Surface (Kmq): 19362
Density (Inhabitants/Kmq.): 211
Main city: Bari (BA)
Other towns: Brindisi (BR); Foggia (FG); Lecce (LE); Taranto (TA).
Puglia (or Apulia) forms the heel of the boot of Italy and has a long coastline, facing the Ionian and the Adriatic Seas. The region is essentially a flatland with wide arid expanses, terraces and table-lands poor in water. The coastal areas are essentially high and, in the Gargano district, plunge steep into the sea; in other areas, they are sandy or rocky, but usually flat. Puglia boasts one excellent archeological museum, a host of cathedrals dating back to the 10th century, several highly atmospheric Greek and Roman ruins, a gleaming necklace of lively fishing villages, one of Europe's largest forests, a chain of medieval hill towns, and some of the very cleanest beaches and water in the Mediterranean. It also has its own subspecies of architecture, called barocco leccese. Characterised by extremely ornate carvings that cover the entire surface of churches and palazzi, its apex is reached in the delightful little city of Lecce.
The southern portion of the region is a flat and fertile peninsula that forms the characteristic heel of the Italian "boot". In ancient times only the northern part of the region was called Puglia while the southern peninsula was known as Calabria, a name later used for the toe of the Italian "boot". Puglia is mostly a plain but the mountainous Gargano Peninsula breaks through its low coast to the north.
The region was settled by several Italic tribes and by Greek colonists before it was conquered by Rome in the 4th century B.C. As usual, the Romans organised the land into agricultural parcels, built roads and established new settlements. After the fall of the Roman Empire, as with much of the rest of southern Italy, Puglia was held at alternate times by the Goths, the Lombards and the Byzantines. In the 11th century the Normans conquered it and Robert Guiscard set up the duchy of Puglia in 1059. After the Norman conquest of Sicily in the late 11th century, Palermo replaced Melfi as the centre of Norman power. Puglia became then a mere province, first of the kingdom of Sicily, then of the kingdom of Naples and the Two Sicilies. The Turks and the Venetians later occupied the coastline alternatively until 1861, when the region joined the unified Kingdom of Italy.
Social and agrarian reforms proceeded slowly in the 19th century and only accelerated considerably in the mid-to-late 20th century. Industry has expanded but farming still represents the main occupation in the region. Regional products include olives, grapes, cereals, almonds, figs, tobacco and livestock, including sheep, pigs, cattle and goats. Manufacturing includes refined petroleum, chemicals, cement, iron, steel, processed food, plastics and wine. The fishing industry is active in the Adriatic and in the Gulf of Taranto.