Puglia

Puglia basics

Puglia geography

Puglia (pronounced: “poo-lee-yah”) is a rural region and is the seventh-largest region of Italy’s 20 regions. It’s predominantly flat (great for cycling!) and has more coastline than any other region in mainland Italy.

There are loads of beaches. Some are sandy and some are rocky so whether you like your feet to sink into the soft, warm sand or you enjoy slicing your feet on shards of rock, Puglia’s got you covered.

Similar to Crete, Puglia is long and narrow so you need to decide on what you’d like to do during your visit before you choose where you will stay.

We spent six full days exploring this region, beginning in the south and ending in the middle of the region (lengthwise).

We wanted to do a mix of day trips and pool lounging/cocktail drinking (not Aperol Spritz though, gross!) during this holiday so we chose to stay in the countrysides of the quaint towns of Otranto and Ostuni.

Masserie

The most popular type of accommodation in this region’s countryside are converted farmhouse estates known as masserie (singular: masseria). They are fortified complexes surrounded by olive groves and/or vineyards and, yes, they are as unique and peaceful as they sound.

The masserie that we stayed at were similar yet different and there were positives and negatives with both properties but overall, staying at a masseria in the countryside versus a small B&B or apartment rental in/near the towns was the right decision for the nature of our trip.

Near Otranto (10 minutes west), we stayed at Masseria Muntibianchi. If you are looking for a property near Otranto, then I recommend this masseria.

My first impression of the property was that it was a perfect wedding property. The grounds are beautiful, the pool bar was stocked to the brim (and cheap!), and the rooms are well-appointed. The only complaint we had with this property was that the air conditioning, at least in our room, did not work.

The pool area was pristine, it was very quiet during our stay (read: no screaming children), and the pool staff were friendly and always there when you needed something.

The breakfast buffet had a huge selection and the staff kept the cappuccinos coming!

Note: The buffet is no longer self-service. The staff will serve you by filling up your plate with whatever you request from the buffet.

The on-site restaurant offered a wide range of regional food and wine. We dined here for all three nights of our stay. For two of those nights, we dined al fresco under old-growth olive trees that were lit with Christmas/fairy lights. The warm weather on our first two days had taken a turn for the worse on our third day and dining was moved inside an all-windows room with panoramic views of the lit olive trees which were really pretty.

I do not have any regrets about dining at the masseria for all three nights except for eating too much. The portions are very big, so be mindful when ordering.

For two people, I recommend ordering one Antipasti to share and then a Secondi for each or, if you are feeling like a hero, order a Primi and Secondi for each. More on the Italian meal structure in an upcoming post.

Note: The a la carte dinner menu during our stay was equal parts vegetarian, “land” (beef or lamb options), and seafood/fish. There is something for everyone on the menu.

I was very busy drinking 15€ bottles of Negroamaro Rosé when we were at this masseria and couldn’t be bothered to get up from my pool lounger to take photos of the property but I did manage to take one photo before we departed. Are you ready for it?

Near Ostuni (15 minutes west), we stayed at Masseria Cervarolo. I have mixed feelings about this property. My high expectations set from online photos and reviews did not match our experience.

One surprising thing about the Puglia region was that it is covered in various types of cacti. Both properties had cacti but Masseria Cervarolo gets an A grade for their cacti!

There are three things that set Masseria Cervarolo apart from other masserie.

  • Expansive pool built into a natural sinkhole
  • Rooms/suites in converted Trulli (white and gray stone huts)
  • Tasting menu

First, the pool. The pool is lovely to look at but the lumpy lawn was home to a lot of bugs.

The pool area is a peaceful place when there are no screaming children which is NEVER

We were told that the pool bar was staffed from 11am to early evening (the pool bar is the only bar on the property) but we always had to go searching for a staff member when we needed something. Drink and food orders were painfully slow to be filled (e.g. a Greek salad and two glasses of wine took 45 minutes).

It was also inconvenient, weird, and frustrating to have to go to the pool bar and search for a staff member to order a glass of wine before dinner.

Second, the Trulli (singular: Trullo). A Trullo is a traditional stone hut with a conical roof. Trulli dot the landscape in this part of Puglia with the largest concentration of Trulli in the little town of Alberobello – more on this in an upcoming post.

There are four or five Trulli at Masseria Cervarolo that have been converted to individual rooms and suites. We stayed in a Trullo junior suite, not by choice but because it was the only room available at the time of our booking.

I would love to say that staying in a Trullo at this masseria was an amazing experience but it just fell short. The primary issue was that we had issues getting “hot” water to the faucets – it took five minutes and it never exceeded lukewarm temperature.

The second issue – and this is a personal opinion – is that our suite was a mess of dysfunctional and uncomfortable reclaimed furniture.

Our Trullo was two Trulli combined with a flat-room extension on the back. It was a huge space and was classified as a suite but, in reality, it was a “family” room with three beds. One double bed and two single beds that were each dressed with pillows to mimic couches. In the US, we call this type of bed a daybed. Daybeds are not a replacement for lounging furniture (e.g. couch).

There was a lack of outlets, a lack of places to hang stuff, and a lack of places to set stuff. The upside was that the air conditioning and heat both worked well (yes, we went from using the air conditioning to using the heat during our four-night stay!).

Finally, the tasting menu. The set price per person for dinner is 39€ and a bottle of wine ranges from 15€ to hundreds of Euros. If you are dining as a couple and plan to consume a bottle of wine, expect to pay around 100€ total.

Dinner begins at 8pm.

The menu is a set tasting menu with 8-10 courses (I honestly cannot remember how many) and it lasts about two hours. The portions are small but there were so many of them that we felt full by the end of the service. Personally, I dislike tasting menus so this format was not my cuppa tea.

The dinner menu changed daily and was posted in the breakfast room each morning. We were required to let them know if we were eating dinner at the masseria at breakfast each morning.

We ate at the masseria for two of our four nights. Overall, the tasting menu was not worth the price. It was less tasty than the food at our first masseria and it was more expensive. The only upside for me to dine at the masseria was that I could drink wine because I did not have to drive.

Puglia itinerary

Our itinerary was a mix of day trips and pool lounging.

We visited 11 towns and one lighthouse during our holiday. I know this seems like a lot for six days and appears that we were “traveling like Americans” but we actually had a lot of free time on our hands and never felt as though our schedule was rammed with activities.

The black dots were the places that we visited and the gray dots were our masserie locations.

Below was our high-level itinerary.

DayHomebaseAMPMActivity(ies)
(Arrival)OtrantoArrivalPool-Flew into Brindisi, arriving at 12:15pm
-Drove to our masseria near Otranto, arriving at 2:30pm-ish
-Lounged at the pool and ate dinner at the masseria
Full Day 1OtrantoDaytripPool-Visited Otranto (1)
-Visited Punta Palascia Lighthouse (1a)
-Visited Santa Cesarea Terme (2)
-Visited Castro (3)
-Lounged at the pool and ate dinner at the masseria
Full Day 2OtrantoDaytripPool-Visited Torre Dell’Orso (4)
-Lounged at the pool and ate dinner at the masseria
Full Day 3OstuniTransfer + DaytripPool-Transferred from Otranto to Ostuni
-Visited Lecce (5)
-Visited Ostuni (6)
-Lounged at the pool and ate dinner at the masseria
Full Day 4OstuniDaytrip-Visited Alberobello (7)
-Visited Locortondo (8)
-Hung out in our suite due to poor weather conditions and ate dinner off-site in a violent thunderstorm
Full Day 5OstuniDaytrip-Visited Cisternino (9)
-Revisited Locorotondo for lunch
-Hung out in our suite due to poor weather conditions and ate dinner at the masseria
Full Day 6OstuniDaytripDaytrip-Visited Polignano a Mare (10)
-Visited Martina Franca (11)
-Revisited Ostuni
-Revisited Cisternino for dinner
(Departure)Departure-Drove to Bari airport and departed Italy at 12:15pm

Coming up next, Puglian food and wine.

2 comments on “Puglia basics

  1. I love Aperol Spritz!! I had one last night and I may have two tonight!!!

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