Things to do in Puglia

I’ve visited the major cities of central and north Italy, and feel like I know the culture and cuisine relatively well… but the rural region of Southern Italy was completely unknown to me. I’d heard fellow travel fanatics talk about the growing trend to visit Puglia, the less visited part of Italy which is known for centuries-old olive groves, whitewashed hill towns and crystal clear sea. The reality was even more idyllic than it sounds.

PugliaMasseria Moroseta

To stay

Masseria Trapana – Located on the outskirts of Lecce and surrounded by sixty hectares of ancient olive groves. Rob Potter-Sanders has transformed a derelict 16th farmhouse into one of the most luxurious hotels in Puglia. There are ten sumptuous suites to choose from, each with a grand four-poster bed and giant bathtub.

Masseria Moroseta – This stunning, minimalist bed & breakfast is found on the outskirts of Ostuni, and feels like it was built with Instagram in mind. The contemporary masseria was designed by Andrew Trotter and is set around a central courtyard, with six charming bedrooms, a beautiful pool and lovely common areas to enjoy.

Puglia foodPuglia seafoodPuglia food

To eat

Cielo – Tucked away in the Ostuni maze of white streets is the enchanting Cielo restaurant, inside the luxury hotel, La Sommita. Sit down for lunch and you will be treated to lots of little surprises throughout from foie gras chocolates to aperol liquid sweets. The plates of pasta are refined and delicious and the innovative Egg and Flour dessert is not to be missed.

Cremeria alla Scala – The best gelato in Ostuni. There are several branches of this ice-cream parlour in Ostuni, pop in for a cone of the speciality flavour, Sant’Oronzo (almond and mandarin).

Il Principe del Mare – Cheap and cheerful this basic seafood restaurant is found at the sea’s edge in Fasano. The family-run eatery offers the freshest fish straight from the ocean, while you sit watching the waves crash to shore.

Angelo Sabatelli Ristorante – There are only a handful of good fine dining restaurants in Puglia. Angelo Sabatelli is among the best, serving up inventive recipes based on the traditional dishes from Puglia. The Orecchiette pasta with 30 hour cooked meat ragu and canestrato cheese fondue is a triumph… Puglian cuisine at its very best.

Il Cortiletto – Located on the edge of Ostuni this neighborhood restaurant is a favourite with locals and tourists alike. The courtyard dining room has a lovely atmosphere and serves simple but authentic anti-pasti, pasta and wood-fired meats.

Gelateria Natale – Universally referred to as Lecce’s best gelato, Gelateria Natale is always busy and has enough flavours to satisfy everyone. I tasted the ricotta and fig and rum baba flavours which were both creamy and delicious. There is also a range of traditional Italian confectionery.

Places to Visit


Matera – This ancient town carved into the canyon is famous for its cave dwellings, known as the sassi. This World Heritage site is unique and enchanting, transporting you back to centuries ago.


Otranto – This historic town is on the east coast of the Salento peninsula. Visit the Romanesque cathedral to see the twelfth-century mosaic and if its hot take a dip in the crystal clear turquoise waters.


Lecce – One of the largest cities in the Apulia region Lecce is known for its magnificent baroque buildings. Visit the amazing Cattedrale di Lecce and the Basilica di Santa Croce, before cooling off with a delicious ice-cream from Gelateria Natale.


Gallipoli – The lazy town of Gallipoli has fantastic beaches and a charming historic old town to explore.


Alberobello – Although touristy it is worth visiting Alberobello to marvel at the amazing trulli, a traditional Apulian dry stone hut with a conical roof. Head a cafe with rooftop seating for the best panoramic views.


Polignano a Mare – Perched on top of a limestone cliff, Polignano a Mare offers a dramatic coastline and a beautiful beach in the centre of town. Wander round the streets and grab lunch in a local cafe before soaking up the sun.


Monopoli – This quaint town is centred around a lovely fishing port. Charter a sailing boat for the day, and sail up the coast to the St Stefano monastery where you can admire the amazing caves and take a dip in the azure Adriatic sea.

Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort

Most think of Fiji as a tropical couples’ destination, but hotels like Jean-Michel Cousteau make it a very appealing holiday option for families. The journey to the hotel’s remote town, Savusavu, is a short flight from Nadi airport on a small plane that offers awe-inspiring aerial views of Fiji’s coral and clusters of tiny islands. Once you arrive at this luxurious eco-resort the staff are immediately on hand to take care of you to ensure your trip is memorable and restful.

The resort was opened in 1996 in collaboration with the influential ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau. It was originally intended as a retreat for eco-friendly sea activities and diving; an educational haven for exploring this completely unspoilt area of the Pacific. In the last 20 years the resort has grown in ambition, with philanthropic and eco programmes that would impress any hotel reviewer. Jean-Michel Cousteau support local primary schools, encourage preservation and conservation of resources, and use only natural products and recyclable materials in the resort. When it comes to food, the kitchen concentrates its efforts on sustainable fish and produce from the onsite organic garden. The hotel also have their own marine biologist, Johnny, who as well as offering tours of the reef, is working to replant the precious local coral.

The nightly rates seem expensive, until you hear what is included. Guests can forget about carrying cash around knowing that all meals, non-alcoholic drinks, resort based activities, and four off-site excursions per week (rainforest and waterfall hike, village trip and farmers market) are part of the package. Daytime childcare is also provided free-of-charge for kids under 12 years old, and those under the age of five receive a one-on-one nanny! The thoughtful Bula kids club keeps little ones entertained throughout the day with educational and fun activities and games. Fijian people are renowned for their nurturing childcare abilities and I noticed this dedication and kindness first hand… one nanny even came to the airport on her day-off to wave the kids goodbye. The parents obviously appreciate the peaceful break and there are plenty of ways couples can utilise their time with boat trips, special private dinners and spa treatments.

I was allocated one of the more remote bures (cottages), a short walk from the main resort facilities. The village-style home was luxurious and spacious incorporating traditional Fijian features and furniture into the design. The dark, shiny wood was elegant and gave a welcoming warmth to the room. The split-level architecture made the bure feel like an apartment, with a very separate living room and bedroom. The bathroom was equipped with his-and-hers sinks and a big walk in shower. Maricold make organic seaweed products for the hotel and generous bottles were found in the shower. I quickly settled in to my new home with a glass of Australian fizz on the bure terrace.

On the first night at Jean-Michel Cousteau we were booked in for a private dinner on the pier, with enthusiastic waiter Cookie looking after us. Out here, removed from the light and buzz of the resort, we felt totally isolated with just the gentle sea and the tropical fish for company. For every meal there is a three-course menu with several choices, so there is something to suit every appetite.

The culinary highlights were mostly seafood dishes, unsurprisingly. The recipes were comforting and classic: fresh seafood paella, fine red snapper fillet, a platter of assorted exotic shellfish. Jean-Michel Cousteau also often offered delicious healthy options; flavoursome soups and tasty halloumi salad. My favourite dessert was the homemade caramelised pineapple upside down cake. In the mornings an extensive buffet presents fruit, cereal, yoghurts, amongst other cold options, but some may prefer to order something hot and more substantial from the a la carte, like vegetable omelette or pancakes.

There is an array of unique experiences to take part in within the resort and in the local area. A private yoga class on the beach with Ana will calm your mind and body, or for something more active head out to sea for a snorkel or dive trip with Johnny to see some of the colourful sealife. My favourite excursion was the visit to J. Hunter Pearl Farm just a short drive from the hotel. The company was started by Justin Hunter (a Fijian-American), and with the help of expert Japanese “seeders”, they now produce some of the most beautiful black pearls in the world. Pick up a souvenir – the pearls range in price from £35 for a single pearl to £35,000 for a necklace of the highest quality gems.

Jean-Michel Cousteau offer every guest a complimentary ten minute foot soak on arrival – a ritual which I believe every hotel should include. The lovely Taipa came to our room laden with coconut scented scrubs and lotions, and worked wonders on my feet. A few days later I was lucky to meet her again at the al fresco beach spa where couples can enjoy a relaxing massage while listening to the waves. 90 minutes in the care of one of these talented ladies is enough to send you into a deep sleep. If you are suffering from sunburn I highly recommend the cold vanilla soak and wrap from the spa, it will cool and sooth your inflamed skin.

Recently voted the number one hotel in the world for families by Mr & Mrs Smith, it is hardly surprising that they make up 85% of the visitors here. But even without kids I found the experience at Jean-Michel Cousteau blissfully relaxing, wonderfully secluded and refreshingly informative about this special part of the world.

More information and book a stay at Jean-Michel Cousteau here.

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