If you've never been to Italy during the summer, or don't live here, or have never worked with Italians, you probably don't know about the month of August. Or, well, of course you know about August, and the fact that it's on the calendar and that it exists, but not about August in Italy. Long story short — it's insane.
Basically, August is vacation month in Italy and involves parades of the entire country heading to the beach or hiding up in the mountains AT THE SAME TIME. For reasons that are beyond me, the Italians pile into their cars on the very same day, to spend hours on the highway together, to go to the same crowded beaches and rub elbows with each other in their already small personal space. Businesses that aren't in touristy areas will up and close for weeks during August so their family can take a vacation, so forget visiting your favorite pizza joint or getting anything administrative (like getting your internet fixed – speaking from person experience) done during the month of August.
So, yeah, we don't love traveling during August, but we love September. The crowds are gone, the prices are lower, the weather is still summery and we still have Labor Day as Americans, so hello vacation, and hi, beach!
I've been wanting to go to return to Greece for a hot minute now, but the prices are always high and it's always peak tourist season and so we just don't. But then I remembered seeing pictures of the little trulli, or small stone huts, in the region of Puglia in Italy and I got interested in how much they might be to rent. Turns out, TRULLI CHEAP! And also, the Greeks once settled in Puglia, so it looked a lot like Greece — win, win! We scored our adorable little trullo for $50/night and our non-August vacation was decided — I just had to break it to my husband that it was going to involve an 8-hour car drive. May have lied about that one a little. Whoops!
Puglia was so unique. We really felt like we were in a whole new country down there, with the white-washed homes, the acres of giant olive trees and cacti and the sandy white beaches (something not so common in Italy). There were tons of cute little towns, like Alberobello, Locorotondo, Ostuni and Polignano a Mare, and I don't even know if I can pick a favorite. We enjoyed some of the best and most unique cuisine Italy has to offer, swam in some of the nicest sandy beaches and trulli used a lot of puns about the trulli. Can't stop, won't stop, not sorry.
WHAT WE DID:
- Trulli enjoyed our time in our trullo house: One of the main reasons we went down to Puglia is because of the little trulli houses. The trulli (the singular of which is trullo) are little stone huts that were originally used on farms to house animals, but later came to be rural homes because they were easy to keep cool. They are super cute and unique and are distinguished by their little conical roofs. Many of them have been renovated and it's very easy (and inexpensive, which surprised me) to find one to stay in! We stayed in a fantastic trullo apartment, Dimore Don Carmelo, where our wonderful host Giuseppe had renovated the roof into a terrace with a picnic table, grill and outdoor kitchen. It was so unique and fun and the place was impeccably decorated with many found objects like pallets, old furniture, rusty bikes, ladders and cable spools. If you've never used Airbnb before, we write about it a lot and are obsessed. For your first time, use this coupon for $34 off!
- Got white-washed in Ostuni: Ostuni was one of my favorite towns in Puglia. We almost didn't go because I really wondered if it was going to be anything special, but the whole town reminded me of a much less touristy Santorini. All the homes are painted white with bright pops of color. We honestly just grabbed some coffee and brioche and then spent a couple hours wandering the alleys and taking pictures. There were lots of beautiful restaurants I wish we could've popped into, had it been lunch or dinner, but we were content to just wander aimlessly.
- Took photos galore in Alberobello: Though it can be incredibly touristy, Alberobello definitely deserved a visit to see its historic streets lined with trulli. We made our way to Via Monte Pertica, the famous street with trulli decorated with white symbols on their roofs, and stopped there for breakfast. We then wandered the alleys and took tons of pictures of the picturesque streets. I would suggest going in the off-season or showing up early in the morning to avoid the crowds, but we were there in early September and it wasn't bad at all.
- Rested our heads in Locorotondo: I received a few tips from friends that while Alberobello was worth the visit, it was incredibly touristy, so it might be better to stay elsewhere. We looked to stay in the Itria Valley, the area where the most of the trulli are, and settled on Locorotondo, and were so glad we did! We stayed on the outskirts of town, which is always our favorite thing to do (you'll definitely need a car in Puglia), but wandered into Locorotondo on our last night to find that it 1) looked a lot like Ostunia, all white-washed, and 2) had a ton of really cute, trendy restaurants, like Docks 101! We wished we had visited sooner.
MORE OF WHAT WE DID:
- Went cliff jumping in Polignano a Mare: Polignano a Mare was also a pleasant surprise to us, a nicely updated but still beautiful historic town with a lot of hip places, like the tiny organic joint, Mint, and Joya, a frozen yogurt place with a lot of refreshing and interesting concoctions (we'll forgive you for missing your daily gelato for this one). But our favorite part of Polignano a Mare was the beach under the bridge, Lama Monachile. It was all pebbles, so bring your water shoes, but it was a blast watching all the local kids climb up to various parts of the cliffsides and yell at each other to jump off. The water was perfect and clear and we had a ton of fun just people watching and taking in the sights along the beach.
- Sunk our toes in the sandy beaches: Italy, and much of Europe, weirdly does not have a lot of sandy becahes, which has always been surprising to me. Many beaches tend to be pebble or rock beaches, so when you find an area where sand beaches are plentiful, you make a beeline there. Puglia is known for their sandy beaches, and some areas are even called the Italian Maldives. We posted up for an afternoon at Lido Bosco Verde near Torre Canne, where it was windy but had perfectly clean sand, turquoise waters, sand dunes and most importantly, bars nearby that served mojitos. We were in heaven.
- Stocked up on Pugliese snacks: I have never met Italians as proud of their region as the Pugliese. They bragged left and right about how they had the best olive oil, how all the olive oil where we lived was just made with their olives (and I believe it, they have a ridiculous amount of olive trees), how their wine was superior, what we needed to eat before we left or else, etc, etc, etc. So yeah, I bought some wine and olive oil, but I also made sure to bring back some handmade orchiette pasta (my favorite version was with sausage, spinach and tomato), yummy fresh Pugliese bread (it looks a bit like sourdough), and my favorite, taralli. Taralli are tiny donut-shape bread crackers that are really simple but SO AMAZING. I wish I would've brought more home. Our Airbnb host also sweetly brought us prickly pear fruit from her garden after I asked about it, which tasted like a mix between a watermelon and a kiwi (with a whole lot of seeds). We scarfed it down. My one food regret is not eating their fresh mozzarella (really, burrata) cheese, which is apparently fresh AF, and usually made within 24 hours of serving.
- Harvested grapes at Bufano Sirose: To end our trip, we participated in a wine harvest at Bufano Sirose Azienda Agricola, an absolutely breathtaking winery sitting in the city center of Locorotondo and extending down the hills and out into the countryside. We picked grapes (which was a little more labor than we had anticipated, and during which our lovely husbands were suspiciously absent). After the harvest, we enjoyed a fantastic aperitivo wine tasting with their rose and primitivo blends, of which I bought four.
Photos and text copyright © Katie Currid, 2016. All rights reserved.