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Last updated : Nov 2007
Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria
Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria - TravelPuppy.com
Puglia

The southeastern region of Puglia (Apulia) encompasses the forested crags of the Gargano Peninsular (home to Gargano National Park), the mostly flat Salentine peninsula and known as the heel of Italy and, between them, the Murgia, a limestone plateau riddled with caves.

With the exception of Bari and Taranto, both large industrial ports, the Apulian economy is wholly agricultural. The main products are almonds, grapes, olives, tobacco and vegetables. There are fine beaches on the Adriatic coast between Barletta and Bari.

Puglia was important in Roman times as the gateway to the eastern Mediterranean. The port of Brindisi, now eclipsed by Bari in commercial terms, was the terminus of the Via Appia, along which Eastern produce was conveyed to Rome and beyond. The Museo Archeologico Provinciale houses many relics from this prosperous era. Virgil died in Brindisi in 19 BC.

On the Murgia plateau, in Alberobello, one can visit a number of extraordinary stone dwellings known as trulli. Circular with conical roofs , they are similar to the nuraghi of Sardinia. Also in this area stands a unique octagonal castle, the Castel del Monte, built as a hunting lodge in the 13th century by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (the self-styled Stupor Mundi, ‘Wonder of the World’). Both are now UNESCO-listed World Heritage Sites.

Basilicata

A remote and mainly mountainous region situated between Puglia and Calabria, Basilicata is heavily forested in the north around Monte Vulture, a large extinct volcano. Elsewhere, the hills are flinty and barren. Many rivers flow down from the southern Appennines into the Gulf of Taranto, irrigating the fertile coastal plain behind Metaponto (birthplace of Pythagoras). The population is small. The principal town, Potenza, was almost entirely rebuilt after a severe earthquake in 1857, only to suffer a similar scale of destruction in World War II. In Matera, one can visit the extraordinary Sassi, a vast troglodyte settlement of houses and churches carved into tufa rock. Home to 15,000 residents until the 1950s, this is now a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site.

Calabria

The toe of the boot, a spectacularly beautiful region of high mountains, dense forests and empty beaches. Beech, chestnut, oak and pine cover almost half of Calabria and are a rich hunting ground for mushroom enthusiasts. Porcini (boletus edulis), fresh, dried and pickled, naturally adorn the shelves of all the speciality shops of the region. Higher up in the mountains the land only sustains light grazing, but the meadows bloom with a multitude of lovely wild flowers each spring. It is only on isolated patches of reclaimed land on the marshy coast that agriculture is possible and consequently the inhabitants are among some of the poorest in Italy. They are further tormented by frequent earthquakes. Some wolves still survive in the mountains, particularly in the central Sila Massifs. Catanzaro, Cosenza and Reggio Calabria, on the straits of Messina, are the major towns.

Calabria’s best beaches are located on the west coast, where one finds long stretches of sand, punctuated by rocky outcrops and secluded coves. The beaches on the east coast are rockier, rugged and less explored.