Many Italian and foreign tourists have been choosing to spend their holidays in Southern Italy for several years, namely in the popular Salento, a sort of region within a region: it is located in the southern area of Puglia (Apulia), going from Brindisi to Santa Maria di Leuca, that is the last town which is situated at the far end of the region. But, apart from the Salento, what can you visit within two miles range? Which places are worth changing your travel itinerary or simply extend your holidays?
Once you have enjoyed the amazing beaches and towns in Salento, there are several places worthy to be visited in Apulia. In particular, I heartly recommend not to miss:
Castel del Monte
It is just 20km far from Andria and it has been declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. It is a well-kept castle whose building was commissioned by Frederick II. It is an extraordinary architectural building of that time due to its octagonal shape; it is very rich in decorations representing mythological characters and plant motifs both inside and outside. It is commonly called “castle” but many experts think that it was born as an astronomical observatory.
One of the most beautiful place in Apulia made up of tunnels 70 metres down. The itinerary is 3Km long and you will be enchanted when admiring the amazing stalactites, stalagmites, canyons and deep gorges: it seems to live in a place which is out of this world, but actually you will be in the bowels of the earth, in a surreal and wonderful place.
Trulli of Alberobello
Located in the province of Bari, the very popular Trulli of Alberobello have been named World Heritage Site by UNESCO. They are simply traditional Apulian dry stone dwellings with a white quicklime base and conical roofs built up of corbelled limestone slabs. Often the top of these conical roofs show some limestone decorations illustrating religious symbols or signs of the zodiac. Alberobello’s town centre is a place of rare beauty, maybe today it is too much “centred on tourism”…
Bari, the Regional Capital of Apulia, has also much to offer its visitors. You can have a relaxing walk along the promenade and then venture into the peculiar narrow streets of the old city centre. It is very likely here to find old ladies while preparing and selling the so-called “orecchiette” (literally “little ears”, referring to the shape af a local home-made pasta): today, in fact, the “orecchiette street” is very popular and it has become a real tourist attraction. The San Nicola Church, the Cathedral of San Sabino and the magnificent Petruzzelli Theatre also deserve to be visited.
Yes, I know, it is not in Apulia, but very close to it. Matera is geographically located in Basilicata, close to the border with Apulia, and it is just 50 minutes far from Bari by car, a short trip which is worthwhile to take because you will be widely rewarded. No doubt Matera is the most important historic-archaeological tourist site in southern Italy (and this is not parochialism!). The Sassi districts have also been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Matera with its Sassi and the cave churches of the Murgia Park is considered to be the second oldest town of the world, continuously inhabited from the Neolithic Age until now. The Sassi are a complex system of dwellings completely carved out of the friable local stone, commonly known as “tufa”. A maze of houses built one upon the other, along the slopes of the canyon dividing Matera from the Murgia Park. Seen from inside, the Sassi districts seem to be a huge labyrinth made up of very narrow streets, where roofs become streets of the upper level, where thousands of cave churches combine with cave dwellings, old cellars and oil mills. Read here to have a more precise idea about what the Sassi of Matera really are. Matera has not just the Sassi but dozens of tourist attractions that deserve to be visited, such as the Crypt of the Original Sin which is considered to be “the Sistine Chapel of Cave Churches”, the “Palombaro” (a huge underground rainwater cistern), the “Underground Matera” and much more: that is why you need at least 3 days to visit all tourist attractions in Matera (click here to find out why).
Apart from the towns here mentioned, which other places would you recommend visiting to people who are planning to spend their summer holidays in Apulia?