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Some of the best winter destinations in Europe lie beyond the ski resorts and Christmas markets. Italy's Puglia region, while boasting no snow or ice rinks, is a perfect Italian honeymoon retreat - a quiet and bountiful region of Southern Italy that offers beautiful landscapes and delicious food.
The crowds of summer
Puglia is a farming region located along the heel of Italy, hemmed in by the Adriatic and Ionian seas. The local crop is a rich bounty of olives, tomatoes, artichokes and other Mediterranean staples, as well as grapes for singular Italian wines, according to Lonely Planet. The combination of pearl white beaches and locally grown crops has drawn in large crowds from around the world during the summer, where travelers can bathe in the clear waters during the day and dine on fine Italian food in the evening. At night, there are concerts, events and parties to keep the good times rolling. However, the region can become swamped with visitors, and the true charm of the region, undermined. Winter restores it.
The food in Puglia receives much acclaim, and winter is the best time to see why, according to The New York Times. In a personal account of her travels, writer Daniel Pergament followed the advice of her Italian friends and visited the gastronomic haven last February. She discovered feasts upon feasts. Even a simple order of antipasti spiraled into a substantial course of stews, meatballs, fish, cheeses and fennel wedges.
"People come to Puglia for the fish, but the truth is that it's fresher in the winter," Luca Montinaro, owner of the small Puglia hotel Acquarossa, told The New York Times reporter. "Pugliese eat better in the winter."
Apart from the crowded tables of food, Pergament found that winter is also a good time to visit the farms of the region, where travelers can find the specialty items normally stocked in stores first-hand. There is no shortage of farms to explore, as Puglia is home to fields of fruit trees, cherries, figs and nuts.
From beaches to forests
Wintertime is still opportune for a walk along the white beaches of the region, even if it is too cold for a swim. A particular standout is Baia dei Turchi, which is home to clear, blue waters. Heading into the hills of Puglia reveal small and quaint towns, such as Cisternino. Travelers may also wish to venture into Foresta Umbra, or the Forest of Shadows. It is an ancient wood of large oaks, yews and beech trees and, according to Lonely Planet, is populated with numerous species of orchids.
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