Apulia (Italian: Puglia) is a region in southeastern Italy.
Apulia (Puglia in Italian) is sometimes referred to as "the heel of Italy", in reference to the country's boot-like shape. Due to its particular location, the region has been crisscrossed by a number of tribes and civilizations, stretching from Illyric tribes of Messapii to Greek and Turks. In addition, Apulia has been part to several larger kingdoms and empires including Roman, Byzantine, Naples and Kingdom of Two Sicilies, the last before being integrated to the national vision of mainstream Italy. This long and diversified history, aided perhaps by its peripheral location from the perspective of the central national government, has resulted in preserving a good deal of linguistic and cultural variation.
As in the rest of Italy, Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion of Apulians (though decreasingly so), with pockets of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, found mainly among the growing immigrant community.
Thanks to its position in the Mediterranean, touched by the Adriatic sea in the north and Ionio in the south, Apulia enjoys a pleasant climate throughout the year, with hot and dry summers and mild winters, which can be cooled down by humidity and occasional downpours. As a rule, temperatures hardly ever fall below 0 in winter, whereas in the summer they normally oscillate between 25 and 33 degrees, with rare peaks exceeding 35 occuring between July and August.
Many dialects are spoken here and they're all quiet different from each other, from the Greek influence of Salento to the Arabic sounding dialect of Bari; obviously Italian would be your best bet, maybe not local people's one though...
If you have to rely on a foreign language, English, followed by French and German, are the most studied languages. The degree to which they're spoken varies greatly, but overall the further you go from touristic spots or bigger cities like Bari, Taranto or Lecce, the slimmer the chances they will be spoken by anybody.
Bari Palese international airport has flights to international destinations including the UK, Belgium and Germany and flights to Italian destinations including Milan and Rome.
From Brindisi Airport, there are flights to Switzerland and the UK as well as Italian destinations.
From central-estern European countries, WizzAir has regular flights beween Bari and Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.
British Airways also flies to Bari with a summer schedule.
Train from Rome can take about 6 hours and is usually very packed. Other straight connections include Milan, Venice and Bolzano.
New lines between Rome and Lecce were established by 2013, which largely overcomed the problems with delays and outdated facilities.
There are many ferry companies providing service several times daily from Greece (i.e. Corfu, Igoumenitsa, Cephalonia, Zante, Patras) to Bari and Brindisi.
Lines to and from Croatia (Dubrovnik) and Albania also exist.
Ferrovie del sud est offers train and bus service in the region, in addition to regional trains that connect all major cities with each other.
Despite recent improvements, however, rides are not enough to cover the traffic of passengers efficiently, particularly areas of turistic interest, that may be located outside the urban reach.
Especially if you find yourself in Lecce province, where regional trains do not operate and FSE's last ride is at 20:00, renting a car would be the smartest choice.
There are a lot of things to see in Puglia.
Santa Maria Al Bagno is a small fishermen village, district of Nardò, and it is located on the coastline of the Gulf of Taranto, Ionian west coast. It has beautiful unspoilt beaches all along the coast. Santa Maria Al Bagno is approximately 45 mins travelling time by car from Brindisi and approximately 1hr 30 mins from Bari. There are several food shops in the village, restaurants, pubs, bars open in summer 24h a day, a chemist, a post office, newsagent shops and a weekly market every Sunday. Lots of large supermakets, shopping centres and fashion boutiques are in the town nearby such as Nardò, Galatina, Gallipoli and Lecce.
In July there's a typical music festival in Melpignano near Lecce where you hear the famous "Pizzica".
Visit the Gargano National Park and the Tremiti islands as well as the Valle d'Itria and Salento.
From June to September, the coast constitutes an attraction of its own, with clear see-through waters and some top-end beaches, particularly so in the southern part of the peninsula, in the litorali of Lecce province.
Lecce is a city packed with beautiful baroque buildings, churches and villas, built with a local stone at a time when the city served as refugee shelter for aristocratic families from all over Italy. Consider spending a day or two wandering around its peculiar streets, exploring the local cuisine and nightlife.
Despite making up one single region, Apulia has a stunnig variety of local cuisine and delicacies. The area of Bari is particularly famous for its pasta, especially orecchiette, whereas the area of Lecce, Salento, offers some exquisite pastries and rustico, a disc of baked phillo-dough stuffed with tomato sauce, cheese, ham and black pepper, somehow resembling Balkan burek. On the same line, another popular street food, common in Lecce and Taranto, is local calzone, which can be found baked or deep-fried.
In general, Apulians have a preference for fish and sea food, as a consequence of being sandwiched between two seas, but meat based dishes (based on lamb, pork, beef or horse) are also present.
Vegetarians won't have a hard time fittin in in Apulia, as the region is traditionally an enthusiastic consumer of dishes based on legumes, potatoes, vegatables and different kinds of salad, mostly made of fresh local ingredients.
Kebab places and international restaurants have also appeared in recent years.
All over the region you can taste good wine. Not to be missed, Primitivo of Manduria.
Some of the things you may want to try:
Described at times as the "Italian Jamaica", Apulia enjoys indeed quite a laid-back and melancholic mood according to different parameters. In a 2006 survey, the province of Lecce came out in the top 10 of the safest pronvinces in Italy, with theft and attack to property being "extremely rare". Street crime and local mafia related violence, however, has been a serious issue in other parts of the region in the dodgy 80s and 90s, particularly around the denser urban areas of Bari and Taranto, cities that somehow kept bearing a bad reputation until recent days. However, most of this is a story of the past: Apulia is now one of the safest regions in the less-developed southern part of Italy and, outside of the poorest urban districts, violent crime is nearly unheard of. Moreover you'll find locals to be rather helpful and hospitable. The rare cases of aggression or fights are in the overwhelming majority of episodes cases of private disputes and/or alcohol-related and are never directed to tourists. In fact, tourists, especially foreigners, are more likely to fall victims of overpricing and mild touts linked to the expanding touristic industry rather than violent crimes. Even these, however, together with pickpocketing, are isolated cases and are not a rampant issue as in Naples.
Though preserving to this day a reputation for being a conservative society, within the frame of Souhern Italy and especially in comparison to the larger metropolitan areas of the center and north of the country, Apulia enjoys nonetheless some (limited) room for Lgbt travelers, this being reserved mostly to the coastline, where openly gay beaches are not hard to find - especially in the resorts and lidi of Salento, the southern tip of the region. In cities like Bari and Lecce you can find some rare but well-established Lgbt-friendly venues, overwhelmingly those revolving around students life and alternative audiences, which happen to be also the groups of people more tolerant and open to Lgbt issues. Despite progresses in recent years, hand in hand with a growing inclusion of gay people in public life, however, public display of affection between same-sex couples remains uncommon, especially in smaller towns, where it may raise more than an eyebrow and be met occasionally with verbal abuse.
You can continue your trip onwards to southern Italy, through Basilicata and the mountains of Calabria (even though there are a few rare local trains, a private car would be here highly recommended) or going east by ferry on to Croatia, Albania or Greece, only a couple of hours away through the Adriatic sea.