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Meet the people who know the place: Dalila in Puglia, Italy

Meet the people who know the place: Dalila in Puglia, Italy

We often talk about our carefully-crafted itineraries, designed so that travellers can experience independent travel, while still knowing that they have a strong arm of support nearby. What we talk less about is the people who live in these destinations and who know them inside out – our adventure specialists, our local experts, our good time gurus. Which is why we have created a series of blogs where we chat with these team members and garner some gems of local info and inspo from them. Meet our Apulian aficionado, Dalila Berlingerio whose passion for Puglia, its prettiest spots and cultural crowning glories, is inspiring and infectious, making her our perfect guide to Puglia. 

Tell us a bit about your background, Dalila

I’m Italian and I’m from Brindisi in Puglia where I spent the first twenty years of my life, studying, working, enjoying family and everything that just comes with being home. After some time living and studying in the UK, I’m back in Italy. At the moment, I’m living in Northern Italy, but I hope to get back to Puglia in the next couple of years. 

What was your journey into the travel industry?

Dalila in one of her happy places in Puglia – on Brindisi beach.

I left Italy to go to university in Birmingham in the UK, where I studied International Tourism Management. Since I was a small child, I have always been fascinated by travelling and everything that was different. A different country, a different culture. It was all so fascinating to me. I think it’s also because my grandfather worked abroad a lot, particularly in African countries, and he used to tell me so many stories about his adventures. It was all such a mystery for me and I just wanted to explore the whole world from a young age. I have only been to Morocco in Africa, which I loved, but one day I hope very much to go on a safari. 

And now you are one of our adventure specialists. Why do you love helping people find the right adventures for them?

It’s a really rewarding job because I love being the person who is selling you your dream. It’s like a 360 degree situation, where you chat with the customer, try to understand what they want, and sometimes it makes me feel as if I’m playing chess. Some people really open up about their lives, their previous trips and so on, and that’s really nice. When they agree to go on a certain trip, that’s a really lovely feeling because I feel like, after chatting with them in depth, I gave them what they wanted. So if you have a dream of going somewhere, it makes me so happy to know that I can help you achieve that.

How have you seen tourism in Puglia transform over the last few years?

In recent years, since COVID onwards, Puglia has had a huge growth in tourism, with numbers we’ve never seen before. It’s been overwhelming in one way because we’re still in the process of creating the right infrastructure to be able to host such huge numbers of people. At the same time, it feels so good because people didn’t go to Puglia for years and when they get to the end of their trip, they are so happy because they didn’t expect it to be so beautiful! 

Where is your happy place in Puglia?

Well, other than my mama’s house, It’s wherever I can see the sea! There is a small beach near my house that I try to go to if I’m having a bad day, and it always makes me feel peaceful and calm again. Apart from the beach, I would say that Alberobello is my favourite place in Puglia in terms of atmosphere, with the beautiful tiny houses and so on. It feels like you’re entering a different world. I’ve always loved it since I was a kid because it reminds me of Christmas as we used to go and see it all lit up and it’s even prettier than usual. 

Meet the people who know the place: Dalila in Puglia, Italy Uncategorized The Natural Adventure
The trulli houses in Alberobello at Christmas.

What does sustainable tourism in Puglia mean to you?

For me, sustainable tourism in Puglia means being respectful of local people. Mainly because not everyone can speak English here. The majority of local people are a bit old school and they’re not used to what’s happening right now in terms of tourism. They are the most welcoming people but sometimes communication might be an issue. And so, for me, it’s important that visitors are very respectful of that and don’t judge the book by its cover.

You can also respect local people by avoiding the big supermarkets, and shopping at local shops, or botteghe. Look out for things that are home-made locally and not processed. That’s going to help the local community so much. And in terms of souvenirs, Puglia has the best olive oil in Italy, so if you are travelling by train, or checking in luggage, you can bring some home with you. Actually, my family and I make our own olive oil on a small scale for us, and tomato sauce too. Our local jams and honey are delicious, and our clients love our Puglian wicker baskets, so leave some room in your luggage for those too. 

Where do you think is most underrated in Puglia?

I would say Lecce is one of the most underrated places in Puglia, and we do have quite a few cycling and hiking tours that finish there. It’s a beautiful Baroque city, just 40mins from Brindisi where I was born, and it has so much to offer in terms of local experiences such as cookery classes or aperitivos. It’s surrounded by wonderful countryside, and I always recommend that guests extend their tour here by a couple of days. The beaches aren’t too far from the city either. 

If our clients are flying into Bari, I also recommend they spend some additional time in Gargano National Park, which is just two hours from Bari, and the northernmost part of Puglia. It’s a promontory, and so it’s surrounded by the Adriatic on three sides, it has pine forests, cliffs and beaches, with tiny villages sprinkled throughout it too. 

The Roman amphitheatre in Lecce, Puglia.

Where do you think is most overrated in Puglia? 

I think perhaps Polignano a Mare is very overrated, a small coastal town between Bari and Monopoli. It became famous because of a Red Bull diving event, but now it just gets really crowded and touristy, compared with the rest of Puglia. 

What’s the best time to go to Puglia in your view?

We have a climate that allows people to travel to Puglia all year around, although some of our trips take a summer break as it’s just too hot for cycling or hiking, and we don’t recommend it. I really recommend April and May, and then June can get a bit tropical with rainstorms. July is the hottest month but late August until the end of November are also wonderful. As I already mentioned, I love Christmas in Puglia, particularly in Alberobello, and we have one trip that’s open for bookings throughout Christmas and the New Year. Although it’s not warm enough to swim at the beaches during that time, unless you’re a fan of cold water swimming of course! 

How should travellers manage their expectations about Puglia, if they need to at all?

I would say, don’t expect public transport to work at all times, especially on Sundays or public holidays, which I always advise our clients to avoid as an arrival day. Unless they want to hire a car or get a taxi, in which case it is fine. In general, the train system in Italy works pretty well, but buses between the small villages can be tricky. 

What do our customers love most about Puglia? 

Everyone loves the UNESCO town of Matera, which is also called the Stone Town as it’s made entirely of stone, and it’s just so beautiful. They also love the weather, the food and they all love the coast too. They don’t expect it to have such great beaches, as other Italian beaches don’t always have the clear, Caribbean-like water that we have, especially down on the Ionian Sea. 

Dalila in Matera, one of the stunning UNESCO sites in Puglia.

What’s your favourite Puglian food and wine?

Oh there is too much to choose from! I would say the charcuterie is some of the best in Italy, especially capocollo, which is our very local type of ham. We have lots of great local cheeses, but I love the fresh, salty ricotta that’s typical of Puglia, and do keep an eye out for fresh homemade mozzarella, because it’s so delicious. One of my favourite comfort foods from home is focaccia stuffed with slowly-cooked onions, which is very typical of Brindisi. Another popular dish with families on a Sunday is parmigiana, which is like lasagne but made with layers of aubergine instead of pasta, and you can get this in so many Puglian restaurants. As for wine, there are so many. But for reds, personally I love a Puglian Primitivo and for both rosé and white, a chilled Cantele is perfect. 

Do you have a fondness for one particular trip in Puglia? 

Yes, it’s the walking holiday from Matera to Lecce because it includes not only my favourite spots but also some of the major highlights in this region. 

What makes you proud to be part of the Italian sustainable tourism sector? 

I feel proud to be able to give an insight into my area which, until recently, has not been very well known. That way they can have the best experience possible in my home region, by connecting them with local people who help build that sense of community. This way I play a small part in expanding the sustainable tourism sector in Puglia and that does feel great really.

And finally, do you have one tour elsewhere in Italy that is still quite off radar and that you, as an Italian, particularly love?

Yes actually, there are a few trips in the Lazio region around Rome that I love. This is because there is so much nature just near the capital that people don’t know about. For example, we have a new walking holiday on the southern section of the Via Francigena, between Rome and Terracina. Most people tend to do the north and middle parts of the Via Francigena and haven’t headed south yet. Another of my favourite, lesser-known trails is the Via Amerina which we also recently developed, and it ends in Rome. So it’s amazing for people flying or getting the train to Rome, and it’s a really beautiful tour, capturing some of the untouched natural heritage that’s so close to our capital. There’s also some fantastic local food and wine in this region, of course! 


If Dalila’s insights have given you an inkling that Italy is calling, you may want to delve deeper into the country as a whole, in the following blogs: Best time to go to Italy, Most underrated places in Italy, Best hikes in Italy and Peter Duncan chills on the Cilento Coast. And reach out to Dalila or any of our adventure specialists for more details.