this amazing lake known as the, Laghetto Cave di Bauxite and then at night would go to town where you can walk by the canal or get lost inside the old city. We went to a local restaurant sat outside and ate some yet again amazing food. The next morning we hung out by the beach then headed to Lecce (see below).

Day 5 and Day 6: Lecce

- Eat pizza at La Città di Pulcinella or La Succursale

- Can also visit: Pasticciotto and caffè Leccese at Caffe Alvino

There are lots of amazing places to eat at and in the old town you can find beautiful cathedrals. We did a stop before reaching the old town at this place called Grotta della Poesia for a quick scenic dive! Then we headed into Lecce to the Jewish museum known as, Palazzo Taurino where we learned about the Jewish population that lived in this region. You can sit at any little cafe for breakfast as well as, grab some gelato. By the time we got back to Conversano, we made some food at home to relax for the following day.

Day 7: Ostuni

- Known as the "white city" (the cover of this post is from there)

- Best day to go here is on a Saturday for the morning market (per what I've read)

- Masseria Brancati: ancient olive oil mill in Ostuni

- Masseria Frantoio (apple tarte tatin) – supposedly amazing

We did not get to the olive oil mill but we did buy some local olive oils. We also ate in the center by the cathedral before wandering off to look around this cute little town. We finished this day off by heading back home for dinner at Pasha. A more relaxing day to say the least.

Day 8: Beach day and Monopoli

- We had a lovely beach day! So just know there are a number of awesome beach clubs including Coco beach club but we opted for a more local one (can't remember the name now but will let you know if it ever comes back)

- For night time we opted to go into this cute town, Monopoli in order to grab some dinner. The restaurant had you go down into a basement like area, it was small and intimate with a nice seafood meal for our last hurrah before heading home.

Other towns to visit (if you get a chance or have time):

  • Matera

  • Brindisi

  • Savalletri

  • Grottaglie

  • Salento

  • Andrano

  • Gagliano del capo

I know this was a long one but lots of stuff done on this trip! Thanks guys and I will be sure to update with other things I remember from what we did here haha.

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