5 Must Do's in the South of Italy - Puglia
1. Eat as the locals do
Every region has it's own unique culture in a sense, but it also has it's own speciality menu. I was blessed to have access to google translate for the majority of the trip as the best places we found, no english was spoken or on the menu! The moral of the story is, trust the locals and their knowledge. There is produce specific to a region or city. For example Monopoli is known as the seafood capital of Puglia - you can smell it as you stroll through the streets. Whereas in Ostuni you are surrounded by fields of olive oil trees and home grown eggplant (aubergine), peppers and citrus fields.
2. Experience a Masseria
This was a foreign concept to me prior to this trip but holy sh*t, I can't think of a better way to get your cultural experience. A Masseria is a fortified farmhouse or country house on a country estate usually found in the Italian region of Puglia. You get to stay at a local house and usually breakfast is included - it's quite common for Europeans or Italians to use these as a base whilst they rent a car and explore different areas of the region. Highly recommend renting a car, highly recommend NOT if you're on an Australian Family Holiday with your mother driving manual for the first time in 10 years on the opposite side of the road.
I don't dare continue about Masseria's without mentioning the Creme le la Creme - Masseria Trapana. If I won the lottery and could take all my friends and family on a holiday, it would be here. Talk about every last intimate detail being taken care of, they even have ASEOP soaps and lotions in the bathroom! Close to the town of Lecce, this Masseria was hard to leave. The buildings oozed with history, the pool shone in the sunshine as we played croquet with interesting hats on. A lovely boy named Giorgio waited on us and continued to keep the drinks flowing - it really was a dream.
Don't spend too long in one place! This is another reason staying at a Masseria is so great. If you can hire a car, do it because Taxi's start to get a bit expensive. There are so many nearby villages and towns and everything offers something unique. We had the most hilarious time for an old woman we nicknamed Nanna and her birthday - Mum was joking with her telling her she was 21, next minute we were eating the ready packed tea cake in 36 degrees surrounded by Italian bodies and umbrella's on the beach.
We stayed in Hotel Don Ferrante in Monopoli and we found a lovely hotel in Matera - it was really great to have a balance between both options and we never spent more than 5 nights in one place (we're very much a beach family so 5 nights in Monopoli was perfect).
4. Hire a boat
It seems like a far fetched expensive option BUT in Monopoli, we hired a boat with no proof of license or any further checks. It cost 150 Euros for the entire afternoon and was without a doubt a massive highlight. From Monopoli you can travel up the coast towards Puglio A Mare and see it from the ocean, great way to avoid the crowds on the beach!
5. Enjoy yourself!
It's unlike anywhere I've ever been. Touristic in the Italian sense but there were so many hidden corners where no English was spoken. So many Olive trees, so much pizza and so much pasta. We often found ourselves sitting down and saying how we didn't even regret what and how much we were eating because really, when are you ever able to eat and drink like you are in this region!?
You can travel for 1 hour from an over crowded beach and find a completely different town of white stone. You can travel for 2 hours and you may find yourself in a mountain of stones atop a vast farmland with no beach or water in sight. Puglia is a must do, it is so beautiful and there is just so much to do but there's also just enough to make sure you relax and have a real holiday too!