In many ways, Apulia is "Italy" exactly as you imagine it to be: life is stress-free and slow, public transportation is not reliable and opening hours are an approximate estimation. For many first-time visitors, who have only been to more touristic Italian destinations, such as Rome, Milan and the Amalfi coast, Apulia has some unusual local characteristics. As beautiful as the southern-eastern Italian region is, it is better to know some things in advance, to avoid unpleasant surprises and make the most out of your stay.
1. You can’t escape from the coperto
While being banned in other Italian regions, the “coperto” is charged almost everywhere in Apulia. It is a small charge for the table setting/service, which you have to pay extra along with your meal or coffee. On a side note, tips are quite unusual and never expected, so this mentality kind of makes up for the coperto charge. The average coperto prices are 1 Euro for having a coffee or drinks and 2-3 euro per person at dinner or lunch. Most of the times there is a footnote on the menu indicating the additional fee.
2. Food related topics are serious stuff
The cuisine is very traditional and food is a big part of the cultural identity of Apulians. The region keeps getting more popular among tourists, so they are being confronted with different eating habits – frankly they are not too open about it. Ordering bread with pasta, drinking wines in the wrong order, asking for a knife with spaghetti or ordering a cappuccino with a meal might lead to a discussion. In the end you will most likely get what you want, just don’t take it personally when the waiter advises you differently, they only mean it good with you.
3. Pennichella -the Italian version of siesta
In most Apulian towns almost everything will be closed between 13:00-17:00. This can sometimes be quite frustrating, because it can be really hard to find something to eat; in addition, a city stroll is a bit sad in a quiet city. Originally, the Pennichella had two main reasons: firstly to escape the unendurable heat and secondly to allow all workers to have lunch with their families along with a little afternoon nap. While this might be surprising to many visitors, if you know it in advance, it is the perfect time to relax at the beach or go for a picnic in the nature. Also, if you really need something urgently, keep in mind that the bigger chains, as well as the shopping malls are open.
4. You need a car
Of course, you could also reach the most popular destinations by train or bus, but what makes Apulia so special are the dozens of small, dreamy villages and their beautiful raw nature. Driving from one destination to the next, it is highly likely that you pass a place where you would like to stop, so it is best to be flexible. Depending only on public transport, you hardly have a chance to see highlights like the natural pool cave of poetry and beautiful destinations along the Itria Valley.
5. August is holiday season
Avoid visiting Apulia in August. It is the main holiday month for Italians and while many restaurants and stores are closed, beaches in Apulia are extremely crowded with visitors from north Italy. It can also get too hot and when the crowd pushes you through the narrow streets, it is hard to see the magic of this unique region.
If you keep these things in mind and plan your trip with a bit of research in advance, there is nothing in the way for the perfect trip to Apulia.
Title Picture © Credits to iStock/Aleksejs Bergmanis
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