Originally founded by Greece as part of Magna Graecia, Puglia can boast more archaeological finds than most other regions of Italy. Their original village of Taras produced much of Greece’s pottery. The region became part of the Roman Empire and was the subject of many different invasions after the Empire fell. Strangely enough, after the Norman conquest of Sicilia, the Norman seat of power was located in Puglia.
Puglia is simultaneously rural, breathtaking and traditional. Many of the villages that dot the landscape are small, walled and sit atop hills. The main cities of Puglia, Bari and Brindisi, are more cosmopolitan than the smaller towns around the region, but they still retain a certain quaintness and charm. As the region is normally hot during the day, the cooler evening hours see small congregations of people in the city centers and piazzas. Food is a mainstay of the Pugliese culture, and most families have at least a small vineyard and collection of olive trees. A quick trip through the countryside shows that Puglia is the home of trulli: small, round, conical-rooftop houses constructed entirely from limestone.
For centuries, Puglia has been one of the main olive oil-producing locations in Italy. Responsible for approximately 40% of the country’s olive oil, it’s safe to assume that the world-famous oil factors prominently in the food of the region. Two types of pasta, orecchiette and maccheroni, have become known throughout the world, as have the Puglian ways of preparing them. The interior of Puglia is home to many sheep, and, as a result, lamb factors prominently in the cuisine of the region.
As a region, Puglia is known for a decidedly more rustic style of wine, which can be experienced with its four DOCG wines. These DOCGs are all relatively new and still unknown. Primitivo di Manduria DOC and Salice Salentino DOC are the wines that define the region. The former is a wine made from Primitivo, the Italian cousin to Zinfandel, which results in a high-alcohol, spicy version of the popular American wine. Salice Salentino on the other hand, is made from the deep, dark, intense Negroamaro grape, which results in wines with intense aromas of blackberries, black currants and baking spices.