Insider's Guide: Puglia

This week we travel to Puglia. Helen Forbes, director of Essential Italy (01223 460100; essential italy.co.uk) – which offers holidays to masseria (old, fortified farmhouses), villas, hotels and apartments – offers her top tips for a holiday in the region


1. Head south for a day in Zinzulusa on the east coast. There's a fantastic lido where you can swim in crystal-clear waters at the Zinzulusa grottoes. Try one of the restaurants above the lido for lunch with superb sea views. I guarantee, you'll be the only Brit for miles.



2. The pre-dinner passeggiata is a must-see in Italy and the spectacular "White City" of Ostuni (inset top) is the perfect setting to watch the locals stroll by. From the cathedral, admire the view towards the glittering Adriatic Coast, then head into the bustling town to enjoy a cool apperitivo at the wonderful Gipas 111 bar (gipas111.it).



3. No one should visit Puglia without seeing Alberobello once (and only once), a Unesco World Heritage Site packed with trulli, the white-washed conical-roofed houses of the area. Park in the main streets and walk to the viewing point to admire the amazing panorama of hundreds of trulli cones (inset above).



4. Take the children to the nearby caves at Castellana (grottedicastellana. it). Explore them on one of the tours offered which delight all ages.



5. Ask Alessandro Amati at Borgo San Marco to show you his exceptional 12th-century frescos. In the 15th century, Borgo San Marco was a garrison to the knights of Malta – it's now the idyllic setting for a hotel.



6. Visit Tulsi in Marittima at the very bottom of Italy's heel – a small boutique stocked with an eclectic mix of beautiful clothes, bags, jewellery and items to adorn your home. Step off the dusty Pugliese street into Tulsi's calm, sophisticated shop to browse the merchandise with an ice-cold drink.



7. For a splendid fish supper with fabulous sea views, go to Ristorante Maddalena in Savelletri between Brindisi and Bari. Choose an outside table on the wooden decking with the sea lapping beneath you. The underwater lighting provides a wonderfully romantic atmosphere. A boat delivers the fish direct to the doorstep each day.



8. Learn the local dance of Salento, the Pizzica, which is hundreds of years old. It was thought the dance could cure someone possessed by the Devil. Starting slowly, it builds up momentum with the dancers finally collapsing in exhaustion. Visit Benedetta who owns Masseria Le Pezzate near Scorrano, who will teach you to dance like a native.



9. Head to the west coast for a truly spectacular sunset – take a seat in Bar Mahja on the coast at Torre Suda Racale and watch the red sun drop into the blue sea. Amazing.



10. Take an evening trip to the Baroque city of Lecce, famed for its fascinating 17th-century architecture. The most famous church is Basilica di Santa Croce, located in one corner of the Piazza del Duomo. Stay in town in chic comfort at Suite 68 – sneak up to the roof terrace at night with a bottle of wine and admire the view across the rooftops.



F or more information, visit the website of Abtoi (Association of British Travel Organisers to Italy) at loveitaly.co.uk

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