This was our first holiday abroad as a family with Lucia, our two-year daughter in tow. My wish-list was short – but hugely important. Somewhere easy going and as stress free as possible. I had heard so much about Puglia and having explored much of Italy, I was keen to experience Puglia first-hand.
This southern region of Italy is still relatively unknown and often overlooked. Located at the heel of Italy, the way of life here is much slower and there are far fewer tourists. Rustic masserias, ancient olive trees, miles of vineyards as far as the eye can see, breathtaking coastlines and ancient hill towns are amongst the main attractions. Invaded by almost every major power through history, the past influences still whisper in the wind almost everywhere. It shared many similarities of rustic Turkey and Greece.
By nature Puglia is less populated than Tuscany or Veneto, it has noticeably fewer cars on the roads and lends itself to a self-drive holiday.
Our holiday started in the beautiful Borgo Egnazia. Borgo Egnazia is set in the heart of the countryside, yet just a short five minute journey by golf buggy to the beach. Designed in the style of a traditional Apulian village everything about this property lends itself perfectly for a family stay. Pre-arrival, you can order practically anything essential. Bottle warmers, milk, monitors, cots and more I am sure. On arrival, check in was seamlessly completed inside the accommodation by the dedicated personal host, delightfully on hand 24-7. Families stay in the Borgo area, near to the central piazza, a stone’s throw from the kids club and most importantly, the dedicated family pool.
We had a ground floor room with a private garden which was just perfect for Lucia, where she could safely explore and stretch her lazy travel legs. Completely private and secure, it also satisfied the need for adult only space during the later evenings. The children’s facilities in the resort included an outdoor playground and farm area, which kept Lucia and many other little ones entertained. Dining options seemed endless. Our favourite was the trattoria which served traditional wood fired pizzas and local pasta. A huge and unexpected bonus is that all children under two dine on a complimentary basis and the chefs will cater for even the fussiest of toddlers. During the day we wandered around the resort exploring the squares and alleyways covered in pretty bougainvillaea, spotting the elusive lizard that Lucia took a fondness too. We took the shuttle to the popular beach club and paddled in the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic, and when lunch called, we took shelter from the sun at the fish restaurant and dined on exquisitely fresh seafood, every mouthful worth the accompanying price tag.
The highlight of our stay was a privately guided bicycle tour. I was initially wary, having not ridden a bike for more than 20 years, and certainly not au fait with balancing a toddler on the back seat. Putting my concerns aside, we went on to have the best time with many laughs along the way. As our stay coincided with Spring, the fields were in full bloom with the smell of poppies and wildflowers. We rode along quiet lanes towards the town of Savelletri, a coastal harbour with a church and traditional restaurant. A perfect stop for an obligatory gelato before we continued our ride along the fringes of the San Dominico golf course back to the resort.
After leaving Borgo Egnazia we travel onward to Monopoli, where our villa was home for the next week. A brilliant base to venture out from to explore some of the highlights of the region. The attractions around Monopoli are not far with a maximum of two hours to reach the UNESCO town of Matera with its natural limestone caves and gorge. Not too dissimilar to Cappadocia in Turkey, but on a lesser scale. During our week we also visit Alberobello, famous for its fairy-tale Trulli houses (hobbit like whitewashed domed houses). The baroque town of Lecce, home to the beautiful Basilica de Santa Croce and the pretty Polignano a Mare, a cliff side town with quaint cobbled streets and artisan shops are the icing on the cake. This fabulous short family sojourn to Italy was well received by parents and toddler alike.