In June, Guerre and I made our way to Puglia, the southern region of Italy (or the heel of the Italy’s boot). Puglia is known for its sunny weather, whitewashed hill towns, great agricultural areas, and beautiful (but mostly rocky) coastlines. It’s ideal for travelers worn down by the crowds of other popular regions. Getting down to Puglia is easy by plane or train - it took us about 7 hours from Milan to Bari via train (direct) - but it's ideal to have a vehicle upon arrival as it's the easiest way to get between each city and town within Puglia. Flying will cut your trip to an hour and half and prices are generally about the same as the train, but we opted to take the longer but scenic route and avoid the headaches of airport security and luggage handling.
The temperate during noon hours (at least during the summertime) are off the scale and everything is practically closed between noon and 5pm except restaurants, then reopened until late. Locals either go home or head to a restaurant for a long lunch or perhaps rest. Many know this as the siesta but in Italy, it is called riposo. It was pleasant adapting to the riposo coming from a fast-paced city like New York. Every time I travel to Italy, I have to learn to "turn off" my NYC switch and take things slower. Life in Puglia is generally slow but locals are friendly/welcoming and the quality of life is amazing.
As one of the most dynamic regions of Southern Italy, it produces much of Italy’s olive oil, fruits, vegetables, meat, and wine. The food portion is quite intense but phenomenal! Several friends warned me about how much I would be eating in Puglia but with food made by everything grown locally, there weren't any changes in my waist size. Some of the common things I noticed that Puglians served during meals were Taralli, a snack food similar in texture to breadsticks but formed in a ring, and Orecchiette, a typical homemade pasta that’s shaped like a small ear. Common wines were Negroamaro and Primitivo. It’s even known for textile manufacturing, which brings up one of the main reasons for the trip. Besides having an excuse to be in Puglia for the first time, we were doing a story on three Italian brands in the region but in different municipalities: John Sheep, G. Inglese, and Sciamat. Please note that this post is not the actual feature, but more a travel story during my time in Puglia.
Martina Franca, Locorotondo, Ostuni, Alberobello
Our first stop was Martina Franca, a municipality in the province of Taranto, to meet with John Sheep. John Sheep (http://www.johnsheep.com) was founded by Vito Pastore, who put aside his profession as a lawyer to focus on the creativity and direction of the brand. Since inception in 2008, the brand is known for producing jersey jackets with sartorial characteristics. High in energy and frequently puts on a smile, Vito was happy to introduce his friends and show us his hometown and other nearby municipalities such as Locorotondo, Ostuni, and Alberobello.
- Villa San Martino
- Website: http://www.relaisvillasanmartino.it
- Address: Via Taranto 59, Zone G, 74015 Martina Franca TA, Puglia, Italy
- Trattoria delle Ruote
- Address: Via Monticello 1, 74015 Martina Franca TA, Puglia, Italy
- Ristorante L'Aratro
- Website: http://www.ristorantearatro.it
- Address: Via Monte S. Michele 25/29, 70011 Alberobello BA, Puglia, Italy
- Rococò Albergo Diffuso
- Website: http://www.albergodiffusorococo.it
- Address: Via Ignazio Ciaia 18, 74015 Martina Franca TA, Puglia, Italy
- Riccardo Caffè
- Website: http://www.riccardocaffe.com
- Address: Via Gaetano Tanzarella Vitale 61, Ostuni BR, Puglia, Italy
- Martina Franca - A town in the province of Taranto. It also has a particularly beautiful old town.
- Locorotondo - A town and comune of the Metropolitan City of Bari located between Martina Franca and Alberobello. It is known for its circular structure with whitewashed maze of little roads.
- Ostuni - A city and comune in the province of Brindisi. Also known as the White City, it sits close to the coast and contains a series of levels, staircases, small roads, alley, and arches. It is among the main towns attracting tourists in Apulia and one of my favorites. I would certainly come back again and explore more in Ostuni.
- Alberobello - A small town and comune of the Metropolitan City of Bari and famous for its unique trulli buildings, a traditional Apulian dry stone hut with a conical roof.
Our next stop was Ginosa, a small town and commune in the province of Taranto, to meet with Angelo Inglese of G. Inglese (http://www.inglese-abbigliamento.com). Taking over his father’s rein at the age of 23, Angelo has been making shirts around the world and was even headlined when selected by Prince William to make his wedding shirt. Ginosa is a town like no other with little tourism, but it is surrounded by unique scenery of cave dwellings set over several levels that was inhabited during the Middle Ages.
- Albergo Diffuso Il Casale
- What a unique boutique hotel overlooking the Gravina! Each room has different details and furnishes along with all the amenities you'll need - wifi, minibar, air-conditioning, and television. I stayed in the "Mallow Room", which is divided into three levels with tremendous high ceilings. Steps from the bedroom and down the large stone cave, there is an spacious but open shower - it felt as if I was taking a shower in a cave! Meanwhile, Guerre stayed in the "Pomegranate Room", which spans the vast view of the Gravina. It is also spacious but has more natural light than the "Mallow Room". Nevertheless, the hotel is a gem in Ginosa and definitely the perfect setting if you're just visiting or on a romantic getaway.
- Website: http://www.albergodiffusoilcasale.it
- Address: Via Bacco, 74013 Ginosa TA, Puglia, Italy
- Macelleria Di Carpignano Michele
- Macelleria or butcher shops seem fairly popular in Ginosa. Not only can you buy fresh meat, but you can also dine in there as well.
- Address: Via Bologna 5, Ginosa, TA 74013, Puglia, Italy
- Panificio Piccolo
- Address: Via Repiduglia 22, 74013 Ginosa TA, Puglia, Italy
Bitonto, Trani, Bari
Our third and final stop in Puglia was Bitonto, a city and comune in the province of Bari, to meet with Valentino Ricci of Sciamat (http://www.sciamat.com). After graduating from law school, Valentino decided to pursue and self-teach his passion of tailoring. The brand was incepted in 2002 together with his wife, Silvana, his brother, Nicola, and his childhood friend, Pippo. The first time I heard of Sciamat was several years ago when Guerre was wearing one of their jackets. I yelled over "Hey Guerre, nice jacket!” He looked over and said, "It's not a jacket; it's a Sciamat.” That stuck with me ever since. Interestingly, "Sciamat” is an alteration of the Persian phrase "shah-mat", which means, "the King is dead", a word also used in chess as checkmate. Unfortunately our time with Valentino was short - a day to be exact - but we made the best of it by escaping from countryside and spending some time by the seaside.
- Palazzo Antica Via Appia
- A cute bed and breakfast located in Bitonto. There is also a beautiful roof garden, where breakfast is served daily.
- Website: http://www.palazzoanticaviappia.it
- Address: Via Porta Robustina 34, Bitonto BA, Puglia, Italy
- Osteria La Banchina
- Head over here for some divine seafood!
- Website: http://www.osterialabanchina.it
- Address: Via Banchina Al Porto 16, 70059 Trani BT, Puglia, Italy
- Fico Moro
- Address: Piazza Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour 23, 70032 Bitonto BA, Puglia, Italy