SOUTHERN ITALY (Puglia) May 2015
(Anything bold can be found on google)
We took a cheap Ryan Air flight from Paris to Bari, the hub of the region of Puglia (in the heel of the boot shape of Italy). We spent 2 nights there, which I do NOT recommend. In fact you could skip Bari altogether. But if you arrive late as we did, I suggest you look for a b&b in the old town (we stayed near the train station).
We did have one of the very best meals of our trip, however, at the
Hosteria degli Travi (be sure to order the orichietti with ragu--a simple tomato and meat sauce that was heavenly).
It did not take long to cover Bari, so we took a local train up the coast to Trani and spent a few happy hours there.
Option: If you arrive early enough, you could drive directly to Martina Franca, an excellent base for exploring the area, or to Polignano a Mare, a seaside town, somewhat touristy, but charming.
We took a train (they run frequently and it takes about 90 minutes) from Bari to Lecce, a baroque gem of a town that should not be missed. You'll want to rent a car later, but since the drive between Bari and Lecce is unexciting, the train is easier and cheaper.
In Lecce, we stayed at Laralá b&b and loved it. Our 50 euro room was huge, filled with antiques and had a balcony overlooking the public garden--good location, too.
Our best meal was at Trattoria Nonna Tetti.
We rented a car in Lecce and did a day trip to Otranto (you can skip it), and Galatina, where we had one of the best meals of the trip at La Tana del Lupo, where you must order the abundant antipasti--the best ricotta cheese ever (better than Sicily!).
From Lecce, we drove to Martina Franca and made that our base for a few days. A stop of lovely Ostuni on the way was delightful.
We spent our first night in a trulli (old stone house) b&b in the countryside near Martina Franca. (Can't remember the name, but we found it on airbnb.com--there are lots of them). It was a fun experience for one night, but we decided we'd rather be in a town with a bit more nightlife, so moved to the B&B Huit in the old part of Martina. We had a huge apt. with a small terrace for 70 euros--great deal.
From Martina you can drive to several lovely small towns, all very close, each one just a bit different from the next. Alberobello is the most touristy, but is well worth a short visit to see the biggest cluster of trullis around. Locorotundo and Cisternino were both highlights.
Our favorite meal in Martina Franca was at Garibaldi Bistrot, right in the middle of the old city.
We drove to Matera (about 90 minutes from Martina) for the day--it's worth more time if you have it.
NOTE: do not leave luggage in your car unattended, even in the trunk. We were robbed, and I afterwards heard that is not uncommon, especially with rental cars.