Puglia, Italy (also known as Apulia, its lesser common Latin name) is a beautiful region in the south of the country, specifically in the ‘heel’ of the boot.
It is skirted by both the Adriatic and Ionian seas and has an 800 km (497 miles) amazing coastline.
It is known for its historic towns, Unesco sites, countryside masserie (farmhouses)? don’t know this word, diverse landscapes scattered with olive trees, excellent food and wine.
After reading this article, we are sure you will add it to your Italy bucket list!
Here are the top 15 things to do and the best areas in Puglia, Italy.
1. Gargano National Park and its variety of landscapes
Gargano National Park, in northern Puglia, is a promontory that features an extraordinary variety of landscapes within a relatively compact area – perfect for hiking, cycling and swimming. Beyond the tranquil scenery, there are many towns worth a visit, such as Monte Sant’Angelo (in the mountains) and Peschici and Vieste (by the coast).
2. Tremiti Islands, a natural paradise
The Tremiti Islands – 22km (14mi) off the mainland – are a natural paradise and a great spot for snorkelling and scuba diving. They are an important tourist attraction for the area: the coasts of the three main islands are full of coves and grottoes, and their beaches descend towards the sea. These islands and the Gargano, can also be seen from Vasto, our base.
3. Castel del Monte, a symbol of Puglia
Castel del Monte is the region’s most visited monument. It is an octagonal fortress built by Frederick II around 1240 and included by UNESCO in the World Heritage List in 1996. It is located on a hill at 540 metres (1,771 feet) above sea level and dominates the surroundings with its absolute perfection.
4. Trani, a charming fishing village
Trani is an historic fishing port with a lively promenade, the ideal place to peacefully wander along lanes and admire harbour views. There are many buildings of interest in Trani, such as the Church of the Templar Knights (Chiesa di Ognissanti), which was built in the first half of the 12th century in the courtyard of the Knights’ hospital, and the San Nicola the Pilgrim cathedral, which dominates the seashore from a spectacular position at the water’s edge.
5. Bari, don’t skip it!
Bari is the capital city of the Puglia region, the second most important economic centre of mainland Southern Italy after Naples. Most visitors arrive in Bari but tend to skip the city: we can guarantee it’s definitely worth a visit.
It has a charming historic centre that sits on a peninsula, populated by churches, small alleys, crowded cafés and beautiful squares. Among the others, there are two important monuments: Basilica of St. Nicholas, an important pilgrimage destination, and Frederick II’s castle, an extensive structure that protected the city for centuries. Don’t miss the ladies making handmade orecchiette (typical homemade pasta from Puglia) in the middle of the so-called “orecchiette street”!
6. Monopoli, a dreamy white-washed old town
Monopoli is a charming port town to relax and reset the pace, and the ideal base when visiting the upper Salento area and other cities close to it.
7. Polignano a Mare, nothing better for a warm summer’s day
Polignano a Mare is one of the most iconic spots of the region: a world famous holiday resort edged by limestone cliffs overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Its picture speaks louder than words.
8. Conversano, our base in the region
Conversano is an ancient town unspoiled by mass tourism. It could be a wonderful place to start your adventure and experience the authentic Puglian atmosphere. In fact it is our Apulian base during our Abruzzo, Puglia & Matera cultural and culinary tour. It used to be the center of one of the most important counties of the region, and the importance of its past is still visible in its elegant streets and in the magnificence of its medieval Castle and Romanesque cathedral.
9. Altamura and the DOP bread and focaccia
Altamura is a walled town appreciated for its cathedral and Museum of Archaeology, but mostly known for its DOP bread tradition, made from 100% durum wheat grown in the Bari province. In 37 BC, the Latin poet Horace told travelers that it was “far the best bread to be had” and its reputation is still the same nowadays.
10. Itria Valley, up for cycling?
Despite its name, Itria Valley is not a valley, but a limestone depression between the provinces of Bari, Brindisi and Taranto, with amazing olive groves, vineyards and bright red soil. It is the land of Locorotondo (that takes its name from its circular structure – “Round place”, where round means rotondo), Ostuni, and Trulli houses (traditional limestone dwellings with conical roofs). Here you can rent a bike and enjoy the area’s serene countryside.
11. Alberobello and its trulli houses
Speaking about trulli, we must mention Alberobello. Its old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a maze of streets and steps lined by trulli.
12. Salento, a flat tongue of land between two seas
Salento is the southern most part of Italy’s heel and begins where the hills of the Valle d’Itria end. From there, the land becomes a long flat expanse of land that laps two seas: the Adriatic to the east, the Ionian to the west.
It is mostly known for its rural-chic masserie (traditional farmhouses) and white sand beaches with blue waters.
Generally speaking, in Salento, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding where to go: we should mention Lecce (which deserves its own chapter), Gallipoli, a charming town on the sea located on the east coast. The peculiarity of this place is that the old town used to stand on an island that is now connected to the mainland by a bridge and it still has some of the medieval walls.
Another beautiful town is Otranto with its whitewashed buildings reminiscent of Greece, while Santa Maria di Leuca is a village rich in history and legends. It is a paradise land on a promontory between two seas.
13. Ostuni, the White town
Ostuni is an amazing town built atop a hill to protect it from invaders. It is called “the White town” for its white walls. It’s an incredible mix of white-painted architecture, glimpses of the Adriatic sea, green doors and bright blue skies.
14. Lecce, the Florence of the South
Lecce is one of the most important cities of Puglia. It was the center of the ornate architecture called barocco leccese (Lecce Baroque): the city is filled with Baroque monuments, and it is sometimes called “The Florence of the South”.
15. Masserie, the rural lands turned into unbelievable accommodations
Generally speaking, “Masseria” refers to a piece of rural or agricultural land, typically with a cottage, farmhouse or estate buildings present, and often adjacent to a woodland or plantation. In Puglia “Masseria” is a reunion of “masse” in the sense of countryside houses. These places are turned into amazing accommodations where you can relax and truly log off.
How to get to Puglia, Italy
By Air: Puglia is served by two international airports, Brindisi and Bari.
By Train: For travel within Italy, we suggest reserving a seat on www.trenitalia.com.
By Car: another option is to fly to Rome or Naples, then rent a car to visit Puglia.
By Boat: the ports of Bari and Brindisi can be used for tourism connections.
Ready to experience Puglia with us?
So if you’re tired of the same-old same-old city tours of Rome or Venice, why not experience the authentic Italy of Abruzzo and Puglia together?
Get in touch today to help bring your dream tour into focus – wouldn’t you love to see the Adriatic sea from the mountains or to have a lunch suspended over the sea? If you are ready to discover Puglia, Italy with us, you can find all the details of our most popular tour at: The Abruzzo, Puglia & Matera experience.
And if you’re not quite ready to make an inquiry, sign up for our free email course to learn everything you need to know about planning a tour of Abruzzo and Puglia.