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An Appetite for Puglia: The People, the Places, the Food

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The warm welcome is one of the most appealing aspects of visiting Italy. The people in Puglia do all that they can to make theirs reach the temperature of the hottest Mezzogiorno summer days. And that’s pretty warm. We lost count of the number of times we asked passing locals for directions and were cheerfully told that it would be easier if they showed us personally, hopping in their cars or walking out of their way to ensure we reached our destination.

Puglia is a large, long and hence varied region. From the heights of the Gargano and places like Monte Sant’Angelo to coastal towns like Gallipoli, from the international and cosmopolitan port of Bari to the beautiful harbour of Trani, from the tourist magnets of Alberobello and Lecce to the lower profile places such as Conversano and Orsara di Puglia it’s difficult to find the quintessential Puglia. Although the trulli, the small whitewashed dwellings with conical roofs, seem to have become the default image.

Puglia is known as the orto, or vegetable garden of Italy and it’s easy to see why. Its relative flatness, soil and climate make it ideal for cultivating wheat, vegetables, fruit including grapes, olives and almonds. As a result, it is well known for excellent breads, olive oil as well as cheeses, fish and speciality meat products and its wine is increasingly acclaimed.

It is the food and the people of the region upon which this book concentrates. And with good reason. The Pugliesi don’t just want you to eat up, they want you to savour their territorio. And they’ll keep on feeding you with an eagerness bordering on the fanatical. It’s a region that does not scrimp on portion size. Its renowned antipasti platters comprise serious quantities of food and that’s just the beginning. Could it be the sea air? Who knows, but they have healthy appetites down south.

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