What to Know About Puglia
At The Slow Road we pride ourselves on getting in deep and up close.
So allow us to give you a head start for doing just that by sharing some of the insight we’ve gleaned in our decades spent riding, walking, tasting, exploring and falling in love with Puglia.
Puglia: An Introduction
During its early history, Puglia, in Italy’s southeast (if Italy is a boot, Puglia is the heel) was highly sought-after.
It has changed hands many times, having belonged to the Greeks, Romans, Venetians, Normans and Spanish, among others, many of whom left hallmarks that continue to influence the region today.
Today Puglia produces more olive oil and wine than any other region in the country. With its golden wheat, citrus trees and abundance of fresh seafood, you’d be hard-pressed to find another region that offers such a range of gastronomic delicacies.
And since it’s relatively undeveloped, Puglia is also the perfect place to bike.
The gastronomic pleasures of Puglia are among its greatest assets.
Between the fresh groves of olive, almond and citrus, the vineyards, the wheat fields and the fruits of the sea, Puglia offers an abundance of healthy, fresh and—most importantly—delicious regional specialties.
The absolute favourite pasta dish of the Pugliese is orecchiette—named for its shape, which translates into “small ear”— a homemade noodle that comes from the cucina povera tradition, which emphasized local ingredients harvested for nourishment and flavoured with regional herbs and spices.
For more about Pugliese cuisine be sure to check out Cuisine 101: Puglia.
Fast Facts: Tipping in Italy
Tipping is common in Italy and fairly similar to our own practice in North America. Of course, there are some exceptions. A few helpful guidelines to follow:
Taxis: The usual tip is 10% of the fare.
Porters: Give €1.50 to €3.00, or slightly more if you have several bags.
Restaurants: A bit more complicated. A 15% service charge is added in most restaurants and is indicated on the bill by the term ‘servizio compreso.’ In this case, if the service was very good, or especially if you intend to return, leave a few extra euros. If the bill does not say ‘servizio compreso’ then you should leave about 10% of the total bill.
Very few people know that Puglia produces more wine than any other region in Italy.
The reds tend to be dominated by Negroamaro, which is cut by Sangiovese and Malvasia Nero.
The sweet grapes, such as Primitivo, Moscato and Aleatico, produce some delicious dessert wines; their natural sugars can send the alcohol content to 15% or even 17%.
We’ve included a few of our favourite Pugliese vintners below. For more about the vines and wines of Puglia, be sure to check out Vines 101: Puglia.
A Few to Try:
Conti Zecca’s Nero is made of 70% Negroamaro and the rest is Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in barrique of French oak.
The Primitivo di Manduria produced by the Felline winery also gets high marks.
The Vallone winery makes the famous Graticciaia, a very potent wine, almost sweet, made of Negroamaro and Malvasia grapes.
The Francesco Candido cantina produces three great wines: Cappello di Prete, Duca d’Aragona, and Immensum.
One of the oldest wineries is the Leone de Castris, which makes the Salice Salentino Majana Riserva and Donna Lisa Riserva.
Leone de Castris also makes one of Italy’s best rosés: the Five Roses.
Puglia is spoiled by its coastal location and bestrewn with towns rich with history, stunning views and charming locals.
Featuring a walled acropolis and whitewashed buildings that stand as a testament to its Eastern influences, Ostuni is (rather rightly) known as La Perla Bianca, “The White Pearl.”
The town has changed hands many times throughout history: it has been ruled by the Aragonese, Angevins, Swabians, Normans, Byzantines, Longobards, Spanish and Bourbons.
This diversity of influences can be seen in its architecture, which provides a perfect template for a Pugliese town.
You don’t come by the nickname “the Florence of the South” lightly.
But with stunning baroque architecture, gorgeous views of the Salentine Peninsula and an abundance of Puglia’s famous wine and olive oil, Lecce is a work of art unto itself.
Their origin remains a mystery, though we know one thing for sure: trulli, those small, idiosyncratic, conical buildings, provide Puglia with one of its most recognizable features.
Although similar structures exist elsewhere in the Mediterranean, from Cappadocia in Turkey to Greece, Egypt, Sicily and Sardinia, simply saying the word conjures images of Aberobello.