Apulia or Puglia in the extreme south east lies along the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea (or Gulf of Taranto) coasts. The region around Taranto was settled by exiled Spartans during the Greek period. The port city of Brindisi was the end point of the Roman Via Appia, the road that linked the empire. The Normans settled in the region later, as is evidenced by the large Normanesque churches of which the Basilica of San Nicola is a supreme example. Castles from the Swabian King Frederick II are still found in the region as well as the many buildings left by the Spanish.
The little town of Alberobello is in the centre of the Trulli area in the Itria Valley, with their characteristic circular houses with conical roofs. These houses are made from whitewashed stones, put together without mortar and the roofs are made from concentric rows of grey slate, called "chiancarella". Some of the roofs are often topped with pinnacles painted with astrological or religious symbols. Alberobello is now very much a tourist town, but still a unique sight. Now most Trulli houses are used as boutiques, souvenir and wine shops, and the Hotel dei Trulli is a large complex of these unusual dwellings.
The Basilica of San Nicola in the Adriatic port city of Bari was built in the 11th century on the foundations of a Byzantine palace to house the remains of St Nicholas, who had been the bishop of Myra, in Lycia, present day Turkey around 300 CE. When Myra fell to the Muslims, mariners of Bari, who considered him their patron saint, stole half of his remains and took them to their city. St. Nicholas apparently performed many miracles and is also patron saint of travellers, bakers, merchants, and especially children. One of the most popular saints of the Christian church, he is still very much honoured in the Netherlands where men in bishop's robes play the role of a benevolent saint who visits children and gives them presents on 5 December, St. Nicholas eve. Dutch immigrants took this custom to America where "Sinterklaas", as he is called in Dutch, evolved into "Santa Claus". The real saint is well and truly (partly) buried in Bari: his remaining bones were later collected from Myra by Venetian sailors during the First Crusade and interred in the Church of St. Nicholas on the Lido, in Venice.