The district of Apulia encompasses the southeasternmost section of Italy, the heel of the boot. For many travelers, it's the gateway to Greece from the port of Brindisi. Apulia is little known but fascinating, embracing some of Italy's most poverty-stricken areas and some of its most interesting sections (such as the Trulli District).

The land is rich in archaeological discoveries, and some of its cities were shining sapphires in the crown of Magna Graecia (Greater Greece). The Ionian and Adriatic seas wash up on its shores, which have seen the arrival of diverse civilizations and of the armies seeking to conquer this access route to Rome. The Goths, Germanic hordes, Byzantines, Spanish, and French sought to possess it. Saracen pirates and Turks came to see what riches they might find.

Apulia offers the beauty of marine grottoes and caverns, as well as turquoise seas and sandy beaches. Forests of wind-twisted pines, huge old carob trees, junipers, sage, and rosemary grow near the sea; orchards, vineyards, grain fields, and vegetable gardens grow inland. Flocks of sheep and goats dot the landscape.

In recent years, Apulia has been caught in the eye of the "Albanian Hurricane." Political turmoil and economic upheaval have sent many thousands of Albanians to commandeer yachts, ferries, and tugboats and cross the narrow Strait of Otranto into this region.

The most luxurious and certainly the most comfortable way to visit this rugged district of Italy is to fly from Rome to either Bari or Brindisi in about an hour, where you can rent a car to tour the trulli (beehive-shaped houses) district for about 2 or 3 days. The best places to stay are Hotel Il Melograno and Masseria San Domenico. After time here, take the 2-hour drive to Lecce for 2 days and know that you have experienced the best of Apulia.