Interview to Fotis Papadimitriou
Do you consider Puglia like one of the most beautiful places where you’ve been? Why?
Puglia is definitely one of Italy’s loveliest undiscovered gems.
Among Italy’s 20 different regions, Puglia is easily identified on the map, as it runs down the east coast of the country from the Gargano Peninsula all the way into the “heel of the boot”. It has remained relatively low-key and its transportation infrastructure isn’t as developed as what you’ll find in the North and there aren’t as many amenities for foreign tourists.
Nevertheless, Puglia is home to some remarkably beautiful cities and towns like Lecce, Alberobello(UNESCO world heritage), Polignano a Mare, Gallipoli, Monopoli and many many more.
They are rich in churches and palaces, hidden piazzas and winding alleyways, markets and slow food trattorias.
In some towns you can even combine visits to cathedrals and castles with dips in the sea just steps from the historic centre.
How would you describe the Italian sea?
The beaches in Puglia are among the best in Italy. With the longest coastline in the country, bordered by the Adriatic Sea on one side and the Ionian Sea on the other, the swimming holes and beaches of Puglia are undoubtedly remarkable. They are unspoilt and free of commercial businesses such as restaurants, shops, towering hotels and sun loungers.
Some of the best beaches I visited during my stay in Puglia, were:
– Torre Dell’Orso: Famous for its twin sea stacks, dubbed the “Two Sisters,” which rise near the shore. This charming little bay plays host to a kilometer of white sand, gorgeous dunes and a surrounding pine forest, while the area gets its name from the ‘Bear Tower’, a dilapidated 16 Century watchtower high up the rocky coastline.
– Polignano a Mare: beneath the old town is Cala Porto, a small white pebble beach surrounded by cliffs with clear emerald water. It’s super photogenic however, it gets crowded in high season.
It’s also known as Lama Monachile for the bridge that you must walk over to reach it.
– Punta della Suina: A stunning mix of rocks, incredibly smooth sands, and crystal-clear waters in a small yet characteristic bay. Punta della Suina consists of two small sandy bays, among the most famous and popular ones in Salento, right in front of a small island called Scoglio tondo, which is almost separated by the coast and caressed by the clear water.
Was it your first time in Puglia? With who did you go? Where did you stay?
This was my first time in Puglia, and I was visiting with 3 more friends of mine. We decided to rent an Airbnb in Lecce which is an old city, established over two-thousand years ago by Greek settlers from the island of Crete. Its baroque architecture is well-known and has earned Lecce the nickname, “Florence of the South.” For me, Lecce was insanely beautiful!
Did you find a lot of tourists?
Even though Puglia has a tourism industry and gets busy in summer, it still remains much more relaxed, friendlier and less commercialized than most major summer destinations in Italy i.e. Sicily or Sardinia.
How’s the Italian food? What did you eat?
Italian food in Puglia was really good!
There are a handful of foods and dishes you must enjoy for the best Puglian ‘foodie’ experience, including excellent vegetarian and vegan options.
I went for many local specialties including:
Orecchiette (type of pasta made in Puglia), baccalà alla salentina (dried and salted cod sprinkled with breadcrumbs, pecorino cheese and fresh tomato, then baked in the oven with potatoes), frisella (little crunchy breads served with tomatoes and basil with some olive oil), focaccia and burrata (local fresh cheese specialty in Southern Italy).
Also, noteworthy is that bakeries in Puglia are amazing! Breakfast is the best where you can get a wide selection of baked goodies.
One of the most iconic pastries of all is the pasticciotto (originated from Galatina, in Salento, Puglia). Pasticciotto is a shortcrust pastry tart.
Did you learn some Italian words? Did you have the opportunity to talk to Italian people?
Even though the bigger cities and towns had quite a few English speakers, they were still not as many as I would have expected.
Learning a few basic Italian words prior to my trip was very useful.
Did you spend a lot during all your holiday in Puglia?
Puglia is accessible for travelers looking to discover the region independently on a bit of a budget. A great lunch or dinner can be found for under €10 (main dish), a glass of wine is affordable, and the best attractions are, by and large, available for free.
Accommodation in Puglia can be quite pricy if you go for a luxury, boutique hotel. However there are many affordable hotel options too as well as Airbnb rentals.
Would you suggest to other people to go to Puglia? Why?
In my opinion Puglia is definitely worth a visit!
If you are planning to travel to Italy, you should include Puglia on your itinerary. Every town is beautiful, it has great beaches, it’s perfect for a road trip, it hasn’t been destroyed by tourism and it will not break your budget!
Have you ever visited other Italian cities? If yes, which ones?
Yes, I have been in many Italian cities before, including: Rome, Milan, Naples and Amalfi Coast, Venice, Florence, Bologna and Parma.
Leave us a general comment about your experience
– If you are planning to visit Puglia, June and September are the best months to do so if you want hot weather but smaller crowds.
– I would advise to hire a car. Public transport is very limited and doesn’t reach all the places. So you will better off relying on yourself to get around.
– Arm yourself with a few words and phrases in Italian. Though a lot of the younger generation can speak basic English, the older generation is fair to say, have zero knowledge.
Thanks to Fotis Papadimitriou for taking part to the”Experience” project.
We hope you the best.