Enjoy this Guest Post by Olivia Helvey, a past Life Beynd the Room Puglia Escape Group Trip traveler
When you think of Italy, the first things that may spring to mind are iconic images of Rome’s historic landmarks or the sun-kissed beaches of the Amalfi Coast taking center stage.
I want to let you in on a traveler’s secret -there is a quieter, but equally enchanting corner of Italy waiting to be uncovered!
Nestled in the southern part of Italy, Puglia, known as the country’s “heel,” remains a secret haven, yet to be fully embraced by large hoards of international tourists. However, word is spreading about the region’s undeniable allure, with visitors drawn to its distinct charm and genuine hospitality. In addition to the warmth of the people, Puglia’s sights hold their own against almost any other Italian region. Its stunning coastline adorned with dramatic cliffs, golden beaches, and crystal-clear waters make it one of the most picturesque destinations I have ever visited.
The region also boasts historic towns like Alberobello, which is known for its iconic trulli houses. These stone huts are whitewashed, with conical roofs, and they look like they were plucked straight out of a fairy tale.
The sights in Puglia were truly amazing to me, but as a food enthusiast, the culinary offerings in this area are one of the main things that set it apart. You can get fresh seafood from the Adriatic Sea, handmade orecchiette, and fresh farm-to-table vegetables.
To top it off, Puglia is jam-packed with olive trees and grape vines, making it one of the best locations in the world to taste wine and olive oil. In fact, in recent counts, there are 15x more olive trees than people in this region (Vadaj). This number has unfortunately decreased recently, as olive groves have been hit by a deadly infection, with 21 million trees destroyed. This has had a devastating impact on the region and I can’t say I was looking forward to seeing the decimated fields of olive trees. However, when I arrived in the region, what I found was an incredible spirit of resilience in the Puglian people. They were not going down easy, and they were going to fight for their trees. Many farmers are diversifying their crops, planting more hardy species of olive, and even using dogs to sniff out the infected trees (Petroni). Witnessing this tenacity among the people I met made my time in Puglia something that will stay with me for a long time.
Puglia stands tall with its distinctive allure. Its unspoiled landscapes, rich cultural heritage, mouthwatering cuisine, and warm-hearted locals make it a destination that easily rivals, if not surpasses, more well-known regions of the country. For those seeking an authentic Italian experience away from the crowds, Puglia emerges as a true hidden gem waiting to be explored.
If you want to explore Puglia for yourself but don’t know where to start, our exclusive spring trip to Puglia is your insider’s guide to discovering the hidden treasures, secret spots, and local favorites that even residents cherish. Uncover the best-kept secrets of Puglia (and Matera) with our expertly curated trip HERE and start your journey toward an authentic Italian experience.
1. Vadaj, Rachel. “From Tree to Table: The Story of Italian Olive Oil Production.” Italian Sons and Daughters of America, 17 July 2019.
2. Petroni, Agostino. “The Plan to Save Italy’s Dying Olive Trees with Dogs.” BBC News, BBC, 18 Jan. 2023.