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We booked our summer holiday to Puglia through our travel partners Original Travel. Read on to hear all about their incredible tailored service, and for our top tips for an unforgettable holiday in Puglia, Italy's best-kept secret!
When looking for our summer holiday this year, it was a no-brainer to turn to our travel partners, Original Travel. We were looking for a hassle-free holiday; organised by someone who we could trust to plan our perfect itinerary for a week of good food, great hotels, sunshine and Aperols. We wanted something tailor-made to suit our tastes, something which Original Travel specialise in.
From our first enquiry, our dedicated Italian advisor was on hand to give us an abundance of options for us to consider. From different types of hotel (we are definitely more of a boutique hotel kinda couple) to ideas for day trips and restaurants not to be missed - their knowledge of the area was second to none. After one phone call we were hooked on the idea of this Southern-Italian foodie paradise and confirmed our booking.
It turns out that the exceptional service from Original Travel didn't stop there, in fact it had only just begun. We received a detailed itinerary with all our information clearly listed out, as well as a local dossier of additional restuarants, bars, cultural attractions and beaches that we could consider adding into our itinerary. We were totally spoilt for choice and it all felt truly authentic - we weren't finding their recommendations on any other obvious travel websites or books. They only ever recommend places they have personally been to.
Arriving at Gatwick, we received a phone call from a charming man named Paul, who met us off our train and scurried us through the hoards of crowds to a secret squirrel part of security where we were fast-tracked through in an instant. Smug doesn't come close to describing our faces as we peered back at the hour long wait for security... Paul then directed us to the lounge, where we were treated to free-flowing fizz and a delicious cooked breakfast. A few glasses down we were certainly in the holiday spirit!
Arriving in Puglia, we picked up our pre-arranged hire car (a delicious top-spec Fiat 500, of course) and then received a welcome Whatsapp from Sophia, our local, on-the-ground concierge. Sophia lives locally and was on hand to take our holiday experience to the next level. She knew the area inside-out and was at our beck and call for any questions we had throughout the duration of our trip; including making last minute changes to our itinerary following on from some pretty biblical thunderstorms for the first few days (not the best days to be lounging on a beach...), recommending the best local restaurants and securing us a table last minute (that pizza will live in our memories for the rest of time), and even tipping us off about the best local haunts that other travellers didn't know about. A totally priceless addition to our holiday, we're not sure if we can ever holiday without a local concierge service again! It truly made all the difference to the smooth-running of our holiday.
The first half our trip was spent in the charming old town of Monopoli. Situated on the coast, this town is an absolute must if you visit Puglia. Full of winding cobbled streets filled with hanging florals and foliage, every corner was a total feast for the eyes. We were staying in a delightful boutique hotel, Don Ferrante, with the most glorious sea views and a totally-to-die-for roof top restaurant overlooking the Adriatic sea. The staff, the food, the location - everything was perfect and we couldn't have asked for more. Original Travel weren't wrong when they said this would be right up our street.
Despite some stormy weather for our first few days, we made the most of exploring the area - tootling up the coast to neighbouring town Polignano a Mare and getting lost in a rabbit den of gorgeous cobbled winding streets. Puglia is famed for it's mouthwateringly fresh food, specifically seafood and vegetables and it certainly lived up to the hype. We ended up planning our days around our lunches and dinners, and enjoying all the local award-winning wines of the region - a winning formula for a flawless holiday if you ask me. A stand out restaurant in Monopoli was in a quiet square in the heart of the old town, called Piazza Palmieri. Absolutely stand out fresh fish and homemade pasta and a bottle of red that oozed aromas of cherries, vanilla and dark chocolate.
After a few days in the old town of Monopoli, it was time for us to move onto our next hotel, Canne Biance, about 25 mins down the coast in Torre Canne. If we're honest, we were less excited about this hotel; thinking it might be a bit 'big' for us, and maybe a bit modern. We couldn't have been more wrong if we tried - we could have happily stayed here forever. We were SO pleased we followed the advice of Charlotte. On arrival a valet took care of the car and we were ushered inside for a welcome drink - my kind of arrival. The decor of this hotel was like something out of a dream - think chic beach with a touch of stylish rustic trimmings; white wash with pale wood with hints of industrial metals to add a touch of tough. We were shown around the hotel and all it's incredible amenities. The swimming pool was the most inviting thing you have ever seen, overlooking the sea with a tiny gate leading us to our private stretch of beach. We were then introduced to the spa. My goodness. We'd never been a spa kind-of-couple but we ended up in this spa every afternoon, because, you-know it's tough choosing between a sunlounger next to the pool or on your private stretch of beach...
Sundowners were a real highlight here, with a whole menu card dedicated to specialist gins and bespoke, matching tonics and garnishes. A goblet of gin really was the perfect way to start an evening. It was here that our Puglian culinary adventure really came to life. We ate like royalty. So let's start with lunch - we found two of the most insanely amazing lunch spots which have given us memories that we will cherish forever. The first, a small osteria in port-side town Savelletri called Osteria de Porto. We loved it so much we went twice in two days, and ordered exactly the same thing. It was THAT GOOD. Run by a husband and wife team, this is the epitomy of flawless Italian cooking with bundles of love and passion thrown in for good measure. Go here, sit outside on the sunny terrace and order the pistachio and red prawn ravioli - your havianas will be knocked off your feet. The second stand out lunch spot was found by complete accident. Quickly realising the sheer amount of food and drink we were eating at every meal, we went searching for a small snack lunch and came across what is essentially a fast food truck, or perhaps more realistically a street food truck - Italian style. La Baia, popped up next to the harbour with a few small seats next to it serves the freshest grilled octopus (polpo), caught that morning and grilled in front of you and served in a bun with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Italian simplicity at its best.
We didn't think we could top our lunches, but our planned dinners really gave them a good run for their money. Massera il Frantono was a short drive away and was a feast for the eyes and the belly. Set in the courtyard of a beautiful Italian farmhouse, all dinner guests were to arrive at 7.30pm sharp to be served a 9 course feast of local specialities and home-grown ingredients, matched to perfection with Puglian wines. We had no idea what to expect, but every dish blew us away. If you're going to Puglia you absolutely must book this, it really is the most glorious experience.
Next was an Original Travel recommendation, Già Sotto l’Arco, a short drive away to a neighbouring town called Carovigno. Family run, this is Italian fine dining at its best. A short but exquisite menu had us marvelling at what to choose, we wanted everything. Full of sickeningly stylish Italians, the setting was appropriately grand with gold panelling on the walls and marble everywhere. The owner was a delight and helped us to disect the extensive wine list, we ended up choosing a bottle of his own wine which was so good we bought another bottle to take home.
Our final night took us to the beautiful town of Ostuni - known as the White City for it's stunning white buildings. We kicked ourselves for discovering this town on our last night - it's a beautiful town that deserves at least one full day of exploring, despite the hoards of tourists (something we hadn't really encountered anywhere else on this trip). None the less, we wondered the streets and soaked up the atmosphere of Italian children eating their gelatos and playing in the main square, and found our beautiful final restaurant of the holiday. L'Osteria del Tempo Perso is dramatically set in a cave and serves absolutely delectable Italian fare, making it the perfect way to end this foodie getaway.
All in all, this really was a brilliant holiday. Organised to perfection by Original Travel, which certainly enabled us to truly relax. We couldn't recommend the Original Travel service highly enough; so if you're looking for the perfect partners to plan your honeymoon for you then look no further - you won't find a better company for a tailor-made experience.