Puglia Italy is a breathtaking region in Italy’s south. Among the best places in Puglia, you’ll find all of what the region has to offer: the crystal-clear waters that you can admire from rocky cliffs or sandy beaches, the lush vegetation of the national parks, and small towns full of art, history, and amazing food.
It’s not surprising that Puglia is one of the most popular destinations in Italy. There are so many amazing places to visit, and whatever type of travel you are looking for, Puglia is for you.
From relaxing at the beach to visiting an ancient cathedral, Puglia should definitely be on your destination wishlist!
If you are planning a Puglia itinerary and are wondering about the best places to visit in Puglia Italy, I’ve got you covered. It’s also a region near and dear to my heart because it’s where my husband and his family are from!
In this guide, you’ll discover historic towns, beautiful beaches with their crystal clear waters, and countless unique places up and down Puglia’s Adriatic coast to fall in love with.
Where is Puglia Italy?
The teacher in me can’t help but start with a few basics. So, let’s first cover some practical information about the region, as well as helpful Puglia tips so you can plan a successful trip.
In Italy, Puglia is affectionately called the “heel of the boot” (in Italian “il tacco dello stivale”) because of its position.
Imagine Italy’s boot shape, and Puglia is located in the southeastern part, the heel. The region is bordered by the Adriatic Sea to the east and the Ionian Sea to the southeast.
Below you’ll find a map of Puglia in Italy with the places mentioned in this guide starred.
Puglia was first colonized by the Mycenaean Greeks who called it Iapygía (hence ‘Apulia’) for the presence of the three main Iapygian tribes that inhabited the region during the first millennium BC. This makes Apulia Italy an archaeological gem: a fantastic reason to visit it if you’re a history-lover like me!
Airports in Puglia
Puglia’s capoluogo (capital city) is Bari, which will likely be the starting point of your trip because the international airport is located here – the other one is further south in Brindisi.
There are no direct flights to Bari from the U.S. However, many carriers offer direct flights to Rome and Milan, as well as other European cities like Paris, Frankfurt, and Zurich making connections to Bari Airport quite simple. To reach Brindisi Airport, there are similar connections from other European cities.
How to Get Around Puglia
Another element you should keep in mind is transportation. Unfortunately, the Puglia region is not well served by public transport. While it’s possible to take a train to Bari from other Italian cities like Rome or Florence, it will be difficult to rely solely on trains or buses to explore the area.
The best solution would be to rent a car (or a motorbike) and to travel around. Finding a car to rent is very easy: both the two main Puglia airports (Bari and Brindisi) offer car rental services.
How Many Days in Puglia
Puglia is not a small region. Two weeks are perfect to see everything this beautiful region has to offer. However, traveling for so long is not always possible. All the places you will find in this post are listed in a way that can be used to create Puglia Italy itineraries if you’ve got 7-10 days free to travel.
If you plan to spend a few days in Puglia as part of your Italy trip, focus on a specific part of Puglia (Gargano, Valle d’Itria, Salento) to maximize your time. Travelers with limited time tend to focus on the Valle d’Itria and the Bari area.
What to do in Puglia depends on what you like because the region has a ton to offer. Decide on a few of your must-see and dos, like sightseeing at ancient churches, lounging on white sandy beaches, enjoying wine and olive oil tastings, or visiting the Trulli houses. Then, craft your own Puglia road trip around your interests.
Best Time to Visit Puglia Italy
Given its surge in popularity, Puglia is a busy destination during the summer months. Italians and travelers from all over go to enjoy the sun and sand. Puglia beaches are considered to be among the best in Italy.
My advice is to visit the region during late spring (April-May) or early fall (September-October). You will find amazingly warmish weather, but very few other tourists around.
Where to Stay in Puglia
You can break the Puglia region into different areas. The Gargano Peninsula, the Valle d’Itria, and Salento are the northern, central, and southern parts, respectively. There’s also Bari and the immediate coastal towns and villages surrounding it.
If your plan is to explore Puglia from north to south or vice versa, you’ll want a base in each area. This is the best way to maximize your time so you can day trip comfortably and not spend long hours behind the wheel of your car.
In Puglia, you’ll find boutique B&Bs, independent hotels, trulli accommodations, and masserie, characteristic farmhouses that have been restored to offer authentic yet comfortable stays. Many of these masserie are even quite luxurious, with pools, spa services, and, of course, delicious food and wine.
Rather than focus on a particular town in Puglia, look for the best Puglia hotels and accommodations that match your style and budget. Then, take day trips within that area before moving on to your next “base.”
16 Best Places in Puglia You Must Visit
Once you arrive in Bari, don’t rush to leave! Stay and explore this beautiful coastal town. The best part to visit is the Old Town, called ‘Bari Vecchia’ in Italian. Within the historic center, there are so many things to do in Bari.
Walk down the narrow streets (or bike to Bari’s main sites with a guide), learn how to make handmade orecchiette, admire the stone walls and the iron balconies, and finally arrive at the sea. Bari’s promenade is decorated with characteristic streetlamps, and it is the best place to sit and have a drink or grab a bite.
You will need just a day to see the best of Bari. But if you want to experience something special, I suggest you stay overnight and get up bright and early, to see the city slowly wake up.
There is nothing more special than seeing how seafaring people’s lives go on in the morning as if rocked by the waves of the sea. Bari Vecchia is a perfect way to start your Puglia trip!
ProTip: If you plan to spend more than a day/a night in Bari, book a hotel with parking or wait to pick up your rental car until you’re ready to move on. Parking can be tricky in the city center otherwise.
Leaving Bari and proceeding north, you can reach the gorgeous town of Trani within a 45-minute ride. Trani is still a Puglia hidden gem!
Those who don’t have a lot of time to travel in Puglia, often don’t stop here. So, it’s a great way to get off the beaten path…at least while this town remains a secret. (shhh…)
However, Trani is just magical: it is a typical town in the region of Apulia, with its port, the fishermen who are busy catching and selling, and the locals happily going about their daily lives.
The best place to visit? Trani Cathedral, or Cattedrale di San Nicola Pellegrino – its Italian name.
The cathedral is built in the Romanesque architectural medieval style, but it presents an unusual element: a high pointed arch in the passage beneath the bell tower, which renders the cathedral even more majestic.
It is constructed using the Trani’s local pinkish limestone, which makes the visit to the cathedral perfect at sunset when the stone captures the sun’s orange light painting the cathedral with incredible color.
Another Puglia must-see in Trani is the Jewish quarter (the Giudecca), with its maze of streets and its two synagogues, the Sant’Anna and the Scalanova. You can stroll on your own or join a Trani walking tour.
Just 25 minutes from Trani, there is the town of Andria. Andria has three incredible worship sites to visit: Chiesa di Sant’Agostino, Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, and Basilica di Santa Maria dei Miracoli.
The history of the first church is linked to the presence of the Knights Templar, and its construction dates back to the 13th century.
The Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta is more commonly known as Andria Cathedral. Its original structure was created in the 12th century, but it was reconstructed two centuries later in a Baroque style. Andria cathedral houses the Crypt of the Holy Savior, which contains the tombs of the wives of Emperor Frederick II.
The Santuario di Santa Maria dei Miracoli is located in the main square, Piazza San Pio X. The most stunning element of the church is the ornate ceiling, with the central picture of the Virgin Mary surrounded by gold designs.
When you are done exploring the churches, there is another stop you shouldn’t miss: the Museo del Confetto, a museum entirely dedicated to the making of all kinds of candies and chocolates, but also to the Mucci family’s story and long history of keeping the business running since the 1890s.
4. Alta Murgia National Park
Puglia is known for its beaches and towns, but there are immense areas of pristine nature. If you love trekking, or just admiring different plants and trees, and animal species, then the Alta Murgia National Park should be your next stop.
Located a little less than a 40-minute drive from Andria, inside the National Park there is the magnificent Castel del Monte, a gorgeous symmetrical castle on the top of a hill. Legend says that the castle was commissioned by Emperor Frederick II to hide the Holy Grail, once delivered by the Knights Templar.
This iconic castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historical significance and unique architectural style.
5. Gargano Peninsula
The spur of the heel of Italy’s boot, the Gargano is an oft-overlooked part of the region of Puglia. It is another green and lush area; most of it is part of the Gargano National Park.
Pine forests, olive groves, coastline cliffs, and sandy beaches are what you can experience if you decide to take your trip into the northern part of Puglia Italy.
There are several must-see places on the Gargano Peninsula including the Puglia towns of Vieste, Peschici, and Vico del Gargano, which is considered one of the most gorgeous villages in Italy.
The Vieste coastline is what makes this place a tourist attraction: long beaches and sea caves, and the characteristic Pizzomunno, a massive monolith over 80 feet tall! The Pizzomunno is so popular that it became the symbol of Vieste.
Vieste is full of history, with a central cathedral, a castle, and the typical trabucchi, old fishing contraptions built from wood that look like houses suspended above the water. You can admire the trabucchi in Peschici as well.
Peschici’s historical center is small but breathtaking: white houses and narrow streets that lead up to the Norman Castle from which you have a panoramic view of the Adriatic coastline. But what makes Peschici so popular are its beaches: take a stop at Spiaggia di Calenelle and Spiaggia di Zaiana to make your stay in Peschici simply perfect.
6. Isole Tremiti
An archipelago of four main islands, located 12 nautical miles from Vieste, the Isole Tremiti (Tremiti Islands) are accessible by ferry boats that run every day. The area of Isole Tremiti is a protected natural marine reserve.
The four islands are: San Domino, San Nicola, Capraia, and Pianosa, with the last two almost completely uninhabited. Close to the island of Capraia, sunk in the crystal-clear water and standing on the seabed, there is the statue of Padre Pio, made by artist Domenico Norcia. It’s a popular site for divers.
The Isole Tremiti hides another surprise: the population speaks the Neapolitan dialect! In fact, in the 18th century, the archipelago was made into a place of exile for prisoners by Ferdinand IV, King of Naples.
When the camps were dismantled half a century later, the new King Ferdinando II of Sicily sent fishermen from Ischia (an island under the administration of Naples) to repopulate the archipelago.
The Isole Tremiti are a real gem of the Adriatic Sea, and visiting them should be included during a trip to Puglia!
Valle d’Itria: The Central Part of Puglia
In this central part of the region, you’ll find a few of the best towns in Puglia. This is where the countryside with its olive groves and vineyards fill the rolling countryside.
As you decide where to go in Puglia, you’ll undoubtedly have quite a few places to explore in the Valle d’Itria whether you’re looking for wine, local food, Trulli, and/or spectacular panoramas of the landscape.
7. Polignano a Mare
From a walk outside Abbazia di San Vito, a stop at Domenico Modugno Statue, and a selfie in the famous Cala Porto (also known as Lama Monachile), Polignano a Mare cannot be skipped if you are traveling to Puglia, Italy!
Polignano is a poetic destination – quite literally: numerous verses by famous poets are painted on stairs, entry doors, and the façades of the homes.
Equally magical is the Rock of the Hermit (also called Island of San Paolo), a giant rock located 320 yards from the coast on top of which stands an iron cross placed there by the missionaries.
If you have time, experience Polignano’s natural beauty along the coast by boat to explore the sea caves and catch a glimpse of the famous Grotta Palazzese, the restaurant set inside a cave!
The town of Monopoli is less known among tourists, but stopping here is a must. Monopoli encapsulates the contrast between the pleasing whitewashed houses with the turquoise waters of the Adriatic sea.
Its centro storico has the typical maze of narrow streets that make walking around so special, the squares and promenade are dotted with restaurants that serve delicious food, and the coast is full of hidden bays and coves.
As a less touristy town, Monopoli is the perfect place to visit if you are planning your trip to Puglia during the busy summer months.
You can’t say you have visited Puglia if you don’t see a trullo! The trullo is the traditional white, cone-shaped house of farmers. Trulli (in its plural form) are constructed by using the drywall technique, which is still in use in Puglia.
The absolute best place to admire trulli is the town of Alberobello. The modern part of the city embraces the old town, called Rione Monti, where the trulli are located.
One of the most fascinating trulli is the Trullo Sovrano, located behind the Church of Santi Medici Cosma e Damiano. This is the only trullo with two floors, and today hosts a small museum.
Next, you should visit the most iconic trullo, the one that you can see in countless pictures on the Internet: the Trullo Siamese, the only trullo which has two centrally joined domes.
ProTip: Arrive early if you can to avoid the tour buses that begin arriving around 10 a.m.
10 & 11. Ostuni and Locorotondo
Ostuni is the whitest town you can find in Puglia. A shiny pearl nestled in the heart of Valle d’Itria. The reddish soil and the intense green and brown of the secular olive trees of the countryside, paired with the deep blue-green of the sea, make Ostuni one of the most spectacular places you will ever visit.
The Valle d’Itria offers countless places to explore. Besides Ostuni, a must-see in Puglia is Locorotondo, known for being among the “Borghi più belli d’Italia” (which means one of the most beautiful villages in Italy). Locorotondo is just another reason why you will fall in love with Puglia!
ProTip: Nearby Martina Franca is another gorgeous stop if you’re touring Valle d’Itria villages. Locorotondo and Martina Franca also are unforgettable lunch stops.
12. Exploring the Salento: Lecce
Salento is the name given by the locals to the southern part of Puglia. It makes the “heel” of Italy, and it’s a breathtaking area to travel to. One of the main cities in the area is Lecce, known as the “Florence of the South”.
Located 30 minutes by car from Brindisi Airport, Lecce is a gorgeous example of the richness of the baroque style. Intricate details embroider every corner of the city, and its streets and buildings will leave you speechless. There are walking tours, too, that can help you learn more about this southern Italian gem!
Lecce is a great starting point if you are planning a trip to Salento and absolutely one of the best places to visit in Puglia.
13. Roca Vecchia and Grotta della Poesia
Only a half-hour south of Lecce, there is the seaside town of Roca Vecchia.
Here, you will find a very special place: Grotta della Poesia, a cave immersed in turquoise waters. The cave is situated in a protected area, the Oasi di Roca Vecchia, that is becoming more and more popular.
The Grotta della Poesia is considered one of the most beautiful natural pools in the world. It’s name is a bit of a romantic legend: once there was a princess who used to bathe in the cave, and her beauty was so stunning that it inspired the verses of many many poets (in fact, the word “poesia” means poetry).
Whatever the origins of its name, the Grotta della Poesia is one of the best places in Puglia you can visit! Just a warning: if you go there in July and August, the peaks of the summer season, get ready to find the spot very busy!
Proceeding south, a must-see place is for sure spectacular Otranto.
This small town has all the elements that characterize a typical Apulian city: the narrow streets, the white houses, several churches and the cathedral, the clear blue sea, and lots of restaurants, bars, and cafes.
But Otranto is in a special location: the city overlooks the strait of Otranto, the body of water that connects the Adriatic Sea with the Ionian Sea. This position makes Otranto really special!
Here you can find two different types of beaches, sandy on the Adriatic part and rocky on the Ionian.
There are plenty of other reasons to visit Otranto, too. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its centro storico (the old town) and its medieval castle.
The Castle of Otranto is a huge building, with three round towers, and an imposing bastion that almost reaches the dock area. This castle also inspired the first-ever gothic novel, written by Horace Walpole in 1764, titled The Castle of Otranto.
Without a doubt, of all the Puglia best places, Otranto is among the top spots to visit!
And right outside of Otranto, there are two more gems you should go to: the Bauxite Cave and Punta Palascìa lighthouse.
The Bauxite Cave is only six minutes by car from the city center. As the name suggests, it was a cave used for the extraction of bauxite. The main characteristic of this sedimentary rock is its bright reddish color, which creates a Martian-like landscape.
The color of the rocks is the perfect frame for the water basin inside the cave, making the emerald green waters shine. The Bauxite Cave is still not known among tourists, so it’s a magical place to visit during your trip.
The other special location you can easily access from Otranto is the Punta Palascìa lighthouse. The site is the most easterly point of Italy, where the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea meet.
15. Santa Maria di Leuca
One of the most popular places in the Salento area, Santa Maria di Leuca is located at the Southern end of Italy’s heel.
The city has been a holiday destination since the 1900s, where the richest Pugliesi (as the people who live in Puglia are named) built stunning villas in the Liberty style that you can still admire on the promenade.
The name Santa Maria di Leuca traces the city’s history. Leuca derives from the Greek leukos, which means “bright”, while the name Santa Maria refers to the Basilica-Santuario Santa Maria de Finibus Terrae, named as such because, for the Romans, Leuca was the site where the land ended.
Not far from the Basilica, also known as the Church of Cristo Re, there is the lighthouse. Constructed in the 19th century, it is more than 150 feet tall and is shaped like an octagon. Overlooking the sea, it is one of the most impressive sights in town.
The sea is another reason to visit Santa Maria di Leuca. From the town, you can sail the Salento’s Coast to explore its legendary sea caves. Leuca has a myriad of marvelous caves: the Cave of the Three Doors, the Devil’s Cave, the Lovers Cave… you are truly spoiled for choice!
Music is another important part of the Santa Maria di Leuca and Salento experience. If you visit during feast day celebrations, you will notice that everyone dances pizzica, the traditional folk dance. The pizzica (which means bite) is similar to the well-known tarantella. It is a fast-paced partner dance with a long history.
Traditionally both pizzica and tarantella were performed by women as attempts to get rid of the venom of the bite of a tarantula spider if they were bitten while working in the agricultural fields.
Don’t you worry if you don’t know the steps of the dance: grab a bandana and join the crowd… the irresistible music will do the rest!
Gallipoli is probably the most touristic place in Salento, and rightly so. Called “the pearl of the Ionian”, Gallipoli is famous for its spectacular sandy beaches and its legendary nightlife – that starts being “legendary” in the late afternoon!
The spot to be if you want to have the night of your life? Definitely Samsara Beach!
To avoid the crowds of young people, I suggest visiting Gallipoli in the off-season to really enjoy the beauty of this town and the surrounding area.
Gallipoli’s Old Town is placed on an island connected to the mainland via a bridge, which makes walking around a real adventure. The contrast of looking at both the Old Town and the modern part on the other side of the bridge will make you wonder if you’re still in the same city!
Not far from Gallipoli (at a maximum 40-minutes ride), there are some of the most beautiful places in the Salento area: Punta della Suina, Porto Selvaggio, Porto Cesaro, and one of the best beaches in Puglia and all of Italy, the sensational Punta Prosciutto!
Best Places to Visit in Puglia
Whether you are thinking of taking a trip to Puglia or you have already booked your plane ticket, there are countless amazing Puglia destinations you can visit.
A land kissed by the shining sun and the breeze of two different seas, and painted with the colors red, blue, green, and white, visiting Puglia will be an unforgettable and authentic Italian experience.
What questions do you have about the best places in Puglia Italy to visit?
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