Cheap Seats: Bargain airfares to Italy's Puglia region
January 21, 2009
Pack for PugliaVisit the often-overlooked “boot” of Italy, the Puglia region. It’s a nontraditional tourist area that offers a variety of attractions that are easy to get to by car or train.
Among the possibilities is Brindisi, a popular ferry port used mostly as a gateway for visitors traveling to Greece. Brindisi’s impressive 11th-century cathedral was rebuilt in the mid-18th century and has parts of the original cathedral, including a notable 12th-century mosaic floor. The “Monument to the Italian Sailor,” with its giant rudder, sits overlooking the inner harbor and is dedicated to the 36,000 Italian seamen lost during World Wars I and II.
The city’s Francesco Ribrezzo Provincial Archaeological Museum houses a vast collection of Greek and Roman statues. It is also home to an assortment of mosaics, bronze and silver coins and weapons. The museum also holds the Punta del Serrone collection of bronzes that were recovered from the seabed in the early 1990s.
Another destination is Ostuni, with the whitewashed homes that make this area famous. The hilltop town provides picturesque views, and the town’s Gothic-style cathedral features a central portal with an impressive rose window.
The university city of Lecce offers streets lined with baroque churches and mansions. There are extensive ruins of the Roman amphitheater that once provided seating for 25,000 people. Art enthusiasts should explore the Franciscan Picture Gallery, housed in the Convent of the Minorities, and the Sigismondo Castromediano Province Museum, which displays archaeological finds alongside works of art.
For an unusual souvenir, buy a brightly colored cartapesta, or papier-mâché ornament or mask, made in the area. In the evenings, Lecce has a variety of bars and restaurants where locals, students and tourists can grab a pint or savor a fine wine.
Go to the town of Francavilla Fontana to photograph palatial mansions built by local aristocrats during the Baroque period. Visit the Chiesa Matrice church, which houses an allegedly miracle-working icon of the Madonna della Fontana, the city’s patron saint.
Then, of course, there’s always the beach. The town of Gallipoli, about 50 miles south of Brindisi, offers not only beaches, but also an old town built on an island.
Tourists to the Puglia region should be aware that the afternoon siesta lasts from 2-7 p.m., and it can be difficult to find a place to eat during this time.
Compiled from travel Web sites