Encompassing the "spur" and "heel" of Italy's boot, Puglia is bordered by two seas, the Adriatic to the east and the Ionian (known as the Golfo di Taranto), to the south.
Puglia's strategic position as the peninsula's gateway to the east made it a major thoroughfare and a target for colonisers and invaders. The ancient Greeks founded Magna Graecia in a string of settlements on the Ionian coast, including Taranto, which was settled by Spartan exiles. Coloured by its diverse history, the region holds many surprises, including the fascinating sanctuary dedicated to St Michael the Archangel at Monte Sant'Angelo; the trulli, conical-roofed, stone houses of Alberobello; the strange tradition of tarantism, from which evolved the tarantella folk dance; and the extraordinary floor mosaic in Otranto's cathedral. Then there are the Isole Tremiti, which remain unspoiled by tourism, the ancient Foresta Umbra on the Promontorio del Gargano, and the pleasant beaches of the Salentine Peninsula as the tip of the heel.
Intensive efforts to crank up industry, improve communications and education and so spur economic growth over the past 30 years have made Puglia the richest of Italy's southern regions.
BARI: Capital of Puglia and the second most important city in the south after Napoli. It was an important Byzantine town and flourished under the Normans and later under Frederick II.
City: Bari (BA); Brindisi (BR); Foggia (FG); Lecce (LE); Taranto (TA).