Food and travel writer, Anastasia Miari, travels through charming Puglia, sharing her favorite places to eat fresh local pasta, enjoy gelato with a breathtaking view, and shop the southern Italian region's distinctive ceramics.




At the heel of Italy’s boot, Apulia is steeped in pretty hilltop towns, Baroque architecture and expansive farmhouse masserie. No where else in Italy will you find such a divergent mix of architectural styles, ranging from decadent 18th and 19th century palazzos to the humble, cone-roofed ‘trulli’ - peasant houses dotted around the lush landscape, reminiscent of homes in childhood fairytales and fantasy films.

Owing to a new influx of tourism, long-forgotten towns like Ostuni and Cisternino are welcoming life to their narrow, white-washed streets again. Those with Apulian roots are returning from Rome, Milan and Turin, to embrace a slower pace of life, marrying the modern design-led Italy they know with the rural Puglia they love.

Where to Stay

Palazzo Daniele: Former family home of aesthete Francesco Petrucci, this boutique hotel with only nine suites has put the sleepy town of Gagliano del Capo on the Apulian map. Milanese Roberto and Ludovica Palomba have taken care of the design of this grand Apulian Palazzo, marrying 19th century frescoes and original mosaic flooring with functional art pieces and light installations from Floss.

Masseria Potenti: In the heart of Manduria, a prolific wine region of southern Italy, Masseria Potenti is run by a mother-daughter duo. The 16th century farmstead combines rural charm with characterful design touches for a stay that feels convivial, as though you might be visiting a friend’s family home in the country.

Masseria Moroseta: Owned by a Milanese couple, Masseria Moroseta marries the clean and functional design smarts of Milano with the relaxed, community feel that is akin with the Apulian Masseria concept. A crisp white courtyard stands out against the infinite blue sky, while chef Giorgia Goggi serves up impeccable Italian dishes with finesse. Ask for the tomato risotto - summer in a dish - and dine at a long banquet table with other guests, and new friends, from around the world.

Where to Eat

Bar Moro, Lecce: A place to rub shoulders with locals, Moro is an institution in Lecce and for good reason. Aperitivi are taken seriously, with extravagant salumi and formaggi platters. The vaulted ceilings and Lecce limestone interiors dotted make this a cosy spot in which to enjoy one of the best negronis in town.

L’altro Baffo, Otranto: Elevating Salento cuisine to gourmet standards, chef Cristina Cante has taken the reins of the family restaurant and created an elegant experience free of pretension and novelty. In true Apulian style, L’altro Baffo is a ‘classy’ restaurant free of airs and graces. The menu offers a variety of traditional Italian seaside fare with a twist, like the perfectly balanced sea urchin carbonara.

Alle due Corti, Lecce: Step back in time at this family-run trattoria in the heart of Lecce town. Alle due Corti serves up classic Apulian dishes like Ciceri e tria and hand-rolled orecchiette with cime di rapa. Here you can dine as though you’ve been invited to lunch at Nonna’s: embroidered curtains, a mish mash of old family photos on the walls and food served on locally-made Apulian ceramics.

Fornelli Pronti, Cisternino: A ‘fornello pronto’ is a butcher’s shop in which you can choose your cut of meat and have it prepared and grilled or cooked in a wood-fired oven in front of you. It’s a tradition in the hilltop village of Cisternino. Choose from contorni (side dishes including fava bean puree with wild chicory and potatoes in their jackets) and be sure to try a bombetti - an involtino of roasted pork.

Baldo Gelato, Lecce: Sandra Del Giovane is the culinary mastermind behind Baldo Gelato in Lecce's old town. Using local ingredients and following the seasons, Del Giovane crafts exquisite gelato year-round. Choose classics, like pistachio, or unique combinations like olive and orange, or eat yours sandwiched between a pillowy brioche, in true southern Italian style. Taste your gelato in view of the magnificent Basilica di Santa Croce, just a 30 second stroll away.

What to See & Do

Cycle and see the Trulli: Around Ostuni, the Apulian landscape takes on fantasy appeal with hobbit-like homes, Trulli, dotted between olive groves. Some of the tiny cone-roofed stone homes date back to the 14th century, when wealthy landowners began to levy taxes on traditional dwellings. As a response, Trulli began to pop up as ‘temporary’ homes that were easily dismantled. Take the roads less travelled and go Trulli hunting in the lush meadows around Ostuni by electric bicycle.

Basilica di Santa Croce: ‘Lecce Baroque’ is the architectural style attributed to the warm-toned, exuberant architecture in Lecce’s old town. The most extravagant example is the central Basilica di Santa Croce, which took a century to complete. Inside, dramatic marble columns flank 17 decorated altars while the facade is a feast for the eyes, featuring various beasts, cherubs and animals.

‘Vincent City’, Lecce: Italian artist and eccentric Vincent Brunetti opens his doors to visitors who drop by his kaleidoscopic home in the otherwise sleepy town of Guagnano. Pop by and step into the highly kitsch, clashing color chaos of mosaics that cover every single pocket of space inside this artist’s home.

Fiermonte Museum, Lecce: This museum in Lecce’s Baroque old town sits alongside the La Fiermontina and Palazzo Bozzo Corsi portfolio of properties, all inspired by the owners’ grandmother, muse Antonia Fiermonte and her artist lovers. While sculpture and portraits dot the interior and gardens, the Fiermonte Museum hosts works by French sculptors, Rene Letourner and Jacques Zwobada.

Where to Shop

Nassi lamps, Lecce: Now in its third-generation of production, artisanal lampshade studio, Bottega del Paralume, is headed by architect-designer, Francesca De Giorgio. The studio was established by her grandparents, the first in southern Italy to make artisanal lampshades from textiles. Still working with her mother, De Giorgio hand-crafts lamps inspired by the earthy tones and materials of Puglia. Via Ferrante Caracciolo 2.

Sunday Flea Markets: There is no better place to be on a Sunday morning in Puglia than at a local market; a place to find traditional Apulian ceramics, textiles and artisanal treasures. Functional pieces for the home, from enormous blown glass vessels to splatter-pattern tableware, can be found in abundance here. Visit the flea market in Taranto on the first Sunday of the month, the market in Ostuni on the second Sunday, Cisternino the third Sunday and Lecce the fourth.

Grottaglie: The Puglian province of Taranto continues to draw ceramics lovers to its more than 50 workshops. For 400 years, a small group of families in this regional city of Grottaglie have masterminded the production, passing their expertise down through generations. The most notable, the Fasano family, have been crafting ceramics since the 19th-century and continue to run Grottaglie's largest workshop

Rivesto, Lecce: Founded by Paul del Giglio, Rivesto is open by appointment only, offering a wide range of locally sourced Italian ceramics. These included beautifully rustic hand-painted plates and many pieces of Puglia's famous speckleware.

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