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by Manuela Vitulli

Apulia, in the heel of Italy’s ‘boot’, is a land steeped in history, culture and natural beauty.

Although the region is often commonly associated with having crystal-clear seas and irresistible local cuisine, which is all true, it also has so much more to offer. Its most treasured gems include a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
This article will take you deep into a unique journey through the most iconic and significant locations, giving Apulia its special place on the world map of cultural and natural heritage. To embark on this itinerary, all you have to do is get to Bari or Brindisi (easy to get to from Munich) and then continue by car to experience this unforgettable Apulian road trip.

Castle del Monte, following the footsteps of Frederick II of Swabia

Situated on a lonely hilltop in rural Apulia, Castel del Monte is a masterpiece of medieval architecture. Built during the XIII century by order of Fredrick II of Swabia, the castle is octagonal and one of a kind, boasting eight towers that rise against a blue sky. Its unusual structure, when viewed from afar, looks like a crown dominating the landscape. Castel del Monte embodies an exceptional combination and fusion of cultures of different periods, and is a symbol of power and grandeur. Last but not least, the numerous mysteries and legends that have always surrounded this place make it all the more fascinating. Get the full story with an expert guided tour.

The Sanctuary of Saint Michael the Archangel in Monte Sant’Angelo

Embedded deep in the heart of Mount Gargano, the Sanctuary of Saint Michael the Archangel in Monte Sant’Angelo is a sacred place of pilgrimage and a site of spirituality. Built inside a holy cave, this sanctuary has for centuries attracted pilgrims from all over the world, seeking protection and the blessing of Archangel Michael. The mystical atmosphere, along with the breathtaking view of the coastline, make this place unique and evocative. National Geographic has declared the cave of Saint Michael the Archangel to be one of top ten most beautiful holy caves on earth; yet another reason to pay it a visit.

The ancient beech forest of the Foresta Umbra

The Foresta Umbra in Monte Sant’Angelo, Gargano, with its ancient beech forest, is an uncontaminated green space that you might not expect to find in Apulia, yet it covers an expanse of 15,000 hectares and is a veritable green lung for the whole region. In 2017, UNESCO declared Foresta Umbra’s ancient beech forest a World Heritage Site for continuing to keep a natural balance despite the presence of humans. It is well worth dedicating a whole day to exploring the forest and enjoying its benefits.


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The Trulli of Alberobello

Last but not least, one of the undisputed icons of Apulia: Alberobello. The famous trulli, traditional houses with conical roofs built of stone without the use of mortar, were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. This honour was bestowed on them due to their architectural characteristics, testimony to the ancient technique of dry-stone construction that dates back thousands of years in the Mediterranean basin.

Today, there are about 1500 trulli in Alberobello and wandering along the small paths between them is like entering a dreamland of fairy stories, where history merges with the enchanting countryside.

Since good food is also a must on a cultural trip, here are three unmissable specialities to enjoy along the way: burrata, an irresistible mozzarella cheese product with a soft creamy Stracciatella core, originating from Andria (in the municipality of Castel del Monte); the local bread and caciocavallo podolico semi-hard cheese from Monte Sant’Angelo; and, finally, orecchiette Pugliesi pasta. These are just a few of the many delicacies that Apulia brings to the table.

E​xplore the UNESCO heritage sites in Apulia.

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