Puglia (Apulia in English) forms the ‘heel’ of Italy’s ‘boot.’ With hundreds of kilometres of coastline, and centuries-old hill towns and farmland, Puglia offers soothing respite from the masses of tourists in the rest of southern Italy. Moreover, its special brand of arcane treasures and mysterious histories makes for unforgettable memories. Our journey to Puglia continues with the provinces of Barletta-Andria-Trani and Bari.
Despite being Puglia’s newest province (established in 2009), Barletta-Andria-Trani contains ample remains of ancient civilizations, and medieval fortresses, including the now submerged 11th Century town of Salapia, near Trinitapoli. We focus, however, on a must-see medieval masterpiece: Castel del Monte.
Castel del Monte
This 13th Century castle stands in the National Park of Alta Murgia, 20km from Andria, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Emperor Frederick II commissioned it to be built over the ruins of former fortress. The Castel del Monte further contributes to Puglia’s air of ancient mystery, given its original use as an observatory, the depictions of mythological creatures on the keystones above its doorframes, and the repeated use of the number 8 (which symbolises union between God and man) in the building’s proportions. • Castel del Monte, 76123 Andria, BT
Of all Puglia’s provinces, Bari is most central; not just geographically, but culturally. Besides the fertile plains and historical buildings common to all of Puglia, it’s also home to a harbour where you’ll find the Margherita Theatre which is unique in Europe due to its construction mainly based on pilings and its connection to the earth due to a wharf.
Le Grotte di Castellana
These spectacular limestone caves are the oldest in Italy, and offer 3km of crystalline caverns and pathways, formed by an ancient underground river. The Passaggio del Presepio, also known as the Nativity Scene Passage, houses a stalagmite shaped like the Virgin Mary. At just 40km outside of Bari, the Castellana Caves are an otherworldly must-see unlike any other. • Piazzale Anelli, 70013 Castellana Grotte, BA
The Trulli of Alberobello
Speaking of otherworldly, the Trulli of Alberobello, just 50km outside of Bari, project an air of archaic mystery. In the 16th Century, families in Alberobello built their houses from dry stone without mortar, to avoid being taxed. Today, the whitewashed stone structures with conical, thatched roofs (each adorning a peculiar symbol) are yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Start with the oldest part of town, the Rione Monti. This incredible maze of winding streets hosts over a 1,000 trulli, including the Trullo Sovrano – the only existing two-story trullo, where you can admire the original furnishings or enjoy one of the performances staged here. • Strada Statale dei Trulli, 70011 Alberobello, BA
Read our must-see guide guide to Puglia – Part 1, here!
Check out our previous Travel Journals Alto Adige/Südtirol and Emilia-Romagna, discover the pearl of northern Italy