The heel of the Italian boot looks and feels like nowhere else in Italy: washed in dazzling light, surrounded by low white-washed buildings, and gazing onto an omnipresent blue sea which hugs the region from two sides. Colorful, exotic Puglia is a stimulating place, with its own distinctive food, architecture and atmosphere. Its landscapes have an appealingly elemental quality – stark rocks meeting clean beaches lapped by crystal-clear water; gigantic olive trees spiraling up from dark red soil fringed by vivid wildflowers; fragrant pine forests opening onto chalk-white sands. Nature’s colors are bold in Puglia, and manmade shapes are simple – with chunky, cubic houses and conical-roofed cottages dotting the countryside. You quickly get hooked on the region’s unique, striking flavor. Of course, all the best of Southern Italy is down here too – super-healthy food, open spaces, a strong sense of family and community, and an easygoing lifestyle.
Puglia is the traditional heartland of olive oil with its twisted olive trees whose lineage stretches back centuries, in some cases even millennia. Providing 40 percent of the nation’s product, with over 60 million trees in the region (one for every person in Italy), olive oil is a tradition that inspires more Pugliese pride than any other, and with reason. Known for producing not only great quantity but also some of the highest quality olive oil anywhere, its oil-fueled gastronomy has earned a reputation as a top contender in the constant war that rages over which region has the best cuisine in the country.