Love Touring Italy - Eastern Apulia by Levi Reiss
Apulia forms the heel of
the Italian boot located in the southeast corner of Italy. It borders the
Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Apulia was frequently invaded by both the ancient
Greeks and Romans. This region was occupied by many peoples including the
Byzantines, Goths, Lombards, Normans, Spaniards, and Turks. Apulia's moment
of greatest glory was in the Holy Roman Empire during the 13th Century,
when majestic Romanesque cathedrals and palaces were built. This article
presents the eastern and usually southern part of Apulia. A companion article
presents the rest of the region including the administrative center of
Bari, the largest city in southern Italy.
Trulli are truly remarkable.
They are human habitations shaped like beehives with a hole in the top
so that the smoke can escape. To me they resemble giant limestone teepees.
They can be found in only one place in the world, and that is eastern Apulia.
You'll see a large concentration of these striking houses in the touristy
city of Alberobello. You may prefer the historic town of Martina Franca
with its baroque and medieval architecture. Unfortunately the city wall
was destroyed long, long ago. The road connecting these two cities is dotted
with trulli. And guess what, some of them have been transformed into wineries,
hardly surprising given the local vineyards.
The small town of Castellana
might go unnoticed by tourists if it weren't for the nearby caves, Grotte
di Castellana. The townspeople have told countless stories of ghosts and
monsters. The largest network of caves in all Italy was discovered in 1938.
You cannot explore on your own, but tours are available. If you are up
to it, take the longer tour.
If you're on your way to
Greece, you may take a ferry from the port of Brindisi. Make sure to visit
some historic churches, the Duomo (Cathedral), and a Roman column dating
back to the Second Century. This column was one of two that indicated the
end of the Via Appia (Appian Way), the historic road from Rome.
Everyone has heard of Florence
in central Italy. But almost no one has heard of Lecce, sometimes called
"the Florence of the south." It is situated between the Adriatic coast
and the countryside dotted with ancient olive trees. The architecture is
mainly baroque. Among the buildings to see are the Duomo (Cathedral), and
the Chiesa di Santa Croce (Church of the Holy Cross), and several other
historic churches. The remains of the Roman Amphitheatre that once held
25,000 spectators are half buried because in later centuries people kept
building monuments over it.
Otranto is the easternmost
city in all of Italy. It was already a major port in the days of the ancient
Greeks. Some city walls are still standing. Make sure to visit the Spanish
Castello (Castle) and the Norman Catedrale (Cathedral). Then you might
want to take the coastal road to Leuca with its lighthouse and marina.
Its strategic location has led to numerous invasions.
What about food? Italy has
a classification process for food, roughly similar to its wine classification.
Apulia's classified foods include two Cheeses, Clementines, Olives, and
four Olive Oils. There are so many specialties that one of these days we
will have to sit down and write one or several articles on the foods of
Apulia. In the meantime let's suggest a sample menu, one of many. Be sure
to increase your dining pleasure by including local wines with your meal.
Start with Zuppa alla Tarantina (Grouper and Seafood Soup). Then try Agnello
al Cartoccio (Lamb Chops Baked in Paper). For dessert indulge yourself
with Bocconotti (Marsala, Cream, and Jam Baked Pastry).
We finish this article with
a quick look at Apulian wine. Apulia ranks 2nd among the 20 Italian regions
for both vineyard acreage and total wine production, 7o% red or rose (with
only a little rose), leaving about 30% for white. Apulia is home to more
than two dozen DOC wines. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata,
which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin, presumably
a high-quality wine. Not even 4% of Apulia wine carries the DOC designation.
Castel del Monte DOC is the
best-known wine from Apulia. It is available overseas but is frankly not
that great. The Alezio DOC of southern Apulia based on the region's most
widely planted red grape, Negroamaro, is said to be a much better rose
than red wine. Primitivo is a widely planted red grape variety that is
closely related to Zinfandel but critics say that you shouldn't get your
hopes up. However, the choice of local wine is so great that before long
you should find at least one to your liking. And there's a good chance
that it will be a bargain.