Early last month, I was mandated by the lovely Inma of A World to Travel to go and explore a “destination in progress” with Destination Makers and eight other bloggers. Italy is a country I absolutely adore (this was my sixth time visiting!), so I didn’t hesitate one second, as I had never been this far south towards the heel of the boot. The destination in question was Margherita di Savoia in Puglia, a rural town on the coast of the Adriatic that boasts the largest salt flats in Europe (and the second biggest in the world). It is located 75 km north of Bari, so you would likely be passing by if you were on a cross-country road trip or a bike trip. And I’m here to tell you: stop over, there’s amazing stuff to see!
Here are a few things that make a detour via Margherita totally worthwhile.
ERMERGERD, PINK LAKES!
I always wondered if those pink lake photos were some Instagram fakery designed to make us commoners envious for not being able to travel to such exotic far-flung destinations. I don’t know about the rest, but in Margherita di Savoia, I can tell you that they are 100% real! And on top of that, they attract pink flamingos.
What the what, I hear you say? Well. The pink lakes in Margherita di Savoia are, in fact, part of the salt flats. The pink basins are the ones at the very end of the evaporation process, and the further afield, the more concentrated, and therefore the pinker. So, why pink? That’s because they are filled with tiny crustacean called brine shrimps which, as their name suggests, thrive is very high level of salinity. They also happen to be very high in beta-carotene, and so, when the water is mostly evaporated at the end of the salt pans, they are in higher concentration, and their color shines through more.
One thing I learned in Margherita that I thought was pretty cool, is that brine shrimps are the reason pink flamingos not only flock to Margherita di Savoia to feed, but also why they are pink. Makes perfect sense if you think about — my skin is pretty orange from eating too many carrots myself. #veganproblems
SALT FLATS ARE COOL
The salt flats in Margherita are Europe’s largest, and the world’s second largest after Bolivia. They were the first I ever visited and I thought it was a really cool tour and a pretty neat photo spot.
Beware that you have to book a visit with environmental conservation organization Legambiente for the salt flats, pink lakes, as well as bird watching. Contact details are at the bottom of this post, and the best time to visit is in June, July, and August. This is where you’ll have the best beach weather anyway.
Such a minerals-rich ecosystem obviously attracts a lot of wildlife, and Margherita di Savoia is a prime spot for birdwatching. Not something I thought I would be into, but it turned into a relaxing activity that I thoroughly enjoyed. The air around the salt flats is fragrant and strangely so soft on the skin — just about the most relaxing and soothing place I’ve been to in some time. While I was there, we were treated to a private yoga class right on the salt flats at sunset. It was pretty much heaven.
BEACHES FOR DAYS
Margherita di Savoia has kilometers upon kilometers of beautiful iron-rich, dark sandy beaches. Most stretches in the heart of the city are privately owned and you will need to pay to get in or to rent a sun lounger. That is not without its appeal, as you are always in close proximity to a spritz Aperol. For something a little more low-key and to hang with the locals, grab a bicycle and ride a few kilometers north to Fenicottero Rosa Beach (close to Torre Pietra) just north of the town center. It’s a bit less manicured than the other beaches, but filled with cool locals and a lot less crowded. Bring snacks, there isn’t a whole lot around.
IT’S PRETTY VEGAN-FRIENDLY, TOO!
Italy has a bad rap for not being the most vegan-friendly destination out there, but Puglia is known for its amazing agriculture and a rather simple cuisine bordering on peasant food, and so fresh vegetables are found everywhere. The local pasta called orecchiette (small ears) is chewy and al dente and yummy and ermergerd I’m so hungry right now just writing this. You’ll find it drizzled with a variety of vegan-friendly sauce everywhere. For a full vegan menu including pizza, visit Canneto Beach 2 where chef Salvatore will oblige to your dietary requirements. They also have a gluten-free pizza menu. He is big on KM-zero, so everything is locally sourced so so amazingly fresh.
Book a visit to the salt flats
Legambiente Margherita di Savoia