I have overlooked southern Italy since beginning of time. I just didn’t know anything there worth seeing. However, just an hour and a half and 50 euro away with WizzAir, i decided to give it a try and flew to Bari this January for a long weekeng.
It was much warmer than Bulgaria. While we had a nasty winter in Sofia with -15C it was +10-15C in Bari. Not bad for end of January so there is no winter really there. However, summer can be terribly hot so for sight-seeing anytime except June-September should be fine.
Food is always good in Italy and Puglia district is no exception. Sea food, pizza and pasta is the main theme. Wine is also worth trying – it is one of the best wine producing regions in Italy probably only next to Toscana.
Getting around by car
That is very easy – they have kind of a highway that runs north-south that takes you from place to place pretty fast. It is not first quality autobahn but is free. Rent-a-car is pretty cheap – if you don’t want anything fancy – 17-20 euro per day is quite feasible for a Fiat 500 or VW Golf. On the other pole is gasoline – one of the most expensive in Europe – 1.5-1.6 euro per lt.
Hooray, Good weather in January!
Bari is an average size city with around 300,000 citizens. It is the capital of a region called Puglia. All i knew about it was that it is a ferry hub between Greece and Italy. It turned out that Bari is an immensely lively city – it was swarming with people on a Saturday night – all restaurants and shops were full. And that was in January when most were locals. So pretty good impression there.
Bari on a Friday Night
South Italy is known to be much more budget friendly that the northern counter part. I confirm that. Prices are normal – pizza in a restaurant is 7-10E, beer is 2-3E, bottle of wine in a restaurant 7-20E and a neat hotel goes for 50-60E. That is january-wise though.
Olive oil and olives
Interesting fact is that Puglia is the biggest producer of olives and olive oil. There is a huge valley with 1000+ year old trees. And it is thousand of them – sight is spectacular. Another interesting thing is that there were hundreds of trees that nobody cared about and it was tons of olives fallen on the ground.
This tree is > 1000 years old and there are many of them.
A tiny part of the vast amounts of olive trees.
One of the must sees in the region. That is a small traditional village 60 km off Bari full of Trulli houses. It is even a designated Unesco world heritage. Nearby are Martina Franca and Locorotondo that are also worth visiting and are doable in a day.
Traditional Trulli houses
Catching some sun light.
Monopoly is a sea town again circa 60 km off Bari south. It has a very neat old town and offers a very pleasant walk. Sights over the sunset are amazing too.
These are farm houses, that often offer accommodation and food. That’s where you can get one of the best food as most of the ingredients are home grown. We had the luck to have lunch in such a place with a 5 course meal. Trully – it was one of the best gastronomic experiences i have ever had. First they took us to the garden, than to the place where they used to make olive oil and then took us to the restaurant. So it was a whole experience and not only order and go. The name is Il Frantoio. They grow thousands of olive trees and make one of the best olive oil you are going to try. You can buy some if you want to of course.
Having a tour at the masseria…and getting hungry.
Waiting for the 6 course meal of home grown vegetables and meat.
Don’t leave without a desert.
Boasting about a couple of dozens home grown herbs.
Liquer for every taste.
Masserias are mainly about growing olives but not only.
Castel del Monte
A very nice surprise even for people like me that don’t appreciate historic sites that much. This castle is on a hill and offers amazing views. It is known for its perfect octagonal shape and is on the Unesco world heritage list. It was build in 13-th century and the magnitude and the geometric precision is astounding. You can go inside also even though it undergoes some renovation.
Castel Del Monte
I would suggest to have Bari and Puglia on your tourist road map – it is close, it is cheap and it offers many things to see and do over a weekend. 3 days are ok but having 4 or 5 would be best to go around and see most of the stuff (including Lecce and Brindisi where we didn’t get to).