Apulia (/əˈpuːliə/ ə-POO-lee-ə; Italian: Puglia) is a region of Italy in Southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. Its southernmost portion, known as Salento peninsula, forms a high heel on the "boot" of Italy. The region comprises 19,345 square kilometers (7,469 sq mi), and its population is about 4.1 million. It is bordered by the other Italian regions of Molise to the north, Campania to the west, and Basilicata to the southwest. Across the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, it faces Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, and Montenegro, The Apulia region extends as far north as Monte Gargano. Its capital city is Bari.
Apulia is one of the richest archaeological regions in Italy. It was first colonized by Mycenaean Greeks. In the 8th century BC, the Ancient Greeks expanded until they reached the area of Taranto and Salento in Magna Graecia. In the 5th and 4th centuries BC, the Greek settlement at Taras produced a distinctive style of pottery known as Apulian vase painting.
Apulia was an important area for the ancient Romans, who conquered it during the course of wars against the Samnites and against Pyrrhus in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, but who also suffered a crushing defeat here in the battle of Cannae against Hannibal. After the Carthaginians left the region, the Romans captured the ports of Brindisi and Taranto and established dominion over the region. During the Imperial age, Apulia was a flourishing area for production of grain and oil, becoming the most important exporter to the Eastern provinces.
Robert Guiscard set up the Duchy of Apulia in 1059. After the Norman conquest of Sicily in the late 11th century, Palermo replaced Melfi (just west of present-day Apulia) as the center of Norman power.
From the late 12th to early 13th centuries, it was a favorite residence of the Hohenstaufen emperors, notably Frederick II. A number of castles were built in the area by Frederick, including Castel del Monte.
After 1282, when the island of Sicily was lost, Apulia was part of the Kingdom of Naples (confusingly known also as the Kingdom of Sicily), and remained so until the unification of Italy in the 1860s. This kingdom was independent under the House of Anjou from 1282 to 1442, then was part of Aragon until 1458, after which it was again independent under a cadet branch of the House of Trastámara until 1501. As a result of the French–Spanish war of 1501–1504, Naples again came under the rule of Aragon and the Spanish Empire from 1504 to 1714. When Barbary pirates of North Africa sacked Vieste in 1554, they took an estimated 7,000 slaves, and the coast of Apulia was occupied at times by the Turks and at other times by the Venetians.
With the rest of the Kingdom of Naples, Apulia was part of the Austrian Empire from 1714 until 1735. The Battle of Bitonto of 1734 was a Spanish victory over the Austrian forces, and Apulia was held by a branch of the Spanish Bourbons from 1735 to 1806, when Naples became a client state of Napoleon's French Empire until his final overthrow in 1815. The effective French control of the region resulted in the abolition of feudalism and a reform of the justice system.
In 1861 the region became part of the Kingdom of Italy.