You can't miss these marvellous beaches if you are touring around Puglia!
- San Pietro in Bevagna (Ionic sea, west)
- Porto Selvaggio (Ionic sea, west)
- Porto Cesario (Ionic sea, west)
- Roca Vecchia (Adriatic sea, east)
- San Foca (Adriatic sea, east)
They are all fantastic places and the best beaches in the region so bear them in mind!
- San Pietro in Bevagna (Taranto)
- Porto Selvaggio (Lecce)
- Porto Cesario (Lecce)
- Roca Vecchia (Lecce)
- San Foca (Lecce)
The jewel in the crown of Puglia is Salento and there are plenty of free things to do. Try the local festivals – my favourites include the snail festival in Cannole, where you can try a plateful of snails as the locals like them – roasted then eaten with salt and cucumber; 'La Notte della Taranta' is a huge free mid-summer traditional musical festival in Melpignano; and if you're around at Easter, try to see Taranto’s Lenten procession, in which penitents wearing very creepy pointed hoods walk barefoot and painfully slowly through the town. The landscape is beautiful – for some of the best, visit ‘the Maldives of Salento’, aka Torre San Giovanni, with perfect white sandy beaches; go to see the ‘caretta-caretta’ (sea turtles) at the Le Cesine nature reserve; and try dolphin spotting in the gulf of Taranto. Finally – some of the most amazing churches: the Cathedral of Otranto has the exquisite ‘Tree of Life’ floor mosaic, said to have inspired Dante’s Divina Commedia, and an alter piece made of the skulls and bones of 800 martyrs slaughtered by Ottoman invaders. In Galatina, you’ll find the beautiful frescoed church of Santa Caterina, which I have a particular affection for, because I got married there …
The best way to reach each of these sites is by car, although Taranto, Otranto and Galatina are also accessible by rail.
Palazzo Siena is a truly hidden gem, which I can't recommend enough. On a hot summer day we drove through the sleepy town of Minervino di Lecce. We pulled up outside a hotel that looked practically desolate. But when the doors opened, Palazzo Siena was revealed in all its glory. Opened in the summer of 2012, it's a family-run boutique hotel and a food and design haven. The owner, a chatty lady from Naples, has an incredible attention to detail and she has decorated the hotel throughout with a very sophisticated taste, blending an Italian old fashioned style with modern accessories. That doesn't mean you don't feel at home, in fact, I have never experienced a hotel that makes you feel so welcome. The patio has a beautiful swimming pool, filled with sea water, and is surrounded by comfortable sun loungers. If you sit down, I promise you that you never want to leave. Palazzo Siena grows their own food, so if you want to disappear into the shade you can grab a basket and pick figs, lemons, aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes, beans and strawberries. In the country-style kitchen you can cook your own food, unless the owner has already beat you to it and has prepared typical Puglian treats such as Friselle bread with olive oil, oregano and tomatoes. The eight individually decorated rooms are spacious and comfortable and there's not a sound from the street. This is a sleepy village, after all. The hotel is close to the crystal clear waters of Salento if all the quietness gets too much. Although the hotel comes with a price, it's a price I'm definitely willing to pay to feel so totally relaxed. And did I mention the food?
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