Hello from Puglia, aboard the train headed to Rome. Puglia was the last leg of our trip in Italy, aside from tonight in Rome before we catch our flight back to Atlanta tomorrow.

So, let’s cover what we got into in Puglia!

We stayed in a house just outside the city of Noci. It was a great property with beautiful gardens. It really felt like we were deep in the countryside even though we were a kilometer or two from town.

Here’s where we stayed. A rustic stone house surrounded by trees and greenery. There is a small patio area with a metal table and chairs on the right. The ground is covered in gravel and there is an old wooden door on the house. The sky is partly cloudy.

On our first full day, the main event was an e-bike tour around the Pugliese countryside. We started in Alberobello which is known for buildings with conical stacked stone roofs known as trulli. In fact, you can find these buildings all over Puglia, but they are concentrated in Alberobello, and some have been converted into shops and hotels.

This image shows a narrow street lined with traditional whitewashed stone houses featuring conical roofs, known as trulli, under a clear blue sky. The houses have small flower pots placed along the sidewalk. The overall scene is bright and tranquil.

We spent some time here, seeing the trulli up close and we even were able to enter one. These buildings are often 100s of years old and very rustic. Living in them can be a hard life, since you don’t have many modern comforts. We learned that for this reason, maybe 20-30 years ago, most people were trying to get out of Alberobello to live somewhere more modern. It wasn’t until relatively recently that it became more of a tourist attraction and owning a trulli became more desirable.

A close-up view of a traditional trullo house with whitewashed stone walls and a conical roof made of stone slabs. The house features a chimney and an arched entrance covered with a curtain.

Us on our tour bikes in Alberobello.

A bearded man and a woman, both wearing helmets and sunglasses, are posing with their bicycles in front of a traditional stone building with a conical roof.

A scenic view of the traditional trulli houses in Alberobello, Italy. The image captures numerous whitewashed stone buildings with distinctive conical roofs under a clear blue sky, with some greenery visible in the background.

Us with our guide, Adriano, who was fantastic!

Three smiling individuals are taking a selfie in front of a scenic background featuring traditional white conical-roofed houses. One person is wearing a bike helmet, another has a colorful cap, and the third is wearing sunglasses. The background shows a picturesque landscape.

Our next stop was Martina Franca, where we stopped for a coffee break in this plaza. We drank caffè Lecce, which is espresso over ice with sweet almond syrup (more on this later). I’m glad we were introduced to this drink, because it’s great! Especially on a hot day.

Image of a historical town square featuring a semi-circular colonnade with arches and a two-story building with balconies. In the center foreground, a round sculpture is mounted on a pedestal.

Us riding down a bike trail that was built along the path of a historic aqueduct.

A group of three cyclists riding on a dirt trail surrounded by trees and greenery. The foreground features a smiling cyclist in a blue and white jersey with red-tinted sunglasses, taking a selfie. Two other cyclists can be seen in the background wearing helmets.

Locorotondo was the next stop.

A panoramic view of a countryside landscape taken from a stone staircase. The image features cloudy skies, green vineyards, farmland, and scattered buildings surrounded by vegetation. A sign reading “SIROSE” is visible near the bottom of the stairs.

Here we had a “light” lunch featuring some typical Pugliese foods, such as cappicola, focaccia, bruschetta, burrata, and orecchiette. Everything was extremely delicious! I especially loved the focaccia we had in Puglia. Often it was made with a darker grain that gave it more flavor. I think the focaccia here is the best I’ve ever had.

A man with a beard and a yellow cap sits at an outdoor table. In front of him are a glass of white wine, a plate of sliced cured meat, and a bowl of bread topped with cherry tomatoes.

Our ride completed by circling back to Alberobello. I recorded our route on Strava if you are curious for more detail. At 50 kilometers, it was a long ride, but very fun! One of the best rides of my life!

Strava map showing a 50-kilometer e-bike ride route around Puglia, Italy. The route covers 30.7 miles with an elevation gain of 2,084 feet and a recorded time of 3 hours and 1 minute.

That night for dinner, we headed into Noci.

This image features a street view of a picturesque European town during dusk. The focal point is a tall, red clock tower with a white clock face and a dome roof. The tower is flanked by whitewashed buildings with green shutters and balconies.

The next day, we drove south to head to tour a dairy farm that specializes in cheese.

One of the pens where cows are kept. We learned how the different pens are used to group cows that are different stages of their milk production cycle.

A livestock farm with a dirt-covered ground, a large manure pile, and several weathered concrete structures. Two pigeons are perched on one of the structures. The sky is partly cloudy.

Some of their cows resting in the shade.

A group of cows resting inside a partially open shed, with a mix of black-and-white and brown cows. Hay is scattered on the ground, and there is an open view of fields and trees in the background.

Then, we got to tour the cheese laboratory, as they called it.

Two people are in a cheese-making facility. One person, wearing a hairnet, suspenders, and shoe covers, looks at their phone. The other person, dressed in white protective clothing, including a hat, apron, and boots, holds cheese.

Hoping I got “accidentally” locked in the cheese aging room.

A storage room filled with shelves and racks holding various types and shapes of cheese. On the left, multiple rows of round, wheel-shaped cheeses are stacked on wooden shelves. On the right, round cheeses with a bulbous shape are hanging from metal racks.

Then, the highlight of the tour, watching one of the cheesemakers demonstrate how to make fresh mozzarella. He explained that you only need 3 things for cheese: milk, salt, and enzymes.

For this demonstration, he started with fresh cheese curds and added salt and hot water then began to mix and stretch it with a wooden pallet.

Here the curds are being stirred with the added salt and water.

A group of people wearing hairnets and protective shoe covers are observing a cheesemaker demonstrate cheese-making. The cheesemaker, wearing a white uniform and hat, is stirring curds in a wooden bucket on a metal table.

Now the curds are starting to come together and are being stretched further.

A group of people wearing hairnets are observing and capturing photos and videos of a cheese-making process. A person is lifting a large, stretchy mass of curd from a wooden vat using a long wooden stick.

And the stretching is finished when he was able to stretch it above his head.

A group of people, wearing hair nets, watches a cheesemaker demonstrating the process of making cheese in a rustic, stone-vaulted room. The cheesemaker is pulling and stretching the cheese curds, which are cascading into a wooden barrel.

After all the stretching, he started to shape it by hand, demonstrating 4 different shapes: knots, braids, ball, and burrata.

A group of people watching a demonstration of traditional cheese-making. The instructor is handling fresh cheese curds, pulling them into a stretchy mass. Various bowls and a wooden bucket with a milk-based liquid are on a metal countertop.

But the highlight was being able to shape the cheese ourselves! Here’s Beth making burrata, which is stretchy mozzarella filled with stracciatella (strips of mozzarella and cream). We got to eat what we made and it was the best! So fresh and flavorful. I’ve never had burrata this good before.

Two individuals are engaged in a cheesemaking process in a dairy facility. They are wearing hygienic hairnets and aprons. One person is pressing curd into a mozzarella ball over a wooden vat filled with milk, while the other observes.

Later, we headed to a beach club, or lido as they are called in Italy, to relax and sleep off our cheese comas.

A tranquil beach scene featuring a sandy shore, calm blue waters, and rocky outcrops adorned with trees and shrubs. The sky is clear and blue. Buoys float in the water.

Dinner was in Capitolo which is right up the coast from the lido.

A building with large windows, likely a restaurant or café, is perched on a rocky cliff overlooking a vibrant teal and blue ocean. The building’s exterior shows some weathering, and there are patches of greenery on the rocks.

A sample of the fresh seafood they had that night. We ended up eating the lobster and scorpion fish.

A platter of fresh seafood, including various types of fish and a lobster with rubber bands around its claws, is displayed on a white tablecloth in an outdoor dining setting with a sea view in the background.

Sunset at Capitolo was very pretty!

A coastal scene at sunset featuring a rocky shoreline. There is a stone structure with white columns extending over the water, where people are sitting. The ocean waves gently meet the shore, creating a peaceful atmosphere. The sky is tinged with orange and pink.

A rocky coastline at sunset with a calm sea. The sky features pastel pink and orange clouds scattered across a blue backdrop. A white building is situated near the edge of the rocky shore on the right side of the image.

The next day we visited the seaside town of Monopoli.

Narrow pedestrian street adorned with Italian flag bunting. Shops on both sides display various items, including signs for “APULIA.” People stroll along the cobblestone path under a clear blue sky.

A cool portal onto the harbor.

View from a stone archway showing three people looking out at a harbor with boats. Above the arch, there is a mural depicting religious figures. The scene is lively with blue water and boats in the background.

The harbor was very beautiful.

A coastal harbor scene featuring numerous small blue fishing boats docked at a pier. The backdrop includes historic stone buildings, a clear blue sky, and a visible lighthouse in the distance. The waterfront is adjacent to a concrete walkway where a few people are sitting.

A blue fishing boat named “S. Cornelia” docked at a waterfront with several other boats nearby. The boat is moored in clear turquoise water against a backdrop of historic buildings with a mix of white and stone facades.

Monopoli is still an active port, yet remains very scenic.

A scenic view of a harbor with crystal-clear turquoise water and a rocky shoreline. There are two cranes on the pier, extending into the blue sky, which is clear with only a few wispy clouds. The horizon line separates the sea from the sky.

The streets of Monopoli are beautiful as well. I love the white render buildings and the white stone streets.

The image shows an old stone building with a tower, featuring intricate architectural details, standing under a clear blue sky. The building appears to be historical, possibly a church or an ancient structure.

A narrow, sunlit alleyway in an old town with whitewashed buildings and stone walls. Brightly colored flowers and plants decorate the walkway, while laundry hangs from balconies. The clear blue sky contrasts with the rustic architecture.

Someone taking a selfie in this square.

A historic stone building with ornate architectural details, featuring a clock and several statues above the windows. The building is situated in a spacious, sunlit courtyard with stone steps and potted plants. Two people are standing in the courtyard, one taking a photo.

Ok, a quick break to show the Italian way to make caffè Lecce, as we learned from our guide on the bike tour. The drink is named after the city of Lecce and is served as espresso with a side of almond syrup and ice.

The image shows a glass of almond syrup with ice, a cup of espresso on a saucer with a spoon, and a bottle of water labeled “Ferrarelle.” They are placed on a beige perforated table.

You pour the espresso into the glass, letting the cup rest upside down to make sure every drop of espresso makes it in.

A white coffee cup is placed upside down inside a glass filled with a two-layered liquid, coffee and almond syrup. The setup is on a perforated beige table next to an empty white plate and a bottle of Ferrandina water.

Then you stir it together and enjoy. I love this drink. I’ll have to try and find the right kind of almond syrup in the US so I can make this at home.

A glass of iced coffee sits next to an empty white coffee cup with a spoon inside on a perforated beige table. A small bottle of water and a box of sugar packets are in the background.

After Monopoli we headed to a Polignano a Mare, which is another seaside town famous for its beach and cliffs with sea caves. Here we had a boat tour, which was a great way to see the coast.

Beth gets the photo credit for all the pics from the boat.

View of coastal caves and rocky cliffs with blue-green water in the foreground. Above the cliffs are white buildings and a clear blue sky.

Here, the very famous beach.

A coastal scene depicting white-washed buildings clinging to a rocky hillside alongside a body of water. In the center, there is a crowded beach surrounded by cliffs, and an arched bridge spans a gap between the cliffs above the beach.

Our guide even took the boat into a few of the larger caves, to our surprise! The water inside was beautiful

A small boat navigating close to a rocky cliff with a shallow cave. The water is clear and turquoise, reflecting the surrounding rocks. The boat’s railing and part of the hull are visible in the foreground.

A boat is partially visible as it enters a rocky cave with a low ceiling. The water in the cave is a clear, vibrant blue and the cave walls are covered in green moss and algae.

A photo taken from a boat inside a cave with greenish-blue water. The cave walls and ceiling are rocky, with varying shades of green, purple, and brown due to mineral deposits and lighting.

Inside this cave, you can see the pathway up above, which is actually a very high end restaurant built into the upper part of the cave with views out onto the sea.

A boat is shown inside a dimly lit cave, with colorful lights illuminating an interior pathway and rocky walls.

The streets of Polignano a Mare at night, showing some lights celebrating the song “Nel blu, dipinto di blu” by Domenico Modugno who was born in Polignano. There’s even a statue of him that we saw from the boat. However, our guide told us that the statue and celebration of Domenico is just for the tourists and the people from Polignano don’t like the signer because he claimed to be from Sicily rather than his true birthplace of Polignano a Mare.

A charming evening street scene in an Italian town. Decorative lights hang above, displaying the words “VOLARE OH OH” and a musical note. The street is bustling with people walking and enjoying the evening.

More night views of Polignano.

Coastal building with illuminated windows perched on a cliffside at sunset, overlooking a calm sea with a pastel-colored sky in the background. The lower part of the building and cliff are softly lit in blue.

Dusk view of a coastal town featuring illuminated buildings, a lit pathway, and a rocky cove leading to the sea. The sky is a gradient from dark blue to a faint orange horizon, and the architecture showcases a blend of modern and old structures.

Our next day we headed for a cheese tasting at Baby Dicecca, which is located inside a forest preserve. We were lucky enough to meet the cheese maker himself, Vito Dicecca, who was very nice. He stopped by our table a few times to chat with us and see what we thought of his cheese. We tasted a lot of cheese, and they were all great, but his signature blue cheese served as a cake topped with cherry was the star!

A slice of cake topped with berries is on a speckled cake stand, accompanied by a fork. There is a wine bottle in the background. In the foreground, a yellow plate labeled “BABY DICECCA” is visible.

Later in the afternoon, we fought off our cheese comas and headed to Matera for a tour of the city.

A panoramic view of the historic town of Matera, Italy, featuring ancient stone buildings densely packed on a hillside, winding narrow streets, and a prominent church with a tall bell tower. The landscape around the town consists of rocky terrain and sparse vegetation.

We learned the history of Matera, which is vast. The civilization originally started as cave dwellings carved into the rock cliffs along the stream. Over time, people built on top of the caves, adding stonework to create buildings. However, every building is at least partially carved into the rock. Many buildings have vast caves below them. At least, if you were well off you could afford to have a building above ground. Many of the poorer residents lived entirely in caves with no access to fresh air.

What was shocking was to learn how by the 1950s the city was in very rough shape. There was no running water or electricity. All of the residents were living life as if it was still the 1800s. Malaria and other diseases ran rampant as it was impossible to maintain modern hygiene.

The government eventually stepped in and evicted everyone from the historic part of the city, into new public houses that was constructed adjacent to the historic buildings. So, from the 1950s until about 1990, the historic buildings sat vacant. Our tour guide told us that at one point, the government considered just demolishing the historic city, but abandoned the idea when they determined the amount of dynamite needed would be too costly

So, the city sat vacant until the 1990s. At this point, the government decided to try and create a tourist destination. Modern utilities were installed and buildings were rented out to businesses. But, things didn’t really catch on until about 10 years ago.

Now, the city is in full tourist mode, with Michelin star restaurants and 5 star hotels.

Historic stone buildings densely packed on a hillside under a cloudy sky. Stone-paved pathway descends through the middle, with a few parked cars visible at the bottom. The architecture features a mix of arches, stairs, and balconies with weathered textures.

However, it can be a surprising mix, as you’ll pass buildings and areas of the city that still look completely abandoned and right next door is a swanky hotel.

A historic stone structure with a weathered, rustic appearance. The image shows a series of stone steps, lush greenery, and flowering plants in the foreground. Buildings with arched doorways and small windows are present, and the stone walls have plants growing.

An ancient stone courtyard with weathered buildings featuring arched and rectangular doorways and windows. A crow perched on a wire above the scene. Vegetation is growing from some areas, and there is a small stone planter with plants in the center.

Another view of the historic city. I found Matera to be so fascinating and intriguing. It’s hard to fathom that people have been living here for so long and how hard that life must have been.

View of the ancient city of Matera in Italy, featuring a dense cluster of historic stone buildings with tiled roofs and narrow streets. The landscape is dominated by a church tower rising above the city. The sky is overcast with scattered clouds.

Matera at night is beautiful!

View of Matera, Italy at night with the illuminated historic Sassi (stone houses) and the Cathedral of Matera prominently visible against a dark blue sky.

And that brings us to the end of our highlights from Puglia. I really loved this region of Italy. The countryside is beautiful, and we had some of the best food of our trip here. If you visit Italy, I’d highly recommend Puglia. It can be a lot less touristy compared to Tuscany and gives you an opportunity for more authentic experience.

So, we have tonight in Rome, then we’ve reached the end of our time in Italy. It’s been fantastic! I’m happy that we were able to see the big attractions in Rome and Florence and then spend substantial time in the countrysides of Tuscany and Puglia. It’ll be hard to leave Italy!