Travelling doesn’t always need to involve collecting thousands of air miles or notching up hundreds of kilometres by car.
Travelling can also be about the rediscovery of your homeland; an experience that I would definitely recommend to anyone in terms of personal growth and better understanding of where you come from.
I was born and brought up in Puglia. The heel of Italy; a region rich in nature, tradition and vastly differing and breathtaking landscapes.
In this post, I will take you on a quick journey around my homeland, setting off from Gargano and reaching the furthest tip of the ‘boot’, Salento.
Gargano is an orgy of colour. The sea’s varying shades of blue come together with the intense green of the wilderness.
In Gargano, it’s like stepping back in time: the people are very attached to their land of origin and it is not at all uncommon to find yourself overwhelmed by a mass of goats with their herder on the road. The clock hands have stopped – or at least so it seems – and you can still get a taste of the simple things of way back when.
Therefore, instead of limiting myself to taking pictures of the bright colours of the landscape, I preferred to include the herdsman in my shot, in order to capture the authenticity of the history within the wonderful countryside setting of Gargano.
For those who wish to get a taste (in all senses) of Pugliese tradition, I strongly advise you to visit the old town centre of Bari.
A stroll through the ancient town centre of Puglia’s regional capital provides food for thought and stimulates the five senses. Whilst the bakery ovens emit the inviting smell of local focaccia, little old men speed about on bikes and women choose fruit at the market.
Many of the houses in the old town have their front doors wide open during the day, so tourists are able to take a timid peek inside to see what’s going on. Children having lunch, mothers cooking, grandmothers kneading dough.
Indeed, it is the grandmothers who are the real treasures of Bari. Grandmothers who, with amazingly expert hands weathered by time, prepare mountains of ‘orechiette’ pasta. Strong, worker’s hands, hands worn by hard work and experience, hands with a tale to tell.
It is impossible not to want to photograph those hands in constant motion, but it is important to capture the right moment, the moment in which she has her hands almost still on the dough. For this reason, it is best to use a good tripod (Manfrotto has many types, including some which are very light and easy to carry).
Before leaving Bari, as well as trying the focaccia, you simply must sample two other local celebrated specialities: ‘panzerotti’ and ‘sgagliozze’, rectangles of fried polenta.
A tour around Puglia cannot be without a trip to the Valle d’Itria, the land of the ‘trulli’ – characteristic houses that were placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1996.
Trulli aren’t just found in the popular tourist location of Alberobello, but also in the charming surrounding small towns: Locorotondo, Cisternino, Martina Franca, Ceglie Messapica.
I think that the Valle d’Itria is the most mystical area of Puglia. The surrounding countryside encourages introspection, reflection, the rediscovery of your true self.
Another place not to be missed in the area is Ostuni, also known as “la città bianca” (the white town) because of its snow white colour and the immaculate walls of its houses.
And then there’s Savelletri, the home of the sea urchin; a delicacy which, according to tradition, should be sampled with bread.
Continuing south, you reach Salento, probably the most famous area in the whole region today.
Along both the Ionian and Adriatic coasts, you come across numerous picturesque little towns: Otranto, Gallipoli, Porto Cesareo… and many more. Places that are different, yet in some respects very similar. The fishermen, the harbour, the brightly coloured moored boats, the poetry of the sunset.
The beaches of Salento are no less spectacular than the paradises of the Caribbean. My favourite beaches are Torre Lapillo, Otranto, Castro and Santa Cesarea Terme.
But Salento is not just sand and sea.
Salento is also made of cultural traditions handed down over generations. One shining example is the ‘pizzica salentina’, a local dance whose history is both intriguing and interesting. The ‘pizzica’ originated as a therapeutic music used to cure people bitten by the ‘taranta’, local term for tarantula.
Salento is also full of history, art and culture. As can be seen by the wonderful Leccese Baroque architecture and the less frequented routes around Grecia Salentina (Salentinian Greece).
There is so much more I could write, but it would take more than a book to list all the places to visit, all the places that hold for me such emotion and so many memories.
I hope that this little taster of Puglia has aroused your curiosity.
The heel of Italy looks forward to welcoming you!
My name is Manuela and I describe myself as inquisitive, enthusiastic and lively.
I’m not interested in perfection, but in happiness.
When I think about the fact that, outside of these four walls, there is a world to discover, I get so excited. Just the thought that the world is waiting for me sends me into raptures, joyful out of all proportion. And so, since I started travelling, I have never stopped, but I’m always happy to come back home to my homeland in Puglia.
My blog was born of an urgent desire to write, to give voice to the thoughts and emotions that accompany my experiences.
I love photography because it allows me to capture and keep forever moments and emotions.