Things to do in Puglia to live like a local
Feeling like a local on holiday, experiencing arts and learning crafts to the melody of pizzica, modelling clay on a potter's wheel or crafting papier-mâché? Perhaps while enjoying a delicious frisella with extra virgin olive oil and cherry tomatoes in a masseria or trullo?
Often the best experiences are those that arise from the encounter between people in small production facilities. Puglia is well suited to this type of experiences because artisan activities represent a vital sector in this land. Skilful hands that shape papier-mâché, ceramics, fabric, wood, stone and even wrought iron. And then, what about the territory's numerous agrifood excellences? In Apulia, there are no less than 150 typical agrifood products (PAT), DOP and IGP.
Here is our partial selection of 5 things to do in Puglia to experience it like a local, whether you are on holiday for a short weekend or are in Puglia for a workstation!
1# Taste cheeses and mozzarella in a masseria farm
Mozzarella, burrate, nodini, caciocavallo, canestrello, trecce and scamorze... Puglia's cheese-making tradition has always produced fresh pasta ‘filata’ cheeses for all tastes! Among the things to do in Apulia, a visit to a traditional dairy farm is not to be missed, not only to taste and buy the products to take home, but also to learn about the production processes that are – as in the case of mozzarella – a great fun and family-friendly experience! An opportunity to spend a half-day totally immersed in the heart of the Apulian countryside.
A PERFECT APULIAN EXPERIENCE FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
What makes the experience in the traditional masseria particularly suitable for adults and children is the natural setting in which it takes place. During the experience that we have designed with Loliv, you will be in direct contact with the cows and animals on the farm immersed in the Apulian countryside. During the cheese workshop, you will see how mozzarella takes shape from your hands, literally 'in the dough'. From the formation of the curd to the processing in boiling water of the soft, elastic pasta 'filata', which is then cut by hand (‘mozzare’ means to cut in Italian, hence the name 'mozzarella') and subsequently cooled. Have you ever tasted still hot mozzarella? Here you can, it's delicious!
A generous tasting of other cheeses produced at the farm and homemade Apulian focaccia complete the experience.
2# Pottery experience in Grottaglie
Have you ever modelled clay on a potter's wheel to create a vase or a bowl? Among the experiences not to missed in Puglia at least once in a lifetime is certainly working with terracotta. Pottery in Apulia has an ancient history that has its roots as far back as the 4th century B.C. during the Greek colonisation of Magna Graecia. Techniques and traditions of ceramic work have been passed down through the millennia to this day. With its dozens of workshops and artisan workshops, Grottaglie is still today the most important hub of ceramics in Puglia, the only ceramic centre in the region protected by the D.O.P. label.
A PERFECT ACTIVITY FOR SMALL GROUPS
Entering a ceramics workshop is in itself a unique sensorial experience. . Handling clay and modelling it is a relaxing and highly rewarding tactile activity. This 'pottery therapy' is often offered as a stress-relief activity and is becoming increasingly popular among corporate activities. It is often proposed as an incentive or team-building activity during group events and after meetings.
From the history of Grottaglie’s Ceramics to the production processes, and finally working clay with your own hands at the potter's wheel to transform it into an artwork – who knows – you might discover a hidden talent of yours!
3# Taste quality olive oil in a century-old Apulian olive grove
Among the perfumes that remain most impressed when travelling in Puglia, one cannot miss the distinctive aroma of olive oil, or rather, oils. Because in Puglia there are so many varieties, called 'cultivars' (cultivated varieties), which developed over the centuries thanks to the different characteristics of the environment. Right here, in the ‘heel of the boot’, some of the world's finest oils are produced, with 5 different P.D.O. extra virgin olive oils and the P.G.I. Olio di Puglia. There are 12 million olive trees, covering 60 per cent of Italy's production. Doing an olive oil tasting in Apulia means learning the basics of recognising the quality of an oil and understanding its pairings, but also learning how to name all its facets!
AN OLFACTORY EXPERIENCE FOR ALL
Visiting an olive grove in Puglia means immersing yourself in the most characteristic landscape of this region, within the fields of olive trees delimited by the typical dry stone walls. With a walk through the century-old olive grove, you will learn the characteristics and specificities of this sacred and resilient plant, as well as the techniques of its cultivation and those of oil production. Afterwards, a tasting of quality monovarietal olive oils, followed by an aperitif of local bread and tomatoes will make you appreciate and recognise the organoleptic characteristics of quality EVO oil. During the tasting you will learn to distinguish the best scents and pairings.
4# Modelling papier-mâché in a workshop in Putignano
The ancient art of papier-mâché in Puglia spread during the Kingdom of Naples in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The activity intensified over the following centuries to the point where it still remains one of the region's main artisan activities that finds its maximum expression during Carnival celebrations. With its famous papier-mâché floats, the Putignano Carnival is one of the oldest in Europe. The gigantic floats take shape from 'poor' materials such as paper and flour glue: layers of paper are pressed into skilfully made casts to create decorations, figures, masks and various objects. Among the things to do in Apulia, working with papier-mâché is certainly an original activity that you can do with friends or in the company of children.
THE ANCIENT ART OF PAPIER-MÂCHÉ WITH FRIENDS
Spending a few hours with a master papier-mâché maker in his workshop in Putignano does not only mean learning the basic technique of this ancient art, but also and above all entering a fantastic fairy-tale world from which you will be enchanted. A relaxing artistic activity, recommended to groups of friends or families, and at the end of which you will take home with you the artwork you have created.
5# Dancing the Apulian pizzica surrounded by trulli
Pizzica is a popular dance with very ancient origins, dating back to the pagan rites to celebrate God Dionysus, which landed in southern Apulia, Salento, during the expansion of Magna Graecia. From the same family as tarantella, it was practised for therapeutic purposes to free women from the 'spider' bite. According to popular belief, in fact, this bite brought women into a trance-like state that induced them to dance uninhibitedly. Originally practised mainly by the lower classes and danced in the countryside to relax at the end of the day from hard work in the fields, today it attracts thousands of enthusiasts from all over the world in festivals, parties and improvised dances.
PIZZICA, AN EXPERIENCE FOR COUPLES IN PUGLIA
Taking a pizzica workshop with live music, perhaps surrounded by trulli, is one of the things to do in Puglia with your partner or in a group to rediscover the rhythm and joy of exchanging with each other. You will start with the basic steps of the traditional dance, to the rhythm of the drum's percussion and the notes of the accordion. You will be able to express natural and rhythmic movements with your body, revealing the most primordial and instinctive part of you. A unique experience, for groups or couples, with a generous aperitif to conclude – including friselle, cheese and wine!