I was sipping walnut liqueur at an old café in the obscure Italian town of Altamura when I realized that, in the middle of nowhere, I'd just had one of the best food days of my life. And I had figured out why stylish Romans are spending their weekends in Puglia, the formerly destitute but agriculturally rich region in southern Italy. They escape here to explore the beaches and country roads, meandering past vineyards and silvery olive groves to sample Italy's most Mediterranean cooking and to stock up on the boutique olive oils, wines and pickles that testify to the region's gastronomic emergence.
That walnut liqueur capped off an idyllic weekend in Puglia. My friend and I saw the region's most enchanting towns, best restaurants and loveliest whitewashed hotelsand made sure to leave plenty of time to eat.