There is a saying in Italian which says ‘Cristo si è fermato a Eboli’ (Christ stopped in Eboli) and this saying has always influenced my opinion on the South of Italy. The media always portrays this area as an ‘underdeveloped’ area with high criminality, unemployment, dirty and full of close minded people (referred to by Northern Italians as ‘terroni’ or ‘trogloditi’). However I wanted to see for myself what this was all about and planned a short trip to the regions of Puglia and Basilicata (maybe one of the least known regions in Italy). Apart from Sicily, this was my first time in the southern part of Italy and I had mixed feelings about this trip. I was curious but at the same time I was fearing disappointment resulting from lack of attractions or touristic infrastructure. I was with my family so I was not looking for a remote destination so accessibility of attractions and finding good restaurants were a priority. While drafting the itinerary I was surprised by the countless attractions available in these regions and tried to squash them up in a trip of just three days. This short trip included visits to the trulli in Alberobello, the historical centre of Ostuni, the crystal-clear beaches in Otranto and Porto Cesareo and a visit to the National Park of Pollino and it surroundings. I must say that this trip was far better than expected, the food was die for and the hospitality was the best we ever had. We stayed in a typical trullo in the countryside of Martina Franca, a city which is well connected with the highways and also offers some of the best restaurants I have ever been to. Although the North and the South of Italy seem a different country, I must say that the image given of this area is very untruthful and the natural beauty of the area is well interlaced with the architecture and the human developments.
One negative aspect of this trip was the long distances between the different attractions visited, given the limited time we had but also due to geographic aspects like the long shape of the Puglia region and the hills and mountains in Basilicata. Unfortunately GPS maps are not very well updated in this area and sometimes you encounter a roundabout which is not on your map or an unpaved road. My suggestion is to go for a longer trip than I did and change accommodation to be able to visit different areas of these regions without having to drive back. These are our journeys for these three days.
Well in a few words what you can expect if you visit this area is the best hospitality you can imagine, the most delicious Mediterranean food your taste buds can ever hope to taste and little villages like Ostuni and Noepoli where time stands still. If this is what the ‘terroni’ are capable of offering, well they should be proud of it!