Top 5 Things To Do in Puglia
Puglia, the region of Italy known as the 'heel' of the boot. With a coastline taking in the Ionian and Adriatic seas, and a turbulent history Puglia has plenty to offer the active and culturally curious visitor. Here is our round-up of 5 to things to see and do when in Puglia.
1) Visit the Cathedral in Ortanto - Not just your 'average' cathedral, the building was constructed in the 11th century by the Normans in the Roman and Byzantine style. The floor of the cathedral comprises a vast, fantastical mosaic combining religious and mythical characters with a tropical backdrop. The vibrancy of the mosaic is at odds with the sinister 'Chapel of Dead' where bones of 813 martyrs, executed by the Turks in the 15th century, are displayed.
2) Enjoy some beach time! - Admittedly not every active adventurer's idea of a good time, but the beaches of Puglia are some of the best in Italy and surely require a visit. The best? The rocky Torre dell'Orso with is arches and sea stacks, or the crescent of white sands in Gallipoli - the 'Pearl of the Ionian'.
3) Visit the Trulli in Alberobello - These unique round limestone buildings with their characteristic conical roofs have been under UNESCO protection since 1996. Although, Trulli can be found across the entire area of Itria, Alberobello has the highest concentration. Dating from the 14th century, and being relatively simple in their construction their outers can be found not much altered from their original state even today.
4) Watch the world go by from an enoteca in Lecce - Explore the ancient streets and Baroque architecture of cosmopolitan Lecce - 'Florence of the south' - then while away the evening in a cosy enoteca (wine bar). Sample the best local wines, or indulge with an Aperol spritz, accompanied by mouth-watering snacks (think fresh olives and creamy mozzarella drizzled in local olive oil).
5) Marvel at Ostuni ('Citta Bianca') - The white-washed town of Ostuni gleams from it's hilltop position in the Puglian countryside. Explore the winding streets, impressive cathedral and palace and the grand homes of the old aristocracy.
Regional Italian Cuisine
Italy's cuisine is world-renowned and for good reason - it's delicious! Dig down beneath the surface of regional differences and it won't be long before you encounter an undercurrent of the country's turbulent political history. Unified in the 1870s Italy, as we know it today, and the food that has come to define it benefits from the influence of many European and Mediterranean neighbours. No cycling holiday in Italy is complete without indulging in, not just the food but also the produce of the local vineyards! Some foods have become synonymous with Italy as a whole, such as pizza, pasta, olive oil and gelato, and while we recommend sampling these on your trip we have also listed some regional highlights.
Puglia - Apuglia is a productive growing region of Italy and produces all manner of Mediterranean vegetables, chickpeas and lentils. With a large proportion of coastline seafood is popular is a key element of the local diet. Orecchiette pasta, translating literally as 'little ear', is the region's most well-known pasta, it's often served with fresh vegetables and mussels. You may follow a plate of orecchiette with zeppola, small doughnut-like pastries with cream or jam toppings.
Tuscany - Home to traditional peasant dishes Tuscany's magnificent natural larder allows it's simple cuisine to shine. Sample hearty bean and vegetable stews and pasta dishes, or try the local game - wild boar is especially popular - and a topping of truffle is a seasonal addition in the autumnal months.
Campania - This region, encompassing the gulf of Naples, consumes the greatest amount of pasta in Italy and is of course renowned for the Neapolitan pizza (the modern pizza was invented in Naples towards the end of the 18th century)! Taking in the Amalfi coast seafood also features heavily on most menus.
Veneto - The area between Venice and Lake Garda is famous for it's silky risottos, and the iconic Italian dessert tiramisu. While cycling here you'll pass many Prosecco producing vineyards - sip a glass (or two) beside the Venetian canals to celebrate your trip.
Sicily - Adrift in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily's focus is largely on simply cooked, super-fresh seafood, straight from the sea to your plate in as little time as possible. Arancini are also a popular street-food on the island, these deep-fried parcels of risotto-style rice are delightful - and are easily portable so they'd make an excellent picnic food. The island is also renowned for a dessert called cannoli - a ricotta filled tube of fried pastry dough often adorned with candied orange, chocolate chips or crushed pistachios (delicious!).