1. Friendly People

Friendly People of Puglia, Italy

You can't help but be enchanted by the infectious charm of the locals. Who can resist people who live in fairy-tale houses? These friendly southern Italians are authentic, warm and enthusiastic about sharing their hospitality and their passion for Puglia.

2. Landscapes and Seascapes

Puglia Coastline

Drive past stunning olive groves with red soil, bordered with muretti a secco (dry stone walls), and then, a few minutes later, you are looking out at the sea. No matter where you are in Puglia, you are always near a beach with crystal blue water. Pristine beaches on two coastlines (Adriatic and Ionion) have "Blue Flag" certification for water quality and safety from the Foundation for Environmental Education.

3. UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Matera Santa Maria di Iris

Puglia boasts a number of World Heritage Sites, including Castel del Monte, a 13th-century octagonal castle, near Bari, and the Trulli of Alberobello, with more than 1500 of these unique structures. In nearby Basilicata, you can visit the Sassi and Rupestrian Churches of Matera to see cave dwellings, dug out of the tufa and inhabited from Paleolithic times until the 1950's.

4. Food & Wine

Dinner in Puglia, Italy

Puglia is a top contender for the region with the best cuisine in Italy. Dishes are healthy and fresh, based on vegetables, fish, pasta and cheeses and, of course, olive oil. Puglia's native wines, including Primitivo, Salice Salentino, Noia di Troia and others are gaining in recognition and are affordable. Recently, one of Puglia's wines (Tormaresca Primitivo Salento Torcicoda 2009) was named one of Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of 2011.

5. Olive Trees

Olive Tree and Fennel Field in Puglia, Italy

Puglia, the largest producer of olive oil in Italy, offers a stunning landscape of twisted centuries-old olive trees. Forty per cent of Italy's olive oil comes from Puglia, which is known for producing not only great quantity but also some of the best quality olive oil anywhere. Puglia has more than 50 million olive trees, one for every person in Italy, including some of the oldest on the planet, and every one of them is protected.

6. Architecture

The Trulli of Puglia, Italy

Puglia is famous for its indigenous, dry-stone conical roofed "trulli." These small limestone dwellings are unique to the southern region of Puglia and are remarkable examples of drywall construction, a prehistoric building technique. The trulli are an early example of modular building; dwellings can be expanded by butting trulli up next to one another. Whitewashed to reflect the sun, some trulli have symbols painted in white on their roofs. Doorways' selection of villas near Alberobello and Monopoli include several constructed from original trulli and renovated to high modern standards.

7. Villages & Towns

Cisternino, Italy

Puglia's stunning whitewashed villages provide a glimpse of Ancient Greece's legacy in Italian culture. The 'white city' of Ostuni is a perfectly preserved walled medieval town all painted in white lime. Rudolf Valentino was born here; taking a photo at his house is said to bring good luck for lovers. Locorotonda, Cisternino and Otranto boast the coveted title of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Lecce, found at the southernmost tip of the boot, is so rich in art and architecture, it is known as the Florence of the South and in 2012 was named one of the world's top cities by Lonely Planet. We know of a restaurant in Lecce with a world-famous chef who preserves the ancient cuisine of Salento.

8. Shopping

Martina Franca, Puglia, Italy

Our favorite shopping town, Martina Franca, is incredibly photogenic; shop for leather bags, shoes and lace. Lecce is famous for papier-mâché figurines, and you can buy wonderful ceramic whistles in Alberobello (see Things to do with Kids in Puglia). Locally produced food items make great gifts and souvenirs.

9. Caves

Castellana Grotte, Puglia, Italy

The Castellana Grotte are said to be among the deepest caves in the world, and certainly the largest in Italy. Walk through two kilometers of different grottoes, including the most famous, the White Grotto. The Zinzalusa Caves, south of Otranto, got their name from the odd stone formations that twist into a hanging ceiling and look like old rags (zinzuli in dialect).

10. Activities

Kid's Cooking Class, Puglia, Italy

If you are staying at a villa, Doorways can arrange a number of activities to enhance your experience, including bike rentals, olive oil massages and cooking classes. In addition to our villas, we also offer a number of active vacation itineraries in Puglia. Ask about guided or self-guided cycling tours, small ship cruises, or the chance to fully immerse yourself in the region's culinary traditions at a cooking school in a beautifully restored Pugliese farmhouse.