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The Geography of Puglia

The varied coastline and interior of Puglia

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Puglia provides the heel to Italy's boot and the easternmost tip of the peninsular, almost on the same longitude as Budapest!

Covering some 19,300km2, it is Italy's 7th largest region (out of 20) and its splendid coastline, dotted with some of Italy's finest sandy beaches and azure seas, runs for around 800km, less only than Sicily and Sardinia.

In the north lies the Gargano peninsula, which, apart from the foothills of the  Appenini in the extreme north-west, is the only mountainous area of the region.

From there, a large plain extends all the way down to the Valle d'Itria area, whose delightful old towns, including Locorotondo, Alberobello and Martina Franca sit amongst and on top of a series of gently rolling Arcadian hills carpeted with olive groves and vineyards. Hill-top Ostuni signals the end of the Valle d'Itria, and the beginning of the Salento plain, which continues all the way down to Santa Maria di Leuca, Puglia's southernmost extremity.

Thanks to its relative flatness, Puglia has always been an agricultural region, producing, amongst others, olive oil (more than any other Italian region), wine, tomatoes, artichokes, aubergines and wheat. In terms of livestock, sheep-farming reigns supreme, a trait that Puglia shares with its near neighbour, Greece.

Fishing, too, is an important part of the economy (and fish, consequently of the local diet!), as one might imagine from a region with such an extensive coastline. To the east is the Adriatic Sea and the Straits of Otranto, across which, just over 70km away, lies Albania and, a little further still, northern Greece. Around the tip of the heel to the west is the Gulf of Taranto with yet more lovely sandy beaches and rocky dive points.

When in Puglia you are rarely far from the sea and it is no coincidence that the region's inhabitants are great sea-farers. Yachting and pleasure-boating are popular pastimes as are most watersports. Indeed, it is the sea, its beaches and its translucent waters that make Puglia such a popular holiday destination not only for Italians, but also a growing number of overseas visitors.

Puglia has a population of about 4 million, but less than a quarter of those live in the region's largest towns: Bari (pop. 320,000), Taranto (pop. 195,000), Foggia (pop. 153,000), Lecce (pop. 94,000) and Brindisi (pop. 89,000), a statistic that confirms the locals' love of country living and life in small communities.

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 1/43 Glorious colours of the coastline near the Laghi Alimini.  2/43 A rocky stretch of coastline in southeastern Puglia.  3/43 Transparent waters near Leuca on the southernmost tip of Puglia.  4/43 Hills of olive trees in the Valle d'Itria area of Puglia.  5/43 Come on in! The water's lovely!  6/43 Marina di Pescoluse is a heaven for beach lovers.  7/43 The beach and coastline of Torre dell'Orso, between Lecce and Otranto.  8/43 A view from one of Otranto's beaches to the other.  9/43 A carpet of olives seen from Villa Elia near Gallipoli.  10/43 The white sandy beach and azure Adriatic Sea at Torre dell'Orso.  11/43 Coming in to port after a day out on the Adriatic.  12/43 A detail of the beach at Torre Specchia on Salento's Adriatic coast.  13/43 Our villa Lo Scoglio seen from the little harbour of Marina di Novaglie.  14/43 Polignano's residents love their beach and so do we!  15/43 The Nature Reserve of Torre Guaceto on the Adriatic coast of Puglia.  16/43 The sandy beach on the coast near Santa Caterina, north of Gallipoli.  17/43 Olive trees down to the coast from Villa Blanca.  18/43 Sea views from the lovely fortified town of Otranto.  19/43 The townsfolk of Santa Caterina enjoying their beach.  20/43 The lovely sandy beach of Felloniche on the southernmost tip of Puglia.  21/43 The fishing port of Villanova on the Adriatic coast.  22/43 The harbour of Santa Maria di Leuca.  23/43 All this could be yours if you visit south-west Puglia!  24/43 Approaching one of the many beaches just south of Gallipoli.  25/43 Twisted and wind-blown olive trees in Puglia.  26/43 Looking towards Gallipoli.  27/43 Karstic grottoes on the coast near Santa Maria di Leuca.  28/43 The charming town of Monopoli, south of Bari.  29/43 The quiet fishing harbour of Monopoli.  30/43 A rocky stretch of coast near the beach of Felloniche.  31/43 Going to the beach of Marina di Salve.  32/43 Santa Maria di Leuca seen from the sea.  33/43 A carpet of olive trees seen from I Trulli delle Sette Sorelle.  34/43 Pristine sands and turquoise waters of the Salento.  35/43 Another centuries-old olive tree in Puglia.  36/43 Sunset at Puglia's southernmost tip.  37/43 Gallipoli's impressive sea-front walls.  38/43 The locals of Polignano a Mare near Bari enjoying their beach.  39/43 The gnarled, knotted trunk of an olive tree in Puglia.  40/43 The transparent waters of Rivabella, just north of Gallipoli.  41/43 La Spiaggia della Purita in Gallipoli in the early evening.  42/43 The age-old cliffs of south-eastern Puglia.  43/43 The wonderful cobalt waters of the Adriatic coast.