Skip to content

Lost in Puglia

Try looking for a guidebook on Puglia, the “heel” of Italy’s boot. The few resources you will find are mere footnotes in the context of the volumes written about Italy’s more frequented destinations. I think it’s because Puglia’s most extraordinary moments cannot be tightly scripted.

Puglia is certainly not lacking in dramatic coastlines, fertile farmland, fanciful architecture, or ancient ruins. The most memorable sights among these landscapes reveal themselves to those who intentionally meander: a fisherman repairing his colorful nets by hand; a lonely octogenarian trudging up an endless flight of whitewashed stairs; blankets of wildflowers paying homage to timeworn olive trees; men conversing in animated fashion on a street corner under the watchful eyes of gargoyles; a pygmy trulli squatting in random pasture.

Because even the most dedicated drifter needs a sanctuary, it’s reassuring to know that Puglia does not require a monk-like existence of its habitués. In fact, the region offers a covey of exquisite and delightfully non-traditional hotel options. In the “White Town” of Ostuni, La Sommità occupies a 16th century mansion with a commanding sea view and 16 design-forward dens. Notwithstanding the ascetic minimalism of the décor, Bulgari amenities and a Michelin starred restaurant hint that the digs are something more than spartan. Positioned on a cliffside in the Paleolithic town of Matera, Le Grotte Della Civita’s guests can channel their inner Neanderthal. Candlelit and romantic (in a primal sort of way), the 18 guest caves have been thoughtfully updated only as necessary to assure the creature comforts. Behind a huge wooden door on a cobblestone street in Lecce, Suite 68 hides seven chic pads. The reward for the climb to the top of the stairs is a vaulted, stone-hewn hideaway with a rambling private terrace overlooking the baroque city’s rooftops. Complimentary guest bicycles are available to facilitate freewheeling.

Puglia is a destination best explored without a firm grip on the GPS. Not all who wander are lost here; some are among the savviest of travelers.

Susan Henry’s thoughts have already wandered to her next adventure, which you’ll see soon on

Because even the most dedicated drifter needs a sanctuary.

Destination Details