From baroque churches to whitewashed little towns with funny houses, from amazing sandy beaches to gorgeous countryside sceneries Puglia has it all. Plus, everyone agrees on Puglia being one of the best destinations in Italy for food and wine lovers.
The beauty of Puglia is the variety of dishes, wines and outstanding culinary traditions. Many different rulers (from the Spanish to the French and the Turks) have influenced not just the architecture and language but also the cuisine and wines. From town to town, even just three miles apart, culinary traditions and wines can change dramatically. This is our list of top 10 destinations in Puglia that locals consider for fantastic food and wines.
In Gallipoli, you cannot miss the famous red shrimps in a sea salt crust served with very fruity extra virgin olive oil from Squinzano. Visit the local seafood market to taste raw shrimps, sea urchins, shellfish and local oysters. Pair them with a glass of the local white Verdeca or Malvasia Bianca or with the famous rose wine made from the Negroamaro grape.
Restaurant Tip: Il Pettolino Gallipoli
Otranto and the Southern Adriatic Coast
Otranto and the Southern Adriatic coast from Castro to Santa Maria di Leuca are also fantastic places for those who love seafood. The typical dish in this area is the sea bass or sea bream in sea salt crust. There are several restaurants in this area where you can enjoy your meal by the sea. For sea urchins head to Porto Badisco. Freshly caught in and around the inlet, ricci di mare are the pride of the area. Near Santa Maria di Leuca you should not miss the tubettini pasta with zuppa di pesce (tomato sauce made with seafood).
Restaurant Tip: Danilo Osteria Creativa
Lecce is famous for many different things: I would say that the thing you should not miss in Lecce is the orecchiette pasta with broccoli. This pasta is made with durum wheat flour and water (no eggs) and is usually kneaded very early in the morning, to give enough time to dry. Other famous local dishes from Lecce that you will not find anywhere else in Puglia are: the pasta with chickpeas (ciceri e tria), the pasticciotto, a sweet made with lemon custard, and the rustico stuffed with mozzarella and tomato sauce, which is a typical thing to have as an aperitif before lunch. Another thing you should not miss in Lecce is the ice cream in the main Saint Oronzo square: you can have it by the cone (hazelnut and pistachio are the best flavors) or as a spumoni, a bit harder ice cream topped with warm coffee or liquor. Another fantastic dish not to be missed is the focaccia leccese, made with either potatoes or flour and stuffed with cheese, ham, olives and tomatoes. For those who love cheese and mozzarella, when in Lecce you should not miss the cacioricotta cheese, the fresh mozzarella fior di latte and the pecorino cheese. The cuisine in Lecce is mainly based on all different kinds of pasta, vegetables and legumes (famous fava broad beans with chicories) which all go very well with the famous local wines: Negroamaro and Primitivo del Salento.
Restaurant Tip: Osteria di Lecce
Among locals, Ceglie Messapica is considered as one of the best destinations in Puglia for food lovers. The cuisine is based on pasta, vegetables and meat: from caciocavallo cheese, to sausage, fava broad beans and vegetables. In Ceglie, you should try the famous biscotto cegliese, a secret recipe made with almond and liquor. Ceglie is near the Primitivo di Manduria area, another famous grape really worth trying. This primitivo is totally different from the Primitivo del Salento. Many producers still make this wine from 50 to 70 years old vines.
Restaurant Tip: Osteria da Giuseppe
Locorotondo, Cisternino and Martina Franca
Locorotondo, Cisternino and Martina Franca are for meat lovers. Puglia is not a region of steaks. The local meat includes fantastic sausages (try the zampina) with veal or pork meat, the famous bombette rolls grilled at the Fornello butcher shops in Cisternino. Or the famous capocollo di Martina Franca, now a DOP certified salami similar to pancetta. In this area, you also find the famous gnemmarieddhi, made with liver. In this area, do not miss the famous Locorotondo white wines.
Restaurant Tip: Le Chicche Di Zia Rosa
Andria is the place to go to if you like the very intense extra virgin olive oil and most of all burrata. Burrata is a sort of mozzarella stuffed with mozzarella strips and cream. It is one of the most delicious things you can find in Puglia. The best ones are freshly made in front of you. The typical cuisine from Andria also includes pasta, vegetables and meat all paired with the local wines: from Nero di Troia to Bombino.
Restaurant Tip: Evò RistoBistrot
Altamura is a paradise for bread lovers and bread is the main reason why you should visit this little village. Everybody in Altamura owns a bakery; most of them are very ancient. The typical bread here is a certified DOP product made with durum wheat flour and local water. Also famous is the focaccia from Altamura which became the reason why a McDonald’s had to close its branch in Altamura.
Restaurant Tip: Osteria Tre Torri
Matera is another very beautiful place. It is located in Basilicata, but because it is so close to Puglia, it is definitely a must see destination if you are in Puglia. Matera is famous for its stones and caves. It is a very ancient town built all around and on top of the beautiful caves that have often been used as a set for movies (e.g., Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ). You should consider spending at least one day here and staying in a hotel or B&B in the caves. Especially at night, it can be very romantic with all the lights from the caves. Matera is famous for the bread, focaccia, and taralli. So if you go there do not miss trying them and accompany them with the excellent and now famous red Aglianico wine.
Restaurant Tip: Trattoria i Due Sassi
Polignano a Mare, Trani and Bari
Polignano a Mare, Trani and Bari are other fantastic places to go to if you like seafood. Polignano is now a bit more touristy, but still it has lots of charm. In Bari, it is really worth going to the seafood market in the morning where the fishermen let you have a nice aperitif based on raw octopus and beer. In Polignano, Trani and Bari area there is a strong culture of eating raw seafood (from shrimps to calamari and sea urchins etc.). In Bari, you should not miss the focaccia barese, made with cherry tomatoes and olive oil (no cheese is added on top). Finally, the tiella, made with rice, potatoes and mussels is a typical dish from the Bari area, which is also made in the rest of the region.
Restaurant Tips: Da Tuccino & Grotta Palazzese
The Gargano area is our last and totally different food-lover’s area in Puglia. What this area is really famous for among the locals is the Podolica cow, from which we make the famous caciocavallo cheese and the special meat. This cheese is only made in Puglia and the best one is from Gargano. In order to age it, the old farmers leave this cheese hanging on a wooden stick as if it was riding a horse (caciocavallo literally means the horse cheese). The traditional cuisine from this area is paired with the fantastic Aglianico or Nero di Troia red wines.