Often, when I am browsing the net, I come across various travel forums and discussions where users talk about their idea of visiting Apuglia. They seem particularly worried about the specific destination to choose in the region: in most cases, the choice is between Gargano, the mountain promontory projecting into the Adriatic Sea, and Salento, the south-eastern extremity of the region (if you think of Italy as a boot, Salento is often described as its heel). So, which one is better? Well, I guess there is no answer to this question. One could argue that it depends on personal tastes. Personally, I think that both areas are unique for different reasons and are worth a visit. This is precisely what I did! Gargano If you are a fan of rocky beaches with wild cliffs overlooking the Adriatic Sea and surrounded by luxurious vegetation, then Gargano is the right place for you. The coast there is one of the most important natural heritages in Italy. The promontory is covered by the remains of an ancient forest, the so-called Foresta Umbra. The area was already appreciated by Latin poets that, in their works, mentioned the “oaks of Garganus”. The name is taken from the Latin word umbra meaning “dark, shadowy” and refers to the shadow created by the trees. Spending some hours there can be so regenerating, especially if you travel to Puglia in the hottest months. One of the beaches I have most appreciated in the area is Spinale, the last bay in the territory of Peschici. I just loved it and I was really glad when, talking with locals, I found out that it is also one of their favourite beaches. The reasons for this are clear: the bay is basically untouched by tourist mass and preserves almost entirely its original charm. The ruins of an ancient Saracen tower made the location even more suggestive. Going south, towards the village of Mattinata, I could admire the spectacular cliffs, like those of Vignanotica, and mysterious sea caves with bizarre names (some of them even quite scary): the Snake cave, the Bell cave, the Deads cave, the Pigeons cave… Apart from its beaches and woods, I just fell in love with the local villages: from Rodi Garganico to Peschici, from Vieste to Mattinata passing by Pugno Chiuso. They all provide strategic starting points to explore the area. In particular, Peschici and Vieste offer an impressive view when approaching them: they look like White-colour stains painted on the top of some majestic cliffs over the sea. Salento In recent years, Salento has seen an astonishing rise in the number of tourists that decide to spend their holiday in the southernmost region of Italy. One of the most intriguing factors about Salento is that it is a peninsula is touched by two seas (the Adriatic, on the eastern side, the Ionian on the west) offering two different scenarios: the Adriatic coast is much more similar to that of the Gargano, the Ionian part is characterized by long sandy beaches that are very easy to reach. It was a surprise for me to discover splendid Maldives-style beaches in the surrounding of Porto Cesareo, a small village on the Ionian coast. Not to mention the water: crystalline, pure and pleasantly warm. Near Gallipoli, you can sunbathe and relax on one of the most famous beaches along the Ionian coast of Salento: Baia Verde, the ideal place for the classical summer holiday by the sea.
In the evening, Gallipoli offer a lively night-life, with plenty of excellent restaurants and fashion clubs. Some friends of mine recommended a couple of places where I could have dinner: I chose Le Caravelle, a typically local restaurant offering lovely traditional dishes, mainly fish, at very good prices. Going further south, I reached Pescolouse, another of the Salento wonders, an authentic paradise on earth: a marvellous 4-kilometers coastline with fine white sand, shallow clear waters and characteristic dunes covered by acacia trees and white lilies. Moving onto the Adriatic side, I was recommended to visit Ostuni. Fortunately, I had the time to stop there and discover a spectacular hilltop village where the white colour is overwhelming: all buildings in the historical centre of Ostuni are covered by white lime that creates a dazzling sight when the sun is shining. This is why Ostuni is called the White City. This usage dates back to ancient times and has some practical reasons, above all the attempt to reduce the sun heating. Moreover, the material is available in large quantities in the vicinity of the city. Being an appreciated tourist station, finding an accommodation in the city won’t be a problem: travellers can rely on a large assortment of hotels Ostuni, right in the city centre or in the territory around. My tip: opt for a farmhouse or a rural holiday house to enjoy the authentic local atmosphere.