In the deep south of Italy, surrounded by crystal-clear waters and 500 miles of Adriatic and Ionian coastline, is the enclave of Puglia that sits on the sun-baked heel of the Boot. I first visited years ago and fell in love with its sleepy whitewashed villages, colorful folk traditions, its unique trulli set amongst olive trees, endless plates of mouth-watering food and some of the most gracious people in all of Italy.
More than 800 of the gargantuan trees at the ancient olive farm, Antica Masseria Brancati, near Ostuni, are considered natural monuments. With their gnarled and knotted trunks, many are upwards of 3000 years old.
The city of Lecce dates back to Magna Graecia, but because of its exquisite Baroque architecture it is known as the Florence of the South. The architectural style in Lecce is so distinctive that it was given its own name – “Barocco Leccese.“ The city’s opulent palaces and churches are built with Lecce stone, which has been used since ancient times.
Food is a surefire way to get to the heart of a culture and makes travel to Puglia ever-rewarding. Puglia’s tradition of rustic “cucina povera” centers around freshness and simplicity. The cherries are amazing, as is the burrata, focaccia and the orecchiette con cima di rape (with broccoli rabe), just to mention a few.
Puglia has plenty of charming towns ideal for leisurely wandering including Martina Franca; the labyrinthine whitewashed streets of Locorotondo and Ostuni; and the hobbit-like trulli of Alberobello (along with the stunning seaside towns of Polignano a Mare, Otranto and Gallipoli).
The town of Polignano a Mare has dedicated a statue and waterfront to the great Italian singer Domenico (Mimmo) Modugno (popularly known as Mr. Volare) who was born there in 1928. Mimmo was a singer, songwriter, actor, parliamentarian and three-time Grammy award winner.
His song Nel Blu Dipinto De Blu, popularly known as Volare, became a huge international hit in 1958 and sold over 30 million records. It also won him his first Grammy award (and an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show 😉
But what makes Puglia so appealing is its authenticity. Things move at a slower pace and people will always make time for you. Everyone is so proud of their region; they don’t mind when you take photos and are keen to help in any way they can.
Venice seduces us in so many ways–with her watery, curving reflections; her hidden corners shot through with light; her disguises, her artistic creations inspired by centuries of tradition.
Casanova once walked La Serenissima’s calle and drifted down her canals, on the way to a tryst or an adventure. Let these images take you back into your own Venetian memories, your dreams and your desires. You might spy glittering glass beads through a window or sumptuous Fortuny fabrics sailing overhead. You might peer through doorways into other vistas. You might repose within the cool marble walls of a bright white church or duck your head passing beneath an arching bridge.
Venice beckons in the shape of gondoliers, maskers, artists, violinists, welcoming you to explore her secret streets and mirrored canals. Play in the shadows and in the light as it bounces off stone and water. Then meet up with your friends for an Aperol Spritz or a cool raboso. As the light closes out the day, toast to love, to beauty, to history, to Venice, grateful that we get to enjoy her charms.
(Grazie mille to Kathleen Gonzalez, author of Seductive Venice: In Casanova’s Footsteps and other books celebrating and revealing Venice’s history and my dear friend Frank Yantorno for several of the dazzling evening photos.)