We feel terrible saying it but we've been returning to the same province of Italy for many years now. We love trying new things but we also believe in doing what you love, and we LOVE visiting Puglia when in Italy.
We arrived at a quick stopover in Venice. It is a beautiful and historic city but a few hours of wandering the stunning streets left us feeling stressed and ready to escape the tourists and busy harbour. It is hard to not marvel at the sinking city and imagine being here in the 13th century when it was the most prosperous city in Europe as it traded extensively with the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim world.
We then headed to Matera, located in the region of Basilicata, in southern Italy. The historical centre, or Sassi, of the city is known as the underground city, where the dwellings are thought to be among the first ever human settlements in Italy. Unbeknownst to us, the city was the cause of much shame to Italy as much of the residents were living in poverty and disease. In the 1950s the government relocated most of the population of the Sassi to new housing and developed better infrastructure.
The city by day is a quiet and hot place with many shutters closed and residents absent. We spent the day walking the narrow cobblestone streets and catching stunning views at each turn. We visited the many monasteries, churches and cathedrals that sit amongst and on top of the city. There isn't much greenery in this climate but the narrow streets provide much needed shelter and the many potted cacti add some colour. This is truly un untouched city, we hardly heard any english spoken, which was so refreshing. Perhaps the most amazing things is how the city (like most Italian cities) comes alive as the sun begins to set. The streets became flooded with locals yelling passionately at each other, often with a drink in hand.
Alberobello was the next stop as we drove excitedly along the back roads of the stunning countryside. Much of the area is olive groves or wheat fields. Its no surprise that the regions specialty is olive oil and orecchiette pasta! The area also has a unique style of home called trullo buildings, many of which are now on the UNESCO World Heritage list. We recommend avoiding the city and simply driving through the countryside to view the beautiful trullo scattered throughout the landscape.
Next up was the beautiful Ostuni situated in the wonderful region of Puglia. Known as 'the white city', its a place that you can see rising up in the distance as its built on top a hill to protect from invading forces. We spent days here winding through the narrow white streets, visiting olive groves (some of which dated back over 1000 years), swam at the beautiful beaches in Polignano a Mare and Monopoli. Eating the local fish and orecchiette is a must. We'll let our images say the rest.