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Trip Report Puglia impressions, in brief

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This month (May 2015) we were first-time visitors to Puglia (plus Matera in Basilicata). We had a very enjoyable 10-day trip. This post is just an outline of what we did but I can expand if anybody wants more detail.

The hotels we stayed in were:
Masseria Torre Maizza near Fasano/Savelletri
Mantatelure in Lecce
Palazzo Gattini in Matera

All three were excellent. Mantatelure is more like a top of the range bed and breakfast than the other two, and was thus less expensive. The others were certainly not cheap but they delivered a great product.

In Savelletri, besides dinner at the hotel (very good) we had dinner in both Osteria del Porto and its neighbour Sapore di Sale. The former was much better in our opinion. We had a good lunch at Beach Club Coccaro which belongs to the hotel.

In Lecce we ate dinner at Le Zie (good for horse meat!), at Osteria Della Divina Provvidenza, and at Osteria degli Spiriti. We can recommend all of them, but the last mentioned was the most impressive. Their antipasti was imaginative and fantastic and we drank a Primitivo which was memorable, partly because the alcohol content was 16.5%!

In Matera, we had reasonable dinners in Le Botteghe and Trattoria Lucana. The latter is more in the cheap and cheerful bracket; in fact I feared the worst with all the Mel Gibson photos on the wall, but food was OK and the house red was pretty drinkable. We also had very good antipasti and pasta in Ristorante del Caveoso, the cheapest of the three, although the guy in charge there would be an acquired taste.

Lecce and Matera have been pretty well covered elsewhere, so I can't add much except to say that both should definitely be on your bucket list. Lecce is not just a fantastic old city (town?), but good beaches are reachable from there in well under an hour if the weather calls for a swim.


Other interesting places we visited, albeit briefly, were Polignano a Mare, Ostuni, Alberobello, Cisternino (a bit disappointing), Galatina (great frescoes), Gallipoli, Castel del Monte and Trani.

We were very pleased with our trip and we got what we wanted: history, architecture, great food and wine, good weather (mostly), attractive beaches. And the people were very friendly.

One slightly negative note to end on. Maybe it's the economic downturn, but many roads in Puglia are not being looked after. I don't mean the surface (although that was variable), but there were weeds everywhere and the verges and central reservations don't seem to have been tended for years. Also the outskirts of towns are much scruffier than in other parts of Italy I have visited, while garbage is frequently dumped at roadsides and just left uncollected by local government. This seemed to be more true in the Salento/Lecce area than around Matera.

So Puglia is a mixture of both beautiful and ugly avert-your-eyes sights. With a bit more money and civic pride, the balance could be corrected. Failing this, I can see tourism there not fully achieving its high potential.

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