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6 Secrets in Puglia

Posted 16 Jun 2023

Puglia is the Italian region everyone seems to be talking about, with many declaring it a hidden gem not yet found by tourists. And whilst it’s true that Puglia is often overlooked by holiday markers, those who visit the region know just how special it is. From glistening white cities to dramatic sunlit coastlines, the ‘heel’ of Italy is definitely unique. On our cycling tours in Puglia, you’ll discover countless hidden gems as you explore this beautiful region. Around every corner, you’ll find a charming family-run restaurant, secluded beach alcoves, courtyard cafes, and a gorgeous view everywhere you look. Read on to discover 6 secrets about Puglia that we love.


A Little About the Region

Puglia is one of the least well-known regions of Italy. When booking an Italian adventure, many are tempted by classic destinations such as Rome, Tuscany, or Venice, leaving Puglia overlooked. This has left it wonderfully untouched by tourists, meaning you can feel fully immersed in the culture here. Filled with a rich history, every town and ruin has a fascinating history. Influenced by many cultures, ancient Greeks, Romans, Spanish kings, Norman adventurers, and even some Sultans have left their mark on Puglia. This influence can be seen in its architecture, cultural practices, and even the food.

Puglia is most famous for two things (both of which are internationally recognised as symbols of Italy) – pinot grigio and olive oil. The wine here is crisp and delicious, pairing perfectly with the many seafood dishes you’ll find. It also helps cut through the delicious taste of Puglian olive oil, known for its fresh and rich flavour. These two products of the region are no secret, however, so read on to discover our 6 secrets in Puglia.

Puglia grapes

1 | History of the Trulli

An iconic symbol of Puglia, the white trulli houses found in the region are unique and charming. On our cycling holiday Highlights of Puglia, you’ll cycle to Alberobello where you can see these homes for yourself. Although they may seem like just an architectural quirk at first, these homes carry a rich tale.

In the 15th century, the King of Naples at the time issued an edict which subjected new settlements to a tribute. As such, the counts who owned the territory of Alberobello imposed a law which made residents build their homes dry; this was to make it easy for the homes to be demolished and packed up should the tribute be demanded. However, the residents found that building their homes with only stones, domed in a single configuration, made their homes sturdy and stable. This meant the counts were not able to simply demolish the homes should the king demand a tribute for the new settlement.

The people of Alberobello are as proud of their architecture as they were hundreds of years ago. The roofs are even decorated with symbol signatures of the architects who built them at the time. This secret of Puglia is one of the reasons we love cycling here and why you will too.

Trulli houses

2 | Crypt of Original Sin

Perhaps one of the most dramatic names for a cave, this is nevertheless an amazing sight to see. Nestled in the hillside of Matera lies a cave that has been painted with spectacular scenes from the Bible. Over a thousand years ago, the cave was home to a group of monks, one of whom has been nicknamed ‘The Painter of Flowers’; this is in reference to the many red roses which can be seen in the cave’s frescoes.

The cave was discovered in the 60s by a group of students who caught wind of tales about the ‘cave of 100 saints’ from the local sheep herders. After a lengthy amount of time fighting for the cave's recognition, it wasn’t until the 80s that archaeologists were sent in to preserve the site. Either way, visiting the cave on our Pedal Through Puglia tour is one of the highlights of the holiday.

Crypt of Original Sin

3 | Bread by the Dozen

One secret you may not know about Puglia is its abundance of delicious bread. There are so many specialities here that it’s easy to lose count. On a Puglia cycling holiday, stopping off to buy a baked good for that mid-day treat is one of our favourite things to do. And when every town and village has their own bread specialities, there’s no choice but to try them all.

You’ll also discover international classics like focaccia have been adapted and changed in Puglia. The focaccia here is rounder, and higher than those traditionally made elsewhere in Italy; the crisp on its outside is also thanks to the delicious Puglia olive oil. The focaccia is the region’s answer to pizza, as they’re often stuffed with tomato and mozzarella.

Puglia focaccia

4 | Courtyard Hopping in Lecce

Known as the ‘Florence of the south’, Lecce is a gorgeous city built from honey-coloured stone. Warm and elegant, it’s one of our favourite places to visit on our cycling tours. When visiting Lecce, there’s more than meets the eye. Often the most beautiful sights are tucked around a corner, or hidden away from the tourist trails. This is where you’ll find beautiful courtyards.

Often offering shade from the sun, these courtyards are a wonderful sight to see. And in the month of May, there’s even a festival celebrating them, called ‘Open Courtyards’ where any member of the public can enjoy these spaces. Expect Roman fountains, flowering vines, beautiful statues, and many picnic-perfect spots to enjoy.

Courtyard in Puglia

5 | Greek?

Although Puglians are proudly Italian, what many don’t know is that the region first came to prominence thanks to the Greeks. In fact, you’ll probably stumble upon more ancient Greek ruins and temples than Roman. For over a thousand years in fact, people in Puglia spoke Greek and had more in common with Athenians than the neighbouring Italians.

This Greek past is perhaps why olive oil is so famed in the region, although this love is shared across the entire Mediterranean. It’s hard to say how the Puglia culture was influenced by the Greeks, but you’ll discover on our cycling holidays that the region is both unique and beautiful thanks to its past.

Puglia coast

6 | It’s a Dream to Cycle

We may be a little biased here, but we believe Puglia is one of the best regions in Italy to cycle and explore by bike. The coastal routes that wind along Italy’s ‘heel’ are breathtaking, with hidden grottos and charming fishing villages lying beneath rugged cliffs.

This coastline is what provides the bounteous seafood on the menus in Puglia. We love stopping off at family-run restaurants, as the fishermen bring the fresh catches of the day and grill them with garden herbs and copious amounts of lemon and olive oil. The food is the greatest reward to a day’s cycling here, and that’s definitely not a secret.

Puglia cycling

For more information about Puglia, call our cycle experts today. Alternatively, you can view our Puglia cycling holidays here.

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