We’ve been singing the praises of Puglia for years, and it’s a matter of real pride at B&R that Puglia is now, for the sixth year in a row, our most popular European destination for our trips. (That says something, doesn’t it?) From my early guiding days at B&R and now in my role as a Trip Designer, I’ll forever have a place in my heart for Puglia (and its neighbouring up-and-coming region, Basilicata). Here are some reasons why it’s such a draw for travellers.
Welcome to the ‘Real’ Italy
We always love to talk about the ‘real’ Italy of old. These days, it can be elusive to witness actual, unmanufactured moments of authenticity, but I promise you that Puglia and Basilicata still have it in abundance—and you’ll be a part of it. As we weave through the regions, we often go through loads of tiny little towns, so small they are barely even registered on a map. As you pass through any given town, you will see just how simply (and wonderfully) the locals live, in a similar fashion to how their forebears did.
For instance, you might see a large group of older gentlemen all sitting in the tiny piazza, drinking wine and whiling away their afternoon playing cards. Just men, with not a woman in sight. At this point, I’ll get the inevitable question from our travellers: “Where have all the women gone?”
Then, you might turn a corner, and you will see where the ladies of the households have gone: some of them perhaps dressed in black to indicate their widowhood—these parts of Italy are still that traditional—and you’ll see them rolling out the local pasta through a beaded doorway. These slices of everyday life are something you’ll feel privileged to witness.
Add B&R Travellers to the Mix…
I have to say, when the two worlds collide—‘old world’ Italians with ‘new world’ B&R travellers, that’s when it gets fun (and a little crazy in the best possible way)! When we first started travelling to Puglia (it’s been nearly thirty years since we first set foot here), the locals just did not know what to make of us—sweaty spandex-clad travellers, looking quite like fish out of water in small-town Italy—but now, when we gear up for the busy season on our tours, the locals have come to know us (and, dare I say, love us!) over the years.
It kind of goes like this: I might walk into a local bar, filled only with the all-male patrons. The music stops, just like in a movie. Our guides will speak to the locals and we’ll buy a round, and the next thing you know…a traveller might be taking a photo with an octogenarian nonno, and he might just bring us over to his house, where his wife might be preparing that evening’s meal as tradition dictates!
These magical moments happen because they are still authentic to the region. And it happens because we still take our travellers to ‘real’ places, where the locals know us and let us into their lives, just as we, visitors, make ourselves open to theirs. This is the essence of the B&R way of life on our trips, as we journey the slow road together.
All the town residents on our routes know that a certain day of the week might be ‘the day’ when we roll through, and I know it’s something they get a real kick out of, year after year after year. (I might even be so bold to say that seeing and interacting with travellers is one of the locals’ weekly highlights—I can guarantee you that interacting with locals will yield similar results.) Puglia is where some of your best memories are made!