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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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The Thinking Traveller villas in Puglia >>