ALBEROBELLO


"Unesco World Heritage Site Alberobello resembles an urban sprawl – for gnomes. The zona dei trulli on the westernmost of the town's two hills is a dense mass of 1500 beehive-shaped houses, white-tipped as if dusted by snow. These dry-stone buildings are made from local limestone; none are older than the 14th century. Inhabitants do not wear pointy hats, but they do sell anything a visitor might (or might not) want, from miniature trulli to woollen shawls."*


CISTERNINO


"An appealing, whitewashed hilltop town, slow-paced Cisternino has a charming centro storico beyond its bland modern outskirts; with its kasbah-like knot of streets, it has been designated as one of the country's borghi più belli (most beautiful towns). Beside its 13th-century Chiesa Matrice and Torre Civica there's a pretty communal garden with rural views. If you take Via Basilioni next to the tower you can amble along an elegant route right to the central piazza, Vittorio Emanuele." *


LOCOROTONDO


"Locorotondo is endowed with a whisper-quiet pedestrianized centro storico, where everything is shimmering white aside from the blood-red geraniums that tumble from the window boxes. Situated on a hilltop on the Murge Plateau, it's rated as one of the most beautiful towns in Italy. There are few 'sights' as such – rather, the town itself is a sight. The streets are paved with smooth colored stones, with the church of Santa Maria della Graecia as their sunbaked centerpiece." *


POLIGNANO A MARE


"Dip into this spectacularly positioned small town if you can. Located around 34km south of Bari on the S16 coastal road, Polignano a Mare is built on the edge of a craggy ravine pockmarked with caves. The town is thought to be one of the most important ancient settlements in Puglia and was later inhabited by successive invaders ranging from the Huns to the Normans. On Sunday the logge(balconies) are crowded with day trippers from Bari who come here to view the crashing waves, visit the caves and crowd out the cornetterias (shops specializing in Italian croissants) in the atmospheric centro storico." *


MARTINA FRANCA

"The old quarter of this town is a picturesque scene of winding alleys, blinding white houses and blood-red geraniums. There are graceful baroque and rococo buildings here too, plus airy piazzas and curlicue ironwork balconies that almost touch above the narrow streets." *


BRINDISI

"Like all ports, Brindisi has its seamy side, but it's also surprisingly slow paced and balmy, particularly along the palm-lined Corso Garibaldi, which links the port to the train station, and the promenade stretching along the interesting lungomare (seafront)." *


LECCE


"If Puglia were a movie, Lecce would be cast in the starring role. Bequeathed with a generous stash of baroque buildings by its 17th-century architects, the city has a completeness and homogeneity that other southern Italian metropolises lack. Indeed, so distinctive is Lecce’s architecture that it has acquired its own moniker, barocco leccese (Lecce baroque), an expressive and hugely decorative incarnation of the genre replete with gargoyles, asparagus columns and cavorting gremlins. Swooning 18th-century traveller Thomas Ashe thought it 'the most beautiful city in Italy', but the less-impressed Marchese Grimaldi said the facade of Basilica di Santa Croce made him think a lunatic was having a nightmare." *


BARI


"If Lecce is the south’s Florence, Bari is its Bologna, a historic but forward-looking town with a high percentage of young people and migrants lending it vigour. More urban than Lecce and Brindisi, with grander boulevards and better nightlife, Bari supports a large university, an opera house and municipal buildings that shout confidence." *


TARANTO

"The once-mighty Greek-Spartan colony of Taras is, today, a city of two distinct parts – a mildewed centro storico on a small artificial island protecting a lagoon (the Mar Piccolo), and a swankier new city replete with wide avenues laid out in a formal grid. The contrast between the two is sudden and sharp: the diminutive old town with its muscular Aragonese castle harbours a downtrodden, almost derelict air, while the larger new city is busier, plusher and bustling with commerce." *


GALLIPOLI


"Like Taranto, Gallipoli is a two-part town: the modern hub is based on the mainland, while the older centro storico inhabits a small island that juts out into the Ionian Sea. With a raft of serene baroque architecture usurped only by Lecce, it is, arguably, the prettiest of Salento’s smaller settlements." *


OTRANTO


"Bloodied and bruised by an infamous Turkish massacre in 1480, Otranto is best appreciated in its amazing cathedral, where the bones of 813 martyrs are displayed in a glass case behind the altar. Less macabre is the cathedral’s other jaw-dropper, its medieval mosaic floor, which rivals the famous early Christian mosaics of Ravenna in its richness and historical significance." *


TRANI


"Known as the 'Pearl of Puglia', beautiful Trani has a sophisticated feel, particularly in summer when well-heeled visitors pack the array of marina-side bars. The marina is the place to promenade and watch the white yachts and fishing boats in the harbour, while the historic centre, with its medieval churches, glossy limestone streets, historic Jewish quarter and faded yet charming palazzi is an enchanting area to explore. But it's the cathedral, pale against the deep-blue sea, that is the town's most arresting sight." *


MATERA

"Matera, Basilicata's jewel, may be the third-longest continuously inhabited human settlement in the world. Natural caves in the tufa limestone, exposed as the Gravina cut its gorge, attracted the first inhabitants perhaps 7000 years ago. More elaborate structures were built atop them. Today, looking across the gorge to Matera’s huddled sassi (cave dwellings) it seems you've been transported back to the ancient Holy Land. Indeed, the ‘Città Sotterranea’ (Underground City) has often been used for biblical scenes in films and TV." *

* Source: Lonely Planet 

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