In a previous life, back when I punched the clock and earned a bi-weekly paycheck, I used to travel frequently for business departing the Veneto for the sun-kissed Salento, the Greek-influenced area within Italy’s lengthy Puglia region, the country’s breadbasket, that lays claim to the southeast corner of La Penisola. And with each passing visit it became just a bit more difficult for me to close the briefcase and return home.

The pull of the Salento, the carefree spur jutting out from the Bel Paese‘s stiletto-shaped heel, was strong, very strong. So much so, that now, decades later, I’m throwing caution to the wind, packing my bags, grabbing my shades AND appetite and heading back down permanently to savor her slow pace and slow food, 24/7.

With a new home build — Villa Allegra — well underway atop a hill just outside the city limits of Ostuni, La Città Bianca (The White City), in the Alto (Upper) extent of the spur, and the inaugural dip in the pool and rooftop aperitivo planned for early September, I’m “all in” on the Salento, and why not?

The Salento, where the Adriatic and Ionian Seas embrace, is best savored with a knife, fork and wine goblet as its grassroots la cucina povera (kitchen of the poor), the quintessential Mediterranean diet, comes straight out of the “zero kilometer” soil and nearby seas and right onto your plate and into your glass.

In the short time that I’ve been shuttling back and forth to the Salento, mainly to check on the progress of Allegra, but to sightsee a bit as well, I’ve been pleasantly and consistently surprised by the mouth-watering dishes and excellent wines — bianco and rosato (my fave) — plated and poured before me.

From the signature hill towns dotting the Valle d’Itria (like Alberobello and Locorotondo) to the old port of Gallipoli; from Santa Maria Leuca, the so-called De Finibus Terrae (End of the Earth), to Castro and its cobalt luminescent grottos; and, from Otronto to Ostuni, not a single bite nor sip has disappointed. And, I’m just getting started in my discovery of this ascendant region within a region!

Famous for its grapes and olives, its Greek and Baroque architecture, and its long, hot summers and mild winters, the Salento, where the Second Punic War was waged, is the less hectic, unpolished alternative to its more crowded and trendier postal codes up north. 

Just one look at a slow-fading, pastel-colored sunset, while enjoying a cool glass of rosato, and you, too, will want to pack your bags, leave your cares and worries behind and bolt for the Salento.

Buon appetito e buon viaggio!

©The Palladian Traveler

Borsalino w/ props SMALL | ©Tom Palladio Images

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Written by The Palladian Traveler

Tom traded his hometown St. Louis Cardinals' baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and he now hangs his "capello" in the Puglia region of southeastern Italy. A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have got him into and out of 49 countries and counting, Tom fell in love with the "Bel Paese" years ago. As he notes, "I'm inspired by the beauty I find in all things that are very, very old, and reliving history, or at least meandering along cobblestone streets that were laid down over a thousand years ago and just looking up and marveling at what occupies the space still today, really gets my 'Vespa' running." Tom has a good eye behind the lens and is a graphic storyteller, but he'll let you decide as he keeps his camera batteries fully charged and the posts flowing from his creative hideaway in the hills overlooking Ostuni. You can also follow his dispatches along the cobblestone via TravelingBoy.com.

16 comments

  1. Tom, congratulations on a new house and a new place. I’m packing my bags to come along on the journey and look forward to seeing all the new, wonderful photos. Cheers!

    janet

      1. I can imagine, Tom. We lived in the same house for 27 years (and four of us), then moved in a week. That was something I never want to have to do again! Just the thought of moving again makes me adhere more tightly to my chair. 🙂 But traveling’s a different story.

  2. So entirely possessing! I think my whole Saturday might be spent gazing at the pics in this post! Should I add in a few bottles of wine from Puglia??

    Cheers!

  3. Your photos are absolutely outstanding! Your post was not only an enjoyable read, but pure eye candy!

  4. Summertime: friends used to ask where I would go on vacation and my answer was at my aunt’s house in Salento. They would turn their nose up. They went on Maremma, or Riviera Ligure. Now, all of the sudden, it’s fashionable and elegant to go on vacation in Salento. Beaches are the same, house are the same, customs and food are the same, only prices have sky rocketed. People…….

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