Puglia is the heel of Italy’s boot and the area where the ancestors of our founder and creative director Shanan Campanaro come from. Its breathtaking seascapes, unusual vistas, and ancient cities have provided the basis for some of Eskayel’s most iconic patterns.
My Campanaro ancestors originally lived in Foggia in the north, which is the poorest part of this beautiful region. The first time I went to the actual town of Castelluccio Valmajore to see Piazza Campanaro, I wasn't too impressed! But once we began going to Milan for Salone del Mobile regularly, we decided to explore in more depth. After a decade of combing the region, I can recommend some great places where the locals outnumber the tourists and the prices are super affordable.
“We fell in love with the simple local dishes, the beautiful white cities of the Salento region, and the crystal waters of both the Adriatic Sea on the east and the Mediterranean to the west.
Puglia has been an inspiration for Eskayel over the years
For instance, photos I took of the steps and tiny winding passages in the famous white walled towns of the region were the origin of our La Scala and Portico designs. The Adriatico rug was inspired by local vegetation and traditional frame motifs. In the Sky Arc rug you can see a nod to Puglian architecture, while the Through the Grove rug and Domenica rug and wallpaper pay homage to the arid palm-lined coastal cities.
One of my favorite hotels in the world. We first stayed here the year it opened and loved the simplicity and solitude. Every little touch has been meticulously considered by the owner Carlos, who happens to be a graduate of Central Saint Martins like me. The building was designed by his dear friend Andrew Trotter of Openhouse Magazine and it is stunning.
The hotel hosts weddings and dinners, so if you’re hoping for maximum peace and quiet then I suggest staying in the spring before the high season or in the late fall. If you don’t want to stay overnight, you can also just book a dining experience.
The property is really close to Ostuni, which – in spite of many, many tourists – remains a vibrant town with tons of amazing restaurants and alleyways full of beauty and curiosities. It’s also only a few minutes to the Adriatic coast and near some coastal gems like Savalletri, Monopoli, and Pugliano a Mare.
The last time we went to Puglia, we used this service to rent Villa Castelluccio, one of the villas handpicked by Carlo of Masseria Moroseta. This is a great option if you want to stay in the countryside. The villas tend to be a bit further away from the towns and it can be a bit hard to understand the exact locations, but that’s the best thing about Puglia – you can drive from town to town to town, and in a day you’ll see so many things between the two coasts.
We stayed here with family. Closer to the west coast, it’s a beautiful larger property that’s a bit remote and offers more traditional design.
Everything closes between 1pm and 5pm, so make sure you eat breakfast or lunch before then, and don’t turn up to explore a town between those hours unless you’re OK with exploring while businesses are shuttered.
This isn’t a siesta by the way – this is when you’ll find most Italians at home preparing and eating a meal. When the Italian government mandated that stores stay open until 8pm, the standard business opening hours changed so that workers could go home for lunch and have some time off in the middle of the day.
APERITIVO VS. DINNER
Many restaurants don’t open until 7 pm and they serve dinner fairly late, but aperitivo is a thing in Puglia for sure. What’s the distinction? Aperitivo happens at bars and dinner happens at restaurants – so don't expect to be able to sit for aperitivo at a restaurant, or eat dinner at a bar!
Not a place where most people go as some parts of the city can be a bit rough, but I love walking the old part of town at night, especially during passeggiata. It feels less touristy and more local here. There are lots of yummy restaurants – any one of them will do – plus cool bars with a bit of a student vibe. I love to visit the port in the early morning when all the fishermen are selling their fish, including ricci (the little sea urchins).
This is actually right outside of Puglia but it’s a must-see. Peasants here once made their homes in caves, some of which you can still visit. We’ve never had a proper tour, instead just exploring these unusual abandoned homes independently. It’s fascinating and everyone we send there goes on to say it was their favorite place to visit.
A larger city in the south offering so much beauty. Just walking around you’ll encounter tons of stunning Baroque architecture, lots of shops, and great food. A good option if you want to stay in a town with plenty of Airbnbs to choose from.
Although it’s very touristy, we still go here almost every trip. The Trulli town is fascinating, full of limestone buildings made without mortar using prehistoric building techniques.
Polignano a Mare
This is where you’ll find Lama Monachile, the famous cove and beach with amazingly clear water.
Another awesome town with a lot of Airbnbs. If you’re a fan of cured meats, you will most likely get the best cappocola of your life here, so please order it.
The cutest little beach town and home to the Coccaro Beach Club – make a day of it and shop for clothes in the little boutique.
By far one of the prettiest towns in Puglia, right on the sea.
This is a less touristy town with some standout food.
Another pretty city for walking.
If you go in late summer, please find a fig tree and eat some figs off of it. Then go to a grocery store to buy some fresh ricotta so you can eat a fresh fig with ricotta, olive oil, and salt. Be sure to eat a green fig and a purple fig or many of both!
Try some pasta made with burned flour. Grano arso – literally ‘burned grain’ – became a staple during the 19th century in poor rural areas. Italian peasants who couldn’t afford flour would sweep the fields to collect grains that had been burned by hot steam engines used in the harvest.
Puglia is famous for its rosé. Many of the local grapes like Negroamaro, Primitivo, and Salice Salentino make deep and kind of sweet reds if that’s what you like (as Nick does) or very flavorful rosés (which are more my preference). Fiano, Malvasia, and Chardonnay are GREAT local white wine varietals.
This pasta shape is the most typical in Puglia. You’re likely to catch sight of grandmothers making it in their doorways or windows as you wander through the little towns.
My top choices are Campari soda, Cinzano soda, or an Americano made with Campari, Martini Rosso, and soda
Try to find some of these little tortellini-shaped crackers. They come in all kinds of different flavors.
Pasticciotti Tradizionali in Ostuni is where you will find the best version of the famous cake of Puglia. Get the vanilla cream ones – they are to DIE for.
The seafood in Puglia is amazing, but I particularly love the ricci. This small local sea urchin is served with bread, which is used to scoop out the meat. Divine! My fave places for ricci are El Principe del Mar in Savelletri, or you can go to the main port in Bari early in the morning and get them on plastic plates straight from the fishermen – an experience I recommend.
For years we used to go to Ursula and Gabrielle’s Coffee and More in Ostuni, and now they’ve opened this truly inspired place. Come hungry because you will be stuffed full of the best things you might ever taste in Italy. This one you should not miss.
The only restaurant we went to twice last time. It was literally so good. Find it in the historic center of Ceglie.
Come a CasaVisit
The best panzerotti (similar to small calzones). Holy moly – the BEST! Find it in Fasano.
Great little spot for wine or lunch with amazingly fresh food in Ostuni.
Pescheria 2 MariVisit
A great place in Savelletri for oysters and wine for aperitivo or lunch.
Taverna del PortoVisit
Wonderful seafood in Tricase.
A spot with a bay where you can wade in crystal clear waters with lots of locals.
Spiaggia di Punta Pizzo
A wild local beach with no beach club – we traveled there by boat.
My favorite beach to this day is just the most sublime little cove and a wonderful spot for a swim.
Ceglie Messapica and Cisternino
These towns have cool flea markets on the third Sunday of every month. I found a bunch of amazing vintage lace in Cisternino that I’m using for a new Eskayel pattern.
East Coast Drive
We also love driving all the way down to the tip of the boot where you can see the Adriatic and Ionian Seas meet. It’s an epic wander with wonderful places to stop and explore.
Cala Sala (Port’alga)Visit
A great place to go for a swim. I’d love to rent one of the apartments here at some point.
Cave of PoetryVisit
Amazing cave and grotto not too far off the main road. A bit touristy but nonetheless spectacular. You can also swim here.
One of my favorites. Take the cliff hike overlooking the sea and you’ll come to a grotto that’s a giant hole in a field. We felt like we just stumbled upon something magical without another soul in sight. It’s gorgeous!
It’s so worth stopping here. The two sea pools below the restaurant Taverna del Porto are great for a summertime dip.
Where the Ionian and Adriatic join – you can see a line where their currents cross.
Inspired by Puglia
Puglia has been an inspiration for so many Eskayel patterns over the years. For instance, photos I took of the steps and tiny winding passages in the famous white walled towns of the region were the origin of our La Scala and Portico designs. The Adriatico rug was inspired by local vegetation and traditional frame motifs. In the Sky Arc rug you can see a nod to Puglian architecture, while the Through the Grove rug and Domenica rug and wallpaper pay homage to the arid palm-lined coastal cities.