The Big Getaway
The Sun Worshippers
Less-crowded (but just as gorgeous) beaches and mouthwatering cuisine lie on Italy’s other coast.
When to go: April through September
Hours from NYC: Nine
Puglia, along Italy’s heel, has been a vacation destination for Northern Italians for years—Americans often skip it in favor of the better-known Amalfi coast and Tuscany. But the region is one of Italy’s most diverse, with hundreds of miles of prime waterfront along the Adriatic and Ionian seas, rolling countryside punctuated by vineyards producing Puglia’s luscious varietals, and postcard-perfect whitewashed towns.
Where to Stay:
La Peschiera (from $640) is a Monopoli hotel with only twelve rooms, each with a private terrace facing the Adriatic. Stroll straight from your room into the ocean, or lounge around the massive pool lined with hydrotherapy massagers. For a real rubdown, there are aestheticians on site (it’s a bit counterintuitive, but the Thai massage is the best option on the menu). The drive south to Marittima di Diso is very scenic; stay at Il Convento di Santa Maria di Costantinopoli (from $510), a convent turned eclectic B&B, featuring a stunning pool surrounded by exotic cacti.
Where to Eat:
Puglia’s cuisine is characterized by an abundance of vegetables (fava beans, wild chicory, squash blossoms), locally caught seafood (octopus, sea bream), pungent olive oil, and lots of burrata, the creamy, rich cousin of mozzarella. Taste some of the region’s best dishes at Osteria Perricci in Monopoli, Il Poeta Contadino in Alberobello, and Alle Due Corti in Lecce. Don’t leave without trying tajeddha (a timballo of rice, potatoes, and mussels) and ciceri e tria (chickpeas with fried pasta).
To Do, by Day:
If too much lounging by the pool makes you restless, take some road trips: to Martina Franca and Locorotondo, two idyllic towns overlooking the Valle D’Itria, which is dotted with many of the region’s iconic trulli (whitewashed circular stone residences); Lecce, to see the ornate Baroque architecture of monuments like the Church of Santa Croce; or Grotte di Castellana, an astonishing maze of underground caves.
In the Evening:
For nightlife options head to Lecce, where bars and clubs surround the popular Piazza Sant’Oronzo and Piazzetta Duca d’Atene. If you happen to be visiting in September, you can sit outdoors and hear Lecce’s annual International Jazz Festival.
Feel like checking out another country’s beaches? The Endeavor Lines Ferry from Brindisi to the Greek island of Corfu is roughly a nine-hour trip, but the luxurious Corfu Palace (from $145 a night) awaits—as well as the chance to see the Adriatic from another vantage point.
How to Get There:
Alitalia offers daily nonstop flights from JFK to Rome, and many connections to Bari.
From the Winter 2009 New York Wedding Guide