Who better to plan the perfect Puglia travel experience than a woman who was born and raised there – and has a deep passion for culture and travel.
Clelia Zolli is a native of Bari, the capital of Puglia. She spent much of her life working in the fashion industry in Bari with her family. Fourteen years ago, she moved to the U.S., following her dream of opening the Clen Gallery, an art and design gallery in New York City. Today, she is Pranzo’s representative in our New York office.
A mutual friend introduced Clelia to Pranzo President and Founder Tony DeFilippis. Says Clelia, “I spoke to him about my homeland and how it would be a wonderful place for Pranzo guests to experience.” After touring Puglia with Clelia as his guide, Tony was convinced and named Clelia Pranzo’s Puglia Specialist.
With her unique insight and knowledge of the region, Clelia customizes a unique itinerary for each of Pranzo’s guests, according to the kind of travel experience they are seeking. For some, history is the focus; for others, it’s the artistic and cultural offerings. Although all guests experience some portion of each, and with any Pranzo Tour, dining is always an essential factor.
Clelia makes travel seamless for guests by managing all facets of the trip. She plans not only travel itineraries but special events such as weddings. “Because I know the area so well, I can give guests an insider view of the region and offer them one-of-a-kind experiences, such as taking a cooking class on the roof of a medieval castle.”
Puglia has something for everyone, she states, from centuries-old cathedrals in historic city centers to incredible seaside landscapes and picturesque countryside ornamented with olive trees. To this day, you may see locals dancing the La Taranta, a traditional folk dance to honor the god of music and the sun, Apollo, and the god of wine, Dionysius. “The people of the region are so welcoming and proud to share their home and heritage with visitors,” she says.
Rather than staying in hotels, Clelia recommends guests stay at a Masseria, a traditional estate farmhouse that has been converted into a resort. “Pranzo guests are amazed when they arrive to see a 15th century-old building in a beautiful natural setting, totally renovated with a pool, golf course, and all modern amenities.”
Of course, food is a focus of every Pranzo itinerary. Clelia shares her knowledge of the traditional dishes of Braciole al Ragù, a beef roll-up, or the delicious Ricchette, fresh homemade pasta. Fresh seafood is also prevalent, including a unique and traditional Apulian dish made of rice, potatoes, and mussels.
According to Clelia, there are some sites that no one traveling to Puglia should miss, including Alberobello, the UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its thousands of trulli, or small cone-roofed stone white-washed dwellings which date back to the middle ages. “You feel as if you are walking through a medieval fairy tale,” says Clelia.
When asked why traveling with Pranzo is the best way to see Puglia, she states, “Guests choose Pranzo because we provide more than just a vacation; we offer a meaningful experience.” With Pranzo, guests are pampered and can go at their own pace, but they also have the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the culture and customs of the region, which many find life-changing.