Archive for June, 2014

Puglia for the tennis-loving traveler

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

I’m always learning something new about Puglia. I’ve learned a lot about the region’s history and culture, beaches, food and wines, art and architecture, and just interesting people and places, particularly as they appeal to travelers. But until today I did not know that Puglia is also gaining a reputation as a high-end tennis destination.

The news site Telegraph Travel posted an article about “The Best Tennis Holidays” that begins, “Inspired by Wimbledon? Here are ten of the best tennis holidays, in Britain, Europe and the Caribbean.” One of the featured destinations is the Borgo Egnazia resort in Fasano, a member of Leading Hotels of the World.

Telegraph Travel reports that “There are four well-maintained courts at Borgo Egnazia resort on the coast of Puglia, where the Sunball Tennis School organizes group and private coaching and weekly tournaments for adults and children. The resort has several swimming pools, an excellent spa and an 18-hole golf course.”

The Borgo Egnazia website states: “Playing tennis outdoors is even more fun when you’re surrounded by the ancient olive trees and can feel the sea breeze and warm Apulian sun on your face.” I can vouch for the attractiveness of this resort, as we visited it a few years ago.

The resort features four tennis courts (two synthetic grass courts and two professional hardcourts made of acrylic resin) and an on-site team of professional instructors. It also organizes clinics led by international tennis champions.

And take a look at this page to see how much publicity Puglia and Borgo Egnazia in particular have been getting in the media worldwide.

Photo courtesy of Borgo Egnazia

Filmed in Puglia: “Walking on Sunshine” opens this week

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

If you haven’t visited Puglia, here’s your chance to take an “armchair trip” to the region at your local movie theater. The Hollywood Reporter has posted a review of the British musical film “Walking on Sunshine,” which is due to be released in the U.S. this week. Filming was done entirely in Puglia, so even if the story doesn’t interest you, the scenery will:

“The cinematic equivalent of a hot summer’s day spent at a Mediterranean seashore, ‘Walking on Sunshine’ will leave audiences feeling warm, cheerful, sticky from too many sugary treats, and slightly blinded by all the blazing colors…Shot and set in Italy’s Puglia region, whose film commission should be well pleased with the movie’s advertorial properties…” (Copyright © The Hollywood Reporter)

If you’re interested in learning more about Puglia as the setting for the film, check out this article from The Sunday Times of London. Here’s a little piece of it:

“Puglia, Italy’s sun-drenched heel, has long been a well-kept secret. Jutting into the translucent turquoise waters of the Adriatic and Ionian seas, it is a region of breathtaking seascapes and silvery carpets of olive groves, of whitewashed hilltop towns and locals hawking plump vine-ripened tomatoes and homemade olive oil in the noisy bustle of the weekly markets…” (Copyright © The Sunday Times)

For even more details, just search “Walking on Sunshine Puglia” and you’ll find plenty of articles, YouTube videos, reviews and other links to the movie and region.

Press release: UNESCO and Seabourn cruise line partner for World Heritage Site protection and sustainable tourism

Friday, June 20th, 2014

UNESCO and cruise operator Seabourn have announced a six-year, $1 million partnership agreement aimed at reinforcing protection for UNESCO World Heritage Sites and promoting sustainable tourism, it was reported in a press release issued by UNESCO. Seabourn currently includes over 150 UNESCO World Heritage sites in its itineraries.

(Note: Seabourn’s shore excursions out of the Puglia port of Brindisi feature the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the trulli houses in Alberobello, as well as visits to Lecce and private tours of the region that could include the region’s other two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Castel Del Monte in Andria and Gargano’s Monte Sant’Angelo.)

The partnership will work to foster wider support and understanding in the travel industry and among travelers, for UNESCO’s mission of identifying, safeguarding and promoting World Heritage sites. Seabourn has committed to providing $1 million for UNESCO as part of this agreement, in support of the UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Program.

Under the new alliance, Seabourn will offer passengers visiting UNESCO World Heritage sites deeper insight and behind-the-scenes information about these properties, and exclusive enhanced content on World Heritage. In addition, fares for Seabourn excursions that include World Heritage sites will include a donation to UNESCO’s World Heritage Fund.

“With this partnership, UNESCO and Seabourn truly demonstrate our shared commitment in safeguarding World Heritage by promoting sustainable tourism at these iconic destinations,” said Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO. “The partnership enables us to reach the travelling public with our conservation message, which is universal in scope and so important to the dialogue and mutual understanding that are needed to nurture a culture of peace.”

“Seabourn is proud to be partnering with UNESCO to promote and support sustainable tourism,” said Seabourn President Richard D. Meadows. “Through this partnership we are committed to providing our guests with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the many World Heritage sites we visit around the world and the important work UNESCO is doing.”

Photo: The trulli houses of Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo by Vito Arcomano/© Copyright Fototeca ENIT

An opportunity for Puglia: Study finds only 13% of Italy’s foreign tourists visit the South

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

A recent study of Italy’s tourism industry by the Italian retailers association Confcommercio finds that only 13% of foreign tourists opt for southern Italy, including Puglia, while fully 44.3% prefer the country’s northeastern area around Venice.

Interestingly for Puglia in particular, Confcommercio contends “it would be a mistake to pursue the industrialization of the Mezzogiorno. Instead, the area’s cultural, tourism and culinary treasures should be exploited.” (“Mezzogiorno” refers to a traditional name for the southern regions of Italy, including Puglia.)

In a nutshell, the latter comments reflect one of the key issues facing Puglia tourism planners. The over-industrialization of parts of the region (consider the massive steelworks in Taranto, for example) remains a hindrance to promoting Puglia as a first-class international tourism destination.

Yes, Puglia remains one of the world’s leading summertime beach vacation destinations, but vital to the region’s tourism future is the preservation and promotion of its important cultural heritage ‒ its unique history, its art and architecture, its foods and wines. Indeed, it is Puglia’s diverse culture that sets it apart from many other destinations vying for visitors and their all-important tourism dollars. Cultivating an appreciation for its culture is a way for Puglia to preserve what international travelers will find worthy of helping to support and protect. After all, how many other places in the world have three UNESCO World Heritage Sites? (Puglia’s are Castel Del Monte in Andria, the trulli houses in Alberobello and Monte Sant’Angelo and the mountain shrines of the Gargano.)

It’s important to pay attention to the research conducted by Confcommercio (its full name is the Italian General Confederation of Enterprises, Professions and Self-Employment). The organization represents more than 700,000 businesses with nearly 2.7 million employees, making it the largest business association in Italy. Its tourism arm, Confturismo, represents hotels, public establishments, travel agencies, tour operators, incentive services, camp sites, tourist villages, tourism-hotel residences, time-shares, bed and breakfasts, youth hostels, beach resorts, night clubs, marinas and boat hire enterprises and meeting planners. All of these entities are dependent on Puglia reaching its potential as an important player in the international tourism industry.

Finding that only 13% of Italy’s foreign visitors venture south gives Puglia’s tourism industry an incentive to work together to broaden the region’s appeal. Of course, most foreign visitors, especially first-timers to Italy, will always head for Rome, Florence and Venice; that’s not going to change. But Puglia has an opportunity to determine exactly what it had that travelers want to see and experience and work in unison to preserve and promote its cultural treasures.

Photo: Castel del Monte in Andria by Jeff Barrington/Puglia Connection

Severe storms hit at start of Puglia’s peak tourism season

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Just as Puglia’s peak summer tourism season is about to get underway, severe storms have struck the region, causing severe flooding and even threatening its summer fruit harvest. It’s particularly ironic, given that the region recently posted significant gains in tourist arrivals and Puglia’s tourism industry was poised for a successful start to the season.

Here’s a report from the Italian news service ANSA:

Severe weather, including heavy rains, has hit the city of Bari in the southern Puglia region, causing flooding that at times reached as high as 1.5 meters

Police and firefighters in the Bari area responded to 40 rescue calls Sunday and Monday, including a request to help a disabled person trapped in a vehicle and another to help a family caught in an underpass when the road became so flooded that their car could not get through.

More heavy rain was expected later Monday, with showers forecast through Thursday. Regions in south-central Italy were on storm alert for the rest of the week.

Italy’s bad weather has cost farmers millions of euros in damages, a professional farmers’ organization said Monday.

“Severe thunderstorms and hail damage in many of the mature orchards are at risk of losing more than 10% of crops,” the Italian Confederation of Farmers CIA said, citing losses “amounted to millions of euros.”

Torrential rain and hail storms have caused crop and structural damage, including field flooding, mud buildup and salt erosion on Italy’s farmland from Tuscany to Lazio and Puglia.

Summer fruit and vegetable farmers, as well as wheat farmers in these regions, and particularly in the South, are concerned that the inclement whether will affect crop quality as well as jeopardize transport and distribution of products.

© ANSA

Puglia beaches receive Blue Flag honors for 2014

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

A total of 28 beaches in Puglia have been awarded the Blue Flag for 2014, in recognition of their strict adherence to international standards for water quality, cleanliness, management and safety.

According to the Blue Flag Program website, Blue Flag is a voluntary eco-label awarded to 3,850 beaches and marinas in 46 countries across Europe, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada and the Caribbean. The Blue Flag works toward sustainable development of beaches and marinas through strict criteria. The Blue Flag Program is owned and run by the non-government, non-profit organization Foundation for Environmental Education.

Blue Flag says beaches are awarded the Blue Flag based on compliance with 32 criteria covering environmental education and information; water quality; environmental management; and safety and services. All Blue Flags are awarded for one season at a time. If the criteria are not fulfilled during the season or the conditions change, the Blue Flag may be withdrawn.

Click here for a complete list of Puglia’s 2014 Blue Flag beaches.

Puglia in the headlines: Tourism, food, wine & a few surprises

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Puglia has been making headlines recently all over the world, as more and more people discover its rich culture, history, heritage and its food and wine.

Here are links to a few articles you may enjoy. If you’ve visited Puglia, you can reminisce and plan your next trip. And if you haven’t been to Puglia yet, what are you waiting for?

A Foodie Trip to Puglia
If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, few places offer more pulling power than plentiful Puglia. The region on the sun-kissed heal of Italy, known for good reason as the bread basket of the country, positively strains under the weight of sumptuous goodies. And that can only mean one thing – a foodie’s paradise … CLICK HERE

Puglia: A Must-Go-To For All Foodies
A visit to Italy’s Puglia region should figure in every foodie’s ultimate bucket list. Urvashi Pant takes a trip to the land of olive oil and all things delicious to tell a tale of non-stop binging … CLICK HERE

Savoring Southern Italy’s “Cucina Povera”
Food-focused travelers can enjoy fine meals from humble ingredients in Lecce and learn how to make such food at a crop of culinary schools … CLICK HERE

Catching the Wave of Wines from Puglia
Amastuola’s Bianco Salento boasts aromas of peaches and apricots and a softy, creamy texture. When it comes to wine, Giuseppe Sportelli describes Puglia as a “philosophy, a landscape, a testing place, an experience” … CLICK HERE

Wine Festival in Brindisi
The curtain opens on the Negroamaro Wine Festival, expected to attract tens of thousands of visitors to Brindisi. Mayor Mimmo Consales says, “The Negroamaro Wine Festival is one of the most important events of the South. We want to prove once again that here in Brindisi there is not only industry, but also culture, gastronomy and tourism as reliable sources of employment and promotion of the territory … CLICK HERE

Torre del Porto, New Crag at Mattinata in Puglia
The Madonna di Campiglio Mountain Guides introduces Torre del Porto, the new crag close to Mattinata in the Gargano Natural Park in Puglia … CLICK HERE

Porto Selvaggio, Italy: Secret Seaside
The best unsung beach holiday resorts in Europe: Porto Selvaggio, in southern Puglia, including information on booking accommodation, transport and where to eat … www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/italy/southernitalyandsicily/10245947/Porto-Selvaggio-Italy-Secret-Seaside.html

Cookery Courses in Italy
Ask the Experts: Sophie Butler offers advice on booking cookery courses in Italy, including locations in Puglia … CLICK HERE

The Real Wine Fair 2014 – Cristiano Guttarolo, Gioia del Colle, Puglia
…I’ve been introduced to Cristiano Guttarolo, a grower from Puglia. His Primitivo Amphora blew me away … CLICK HERE

Puglia Markets New Mozzarella From Goat Milk
Italy has a new food to offer to the world gourmet scene – mozzarella made out of goat milk. The new type of mozzarella is being marketed in local production stands in southern Italy. Members of five farmer associations, in collaboration with Bari University are producing the cheese … CLICK HERE

Flavor Your Life Shares a Recipe for Pugliese-Style Orecchiette
Flavor Your Life, a European Union-funded campaign dedicated to providing the latest in olive oil news, shares a recipe for Pugliese-style orecchiette, a great dinner pasta dish from the Italian region of Puglia prepared with Italian olive oil … CLICK HERE

TIM Expands 4G Network to 55 Localities in Puglia
TIM continued to roll out its 4G service throughout Italy, announcing that the network will be expanded to 55 localities in the southern Italian region of Puglia by the end of 2014… CLICK HERE

Photo: Medieval market in Bitetto. © Copyright APT Puglia

Puglia tourism road show lands in London

Saturday, June 7th, 2014

From Pugliapromozione, the regional tourism organization:

Puglia has landed in London!

After the great success in Vienna, Berlin and Munich, the Puglia Village now moves to London. We are bringing the flavors, tastes and sounds of our land to the banks of the Thames, in South Bank.

Every day from 11 A.M. to 9 P.M. until June 15, we’ll be welcoming you with giveaways, information material, but most of all, with a rich schedule of activities including tasting of traditional Pugliese food, olive oil and exceptional wines.

Get ready to get your hands dirty with our cooking workshops: you’ll learn how to prepare the famous hand-made Italian “orecchiette,” just like our grannies do, or dabble in the traditional pizzica or tarantella dancing to the frenzied rhythms of our folk music.

And on June 11, let’s hit the movies together! The premiere of the exciting musical movie “Walking on Sunshine,” starring Leona Lewis and entirely filmed in Puglia, will take us on the sunny beaches and quaint alleys of Puglia, to the sounds of the greatest hits of the 1980s.

After leaving London, the road show moves to Paris and Dublin. Click here to see the entire “We Are in Puglia” 2014 road show program.

Puglia 2014 tourism off to a fast start

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

BARI (June 4, 2014) ‒ Puglia Tourism has had a fast start in 2014, as evidenced by the data transmitted by 80% of the accommodation facilities of the territory with the online system for the detection of tourism SPOT (System Puglia for the Tourism Observatory), which was introduced in 2013 and is now in full swing. (The news is posted on the website of Pugliapromozione, the regional tourism agency.)

The first four months of the year recorded an increase of about 3% in arrivals, according to what reported by the Regional Observatory on Tourism. Excellent performance of foreigners with an increase of 10% in arrivals compared to the same period last year.

The SPOT system has replaced the previous paper-based procedure of sending data in real time, allowing you to measure the competitiveness of the destination of Puglia and monitor changes/quantitative tourist flows required to process and trigger effective marketing strategies and sales offer regional tourism to meet changes in demand.

In detail, well in January when, after two years of decline, the incoming returns to grow at a rate of 7%, thanks to the slow recovery of the domestic market of the product and the business, and April, which this year included Easter, and which is at 12% of the total arrivals and 31% of incoming foreigners.

The holidays have boosted tourism in cities of art ‒ even children and especially among the tourists repeaters (loyal customers), hikers and newcomers ‒ the open-air tourism , the rites of Holy Week and the beach, despite the need to save among Italian confirms the tendency to choose short-haul destinations, for short periods, featuring all-inclusive and low-cost programs.

Also, there has been a rapid recovery of the hotel sector: There are positive signs (above the regional average of 3% variation) for the hotels and tourist residences.

As for the incoming international visitors, figures for the first four months of 2014 show increases of between 5% and 10% of the arrivals for French, Belgian and American travelers. Strong growth in excess of 10% was recorded for visitors from Russia and Spain.

In addition, according to the monitoring of the National Agency of Tourism ENIT network of major international tour operators in Europe and beyond, Puglia is one of the favorite Italian destinations for next summer with some tour operators seeing increases in bookings up to 20% compared to the previous year. Art, culture, food and wine, and nature continue to be the most appreciated by foreign visitors and always present in the deals of tour operators.

Photo: Porto Badisco, Otranto. © Copyright Fototeca ENIT/Sandro Bedessi