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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Seven Reasons to Love Puglia

In honor of Dream of Italy's new issue on Puglia, I've put together a few reasons why the region of Puglia rocks. There could be thousands of reason but here are seven to start...

1. The Trees: Each of Puglia's millions of gigantic, ancient olive trees seems to be as unique as a thumbnail, growing and contoring each in its own shape. These regal wonders contrast majestically with the color of the Earth and the white of the handmade limestone walls that surround them. Puglia's olive trees are protected; government authorities take aerial photos to make sure none have been cut down (they can however be moved to another area of the same farm).

2. Olive Oil: And from these trees come some of the most flavorful, pure oil you will taste anywhere in Italy. Puglia is Italy's greatest producer of oil. The local cellina di nardo and ogliarola salentina olives create wonderful flavors. Don't miss the chance to enjoy an olive oil tasting (some of the masserie in our Puglia issue are also olive farms.)

3. Unique Architecture: Where to even start...you will find structures here you won't find anywhere else in Italy. Of course, there are the trulli, the conical, stone huts that were first created in the 13th century to be easy to dismantle (and thus avoid taxes). An historic target of invasions, Puglia is home to numerous fortified farmhouses (or masserie) - most of them in white stone. And all those invaders left their mark architecturally, sometimes you will feel like you are in Greece or Turkey rather than Italy.

4. Stunning Beaches: Puglia boast 500 miles of coastline leading to turquoise blue waters. With the color of the water and fine whitesand, you will be forgiven for thinking you're in the Caribbean...or the Maldives. Pescoluse is called "the Maldives of the Salento" in part for the the small mounds of sand out in the shallow sea bed that look like tiny islands.

5. The Winds: There are two winds that seem to be entities unto themselves here in Puglia - the sirocco blows heat and moisture up from North Africa and the mistral is a cooler wind blowing from the north. In an area where the sun shines bright, the winds can provide some weather variety. Always windy, Sant' Andrea is famous worldwide for its kitesurfing.

6. Warm People: Italians all over the country are wonderful and welcoming but the Pugliese take it to a new level. Don't miss the real Puglia when you visit, get a local tour guide, learn about the traditions here from pizzica (an Italian folk dance) to the craft of paper-mache (centered in Lecce). (Editor's note: Even those not involved in tourism are doing great things here. I was thrilled to visit with Mino and Val of Puglia Pooches who have devoted their lives to rescuing abandoned dogs. I'll be writing more about them.)

7. The Food: It would take pages to tell you about the succulent simplicty and flavor of Puglia's cucina povere cuisine. (Visit any of the local restaurants we feature in the Puglia issue.) The food here from the vegetables (abundant here) to the seafood is FRESH; I don't know any place in the world where I have enjoyed fresher ingredients. You can taste and feel (I swear my skin was glowing - all the olive oil?) the difference.

Are there any reasons to love Puglia that you would add?

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