When looking at a map, Puglia is the region in Italy which makes up the heel of the boot. There are two main airports in Puglia, one in the city of Brindisi and another in the city of Bari. These two cities are about 100 minutes from each other by car or train so check flight options into both airports when booking a trip. Since Puglia is less commonly visited, if traveling from further distances a connection may be required, but there are cities in Europe with direct flights to Puglia (I.e. London, Milan, Geneva, etc.). Puglia is also more commonly visited in the summer, meaning flight options may increase in the peak tourism season.
Brindisi Airport and Bari Airport will be how most arrive in Puglia. However, if traveling from within Italy, train or car are other feasible options to reach Puglia. The cities and bigger towns including Bari, Brindisi, Lecce, Ostuni, Polignano a Mare, and Monopoli can all be accessed by train.
The best way to explore all Puglia has to offer is on a road-trip. For this reason, it is essential to have a car when visiting. Although the larger cities and towns running along the coast like Bari, Brindisi, Lecce, Ostuni, Polignano a Mare and Monopoli can be accessed with trains, some of the smaller towns like Alberobello, Locorotondo, Cisternino, and Martina Franca are difficult to access on public transport. If renting a car is not an option, buses are available, but it will require patience and planning as it will take longer to travel between towns and you are reliant on the bus schedule.
To provide the most flexibility and be able to explore the extensive region of Puglia, plan to rent a car. Since Bari and Brindisi both have airports, many rental car companies have airport and city locations to pick-up / drop-off rental vehicles. Pick the rental company you are comfortable with or provides the best deal.
Pro-tip: complete a thorough review of the car and take photos of the entire vehicle to capture evidence of the vehicle’s state before leaving the rental facility. Some rental car agencies, especially in Italy, may charge the renter for damages upon return. Without evidence, it will be very difficult to challenge the damage claim.
If you would like to limit the amount of time you require a rental car, consider using trains to visit towns between Bari and Brindisi (Ostuni, Polignano a Mare and Monopoli). Then, pick-up a rental car to allow you to venture away from the coast and into the countryside or around the many beaches Puglia has.
If visiting for the first time and looking to take a road-trip throughout the region, plan to stay in a few different locations across Puglia rather than having one home base. With this in mind, it requires some advance planning to determine where you should book accommodations.
In order to decide where to stay, it largely depends how much ground you want to cover and the length of your itinerary.
Bigger cities: Bari (central Puglia with an airport), Brindisi (central Puglia with an airport), and Lecce (southern Puglia)
Smaller inland towns: Alberobello (famous for highly concentrated area of trulli), Locorotondo (hilltop town known for sparkling white wine), Cisternino (tiny hilltop town), and Martina Franca (more authentic quiet town)
Central mid-size coastal towns: Polignano a Mare (more beach vibes) and Monopoli (more harbour vibes)
Unique types of accommodations: Trullo (traditional stone hut), Masseria (fortified farmhouse often turned into boutique or luxury hotels) and a beach coastal location
Bari and Brindisi are the two cities with airports, meaning they are larger than many other towns in Puglia. These cities can be explored, but would not recommend staying in either city, unless it is for the convenience factor of landing late or departing early. However, even if this is the case, consider staying in Ostuni (the small white city) instead. Ostuni is a small town on a hill, which can easily be covered in a few hours, but becomes a great place to stay for one-night after arriving or before departing from Puglia. It sits between Bari and Brindisi, about 60 mins from both by car or train. The train is easy and fast, running about 2x per hour. Tickets can be purchased electronically or at the station. On a shorter Puglia itinerary, both Bari and Brindisi can easily be skipped, but Ostuni is worth a quick stop or overnight stay.
Monopoli and Polignano a Mare are two coastal towns between Bari and Brindisi. Very different from Ostuni, but not too far, both of these towns can easily be added around travel days, either at the beginning or end of your visit. Polignano a Mare has a few famous Grottos, with picturesque views from the cliff sides. Polignano a Mare has more of a beach vibe and is more touristy, while Monopoli is feels more like a harbour town and is usually a second choice to first-time visitors. One night is enough in either, unless planning to spend more time at the beach relaxing. Even so, other areas of Puglia are better known for lounging beaches if relaxing is the driving factor on where to stay.
If you choose to stay in Polignano a Mare, Aquamarea is a hotel along the side of the cove with cute rooms. The hotel hosts are very welcoming, and the terrace overlooking the cove is a prime spot for a drink.
Alberobello, Cisternino, Locorotondo and Martina Franca are four small towns located inland. They are all within about a 30 minute drive of each other and each has a slightly different feel. None of these towns require more than one-night stay, and you would only need to stay in one to see all four towns. Plan to visit two towns on the day of your arrival in the town you are visiting, and two the day you depart.
Alberobello is the busiest and most touristy of the four towns. It is famous for having a large concentration of Trulli accommodations in a small area. Since it is the most well-known, it will feel busier than the other towns, but also has the benefit of more restaurant and cafe options. It provides a great place to stay and would tie for first place as my recommended town to stay. If staying in Alberobello, look for accommodations in the Rione Aia Piccola district. Located only a 10 minute walk from the more tourist area of Rione Monti, Rione Aia Piccola feels slightly more authentic.
Tying with Alberobello for the town to stay in, Locorotondo is another hilltop town. The town is known for sparkling white wine produced in the area. It is smaller than Alberobello with a different feel, but still plenty of restaurants to try. Make sure to stay on the hillside town rather than outside as it is the nicer area. Another plus about staying in Locorotondo is there are many places to do wine tastings and even vineyards nearby to visit.
Similar to Locorotondo, Cisternino is another hilltop town. However, it is tiny and can be covered easily in an hour. It is a quiet town and is nice to passthrough, but would not be the best place to stay. Martina Franca is also a very quiet town, but much larger than Cisternino. If quiet and authentic is what you are looking for, then consider the center area around the church in Martina Franca. It will feel much different and more local than the other towns. For first time visitors, Alberobello or Locorotondo are probably the best options to stay one-night.
In the southern half of the region, Lecce is the biggest city and often considered the Florence of the South. It feels much more like a city than the other smaller towns throughout the region. Lecce can be a great base for visiting some of the various beaches on the SE and SW coast. The Old town city centre in Lecce is the best area to look for accommodations.
Masserias are spread all throughout Puglia and provide a nice and unique experience to stay for one-night. A masseria is a farm, and many in Puglia have been transformed into cute or luxury boutique hotels. They often have pools, and can provide a relaxing spot to stay. Having a meal at a masseria is a necessity, as the food is typically all sourced from the farm itself.
Otranto is one of the southern most towns and is small harbour town. This town is very quiet in the offseason and should only be considered if visiting in peak summer months. Much of the southern region shuts down outside of the summer months, and can feel quiet and even deserted.
Often referred to as La Citta Bianca (the White City), Ostuni is a cute town built on a hill where the homes and shops are all white. The Old Town area is quite small so the town can be easily seen in a few hours. Plan to wander through the winding streets in Ostuni and find a place for lunch or a drink if just stopping through. It is also nice to leave the Old town area and walk away from the city center to find a view of the White City from afar. Plug Piazzetta Martiri dell Foibe – Belvedere di Ostuni into your maps for a nice viewpoint
A beach town in Puglia, Polignano a Mare is known for its coves along the coast. Lama Monachile is a picturesque beach on Grotta Piana, with houses and hotels sitting on steep cliffsides. The beach itself is rocky and small, but many flock to this cove for its location and beauty. Do not miss views of Lama Monachile from the beach itself, as well as from the following viewpoints: Belvedere Terraza Santo Stefano and Pietra Piatta.
Take a walk up and down the coast in both directions from Lama Monachile. Walking with the Adriatic Sea on your left, there are a series of other coves you will come across including Grotta delle Monache, Grotta Stampagnata, Grotte L’Ermita.
Grotta Palazzese is a hyped-up restaurant and hotel which sits along the cove. Although it looks beautiful, it comes at quite a significant cost to enjoy a meal here.
The Centro Storico provides good spots for an afternoon drink, meal or just quick gelato.
Not far from Polignano a Mare, Monopoli is another coastal town. In comparison to Polignano a Mare, Monopoli is more of a harbour town, but there are a decent number of beaches to enjoy if visiting in the warm summer months. Choose to stay in Monopoli over Polignano a Mare if you prefer a less touristic option.
Located just outside the Puglia region in Basilicata, Matera is a frequently visited old town on a Puglia road trip. Matera is unlike any other town in Puglia, with fascinating history it is one of the oldest known inhabited cities. Matera has unique architecture with homes carved out of stone and is known as the city of caves. The town itself can be visited in a few hours, depending on how intrigued you are to walk through the stone streets of the Old Town area.
The Matera Cathedral is a beautiful church from the outside and offers a nice viewpoint over the ancient city. Another viewpoint to visit is Belvedere Murgia Timone.
The town of Alberobello is located inland, away from the coast and within 15 mins of three other small Apulia towns: Locorotonodo, Cisternino, and Martina Franca. Alberobello is known for its large concentration of trulli, which are white stone huts with cone shaped roofs from stone. Most trulli do not have windows and are quite small; originally they were used to house agricultural laborers who helped on the nearby farms.
Rione Monti is a district within Alberobello with around 1000+ trulli in the same area. This area has a more touristic feel, with many shops appealing to visitors. Belvedere Santa Lucia is a nice viewpoint looking out at Rione Monti. The district of Rione Aia Piccola also has a high concentration of trulli, but feels more authentic. Be sure to check out both areas when visiting Alberobello.
Trullo Sovrano is the only trullo with two floors in the town and is now a museum which can be visited.
The town of Alberobello can be visited in a few hours, but provides a good option as a spot to spend a night. Try to stay in a trullo if visiting Alberobello!
A hillside small town, Locorotondo is known for its sparkling white wine. There are not any specific “must-see” tourist points in Locorotondo, but this makes it a really nice stop on a Puglia road trip. It has less of a touristic feel than Alberobello and the town is quaint and cute. Wander through the streets, admire the view over the surrounding masserias, and find a restaurant or shop for a wine tasting.
If staying in Locorotondo, there are vineyards around the village which can be visited for an afternoon. If just stopping through, Vinifera vini & affini is a cute wine shop that will customize a wine tasting to your liking. L’Arco Dei Tipici is another option for a wine tasting.
A tiny, but charming, hill-top village within the vicinity of Alberobello and Locorotondo. If visiting the others, Cisternino is worth a stop through even just to meander through the quiet streets for an hour. Cisternino is known for its butchers and meats, specifically a bombette which is a little meat roll filled with meat and cheese.
Al vecchio forno is a good bakery to find some local foods; buy some taralli and try their homemade focaccia here.
The fourth and final small inland town is Martina Franca. This town feels larger than the others, but also is very quiet. Capocollo is a meat the town is known for, so try to find a panini spot to enjoy the local meat. Caseificio Gentile is my recommendation located near the Basilica di San Martino in the town center.
Otranto is a harbour town in the south of Puglia. It is a quieter town, making for a quick stop if interested in exploring Otranto. The town is quite deserted in the off-season so can be skipped if not visiting in the summer.
Located on the west side of Puglia along the Ionian Sea, Gallipoli is city on a tiny island connected to the mainland by an old 17th century bridge. The city name, Gallipoli, means beautiful city. Explore the historic city centre, catch a sunset from Purita beach or relax at Baia Verde on the beach.
Often referred to as the Florence of the south, Lecce is a bigger city in Puglia, but is well worth a stop. The Centro Storico of Lecce is filled with golden sandstone buildings and stone streets. You can easily get lost in the side streets of the Old town city centre. A few key spots to see in the town include the Roman Amphitheatre in Piazza Sant’Oronzo, the Lecce Cathedral in Piazza del Duomo, and the Basilica di Santa Croce.
Since Lecce is bigger than some of the other towns, consider staying a night here and plan a Cooking class hosted by a local Italian. You can learn how to make pasta from scratch and prepare local Apulia dishes. If available, Paula hosts a wonderful homemade cooking experience: One by one Homemade orecchiette
One of the bigger cities in Puglia, Bari has one of the two airports in the region. The city itself can be skipped unless you are looking to explore when arriving or departing from the Bari airport. It does not share the same charm that other cities in the region have.
Another bigger city in Puglia, also with an airport, Brindisi is similar to Bari and can be visited but will feel more like a busy, densely populated city when compared to other towns in Puglia.
Also a larger city, and less visited as it sits on the west coast of Puglia, Taranto sits between two large bays.
Italy is known for its excellent cuisine, so why not take a class with a local to learn some of the tricks. You can learn how to make pasta from scratch, along with other Italian specialities and enjoy dishes specific to the Puglia region.
If available, Paula hosts a wonderful homemade cooking experience in Lecce: One by one Homemade orecchiette
The Grotta della Poesia, also known as the Cave of Poetry is a natural swimming pool with a beautiful green and blue clear water. On a sunny day, the area will be full of people jumping from high and low cliffs into the water and swimming in the cave. If you want to avoid the crowds on a warm day, go earlier in the day. The cave is fed by the Adriatic sea water and has been ranked as one of the 10 most beautiful caves in the world. When the sun hits the water, it is a gorgeous and unique site.
White sand beach along the coast not too far from the Grotta della Poesia. This beach is longer and has more space for lounging. The town itself is quiet, and completely dead outside the summer season.
Torre Sant’Andrea is an accumulation of rock stack structures, which sit beautifully in the Adriatic sea along the coast. There is a beach nearby, which is a gorgeous spot to enjoy a warm afternoon. If visiting in the off season, the area will be quiet, but it is worth a stop to see the stacked structures towering above the water.
Puglia is known for being a farming region and masserias are spread all across the land. A masseria is a fortified farmhouse in the Puglia region where farmers lived. Today, many masserias have been transformed into boutique and luxury hotels. Visit a masseria for a meal where everything is likely from the farm itself, or stay an evening to take in a relaxing night. Many have beautiful pools, spas and other activities to offer like cheese and wine tasting, rental bikes, and more.
Italians and other Europeans flock to Puglia in the summer months to take advantage of the warm weather and enjoy the sun on a beach. The region has beaches along the East, South and West sides providing many different options. A few to consider include:
East: Santa Maria al Bagno, Torre dell’Orso, Torre Sant’Andrea, Porto Miggiano
South: Spiaggia e Piscina, Spiaggia di Pescoluse (known as the Malvides of Salento)
West: Punta Prosciutto, San Pietro in Bevagna
Italy is well-known for its excellent cuisine and wines, but each region has some specialities. Puglia has a number of different dishes unique to their region that you should be sure to try when visiting. Italian food is always good, but Puglia brought it to a whole new level. Below are a few of the items to look out for when visiting:
A delicious and addicting Italian snack made of white wine, flour and olive oil. Both taralli and tarallini are a mix between a breadstick and a cracker in a round shape. Taralli are the bigger pieces while tarallini are the smaller ones. You will see these all over Puglia and must try them. There are many different flavors, both sweet and savory. Some savory flavors include traditional, black pepper, fennel, olive, chili, peperocino, rosemary, cacio e pepe, and more.
Focaccia is an Italian bread resembling a dough similar to pizza. Puglia focaccia typically has tomatoes or olives baked into the bread.
Orecchiette is a shape of pasta, which looks like its translated name – a small ear. It is native to the region of Puglia so you will find dried orecchiette all throughout the region, and many dishes using orecchiette.
A puccia is a sandwich or panini made with dough similar to pizza dough and filled with your pickings of meat, cheeses and vegetables
Capocollo, also known as Coppa, is a cured ham
A meat roll filled with meat and cheese. The town of Cisternino is known for these.
Similar to bruschetta, a friselle is a piece of bread which is baked, toasted and then topped with fresh tomatoes
Olive trees can be found all over the region covering the farmland. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that Puglia has an abundance of olives and olive oil.
Puglia provides a lot of nice wine from rose, white, and sparkling white to red. One common Puglia wine is a primitivo red which is a red grape making full body wines.
Being a peninsula, Puglia has the sea around its east, south and west sides. This makes it especially good for fresh seafood and fish
This is a delicious restaurant for dinner in the centro storico area of Ostuni. Call ahead for reservations or try your luck walking in. The restaurant serves Italian dishes and the atmosphere feels like you are eating in a nice white cave.
A good option for dinner, this restaurant is always busy. You can try to call ahead and book a table, but often the restaurant does not answer the phone. If this is the case, arrive at opening and try getting a table. It is a restaurant in a trullo and is located in the Rione Monti district of Alberobello.
Another dinner option in Alberobello. Be sure to call ahead and make a reservation if you would like to go here. Keep in mind dinner in Italy is later than other places, with restaurants often not opening until 19:30 or 20:00.
If you find yourself staying in Locorotondo for an evening, this restaurant also is like eating a cave. The menu is more unique here so check it out in advance.
This restaurant was one of our all-time favorites on the trip, specifically for the truffle ravioli pasta primi dish. Do not miss this! The restaurant is quite nice, and the hosts were very welcoming. The restaurant opens at 20:00 and is quiet, but as it gets later into the evening, the whole dining room will be full. If you order the fish catch of the day, you will be taken to the front of the restaurant where you can pick your fish from freshly caught seafood that day.
Another favorite along the Ostuni food adventure, Borgo Antico Bistrot has many tables along an uphill walking path all facing the sea. This is a must-do if looking for a spot to have a snack, meal or just grab a drink and take-in the relaxing Italian lifestyle
Grab a puccia here for a quick afternoon snack. The storefront and inside is unassuming, but the puccia (sandwich) is delicious!
A family run business, the owner running La Prelibatezza takes over after his grandfather and father. This is another small and unassuming shop, but the puccias are excellent. They have a variety of different options to choose from or you can customize it to your liking. Be sure to try a puccia here if passing through Lecce.
Nice gelato spot with a variety of flavors
Wine bar located in the Rione Monti area of Alberobello. There are tables outside and the waitstaff is very friendly. Grab a bottle of wine here and try the local focaccia.
Wine store in Locorotondo offering wine tastings where you can pick the wines or types of wine you would like to taste, and also enjoy little snacks during the tasting.
Another spot in Locorotondo to do a wine tasting
This hotel and bar has a beautiful terrace overlooking Grotta Piana. It is one of the best spots to have a drink during the day, and especially at sunset. The waitstaff are very friendly and welcoming.
A little shop selling meats, cheeses, local Italian goods, and wine. They have a few tables outside on one of the main streets in the Centro Storico where you can sit down for a drink.
Small bakery in Cisternino drawing in locals. They have many different snacks to choose from, both sweet and savory. The focaccia and taralli from here are both recommended!
Bakery in Lecce near the Roman Amphitheater with many different options
Italian Patisserie shop providing many different sweeter pastries, as well as gelato
Puglia is an off the beaten path type of trip. When most people think of traveling to Italy, they start with places like Rome, Milan, Florence and the Amalfi Coast. Only after they have seen some of the big locations does Puglia then get on their radar. For this reason, Puglia is less touristy than other places in Italy, but it still draws in a lot of visitors. In peak summer season, when the weather is warm and beaches are nice, Puglia will be very busy, especially with Italians and other Europeans trying to enjoy some sunny weather.
If trying to avoid the crowds, consider shoulder season (spring and autumn). We visited in April and many of the towns were comfortably busy without being overwhelming. However, the weather was not nice enough for a proper beach day, and the towns in the very south of Puglia were essentially deserted. The towns in the South of Puglia will get busier in the summer months as the beaches draw people into the surrounding towns.
There is so much to explore in the Puglia region. In order to scratch the surface and get a feel for all that Puglia has to offer, I recommend at least 5 nights. This allows you to take a road trip where you stop in different locations, but also are not rushed at each stop. If you are traveling in the summer and plan to take advantage of the beaches in Puglia, include additional time. A trip to Puglia is unique and you can explore so many different places, while enjoying delicious food and wine throughout the entire trip.
Since Puglia is in the South of Italy, the weather will be nice from about April until October. The summer months are known for being hot, hence why people come to Puglia for the beaches.
If you followed the advice given and are taking a road trip through Puglia, parking is going to be top of mind. It will be completely hit or miss depending on where you are visiting. When booking accommodations, consider looking for accommodations with guaranteed parking access to simplify your parking in some areas. Most towns have paid street parking as well as public parking lots or garages. Check the pay boxes near where you are parking to get a ticket to put in your car showing you have paid.
Plan in some extra time to search for parking, as some places it may be tough especially if your car is larger. The streets are smaller as you approach the town centers and also means parking can be a challenge. It can also be helpful to look up a parking lot for your next stop and route yourself directly to a potential place to park, knowing you can also find parking once in the area of your destination.
Transportation and Accommodations
Things to do and see
Food and Drinks