So far we’ve shown you Capitolo Beach, Alberobello and Polignano a Mare, all places that should have Puglia renamed from the heel of Italy’s boot to its crown.
There are three more Puglian pleasures that I can’t bear to not share with you before Our Next Sunrise takes you onto its next adventure…..
1. Baia dei Turchi
The antidote to the beaches where the sound of hawkers selling anything from flip flops to coconuts makes you forget there is an actual sea nearby. When you emerge from the seemingly never ending dark forest track that leads you out of the dusty carpark, you will come across one of those beaches, but do not stay.
Look to your right and there are a series of coves jutting out one after the other like an array of crooked apple bites – untamed just enough to cleverly separate out those who crave some proper beach time from those happy enough to scratch out their half a square metre of beach without being guilty of shade-jacking.
The sky is cloudless. The water is sparkling. It is bliss.
2. Santa Cesarea Terme
This seaside town may be quiet, but its majestic old world charm will captivate you. Tacky souvenir shops and quaint eateries lie metres from the town’s centrepiece, the regal yet slightly rundown Villa Sticchi.
You can only admire Villa Sticchi from the outside, and if you’re new in town, it may seem that way with the sea too – despite its beckoning appearance, there are 30 metres of unwelcoming jagged rocks that you have to contend with. In this case, money can buy you happiness, as you can pay for sea access via a range of pleasingly retro beachfront establishments.
Santa Cesarea’s thermal baths were our way in – follow your nose, the scent of sulphur will guide you! We donned our obligatory swimming caps and got to grips with the smell for a supposedly nourishing dip in the sulphuric pool, before finally reaching the velvety sea. There is a large sea cave to be explored, but there is something so chilling and mysterious about it that a serious case of the creeps had us turning around pretty swiftly!
At one end of Otranto are the crumbling city walls that house the maze-like old town, while at the other you might find a free beach party with thumping music that enthralls the young, and amusingly, entertains the old too.
Lazy evenings in Otranto are spent sipping Aperol Spritz’s on the beachfront, joining the perpetual loop of people circling the old town before it spills out in relief onto the promenade, and gorging happily on the mussels, squid, octopus and fish that are permanent fixtures of every restaurant’s menu.
You won’t be short of good places to eat in Otranto, but the Masseria Bandino on the outskirts of town is a must visit. Rumour has it that the restaurant is run by a Michelin-starred chef who quit his post at a leading establishment after falling ill, only to start cooking for his friends at the Masseria. Word spread and now you need to book months in advance to sample delights such as the Earth and Sea platter. Featuring stuffed courgette flowers, home-smoked ricotta, octopus stew and many others, it really is the area summed up on a plate.
Otranto is about an hour’s drive from Brindisi. We stayed at the Hotel San Giuseppe.