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Italy’s Next Great Destination

Every once in a while, even my well-traveled friends surprise me by not knowing where a place I’m going is located. That was the case with my favorite region of Italy.


“heel” of Italy’s “boot,” Puglia—Apulia in the Queen’s English—is everything that the top-of-mind Italian destinations, like Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast, are not. There’s an austere beauty to it: The landscape is rugged and wild, the terrain is flat and windswept, and the buildings are stark white, blazing against the blue of the sky and the sea—except for the tiny ones, called trulli, with domed roofs that bring to mind hobbit houses and fill the mellifluously named (and UNESCO recognized) town of Alberobello.

Magnificent, craggy olive trees that have been here for 1,000 years, their gnarled trunks like soulful works of art, dominate the landscape. In spring, fields of red poppies blaze underneath. (Those trees are another UNESCO treasure, and so protected that a Middle Eastern prince’s attempts to buy some for his palace failed, no matter how much money he offered.) Best of all, the crowds are relatively thin.

“What makes Puglia so extraordinarily intense is the absence of that elegant patina that can permeate well-traveled regions; it permits the most genuine hospitality,” says Antonello Losito, a Puglia-born former professional cyclist…

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