This first person post comes to you from the Puglia region in southern Italy. Known for its large production of olive oil that actually surpasses that of northern Italy, an increasingly visible wine industry, and a distinctive landscape that combines white washed, Mediterranean style homes and equally white washed beaches. I am here to say that Puglia (also known as Apulia) is one of the more fabulous places I have visited in Italy to date.
I arrived in the port town of Bari after a long day of travel. And by arrive, I mean to have landed in a part of Italy with an amazing climate, superb wine, delectable food, and above all, perhaps the nicest people I have met traveling. Ever. Really.
First there was the 80 degree temperatures that greeted me as I stepped foot onto the tarmac in the lovely Mediterranean climate. Then there was the view of the ocean and the white, sandy beaches (yes, from the airport). Things got a bit complicated as I navigated my way through the ancient Greek come Roman and by way of other influences including French, Spanish, and Turkish, circular cities that dot the Puglian landscape. Driving in Italy is no easy task but thankfully I have grown up with a manually shifting car and a zest for driving…with commitment.
My commitment to finding my hotel for the evening was beginning to wane as I kept missing the essential turn-off to the masseria “Il Palmento”. Masserias, fortified agricultural hubs refurbished to accommodate the intrepid traveler, are Puglia’s lodging king. And I was anxious to sip on glass of indigenous white wine and relax by Il Palmento’s after traveling the day prior. But that elusive turn remained…elusive and my heart sank a little bit more with every (wrong) turn. Until one more wrong turn reminded me, even in my depths of tiredness, why I love to travel.
That one wrong turn led me down the winding road to the wrong masseria and into what I know understand as Puglia’s defining feature: the quality of people that live here. I didn’t quite catch her full name (my Italian is broken and her English was even more broken) but what I did catch was her warmth and zest for life and willingness to help a complete stranger. We talked with our hands at length about my lodging was for the night. I gathered it was “just 6 km from here!” and “in a beautiful part of the area!” but I just couldn’t put the directions all together. To my astonishment, my new friend put down her broom (I had interrupted her afternoon sweeping) and insisted that I follow her to the exact location. She took me to the front door with an authentic smile on her face and kissed me on both cheeks as she bid me a good trip. I am so thankful for her kindness.
This is Puglia. Real people, authentic food, delightful wine and fantastic landscape. I look forward to greeting our guests on the upcoming Puglia Bike and Food Adventure this coming Sunday and showing them what I have experienced thus far: awesomeness.