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Take your mind off the pandemic in Puglia

On my first trip to Puglia in 2006 the region still had a dusty, undiscovered feel; English was extremely thin on the ground, actual grandmothers could be seen sitting out cleaning vegetables on quiet streets, the fish markets in Bari were full of shouting (I remember mainly seeing and then eating a lot of delicious sea urchin) and there was (sad to say) delicious horse stew cooked up by the lady running my B&B.

Though Puglia has certainly been well and truly discovered now, in part thanks to daily Ryanair flights to Bari and Brindisi, it is still – compared to other regions – a relative newcomer, still a little rough around the edges. And as Covid rumbles on, it’s an attractive place to visit, with very low virus rates, excellent food, beautiful old buildings and plenty of beach options. For a short break, there’s more than enough to delight in these three cities within an hour’s drive of both Bari and Brindisi.

Where to go

Ostuni – outrageously pretty

Ostuni, the most famous of Puglia’s “white” towns, is a good place to start: it’s only half an hour’s drive from Brindisi and is outrageously pretty. After it was sacked following the fall of the Roman empire, the Normans rebuilt it in 996 atop a hilltop to protect against invaders. Now the centre of a region of high-quality olive oil production, it’s a jumble of alleyways and higgledy-piggledy houses that snake up and down hills and give way onto secret-feeling squares and flower-fringed cul…

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