The ultimate guide to Puglia – Must visit places in Puglia
Updated: Jun 24
In late May 2021 we traveled to the Puglia region in the South of Italy and explored the region for almost 3 weeks. After this trip I can say I have a new favorite place in Europe. This place truly has a magical vibe and felt so different than other places in Italy. I loved that it was not touristy at all, almost no one spoke English and it felt like raw Italy.
Puglia is located at the heel of the boot. We actually drove by car all the way from Berlin, which was a 19 hour journey one way. But of course you can also take a plane. Here some quick infos
How to get there? Fly to either Bari or Brindisi airport
Getting around? Renting a car is a must. Many towns are scattered around and you will not have the full experience without a car. I recommend a small car (tiny streets) and ideally extra insurance (funny driving habits). Many towns have a train station or bus connections but truly I believe it will spoil your experience.
When to go there? Obviously the Summer months are the best to enjoy the turquoise beaches but it also means crowds. The best times to visit are late May – June or September. The climate is mild and even Winter months are not too cold so you can take a city trip anytime during the year.
Where to stay? As said tourism is not over developed here so you will not find many big hotel chains or resorts. I definitely recommend smaller boutique hotels and a masseria stay if you want to experience something unique. I will have some recommendations below. AirbnB is also widely available.
Itinerary: I recommend at least 10 days in Puglia so you get the full experience. All towns are quite spread around so you will spend a lot of time traveling between them. I also recommend splitting your trip in two parts, meaning Part 1 focusing on the northern part like Bari and Valle D’Itria and then Part 2, the Southern Part, with Lecce and the beaches of Salento.
Things to know:
You will probably need to communicate in basic Italian so be prepared
Credit cards are 95% accepted
Almost everything is closed between 2 pm – 7pm. Dinner does not start before 8pm so make sure to plan your days accordingly
Get your gas during the day. In the evening almost all gas stations operate on a self service mode and these machines do not accept foreign cards. Also make sure to always chose the “self” option and not the “servito” which is usually 30cents/litre more expensive
Parking in the towns gets super tricky after 6pm so try to come a bit earlier. When using street parking make sure to park in blue (paid) and white (free) marked areas. The yellow ones are for residents.
Food you have to try when in the area: taralli, bombette, pasticiotti, pucce, orecchiette, seafood in general
Relax. The pace in general is very slow, so no hurry
So let’s dive in. Here is a summary of all places you have to visit when in Puglia (plus a little bonus).
Bari is the city you will most probably arrive and it’s the capital city of Puglia. With 750 thousand inhabitants it is also the biggest city and also an important port in the area. Honestly, Bari was the city that surprised me most on this trip. I was expecting a not so pretty town but it actually became one of my favorite stops on this trip and we visited several times. It has a beautiful old town where you can get lost in the narrow streets but I also loved the “modern” part where you have a beautiful pedestrian shopping street, many bars and restaurants and the beautiful seaside promenade.
So make sure to visit Bari at least once. My food recommendations for Bari:
Panificio Fiore or El Focacciaro for the best focaccia
Venezia 40 or Cibo for panzerotti
Pizzeria di Cosimo for cheap pizza with a priceless atmosphere
Pescobar or DonFish for quick and easy seafood
Premiata Norcineria or Arcimboldo for Aperetivo and drinks
Antica Gelateria Gentile for icecream
Torre a Mare
Ok, wait, this town is actually the one that surprised me most. This is where our AirBnB was located (link here). Usually not a town you see in Puglia guides but I wanted to include it because we had the most amazing meals here. We ended up visiting each of the places 2-3 times. It is a small fishermen town located 15 minutes outside of Bari and a culinary destination for the locals. It was also a great base to explore the area. You have to eat at the following places!
Osteria del Porto – This is the best seafood you will get. It is a small self service place right at the small harbour.
Braceria Sfizi di Carne – Again, best braceria around. The bombettes were insane! Make sure to book a table in advance
Gemavvi – This place makes the best sandwiches ever!
I am not exaggerating, try it for yourself and thank me later :)
Polignano A Mare
One of the Instafamous towns of Puglia. It is especially know for its bathing cove surrounded by huge rock formations. It is definitely a special place and a must visit when in Puglia. I would not recommend staying here but rather visit it for a day trip.
Some food recommendations
La focacceria di delle noci marco or La Rotellina for a quick bite
Fly Calaporto for an overpriced drink with a stunning view or La Casa del Mojito for a more relaxed vibe
MINT for a lovely atmosphere
Ruz , Il Pescato or La Brace for some local small plates and seafood
The Super Mago del Gelo Mario or Martinucci for some gelato and pastries
I don’t know why but I really liked the vibe of this town. It is much bigger compared to its neighbour Polignano. The old town is lovely and full with dining options and cool bars. There is also a shopping area outside of the old town so if you need to run some errands, Monopoli is a good alternative to Bari.
Monopoli is also a good base to stay since it is close to all the above towns as well as to the stunning beaches of Capitolo and Valle D’Itria (Alberebello & co). Monopoli is also the fanciest town in Puglia I would say with many upscale hotels and beach clubs along the coasts nearby.
My absolute top recommendation for Monopoli is to have dinner at Carlo Quinto. We went twice and love the atmosphere and the food.
Other nice places are:
We also enjoyed the beaches near Monopoli, both public and beach clubs. There are many options especially along the coast of Capitolo and prices for 2 sunbeds plus umbrella start from 20€ ranging up to 160€.
I especially recommend Marza beach. It has a relaxed vibe and a private swimming cove. 2 sunchairs + umbrella cost 37€
Other beach clubs we visited were Lido Bambu, which has a really beautiful design, prices start from 60€ and Sabbiadoro Beach which is bit cheaper 40€ but not as pretty.
For public beaches make sure to stop at: Cala Paradiso, Calette di Torre Cintola, Cala Susca, Cala Monaci. There are many beautiful coves along the drive from Polignano to Capitolo. Maybe you can also stop for some seaside lunch at Elia or La Risacca.
Now we are heading inland to the Valle D’Itria. Here the landscape changes completely, it is kind of a Tuscany vibe. You will drive through beautiful roads along olive trees and the famous Trullo houses.
First stop: Ostuni
Ostuni was actually our first stop during this trip. The town is called “white town” and you will immediately know why. Most of the buildings are painted entirely white. It almost feels like a town in Greece, which is not surprising when knowing that this city was built by the Greeks back then.
We actually stayed here for a couple of nights to explore Valle D’Itria. Our hotel Paragon 700 was absolutely stunning (read about it here). Ostuni itself is pretty small and easily explored in 1-2 days. Our favorite place was for sure Borgo Antico Bistrot.
Other nice places to eat are:
Nudo e Crudo Fishbar
Il Bellavista Pizzeria
I know you all have been waiting for this one and probably the town that made you notice about Puglia. The town of trulli: Alberebello. Trulli are a traditional Apulian dry stone huts with a conical roof. They are spread all over the Valle D’Itria but are especially concentrated in the town of Alberebello.
A stroll through the streets of Alberebello is really fun and during high season I recommend to come in the morning or in the afternoon around 4-5pm. Other than that there is not much to do in Alberebello except souvenir shopping and escaping tourist traps. I would also not recommend staying here in a hotel since it will be overpriced. You can search for a stay in a trullo on AirbnB though, that might be a fun and unique experience.
Another great unexpected surprise was Locorotondo. We came here for aperetivo and it is definitely the best activity here. The old town is small and cute. Make sure to catch a spot at the outer walls of the old town where you can watch the sunset overlooking a stunning valley. We had drinks at 20m2 which was nice. Docks 101 is also a nice place. Or just head to the public park nearby instead and mingle with the locals.
Another beautiful town located in Valle D’Itria. We had a lovely dinner here at Braceria Granaldi. Martina Franca was also were we spent our last two days in Puglia. We stayed at a beautiful masseria, Masseria San Michele. This was a whole other experience and something I can really recommend (read about it here)
We also briefly visited Cisternino, which is another pretty town nearby. And here is secret tip: You have to have dinner at Il Cortiletto. The food and atmosphere were so good. Make sure to reserve in advance!
Now let’s head a bit more South and explore Part 2 of our trip
This was our base for exploring the whole southern region. Lecce is one of the most picturesque cities I have visited. Walking aimlessly trough the narrow streets is already a good enough reason to visit this city. It is also home to a university which explains the young population and the many small bars and restaurants. Everything felt more relaxed and down to earth here. We stayed in two beautiful boutique hotels when in Lecce which I can both really recommend. One was Palazzo Lecce: an absolutely stunning boutique hotel (read about it here). The other one was Lu Leccio: also really beautiful and also equipped with a small kitchen.
Lecce is a great base to explore all the beautiful beaches nearby. So during daytime we headed to the coast and in the evening spend time in Lecce
Here are some food recommendations for Lecce
L’Angolo della Puccia or La prelibatezza del 1941 – both great puccerias (local type of sandwich); Como Vuoi is also nice
Tabisca Il Vico dei Tagliati – great steakhouse, a bit pricey
Bar Euclide – The best pasticiotti!!! THE BEST!!!!
Mezzo Spirito for aperetivo
00Doppiozero for dinner
Gelateria La Romana or Martinucci for some gelato
Before talking about the beaches I wanted to squeeze in Otranto as well. This is a beautiful town on the coast and it actually has a great beach itself. We came here a couple of times after a beach day to enjoy some drinks and watch the sunset The best spot for that is definetly Maestrale Bar. We also had a nice dinner at So Fish.
Best beaches in Salento
I never knew that Italy had this beautiful beaches. And we did not even see all of them since it was late May and it was a bit windy. But when you google Salento beaches you will know what I mean.
The beaches we visited and absolutely loved:
Torre Dell Orso
Grotta della Poesia (entry 3 € p.P)
Torre Sant Andrea
Scoglio Il Fascio
Punta della Suina
Spiagga di Saturo
You will find many other beautiful beaches along the way with many public and paid options available.
Some other towns and areas I had on my list but we did not manage to visit: Brindisi, Gallipoli Town, Taranto, Ceglie Messapica, Sant’Agata di Puglia, Baia delle Zagare, Vieste
But I have a bonus for you: Matera!
Technically not in the Puglia region, but Basilicata, this town is just a 50 minute drive from Bari a must visit if you ask me. We had a lovely dinner at Ristorante Baccus here and some aperetivo at L’Arturo. Make sure to head up to the piazza duomo and catch the sunset from there.
You can find all my Puglia stories on my Instagram profile @theoooblog with many more video impressions and tips.