Puglia is an ancient land with a recorded history going back to colonisation by the Mycenaean Greeks ie sometime between 1750 and 1050 BC. The Pugliese have seen many conquerers, including the Muslims, the Turks, and the Venetians. When the Barbary Pirates of North Africa sacked the province of Foggia in 1554 they took an estimated 7,000 slaves from this region. The Pugliese have seen them all come and go; they have indeed lived through harsh times.
Puglia is the ‘heel of the boot’ when you look at the map of Italy. It has long been a popular destination for Italian visitors who enjoy the miles of sunny beaches and the long hot summers. But its discovery by a wider international audience is a comparatively recent event.
Perhaps because of the distance from the historic centre of power in Naples, or because of a long and difficult history, this region has a reputation for being independent and self-reliant. This is reflected in the fortified farmhouses, or masserie, that are dotted along the coast, reminders of times when marauding Saracens and others were frequent raiders along these shores.
Driving along the flat coastal plain it seems that you are in a sea of olive trees and indeed the region provides 40% of Italy’s production, but in the hills away from the coast there is a more intense mixed agriculture.The many towns and cities along the coast are a reflection of the importance of the sea to this region, not only as a source of food and a means of exporting produce but also, in times gone by, as a departure point for pilgrims heading to the Holy Land.