Visitors seeking to explore Italy’s sun-drenched Puglia region are spoiled immediately upon arrival. With Adriatic to the East and the Ionian to the West, a less-than-one-hour driving distance between the two coasts means the cliff-hugging seaside towns, ancient archeological sites, and everything in between can be efficiently explored by car. For being the heel to Italy’s boot, Puglia is relatively flat, hosting sprawling olive groves that dominate the landscape and the country’s olive oil production. And while its dreamy coastal towns are unmissable, Puglia’s interior holds treasures you won’t see anywhere else in the world. After picking up our Fiat 500 Cabrio from the Bari International Airport and rolling the top down, we devised a counter-clockwise circuit to hit the area’s most enchanting sites that include a network of caves inhabited since the Paleolithic era, swoon-worthy hotels, and one of the world’s most photogenic beaches.
Sassi di Matera, Matera
Technically the “City of Caves” isn’t in Puglia—it’s located just across the region’s border in neighboring Basilicata—but Matera’s status as one of the most fascinating places anywhere earned its place as this road trip’s first stop. As 2019’s European Capital of Culture, Matera has metamorphosed from being “the shame of Italy,” poor and disease-ridden, into one of the country’s straight-up coolest destinations. Centered around the Sassi, an ancient area made up of caves…
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