Puglia – The New Tuscany
Italy offers an abundance of history, beauty and culture like no other place in the world. Puglia goes even further to take you on an unspoilt journey free of over-populated foreign tourism and culture changes so often tainting the places we see today.
Experience the aroma of fresh Italian cooking in every nook and cranny, soft sing-song Italian tones and the laughter of children as a family sits down to traditional long afternoon lunch. An eyebrow raised at the lazy contentment of a dog cooling itself in the shade of an olive tree and be awestruck at the array of colourful flowers arranged delicately in hanging baskets lining the narrow streets. Return the welcoming smiles as people sit in their doorways waiting to greet you into their shops, restaurants and cafes, the old men sitting nonchalantly in their piazza, wisely discussing current affairs compared to years gone by and old women tending to their laundry on their balconies, loudly greeting friends as they walk beneath.
Perfectly placed in the heel of Italy, surrounded by the Adriatic and Ionian oceans, in a countryside filled with knotted olive trees and lush vineyards you will discover magical sun-drenched towns and villages made up of light-coloured stone houses throwing off an intense white glow reminiscent of the Greek islands.
Alberobello, Ostuni, Cisternino, Locorotondo and Martina Franca, are a few of the beautiful towns to boast this beauty, with every village in the surrounding area following suit, each with their own personality strongly remaining true to the country's romantic heritage and allow you to 'Trulli' experience the essence of the real Italy.
A Trullo, or Trulli (plural). These special houses, shaped like little beehives add to the romance of an area that has worthily earned its World Heritage site status from UNESCO and guarantees that the pace is both slow and tranquil.
Puglia is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the Northern Italian cities. In fact, the area is a much chosen holiday destination for Italians themselves, known to Rome's chic as a 'quirky summer playground' with a rich tradition of wonderful food, flavoursome wine and art-filled towns and cities. It indeed boasts Italy's cleanest coastline and has some of the finest beaches in the Mediterranean.
The rich terrain is flat, making it easy to explore, priding itself with beautiful rolling plains in luminous greens, valleys blanketed with wildflowers, olive groves dating back hundreds of years (producing two thirds of Italy's olive oil) and lush vineyards making some of the best wine that will cross your lips.
The land enjoys a simple way of life, visited by an array of birds and animals. Wild boar, roe and fallow deer, wild cats and eagle owls are amongst some of the species happily making the protected woodlands of Puglia their home.
Described by many publications, broadsheets, television and food critics as the 'New Tuscany'; now is the time to visit... Now is the time to buy.
Puglia – A Colouful History
Puglia's has a colourful and long history with invaders trying to grab the precious land. Some settled, hypnotised by the warm climate and charm of the indigenous peoples; the Dauni in the north, the Peucezi in the centre and the Messapi in the south. Others were dutifully seen on their way.
The evidence of Puglia's conquerors is clearly seen through its architecture and ancient ruins. Prehistoric constructions, known as menhir's, portal tombs or standing stones, were used as ancient religious sites. 8th century B.C. was the peaceful colonization by the Greeks using Pulgia as a springboard for their incredibly successful empire, Italians call 'Greater Greece' or La Magna Grecia.
The now Industrial city of Taranto was used as Puglia's headquarters, with the abandoned settlements scattered to the north and south coastline serving as a gentle reminder of their occupation.
Stretching from Rome to Brindisi, known as the Appian Way, the Romans built their roads into Puglia. This brought a new type of social and economic structure born in the form of large independent farms known as Masserie. A little community comprising of grain mills, olive presses and chapels with living areas for both the workers and the owners themselves. During the 1600's more than 2000 of these successful farms were pebble-dashed over the land. Most, now remain abandoned or turned into hotels or 'holiday working farms' and beautiful houses. You can still find the odd one or two to visit and Bettina can arrange this for you.
In the 12th century, Frederick the 2nd brought his wisdom to the Pugliese landscape, building large 'box-like' castles, olive groves and acres of vineyards. The most famous of these, towards the Murgia hills, near Andria, you will discover Castel del Monte, an UNESCO world heritage site.
Puglia's art history is noted most famously for local Baroque. The Spanish made their mark in the 1500s, winning control of the Naples Kingdom, introducing an era of unprecedented creativity lasting more than 200 years. Lecce is most famous for this imaginative explosion in architecture, with amazing buildings, homes and churches adorned with ornate carvings, intricate religious symbols, animals, people, floral patterns all telling their own story.
The unrivalled quality of the local stone gave the ability for these architects to hand sculpt the soft marble when taken from the quarry. The colour perfectly signed off the artist's effect, by creating a golden glow with essence of pink when exposed to the warm Adriatic breeze.
The most wonderful and best-kept secret of the land has been its' magical Trulli, with an abundance of stories as to their beginnings whispering around the region. Perhaps the most pleasurable of them all, worthy of place in the history books and once visited, perfectly sums up the Pugliese, is the tale of 'the ultimate tax-dodge':
"The Pugliesi subtly designed these dry-stone houses to evade the enormous tax costs imposed on permanent housing, by the then King. On hearing word of the local nobility's arrival, through a trail of communication worthy of a Robin Hood scene, the Trulli were quickly dismantled and hidden away in a pile of innocent stones. Following the visit, the King duly satisfied his people were paying their share of his kingdom, the stones were quickly and easily re-built and Pugliese life would resume, under a wry smile".
The mystery that surrounds the construction of the Trulli is mirrored in their arrival to this wonderful southern Italian landscape. Some stories would date them back nearly 5000 years - although a more realistic viewpoint would see them built during the Middle Ages. These long-dated theories are likely based on the descendants of ancient civilisations who constructed similar dwellings using identical dry-masonry techniques. The Tholoi of Mycenae (domed-like tombs) are linked to the origin of the Trullo and the Greek word Tholoi may well be the actual birth of the name Trullo.
Inhabitants of any land would use what is available to them at that time. With the growth of the Masserie and the need for grazing livestock, vineyards and olive groves, the vast forests, although abundant when Pulglia was first discovered, would rapidly be depleted. A joy, that the land had a seemingly never-ending supply of limestone, served well in saving the trees. In turn, the trees, and more poignantly the olive would supply a much coveted and valuable source of income, shaping the architecture on view all over Puglia today.
As the olive plays such a major role throughout Puglia's history, an interesting little piece of information for you to ponder...
The very first fossil leaves, from the original olive tree, date back a millennium, first discovered in the south of Caucaso, Greece. Greek Mythology informs that the goddess Athena planted the very first olive tree, with the fruits said to provide men with a wonderful juice. Olives were considered holy, a symbol of strength, faith and peace. To that end, anybody found damaging the trees were exiled. Historians go on to say that these trees spread to the isles of Crete, Rhodes and Cyprus.
However, as you will hear on the whisper of the wind and the chitter chatter of the Pugliese as they proudly lay claim to most . The discoveries in Torre a mare, Bari, Fasano and Brindisi, date back to 5000b.c., the Neolitico, which should therefore sugest that the olive tree and it's wonderful fruit had it's birth in Puglia and the south of Italy.