Discover PUGLIA, Italy’s Green Gold region
The Messogiorno is a term that describes the land south of Rome, south of Naples, the regions of Campagna, Lazio Abruzzo, Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, Molise, Sardinia, and Sicily. It’s been used to suggest the secondary position this area has had over the last three centuries which takes up more than half of the land mass of the country itself.But this is changing.. Today, these regions are blossoming. One region in particular that has been bursting of late is PUGLIA. It is perhaps the largest region of Italy’s 20. Producers of the Green Gold, the region’s superb olive oil, it now accounts for nearly half of Italy’s total annual production. What’s more, PUGLIA has become the fast track destination for visitors of all stripes since 2000. And for my partners and I traveling this past month, it’s been a visual feast, a unique blend of scenery, of majestic mountain ranges and peaks, with a seacoast that boasts Italy’s largest stock of fresh fish, and with wineries everywhere. PUGLIA, in brief, has become a bread basket for all of Italy and to the world.
Our recent foray included visits to some of its most enchanting cities, enormously quaint and picturesque and with a bevy of World Heritage sites as recently described in UNESCO’s travel guides.
Our trip started from New York’s JFK airport on Meridiana Airlines, a newer economy class carrier using a fleet
of wide-body Boeing 360-770s non-stop to Naples. It was surprisingly comfortable and had an Italian kitchen to boot.
From Naples we traveled by rail using Rail Europe’s Eurail Pass starting off from Napoli Centrale, the city’s massive train terminal. First to Caserta, where we picked up the express train from Rome and to Bari, less than 4 hours to the south. There we selected one of Auto Europe’s brand new four-door,four wheel drive Fiat 500s from their Italian partner, Europcar. This fire engine red vehicle was delivered with a full tank of gas and with all coverages included. This afforded us an opportunity to visit the major historic sites of the region up close. These included the leading cities of Magna Gracia. First Taranto, then Lecce, Martina Franca,Alberobello, Matera on the region’s edge, then to Castellana known for its famous Grotto. Our guide Mina was excellent in taking us down several hundred feet to see the famed “white castle” formation and others. We then traveled to Bari, the region’s capital, then to Piscucci on the sea coast,to Rosetto,in the periphery of Pescara on the Adriatic,to Michele Sant’ Angelo, where we experienced the sculptured caves dedicated to St.Michael, the Archangel, and finally north to Bellaria,in Emilia Romano, where we found the largest patch of beach front in all of Europe,and where we settled in with family for a long three-day stay. But for us we found PUGLIA to be a discovery. First settled by the Illyrians,conquered by Greece and Rome, bartered by the Norman hordes under Frederich II in the 11th century and later by Baroque invaders, the region has emerged as a lively, cultured and pristine collage in the 21st century,a popular destination with visitors from all parts of Europe, Asia, and the U.S. It’s a land well traveled. Classical architecture from both the Graeco Roman period,and from the Norman and Baroque periods are found throughout the region, in the housing stock, forts and castellos,and particularly in the many cathedrals, basilicas and churches in every major city there, tell the story in vivid colors, grand mosaics, in brick,in stone and wood. PUGLIA is an artist’s palette like no other. And the food and wines including their popular Primotivo label, along with the “Green Gold” olive oil, oven the fresh oven baked bread in every panetteria we crashed and the sweetest dolci found in every household and pasticciere there. Include their famous formaggio; provolone casacavalo, and pecorino; their salaumi, prosciutto, and salsiccia, and you’ll have a wonderful experience from the coastal roads of the Adriatic to the Ianonian Sea, to the Salarian peninsula in the south, and to the cities in the region’s center. As for the citizens of this region we found them engaging and very knowledgeable about their digs. What’s not to like?
The roads in PUGLIA, particularly the Autostrada, Italy’s highway system is well maintained. So are the local state roads. Between them you can easily find a torrent of B&Bs, maserias, where olive and wine are produced, private homes, and grand hotels, for the most part under 100 euros per night and with a collezione included.
With the last of the Summer months ahead, with the cooler yet sunny and bright days of Fall fast approacing, PUGLIA is the place to be. For more on PUGLIA try your local travel agent in your city, or contact the Italian Tourism department at www.enit.it.
For info on Meridiana Airlines go to www.apg-usa.us.
For Rail Europe try www.raileurope.com and for
Auto Europe it’s www.autoeurope.com.