If you are looking on a map at the "heel" of Italy, Puglia is to the southeast on the Adriatic Ocean (although a small part of its western side borders the Ionian Sea as well). Stretching from Leuca in the south up to the islands of Tremiti, Puglia includes the cities of Bari (its capital), Lecce, and Taranto. The region is known for its cuisine, Roman ruins and its several languages, some of which are extremely rare. Adding to the delightful oddity are cone-shaped houses called trulli that can be found in its Itria Valley. Puglia MICE venues capitalize on both the culinary and the cultural wealth of the area.
Puglia has two main airports, Bari Karol Wojtyla Airport (BRI), named in honor of the real name of Pope Jean Paul II, which has service to all over Italy, as well as to Berlin, Dusseldorf, London (Gatwick), and Paris, among other European cities, and Brindisi-Salento Airport (BDS), in the Adriatic Sea port of Brindisi, 30 miles northeast of Lecce and which has less service but does go to the major Italian cities and to such spots as London-Stansted (STN) on low-fare carriers.
Chief among MICE venues in Puglia is Bari's Centro Congressi Fiera de Levante, which, following a 2012 renovation, now has 24 meeting and function rooms and a maximum capacity of 4,000 persons.
MICE hotels in Puglia begin with Bari's 123-room Villa Romanazzi Carducci, which has 16 meeting rooms, half of which are in the 1895 Villa Rachele, as well as two function rooms for 250 and 400 persons, respectively. Not in Bari but close to the airport, the 231-room Parco dei Principi Hotel Congress & Spa has nine meeting rooms and a larger space for up to 500 persons. In Lecce are the 273-room Grand Hotel Tiziano e dei Congressi, which has a conference center with 13 meeting rooms and space for groups of up to 1,000 persons, and the 150-room Hotel President Lecce, which has nine meeting rooms, the largest able to host 450 persons.
Meanwhile, for a taste of the Italian countryside close to Taranto but closer to the circular, inland sea of Mare Piccolo, try the 48-room Relais San Pietro Histo Mare Piccolo, a glorious, glorified farmhouse with four meeting rooms, a spa, and a function room inside a 1st-century church with frescoes.
Unique MICE venues in Puglia include the Palazzo Guastamacchia, an 1840 palace in the small city of Terlizzi, which has a large, covered terrace with an iron gazebo and has space for 200 persons and also 37 guest rooms; Borgo Ducale, or Doge's Palace, by the small town of Tuturano, a large space with white, Colonial-style buildings), a central pool, lots of grass and room for 1,200 persons, including a Winter Garden for 200. Close to the village of Corato, near Bari, the equally spacious, equally palatial Corte Bracco dei Germani, which has lush gardens, an 18th-century monastery, space for 500 persons, five meeting rooms, and five guest rooms. In Lecce memorable function spots include the Chiostro dei Domenicani, a glorious, religious space from the year 1400 with pillars and courtyards that can be lit up and have room for up to 1,000 persons; while to experience the trulli houses, head to the north of the city to the Ristorante Sette Trulli, the Restaurant of Seven Trulli, which indeed incorporates seven trulli and has private function and dining rooms and a local, Italian menu.
Puglia, like most regions of Italy, has wonderful food and restaurants able to cater to groups. In Lecce is the Osteria del Pozzo Vecchio, which has a local menu, occupies a converted house from the 1950s and has old touches including a private dining room that doubles as a museum, while in Bari there are the L'Osteria del Borgo Antico, which has local cuisine, is in the centre of the city and has numerous old touches and cellar dining spaces, and Al Pescatore, which has a large wine cellar and, as the name suggests, specializes in fish and seafood. In Alberobello, the heart of trulli country, is L'Olmo Bello, which occupies several of these unique structures, has vaulted, stone, private dining rooms and room for events of 100 persons, and, much along the same lines, that is, equally wonderful, Trullo d'Oro, which also has typical dishes of the region.