Travel // Puglia {Part One, Nina Trulli Resort & Alberobello, Locorotondo, Polignano a Mare}

September 17, 2018

I'm not 100% sure how Puglia, a recently undiscovered area of Italy in the south {the heel of the boot} got onto our radar but I think it might have been to do with Jamie Oliver and most probably Instagram. Over the past couple of years I've spotted these white washed trulli, cool conical roofed buildings pop up on my Instagram feed that led me to investigate this area of Italy. Which turned out to be our greatest discovery ever. It's a quiet area of Italy, which has always been a real favourite country of ours, with an almost Greek feel {it's in the Adriatic} which again we love, and it has miles of glorious olive groved countryside edging miles of impressive coastline and beaches. There are white washed, old crumbly towns, incredible incredible food and long hot sunny days yet not really any other tourists! I'm almost reluctant to share this travelogue, it seems like most people who are in the know about Puglia want to keep it their little secret. But equally, it's too dreamy and gorgeous not to share!

We flew from London Gatwick out with Easyjet early on a Sunday morning in September {which I think is the best month to visit, avoid August like the plague unless you want to be surrounded by hundreds of Italian families holidaying} and arrived by 11am to pick up our hire car at the airport. We were going to the Amalfi Coast after these five days in Puglia so booked our car to drop off back to Naples airport. We could have easily spent a week, or more, in Puglia but were desperate to go back to the Amalfi Coast so decided to split a 10 days with 5 nights in each place. But I already know we'll go back to Puglia, there's so much more that we didn't get to see! Especially further South.

Polignano a Mare

Flying in, the first thing you notice are the rows and rows of olive groves below. Over 80% of Italy's olive oil is produced in this region. Our first stop was a boutique gem which I'll get onto in a minute, Nina Trulli Resort, but on our way from the airport to Nina Trulli, we were starving and in need of lunch, so diverted to Polignano a Mare for our first taste of a Puglian town.

Set on the coast, with a jaw droppingly famous cove surrounded by an old town built into the cliffs, with a turquoise sea we were desperate to jump into that water ourself! But our first stop was food, we really wanted to eat at Pescaria, a well known seafood street food canteen that looked amazing, but the queue was over 40 minutes long - as it often is at peak times, especially on a Sunday for locals, so we found a foccaceria instead.

It's hard to find bad food in Italy I think, even just a simple Caprese sandwich tastes SO good. And we struck gold with our first gelato of the trip from Gusto Caruso {a must visit}, they have taps of melted chocolate to line your cone with and inventive flavours of the best gelato {you can always tell it's proper when it's served out of deep round lidded metal containers rather than piled high} and we definitely peaked with the best gelato on day 1. The benchmark was set high.

We then wandered around the old town, through the stone walls, and fell in love with the architecture. A myriad of alleyways that felt so Greek. Old churches, tall cactus and glimpses of the sea below.

Italy, we had arrived!

// Nina Trulli Resort

When searching for accommodation, I knew that we had to stay in a trulli, the famous round dry stone buildings specific to this area built centuries ago for farm workers. The theory is that they were built in this way to be dismantled quickly should tax inspectors turn up! This boutique, Mr & Mrs Smith worthy, resort looked perfect for us with enough style to feel luxurious & with a pool, but equally set amongst the countryside with olive groves, fig trees and vineyards aplenty. It's only a couple of years old, having extensively renovated this traditional masseria into a romantic resort. You can find more on Nina Trulli where we stayed here.

Just fifteen minutes inland from the coast, you arrive to sweeping gates, after driving through the countryside, and then walk through the laden vineyards, to a reception within an old church. The rooms and suites are all individual trullos which I loved, the bed set in a little cave area and the bathroom with a crazily high ceiling. It's been cleverly renovated so you feel like you're in a traditional trulli with rustic charm but there's also aircon and fluffy gowns for that hotel feeling.

When not out exploring nearby towns, we spent our time by the ridiculously beautiful infinity pool area. The resort is small, so the pool never felt crowded. I got back into reading for the first time since January which I was so happy about, devouring book after book and enjoying that hot Puglian sun.

The trees behind the sunloungers are pomegranate trees! 

Those cloudless blue skies!

The resort has a kitchen garden {with a sign telling you that it's all been grown with love <3} in which you're encouraged to pick whatever you feel like. Super sweet strawberries and ripe tomatoes. But our real highlight were the fig trees. We've always somehow missed fig season whenever we've been in Greece or Italy before, but we more than made up for it on this trip, picking handfuls from the laden trees almost growing like weeds around the property and the surrounding roadsides.

Our favourite fruits for sure and they tasted better than ever.

A week after we left, I spotted on instagram that hotel guests were encouraged to help get involved with the grape harvest! 

This was our trulli room for a couple of nights. The cutest room EVER! 

Nina Trulli offers guests a three, or four course, dinner each night that you can sign up to at breakfast. We declined as it was served at 8.30pm, too late for us!, and although it was a few courses seemed a little expensive. We decided that we'd explore the nearby towns for food.

You'd definitely need a car if you're staying here but the roads are SO easy and not at all like the stereotypical Italian craziness you get further up around say, Naples. There's also so much to see in a short distance so it's a perfect location with towns like Alberobello, Locorotondo and Martina Franca a maximum of a twenty minute drive away inland, and then the coast with beaches aplenty just twenty minutes the other way.

These sunsets were pretty special <3.

Breakfast was a real treat and was served al fresco in the courtyard each morning. We'd wake up to these bright blue skies and stumble out of bed for the buffet of dreams.

It was all locally sourced and beautifully presented. Everything from fresh fruit to homemade granola to yogurt to delicious Italian hams & cheeses. Then there were cakes and warm bread and tomato foccacia and hard boiled eggs and local jams/honey. 

I'm a big fan of three course breakfasts.

// Alberobello

Just over ten minutes down the road from the hotel lies Alberobello, a Unesco world heritage site town filled with trulli. On our first morning we drove there early, it's best to get there before the tour buses arrive {the few other tourists we saw were mainly Italian} although I don't know how busy it would have been in September anyway. We'd been warned that although picturesque, it's become a bit too touristy and is fairly small, so just really worth a little morning explore rather than somewhere you'd spend a lot of time in or look for somewhere for dinner.

Although touristy in parts, with some trulli as shops selling trulli buildings in miniature/bags of pasta etc, it was fascinating and such a beautiful area to walk around and a lot of the trulli are still in use as traditional houses. It was almost like something out of the Hobbit. You have to visit! Rione Monti is the trulli area of town.

I particularly liked the trulli with symbols painted into the roofs, the heart shaped ones my favourites of course...

Whilst it was quiet we couldn't resist getting out the tripod for some photos together without having to ask a stranger. {we use this one}

Alberobello is built on two hills. We walked up and down the streets, and would have been tempted by Martinucci bakery if we hadn't have had such a big breakfast, before walking up the other side of town to look back across at all of these trulli. 

Such an incredible sight. It was definitely a lovely way to spend a morning. 

On our way back to the pool at Nina Trulli, we stopped at a grocery store to pick up some lunch and a few snacks. These courgette flowers! I'm obsessed with Italian supermarkets and even the chickpeas {we tried to have some healthy salads when not eating pizza or pasta!} tasted a million times better than back home. 

The rest of the town has proper buildings rather than trulli, which are beautiful in others ways. I predictably loved these shutters and this huge door which you only seem to find on the continent. 

It's always a tough choice when there's a heavenly pool waiting for you but also so much to explore in this beautiful region, but it was nice to spend a morning out before a day by the pool or vice versa. And in Puglia, between around 2pm and 6.30pm, you won't find anything open so mornings or evenings are the time to head out, unless you want to spend an afternoon at the beach.

Kaftan online here. Bikini here.

// Martina Franca and Locorotondo

are two ridiculously pretty medieval towns, again all white-washed and with pedestrian friendly walkable centres. These places come alive in the evenings. We combined the two as they were only about ten minutes apart and fairly small. In fact, this whole region, with Alberobello too could be done in a day easily if you're short on time. 

Casa Pinto in Locorotondo is worth booking for good pizza if you're in the area. Oh, and don't as we did, rely on google maps for opening times in this region! Because the Puglian restaurants are laws onto themselves and a couple of times we'd planned to visit somewhere only to find it closed despite google saying it would be open. As a general rule, a lot of places are shut on a Tuesday, and you may find some places open for lunch but mostly it's from 6.30/7.30pm, it's the Italian way. 

I just couldn't get over these towns. Especially with the low sun beginning to set, the incredible architecture and the sheer age of these walled cities.

Yet often deserted!

Gelato o'clock. You'll always find a gelato parlour, and adorable cute old Italian men sitting with one before dinner - I imagine it's their daily ritual.

Our first Fiat spot of the trip! In a soft baby blue.

Back with Part Two, and our stay around Ostuni with beaches and trips to Lecce next.

You can find Nina Trulli here. It really was a dreamy spot to base ourselves for a couple of special nights.

R <3 xx

{I was a guest of Nina Trulli but as always all opinions are my own and we would have happily have paid for our stay. I would never recommend anywhere I didn't truly love}

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