Monday, May 20, 2024

The Eco Travel Guide to Puglia: Sustainable Paradise in Southern Italy

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Guides to must-visit destinations in Italy’s southern “boot heel” region are all over TikTok and Instagram right now, and it’s no surprise. Puglia is a dreamy coastal getaway brimming with sustainable options.

Travelers all over the world are falling in love with Puglia. It’s home to stunning scenery, including olive groves and more coastline than the rest of Italy, unique architecture — trulli, aka dry stone huts with a corbelled roof, are common in the region — and there’s plenty of fascinating history to boot.

Puglia is also a paradise for the sustainable traveler, with many eco-focused hotels and plant-forward restaurants to choose from as well as protected natural areas to explore. If you’re planning a vacation to this highly sought-after spot, find some of our highlights below.

Where to stay

Fans of slow travel will feel perfectly at home in Puglia, where the boutique hotels are plentiful. These exceptional standouts mix sustainability with elegance and lots of quiet space to soak in the views.

The Salina Hotel.

The Salina Hotel

Located in the city of Taranto, The Salina Hotel — which is powered by solar panel-generated electricity — is a haven of luxury and sustainability just a short drive away from the stunning Puglian coastline. It boasts a roof garden with a swimming pool and unmatched views across the city, modern suites, and sophisticated stone-effect interiors.

Lama Di Luna hotel.

Lama Di Luna

Those who love a mix of luxury, history, and nature can’t go wrong with a stay at Lama Di Luna in the commune of Andria. The Masseria — which is powered by solar panels — has been renovated with natural materials, as well as some original fixtures from the 1800s, and is set against 210 hectares of stunning landscape, complete with organic olive groves, almond groves, vineyards, and cherry orchards. 

Masseria Alchimia hotel.

Masseria Alchimia

In the picturesque Puglian village of Savelletri, you’ll find Masseria Alchimia and its stunning garden of centuries-old olive trees. Thanks to the carefully curated art in each of the rooms, the Masseria is charming yet contemporary. And it’s sustainable, too. According to its website, the hotel is “a place in close contact with nature.” It adds that it “respects the environment [and pays] particular attention to energy saving, to the control of consumption, and to the correct disposal of waste.”

Where to eat

Asking where to eat in Italy is almost as redundant as asking where to stay. There are options in every direction, and these spots emphasize locally grown, plant-forward menus for delicious eats.

Mezza Pagnotta restaurant.

Mezza Pagnotta

This vegetarian restaurant in Bisceglie pays homage to the Puglian countryside with dishes made from fresh, seasonal, locally sourced (and foraged!) ingredients. The plant-forward menu includes entrées like roasted turnips with wild garlic and capers, crisp thistle salad, and mullet ceviche, notes Italian travel publication Italy Segreta. “The Puglian landscape expresses itself in our kitchen in a very free, simple, frugal way. Above all, what we’re trying to do is respect the ingredients,” head chef Francesco Montaruli told the publication.

Food at Agricola Samadhi restaurant.

Agricola Samadhi

It doesn’t get more local than the ingredients used at Agricola Samadhi in the commune of Zillino, because everything — from the extra virgin olive oil to the tomato sauce — comes straight from the organic farm right outside its door. The menu is nourishing, wholesome, and plant-based. “Yes, this food is good,” notes the restaurant. “Because it is made with love, because it is good for your health and at the same time does not harm anyone; to get on your plate it does not exploit other creatures, did not generate suffering, and does not bring pain residues, but joy.”

Ristorante Vegano Piccapane.

Ristorante Vegano Piccapane

If you’re in the mood for some hearty Italian classics (which is a must if you’re on vacation in Italy, let’s be honest), in Salento, you’ll find the rustic Ristorante Piccapane. There, you can tuck into traditional favorites like parmigiana, tagliatelle, and ravioli, all of which are made with organic ingredients sourced from the restaurant’s own garden.

What to do 

It’s perfectly fine if your Puglia vacation consists of lazing at the hotel and only venturing out for meals. But if you want a bit more adventure, there’s plenty of that, too.

Pescolouse beach in Puglia.
Photo courtesy Riccardo Orlando

Head to the Maldives of Italy

The Puglian beaches of Pescoluse, which border the Ionian Sea, have been described as the “Maldives of Italy.” Expect to find stunning clear water to rival the Indian Ocean, as well as soft, sandy beaches and awe-inspiring snorkeling spots. On the other side of Puglia, you’ll also find jaw-dropping beaches that border the Adriatic Sea, including Baia delle Zagare and Torre dell Orso.

a forest
Photo courtesy Steven Kamenar

Visit the Umbra Forest

If you’re after some shade, head to the Umbra Forest, or Foresta Umbra, a protected natural area within the Gargano National Park in Foggia. There, you’ll find protected beech and oak forests, which are home to more than 2,000 plant species. In fact, the Gargano National Park is home to around 40 percent of Italian flora. The trees are also home to several wild animals, including roe deer, boar, wild cats, badgers, barn owls, and weasels.

Grotte di Castellana in Puglia.

Admire Grotte di Castellana

Puglia’s stunning scenery can also be seen underneath the ground. Explore its vast underground system of karst caves when you visit Grotte di Castellana. The caves were formed around 90 million years ago, and today, visitors can take in their natural wonders, including fossils, canyons, and stalagmites.

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