While getting ready to visit Puglia for the first time, try to learn a few Italian words in order to get more familiar with the Apulia’s history and culinary tradition: masseria, mar Ionio, mar Adriatico, Bizantino, Romanico, Barocco, torre costiera, centro storico, piazza, castello, panino imbottito, carciofo, spumone, pasticciotto… ready,steady,go!
Day One: our first stop will be in the same area of Brindisi Airport, where surprisingly you can visit a lovely Church, Santa Maria del Casale, a special portrait of the Romanico art, built around XIV century, get in and admire its amazing “affresco” (fresco).
Then, ready to get to the centre of the town, and start our walking from the sunny port, where it is possible either to have a delicious gelato, or start going up the fantastic stairs leading to the Roman Columns, symbol of the town. According to their legend, they represent the end of the Appian way, in the past Brindisi was one of the most important port in the Mediterranean sea, connecting the East with the West. From the top you enjoy a great view over the port.
Day Two: we are leaving the Adriatic Coast, driving on the Appian way in order to get to the Ionian Sea. Let’s stop in the first town on the way, Mesagne, about 10 km from Brindisi. It is one of the first towns as example of Barocco. Firstly, let’s visit the master of the town, the Castle Normanno Svevo, located in the heart shaped historic centre. Enjoy a visit inside to see its tower, court yard, museum, the noble first floor.
Later, get to the back of the castle and take a picture of the beautiful piazza Orsini and its gem, la Chiesa di Sant’ Anna. And following the cobbled small streets come into the most important church, Chiesa Madre.
After such a lovely walk, you might like the idea to have a glass of the local red wine and enjoy the locals specialties made up of artichoke (carciofi), a great vegetable from the nearest countryside and the old ice cream, spumone.
It is still possible to see the Roman’s evidence getting to the only archaeological site, in its peculiar position, under the modern Theatre. Try also to find the nearest Palazzo Nervegna, a lovely palace, where there is an amazing display of the original Roman capital.
In the town you can also find evidence of the later historical time, the medieval one, thanks to the picturesque balconies, Fontana Tancredi, Loggia Balsamo, il Portico dei Templari. Even more interesting is the temple San Giovanni al Sepolcro, built in Crusade Times around XI century, as justifying why many crusades came over Brindisi before reaching Jerusalem.
After our delicious meal, we are ready to visit Oria, the unique town posted on the top of the hill, so rare to get so many like that because of one of the flattest area in Puglia. In Oria is still possible to visit an old Jewish ghetto, flourished in VII and X century. You can still visit the Jewish Gate. Then, wondering in the small streets surrounded by beautiful balconies and facades of the centro storico, you climb to the Castello Svevo, such an important monument because the German emperor Frederich got married.
To complete our trip today, we enjoy a lovely panino imbottito, an interesting sandwich with the local fresh bread reminding of a French baguette, stuffed with mortadella, provolone cheese, salami, tuna and pickles. It represents a traditional old snack.
Day Three: let’s leave the town in order to get as soon as possible to the coast and see the mar Ionio. After less than 40 minutes we are already driving along the scenery coastal road, with its massive old towers, fortress dating back the XV century.
Enjoy the sandy beaches and the fantastic panorama, by also taking over the natural reserves of Porto Cesareo and Porto Selvaggio. Next destination Gallipoli, considered the pearl in the Ionian Sea. In the peculiar circular centro storico, guided by the local breeze, we visit the cathedral San’Agata, symbol of the local Barocco, together with the church San Francesco di Paola and San Francesco di Assisi. But even more interesting the fantastic private palaces we can admire from theirs facades as evidence of the large number of noble people living here in the past.
Also in Gallipoli, as in many other Puglian towns, you can find one more castle, recently restored, surrounded by the port and all the fisherman coming back from work. And if we are able to arrive into the town early in the morning, one of the first stop will be in the picturesque fish market, in fact Gallipoli is one of the best place to eat fish.
Day Four: destination Otranto, on the other side of the coast, facing the Adriatic Sea. Before getting there, we will not miss a stop in one of the most interesting and elegant town, Galatina, and its beautiful church Santa Caterina di Alessandria, Unesco Heritage.
Let’s drive over along the way surrounded by olive trees and Masseria. In this way, we are arriving to the furthest Eastern Italian area, Otranto, one more Unesco Heritage.
As usual we will find an important and beautiful castle, and the first visit will be in the fantastic cathedral, where it is possible to admire one of the best mosaic floored. The special feature is that the cathedral represents a previous important art to Barocco, which is called Romanico Pugliese, around XIII century.
Once we get out of the church, we will wonder around the town, surrounded by walls, a blue sea, a port and along its small streets it is possible to have a feeling of being in Greece or Spain because of its lovely white houses and balconies.
As soon as finished our visits and shopping, a great idea is to enjoy the local beach to swim and sunbathe.
Day 5: waking up in Otranto, on this day the most sensational feeling will be to get the first ray of sun in Italy, and once blessed we will be ready to continue our journey. Destination Lecce, one of the most beautiful art town in Puglia. Before getting there, it’s worth a great driving along the coast, one of the driving road in Italy, because nature is absolutely breathless.
In Lecce we get in the direction of the centro storico, and we go through one of the three main old gates. One of the most beautiful piazza will be in front of the Duomo. Then, in order to have a better feeling and understandable meaning of Barocco, let’s visit the important Basilica di Santa Croce. And from there let’s find more historical notes, and discover a Roman anfitheatre, a strategic historical point from where it is visible the evidence of three different architectures at the same time: Barocco, Roman, Fascist.
Day 6: in the morning there will be a better departure, such as a cup of coffee without any sugar, but together with a sweet pasticciotto, short bread cupcake stuffed with custard.
We need to leave only because we are short of time,and our wish to come back to the heel of Puglia will be filled with a warm sun and a lovely breeze! Arrivederci Puglia!
by Michela & Antonio