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Puglia: The Best-Kept Secret for American Tourists

Francesco Muciaccia tells us about the beauties and traditions of his region and America’s expanding interest in visiting it

Peschici. Paolo Petri /

It’s the land of the trulli, taranta, sun, sea, and uncontaminated nature; plus an enviable gastronomic tradition. All this has been crowned by American tourists as the new queen of Italian destinations. Combining tradition and modernity, Puglia is also emerging as a leader in the marketing of tourism.

With 54,245 arrivals and 148,186 overnight stays in 2017, the United States has become the seventh most important market for tourism in Puglia. A steady and significant growth that adds up to more than 52% of arrivals and 45% of overnight stays. We are talking about numbers, but behind these numbers there lie intense emotions. The excitement that only a region like Puglia can create, enchanting the tourist with its explosive mix of charms. We Italians know those beauties well, they have long been a part of our summers in the Salento with its vivid colors; from the emerald green of the vegetation to the white stone of the houses in pure Mediterranean style, framed by a crystalline blue sea sparkling under the burning rays of an almost timeless sun.

To this physical beauty we can add the excellent wine and the extraordinary cuisine; as well as the many available excursions to visit the pagan and Christian sites that  in Puglia are the evidence of the indelible passage of ancient cultures whose presence is still vividly felt in the streets of both the rural and the urban cities. And then again, the enchantment of the night and the pure fun of the evenings in Puglia, that are young, exhilarating, lively and engaging.

Altamura, la focaccia. / Andrea Ruggeri

These are just apparent paradoxes because in Puglia, the ancient and the modern coexist in a geographical space that always fills the gaze of wonder and stimulates the mind to imagine other worlds. A night of taranta by the sea, steals your soul, makes you feel one with the tumult of the earth freeing your most primal instincts.

It is no wonder then, that Americans–more and more discerning and looking for stirring life experiences that can allow them to leave behind the hectic life of the metropolitan cities–have chosen a land that, especially for the non-Italian, still possesses a virgin charm to be discovered.

In 2018 Puglia has been featured in the US first as the Region of Honor designated by the NIAF – National Italian American Foundation – which every October celebrates the most important representatives of the Italian American community with a very popular gala held in Washington.

Bari, Basilica di San Nicola. Franco Cappellari /

Subsequently, an institutional delegation together with some protagonists of the culture of Puglia in New York marched in the Columbus Day Parade with an exceptional cultural ambassador, the show of “La Notte della Taranta” with its virtuoso musicians and dancers.

2019 has already started with another important date. The Puglia Region has participated in the prestigious Travel Show of The New York Times, where it presented its excellent program of tourism and won the “2019 Award of Excellence” in the “Best New Exhibitor” category. The musical tradition of the taranta and the pizzica was presented on the stage of the exhibitors by the Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino accompanied by wonderful dancers. Brad Kolodny, commercial director of the New York Times Group, personally presented the award, thereby figuratively placing a seal of approval on this beautiful marriage between America and Puglia.

Francesco Muciaccia, in charge of the non-European markets of Pugliapromozione agency, enthusiastically tells us all about the expansion of tourism in Puglia in recent years.

How important is it for the Puglia Region to have such a prominent presence and to be recognized in the American and Canadian markets as one of the new top travel Italian destinations? 

In recent years this recognition has been on the upswing. The American and Canadian markets have become particularly strategic for the expansion of our tourism. The Americans literally fell in love with Puglia, and the feedback we are receiving from our operators is very positive.

What is it about Puglia that is becoming so attractive for foreign tourists and in particular for the Americans?

Americans are attracted by the authenticity of our region, by our sense of hospitality and obviously by our gastronomic and cultural tradition. They still consider the region to be unspoiled for now, a new land to be explored, and this is fascinating. It is something new for them.

Wineries in Salento (LE)

What is the image of Puglia that you are conveying today? And what is the balance between the traditional and the modern of the region?

We respect our traditions, and it is precisely this tradition that closely links the past, the present and the future of Puglia. For example, the pizzica and the taranta have always been highly appreciated and represent all those different traditions, ethnicities and languages that have crossed and met in our region. We have transformed our tradition into a resource, re-interpreting it in a modern way and making it accessible to everyone.

What are your goals and your future projects to make Puglia more and more popular among the North American public?

This year we will have an even more visible presence in the United States and Canada, with various marketing initiatives. 2018 was so successful, with our participation at the Italian Cuisine in the World Week, at the Gala of the NIAF and at the Columbus Day Parade. And this is just the beginning, 2019 will be even more eventful.

Tradition and modernity also stand out in the graphics of the colorful and multimedia website and with the hashtag #weareinpuglia which is becoming a real trend. This is to underline how much the Puglia Region is open to all that is new and its marketing agents like to experiment with the modern communication platforms that are particularly alluring and attractive to foreign audiences. This is a model that should be closely studied and implemented by the other regions of our enchanting Southern Italy.

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