Isolated for centuries by poor communications, this 200-mile-long peninsula edged by the waters of the Adriatic Sea (the heel of Italy’s “boot”) is now a deservedly popular destination. As well as unspoiled countryside, Puglia offers outstanding food and wine, plus exquisite Baroque architecture in cities such as Lecce and Martina Franca. July and August are perfect for a beach vacation. For those more interested in touring, May-June and September-October are ideal. Rizzoli’s book “Masseria: The Italian Farmhouses of Puglia” never fails to whet my appetite for a return visit.
A Perfect Afternoon
The late afternoon, when the heat of the day has subsided, is a fine time to study the amazing architecture of Lecce. Santa Croce was built mostly during the 16th century, and its façade is an elaborate confection of carved flowers, plants, animals and saints surrounding a remarkable rose window. Afterward, you’ll want to linger over a coffee in one of the cafés lining the Piazza Sant’Oronzo, the heart of the city and site of its Roman amphitheater.
On arrival in the sleepy town of Grottaglie, you’ll notice signs directing visitors to the Zona Ceramiche. My favorite workshop belongs to Nicola Fasano, whose specialty is faience (glazed earthenware) and who speaks perfect English.