Puglia, Calabria, Basilicata


Also known in English as "Apulia," this region forms the "heel" of Italy's boot, and is known for its wild landscape, the Castel del Monte (a 13th Century octagonal fortress that appears on Italian 1-euro-cent coins), interesting trulli houses in Alberobello, and the town of Lecce (the "Florence of the South" due to its splendid Baroque architecture).  Bari and Brindisi are also frequent departure points for Greece and other Eastern Mediterranean destinations.

Puglia features pristine beaches, including the most amazing at the "tip of the heel" in Santa Maria di Leuca.  The region produces some of the best olive oil in Italy, and does excellent things with seafood.  Consider staying at a masseria, a fortified country farmhouse (similar to an agriturismo; see this Frommer's article on masserie).  Also try out the excellent wines such as Primitivo di Manduria, the region's flagship red wine,  Nero di Troia, a rich red wine, and others such as Negroamaro, Salice Salentino, and Malvasia.

Trulli Country

The Valle d'Itria (Itria Valley) between Putignano and Martina Franca has a number of conical-shaped buildings known as trulli.  You will see them throughout the valley, in particular along a scenic drive through the farmland (punctuated by various trulli along the way) recommended by Frommer's: Alberobello on Hwy 604 to Locorotondo, then Hwy 172 to Martina Franca, then Cisternino, then Ostuni.  Also check out the Valle d'Itria Music Festival each summer.

Adriatic Coast

Southern Puglia/Salento

The "Salento" region encompasses the very southern tip of the "heel", and includes some of the region's best beaches and serves up some of the best seafood.  While northern Puglia speaks a dialect similar to Neapolitan, in Salento the local dialect is "Salentino", more closely related to Sicilian (see this Salentino-Italian dictionary for a flavor).  The Greek influence in this region is also strong; there's even still a small community who speak a Greek dialect called Griko.




Taranto once was an important Greek colony, forming part of Magna Grecia (Greater Greece) along with towns such as Naples and Paestum.  It later waxed and waned in importance, and gave the "tarantula" its name (luckily, local spiders are not as big!).  Now Taranto is home to Italy's submarine fleet and various other parts of the marina militare (Navy).  The town is divided into the Città Vecchia (Old City) on an island, connected to the Città Moderna (New City) via a bridge that opens to let the Navy ships out.

Where to Eat


The "toe" of Italy's boot, Calabria is one of the poorest regions of Italy, known for its 'Ndrangheta mafia...but also is renowned for its spicy pepperoncini and beautiful, relatively unspoiled beaches.  Other highlights: mountainous Pollino National Park (where you can go whitewater rafting), Troppea (town carved in a cliff near Reggio di Calabria), Scilla (another popular beach town), Isola di Capo Rizzuto (with its castle jutting out into the Ionian), Reggio di Calabria (its largest city and home to the National Museum with the famous greek Bronzi di Riace statues), Praja a Mare, and Paola (home of St. Francis of Paola).



The "instep" between Calabria and Puglia, Basilicata is a mountanous region where the Apennines drop off into the Gulf of Taranto.


Panorama of Sassi di Matera

Originally made in paleolithic times, the Sassi di Matera cliff dwellings (divided into the Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano) formed the backdrop for The Passion of the Christ, among other films; while most of the good restaurants and hotels are in Sasso Barisano, it's well worth a hike over the hill to check out the more characteristic Caveoso side.  Check out some of the rock churches such as Madonna de Idris.  In the Caveoso district, on Vico Solitario, there is a house set up to show what living conditions were like in the earlier days.Hiking the Ancient Caves

The Parco della Murgia Matera (or "Park of the Rupestrian Churches"), which extends to Montescaglioso, contains older caves dating back to Paleolithic times, some of which have been turned into churches; this is the part of Matera that is in many films.  Parts of the park also have excellent views over the "Gravina" (Ravine) to the main town of Matera.

Where to Eat

Where to Stay

Other Sights