Puglia a ‘cultural desert’? I don’t think so!

Yesterday I read an article in the Daily Mail about Borgo Egnazia hotel and, loosely, Puglia. It made my blood boil to the point that I immediately added an, admittedly waspish, comment. The comment wasn’t posted, nor were my subsequent more moderate attempts but I still feel the need to redress the balance, so I am doing it here. My problems with the article?

Borgo Egnazia is wonderful (and I send clients there). The food, wine and olive oil in Puglia are exceptional. Agreed.
Minor niggles: the hotel is not built out of ‘blinding white volcanic rock’, but ‘tufo’, local limestone, not volcanic at all, as clearly stated in the hotel’s literature & press pack. I have also yet to see anyone in Puglia eat their ‘taralli’ dipped in olive oil – there is often already oil in the dough. Details, I agree.

More importantly though ‘Puglia has only one must see destination’ may possibly be true if your only interest is ‘little white houses with conical rooves’ or ‘Smurfs (ves?}’, but no, you find trulli all over the Valle D’Itria. That gawping at the aforementioned houses is the only ‘cultural activity’ available in Puglia? Mindboggling, written by someone who clearly didn’t set foot outside the hotel (not that I blame him for that – it is gorgeous). He claims that Puglia is a ‘cultural desert’ and that there is not a museum in sight. A fairly narrow definition of culture in my book but if that is what he was really after there are plenty. More to the point the extensive remains of Egnathia, an important archaeological site, are next to the hotel, hence its name, and there is a museum right there which documents the towns inhabitants from the Bronze Age to the Middle Ages as well as exhibits from further afield such as an entire Roman mosaic floor from Taranto.

Extend the definition of culture to include Architecture and Art History? Let’s – there are at least six towns within a half hour drive of the hotel with Norman castles, Romanesque churches, Baroque cathedrals and more. Music, Theatre or Dance,? Yes of course there are plenty of ‘cultural’ events, particularly in the summer months, but also all year round. Not everyone wants this kind of ‘culture’ on their holiday but it seems a pity to spoil an entire region for those who do with sweeping generalisations and a lack of research. I admit that there is a lack of easily accessible, detailed information about what is available written in English, something that hopefully will change, but there is some.

Tourists who don’t care where they are in the world, as long as they are comfortable, in luxurious surroundings and well fed, exist in droves  but that is a personal choice. What is simply wrong is the implication that Borgo Egnazia is well worth visiting, if your budget permits but that Puglia, per se, isn’t.

Whether you come to Puglia for the food and wine, the natural beauty, or the culture, in the broadest sense of the word,  doesn’t really matter. There is something for everyone. Borgo Egnazia is one of my favourite places, it may tick all the ‘luxury resort’ boxes but is in fact intrinsically of the place, and its staff are the first to encourage guests to go out and explore all that Puglia has to offer….

2 thoughts on “Puglia a ‘cultural desert’? I don’t think so!

  1. such a shame the Daily Mail had that vision. I live in London but I know very well the area as I was born there; My name is Frankie and I’m Director of International Projects for Culturanze (www.facebook.com/culturanze), a holiday for culture project in Salento; I may invite that journalist on our second edition next May 😉 Thank you for your words, they are really really appreciated and I’m really interested in your work as well. We may do something together… 😉

  2. It is articles such as what was posted that also make my blood boil, and I know exactly what the writer did to reach such a conclusion.. did not move more than 50 yards from the hotel or even bother to ask someone local where would be the best places to go or to see. I travel to Greece a lot, and the resort I go to in itself is less than 100 years old, relatively no “modern” history, and more so it has been left untouched by us English because there simply is not capacity for them. Now my understanding of Greek is minimal, I try to understand but have a job grasping it, but slowly I am getting there, that is besides the point though, it is up to us as visitors to make the effort to find what a place has, and the easiest way is to ask someone who lives there, it is not rocket science and who better to know than folks that live there, not only that but dare I say you may also strike up a friendship with that person and from there it just gets better. No, the person who wrote the article I feel leads a lonely life and feels pretty cut off from society…. best left ignored in my books, there are far more interesting people out there that really do know the meaning of life, that person for sure does not.
    However, for me then that article has backfired, it has now spurred me into wanting to go there myself and do all I can to prove them wrong, maybe there is a case of the so called reverse psychology going on. Could they be that clever?… hmmm, I think not.

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