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November 24, 2008

Head to the Heel of the Boot: Puglia, Italy

BRICK BY BRICK: Trulli houses in Alberobello, Puglia (Peter Adams/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty)

Tuscany has been hyped ad nauseum, leaving the rest of Italy open to folks who prefer not to follow the masses.  This is especially true in fall, when most of the backpackers have left the country with guidebooks in tow and the Italians return from their summer vacation.  One of my favorite parts of the country is in the southeast, Puglia, known as Giardano d’Italia, the Garden of Italy.  With its rich soil, the region is known for its bounty of fruits, vegetables, and wines.  Families can bike through olive groves, picnic on the Adriatic shores, visit the Roman ruins of Egnazia, and spend an afternoon hiking through the beehive-like buildings of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Alberobello.  Spend your nights at Masseria Torre Coccaro in Savelletri, where acres of olive groves and gardens surround a 14th-century watchtower.

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Related Topics: European Travel · Travel Raves · Trip Ideas


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Being someone whose family comes from a small village in Campagna, it's nice to see more travel attention for Italy being focused on the southern regions.

I like the fact that these regions are getting their deserved attention, but also I like keeping these areas to myself, because it would be a shame if they turned into just another stop on the tourist trail.

I had just climbed one of China's most famous mountains, Mt. Huangshan, an arduous 15 kilometer hike up stone steps that showcased stunning precipes and odd-looking pine trees growing inconceivably out of rock cliffs. On the way up, I had passed chinese porters loaded down with furniture, cases of beer, and other food items strapped onto a bamboo pole across their backs as they headed up for the resort hotels.

On a tight budget, I opted to stay the night on Mt. Huangshan in a chinese dormitory. In the middle of the night, I was awakened by one of my bunk mates: an overweight middle-aged chinese man standing on top of his bed clad only in underpants smoking a cigarette and singing OPERA at the top of his lungs. As a dozen or more chinese started to file into our room, I realized the man was acting as an alarm clock for his fellow travelers.

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