A Quick Tour of Italy - Western Apulia

By: Levi Reiss
Apulia forms the heel of the Italian boot. It is situated in the southeast corner of Italy on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Apulia was often invaded by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Its numerous rulers included the Byzantines, Goths, Lombards, Normans, Spaniards, and Turks. Apulia's moment of greatest glory was during the Holy Roman Empire of the 13th Century, when majestic Romanesque cathedrals and palaces were built. This article presents the western and usually northern part of Apulia. A companion article presents the rest of the region.

Apulia's administrative center is Bari, the biggest city in southern Italy, with a population of over 325 thousand. It is a major port that includes a modern city center and an old town which is definitely worth seeing. Anywhere you turn you can usually see the Adriatic Sea. The pedestrian-only street Via Sparano is the site of evening strolls. The nearby Eleventh Century Bascilica di San Nicola is said to contain the remains of St. Nicholas, yes Santa Claus. According to legend local sailors stole his remains from Turkey. Funny, I was always under the impression that Santa Claus... To the northeast you will find the small port of Trani, once a major Adriatic port. Trani's attractions include two medieval synagogues and several historic churches.

The spur of Italy's boot is the Promontorio del Gargano (Gargano Promontory), which is a very popular tourist destination. Its mountain roads are very curvy so pay strict attention to your driving. Near the tip is the whitewashed town of Vieste known for its castle. You should take a ferry from Vieste to the nearby archipelago Isole Tremiti, but please don't forget the word Tremiti as in tremor. The view is really spectacular.

The Foresta Umbra (Shady Forest) encompasses well over sixty thousand acres. It is home to hundreds of animal species and two thousand plant species many of which are normally associated with northern climes. Monte Sant'Angelo has been a major pilgrim destination for centuries. You'll want to see the Santuario di San Michele (Sanctuary of San Michele) and the Tomba di Rotari (Tomb of Rotari), a medieval baptistery. Finish your tour of western Apulia at the famous Castel del Monte, which is a mysterious eight-sided castle built in the Thirteenth Century.

Among Apulia's classified foods are Clementines, Olives, two Cheeses, and four Olive Oils. Be sure to see our companion article I Love Touring Italy - Western Apulia for a sample menu and more information on Apulia wines as well as an in-depth examination of western Apulia's tourist attractions. The best-known local wine is Castel del Monte DOC, which is available overseas and is frankly not that great.
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