Our guide to Puglia features the most beautiful places, the most interesting towns, the best time of year to visit, and some of the top things to do
The heel of the boot: that’s Puglia. It has towns and cities, beaches and hills, and is less touristy than many other parts of the country. So, where should you stay, what should you see, and what are the best things to do — be it a quick weekend or a longer stay?
Puglia in 2 to 3 days: Bari and Brindisi
If you’re traveling to Puglia by plane, chances are you’ll touch down in Bari or the more south-bound Brindisi. The two port cities are a little underrated, but take some time to explore them if you’re in the area anyway and you might be pleasantly surprised at what they have to offer.
Puglia’s capital, Bari, is among the busiest passenger ports in Europe with connections to different corners of the Mediterranean. On your explorations there, you’ll probably not want to miss the medieval Old Town, or Bari Vecchia, condensed on a small tip of land overlooking the sea. It’s made of narrow alleyways where one can have fun getting lost on a lazy afternoon, spotting the decorated shrines that the area is famous for.
Step out of the maze and onto the town’s promenade, for Bari is after all a coastal town. It’ll take you along the harbor with its traditional blue fishing boats and landmarks like the former theater Teatro Margherita, or Fortino di Sant’Antonio, a defense structure dating back to the 11th century.
Brindisi — Bari’s southern neighbor and about a third of its size — lies towards the tip of the heel. It may be smaller, but it’s no less inviting. Its perhaps most prominent structure is the castle Castello Alfonsino, which sits right on the waterfront and offers stunning views of the harbor and the sea. Being a port town, an abundance of fresh seafood is to be expected; and as the Italians are known for their sweets, ice cream and strong coffee, you’ll be glad to hear that Brindisi is no exception to this.
If you decide to stay in Bari or Brindisi for a couple of hours, a long weekend, or perhaps you never want to leave, both towns are great bases for exploring the rest of the Puglia region.
The best beaches: Salento and the southern tip of Puglia
With over 800 kilometers of coastline, it’s not hard to find beautiful beaches in Puglia. It can get a little crowded — mainly with locals — but you’re likely to find at least one spot just for yourself, with the choice of the Adriatic Sea on one side and the Ionian Sea on the other. The beaches in Puglia have managed to remain undiscovered by tourist masses and as such, more relaxed than many other places in Italy.
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The small coastal town of Polignano a Mare is among the most photogenic Italian seaside towns. It sits on a high cliff with access to the sea. According to legend, it was once part of Greece before breaking away toward Italy.
If you want to relax somewhere a bit unusual, head to Grotta della Poesia (‘Cave of poetry’) — a natural swimming pool set in a karst cliff. There’s a small fee to enter, but it’s worth it to spend an afternoon jumping five meters into a giant sinkhole filled with azure blue water.
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The coastline of the Salento peninsula (a smaller region within Puglia) is dotted with beaches — sandy beaches, pebble beaches, city beaches, beaches in natural parks, beaches with dunes several meters high, beaches with water so shallow that you have to walk for minutes before you can actually swim… you name a type of beach, and you’ll likely find it here. Then, no more than 10 kilometers inland, check out the historic town of Lecce. It’s dubbed “the Florence of the South” for its baroque architecture, stunning monuments and frescos. But Lecce is perhaps most known for Lecce stone, a soft and workable limestone found only in southern Italy, close to the town.
A traditional place to stay
Leaving the lavish sights of Lecce, the region’s countryside offers unique gems of its own.
Masserie are traditional white-washed farmhouses that offer different levels of accommodation. The houses are found throughout the region and offer basic to luxury lodging while also providing opportunities to experience local ways of life — like the cuisine (cooking and eating!).
Trullo is another type of traditional housing in Puglia. It’s a limestone hut with a pointed roof, traditionally in the shape of a dome or a pyramid and painted with a symbol that has an astrological or religious connotation. These dwellings go back several centuries and although they’re scattered throughout the region, most of them — and the best-preserved ones — can be found in the quaint town of Alberobello.
When to visit
Summers in Puglia come with heat. Days in July and August days between 26 and 34°C, while the shoulder seasons (May, September to early October) are warm and pleasant, with scents of pine, geranium, and lots of other flora making a heady mixture for your nostrils. Fall brings local food and wine festivals, and in bringing summer to a close, the town of Locorotondo organizes an annual competition called Balconi Fioriti in which participants decorate their balconies with flowers (geraniums are among the favorites), with prizes for the best-looking display.
With temperatures in the winter hovering around 10°C and the region getting almost no snowfall, Puglia could even be considered a good year-round option for a quick European break. Check out the deals that Kiwi.com’s offering right now on already-low-cost flights, and soon you might get to see this very underrated Italian region for yourself, for cheaper than you ever thought!
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