Friday, June 4, 2010

5 itineraries through the natural beauty of Puglia

Guidebooks and visitors rarely praise Puglia for its natural attractions, which seems quite understandable compared to the breathtaking beauty of more spectacular Italian regions like the northern lakes, Liguria, Toscana and Campania. Still, most places wane when measured by these standards, and Puglia can be real pretty outside the tourist triangle of Castel del Monte, Alberobello and Barocco Leccese.

Here is my suggestion for five very different itineraries that will show you the best Puglian views and landscapes.

Manfredonia to Vieste
Most tourists take the easy northern road to Vieste, cheating themselves for a drive along the Amalfi coast of Puglia. Only 40 km separates Manfredonia from Vieste, but the drive takes an hour and this is not due to traffic but to hairpin bends leading up and down the mountains. Every time you reach a bend with a poor view of the road you have to brake and honk to warn off other cars going in the opposite direction. Free ranging cows and goats with tinkling small and bigger bells use the road as a shortcut between pastures. And once you have passed Mattinata you are in for the most spectacular views . Gargano rests on white limestone painting the sea an unusual emerald green that contrasts the blue sky and the silvery green colour of the olive fields. And in between you will see the most adorable islands, lagoons, beaches and rock formations like the famous "Architiello".

Saline di margherita di Savoia
Follow the coast from Manfredonia to Barletta and you will come through Saline di margherita di Savoia , the biggest saltpan in Italy. Apart from the fascinating salt ponds and salt mountains, the Salina provides perfect bird watching. For instance you can see the largest population of pink flamingoes in Europe.

Corato to Gravina in Puglia and Altamura
Driving on the S378 from Corato to Gravina may not be on a shortlist of the five most beautiful scenic drives through Puglia, but it will take you to some of the most spectacular ravines in the city by the same name. The Murgia is characterized by these small canyons formed by rain water that has dissolves the limestone, but they look more dramatic as if the surface of the earth has been broken into pieces. Some of the ravines have caves, swallow holes and dolines inhabited in prehistoric times, and the history combined with the naked and bleak landscape inevitable makes a strong impression.

Putignano through Alberobello to Martina Franca
Traversing Valle d’Itra is the classic tour of trulli land, where you will see dozens of cone shaped houses with occult roof paintings dotted on every hill top. The soft hilly landscape has been cultivated for thousands of years, as can be seen from the really old gnarled and split olive tree trunks, you will pass along the way.

Maglie to Leuca
I know most people prefer the scenic drives to Santa Maria di Leuca along the coast, but to me the real Salento can be found on the inland road from Maglie going south in the hour around sunset. The water and the sun produce the most amazing light effects with colour changes from yellow, orange and red to deep purple and all shades of dark black blue, and every white building glows in the dark in a neon sort of way. It is pure magic.


italytutto said...

Thanks for sharing these trips with us. I've enjoyed reading them so much that I've added your post to my Top 10 of the week over at!

HallmarkTravels said...

I agree with you about the suggested 5 itineraries, just wish to add that many others could be designed on specific needs or thematic topics.

The Region offers landscapes, culinary, culture, handcraft, wellness and more....

Italian Notes said...

Great idea. I am sure we can both come up with additional blog posts on the matter:)

HallmarkTravels said...

You welcome, it would be my pleasure to coop with you.

We can stay in touch through our twitter or facebook, as you prefer.

Enjoy a nice day

fabio said...

Very nice you suggested the road from maglie to Santa Maria di Leuca. Of course, the coast from Otranto ti Santa Maria di Leuca is a kind of landscape paradise, but the up-country is the real Salento, that's true! I live in Lecce ;)

Italian Notes said...

I have just re-traveled the road from Otranto to Santa Maria di Leuca, and the landscape is astonishingly beautiful with dramatic cliffs, romantic beach coves and fabulous sea views. Absolutely, not to be missed on any Salento road trip.


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