Italy is synonymous with good food and wine, but if it is gourmet heaven you are looking for then Puglia is your destination.

The winding maze of streets that meander by whitewashed houses with low timbered doorways hide a secret that more and more visitors are discovering. Quietly enjoyed by its natives for centuries, Puglia is one of the south-east’s best-kept secrets and is fast becoming a hot destination for travellers wanting something more from their holiday.

The hustle and bustle of the region’s capital gives way to acres of silvery ancient olive trees, while the relatively flat and fertile land and strong sunshine allows for the growth of an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. Intense colours and flavours are all part of the experience.

Every season here tells a different story and visitors to Puglia wanting a gastronomic experience to remember will not be disappointed. Whether you visit in January for the Puccia dell’Ampa: a celebration of wood-baked bread, February for the Octopus festival, or September to join the Sammichele celebrations with a feast of zampina salsiccie sausage, your appetite is sure to be satisfied.

The varied and wholesome cuisine of Puglia is based on simple and natural recipes. Bread, olive oil and wine are the central forces in the Pugliese diet and this is true of any eatery you visit. Speciality dishes include Burrata cheese, Focaccia stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, Panzerotti pastry pockets, or Tiella con cozze with mussels, potato, rice, onion, olive oil and tomatoes.

Puglia produces much of Europe’s pasta, around 200 types in fact, and presses the bulk of Italy’s olive oil. It also lays claim to catch the majority of the country’s fish along its breathtaking coastline: mussels, shrimp, clams, swordfish. The choice is not a problem here.

Whatever your budget or diet, Puglia’s gastronomic emergence offers something for all. From simple trattorias to the Michelin-starred Al Fornello da Ricci, this is Mediterranean food at its best. Whether you want to cook for yourself, sit back and let someone prepare a dish for you or learn from the masters and join a class, Puglia caters for all.

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