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Summer holidays in Puglia, the must see places

The sun-soaked heel of Italy, Puglia is a place of limestone and silvery olive groves. Picturesque seaside resorts are spread out all along its rugged coastline, and its interior is dotted with sleepy hillside villages. A summer holiday in Puglia is a chance to enjoy not only enchanting weather and scenery, but also Italian culture at its most authentic and unchanged.

Arrival point for most tourists starting their Puglia holidays is Bari, a busy port with an atmospheric, maze-like Città Vecchia, or old town. In its winding alleyways, you can glimpse life going on much as it has for generations - artisans at work, people rolling pasta - while evenings can be whiled away among the bars and restaurants of the Via Mercantile.

Wondering what to see in Puglia as you set out from Bari? A few miles south east is Polignano a Mare, which boasts a Blue Flag beach situated among spectacular rocky cliffs, and Monopoli, whose sheltered, curving sands make it one of the most appealing of Puglian beaches. North West of Bari is Trani, which has an historic town centre, a fortress and a distinctive pink Duomo dating from the 11th century.

Further North West still is the Gargano Promontory - the spur on the boot of Italy. Here you'll find fishing villages clinging to rocky bluffs and sheltered, sandy coves ideal for sunbathing. A popular spot for anyone on their holidays in Puglia is sure to be the village of Mattinata, which has a pristine beach and restaurants right on the edge of the sea. Perched high up, the whitewashed town of Vieste has a fine fortress and great seafood. Meanwhile, Peschici offers sweeping views to the north, and makes a good base for excursions into the nearby Foresta Umbra national park, an attractive destination for campers and hikers.

No summer holiday in Puglia is complete without a trip inland to Alberobello to inspect its collection of Trulli, little houses with pointed roofs, which are unique to the region. Then you might want to head down to Salento, the very base of Italy's heel, to the family-friendly beaches of Gallipolli and Otranto, a walled town with an imposing castle that inspired a famous Gothic novel by Horace Walpole. Lastly, lovers of Italian architecture shouldn't miss Lecce, known as "the Florence of the south" for its wealth of exquisite baroque churches and palazzos.