On your tour to discover Puglia’s Salento area, you need to stop in Gallipoli, Italy, one of the most beautiful coastal cities of Puglia! The beauty of this southern Italian town is inscribed in its name: Gallipoli comes from the Greek kallipolis, which means “beautiful city.”
In this guide, you will discover the best 12 things to do in Gallipoli, where Gallipoli is, how to get there, and suggestions for Gallipoli hotels if you’re planning to stay overnight.
Let’s explore beautiful Gallipoli!
12 Fantastic Things to Do in Gallipoli, Italy
Gallipoli is known as the “Pearl of the Ionian Sea”, and rightfully so! The city is an incredible concentration of natural and historical attractions.
While traveling through Puglia, it quickly became one of my favorite places!
One of the most popular tourist destinations in Puglia, Gallipoli presents two well-defined areas. The Gallipoli Centro Storico (the old town) is situated on a limestone island. While the “new town” on the mainland is connected to the old one through an impressive stone bridge.
The two “hearts” of Gallipoli are surrounded by crystal clear waters and some of the most gorgeous sandy beaches you’ll ever see!
Where is Gallipoli, Puglia?
Gallipoli is located on the Ionian coast of Puglia, in the Gulf of Taranto, and in the province of Lecce.
Gallipoli is in the Salento area, the southern part of Apulia, Italy’s “heel of the boot”. The Salento is a wonderful sun-kissed land where you can visit marvelous towns such as Otranto, Santa Maria di Leuca, and Gallipoli, in the province of Lecce.
On this Puglia, Italy map, you can see Gallipoli’s location along the western coast.
How to get to Gallipoli, Apulia
There are two main ways to get to Gallipoli: by car and by train. The nearest airport to Gallipoli is Brindisi Airport. It’s located about 50 miles north. Here, you can rent a car and arrive in Gallipoli in about one hour’s drive.
Driving is absolutely the best way to get to Gallipoli, as well as to explore Puglia.
If you are coming from Taranto, the drive is of two hours, taking the autostrada (toll road). The route between Gallipoli and Lecce is only 40-minutes by taking SS101. While it’s just under an hour by car between Gallipoli and Otranto.
Driving from Bari, it’ll take 2 1/2 hours to reach Gallipoli. This is why it makes sense to plan on at least “2 bases” on your Puglia trip, one further north in the Valle d’Itria and one in the Salento.
Once arrived, there are paid parking lots in the new city and a large parking lot closer to the old town. You can’t drive in the historic old town so be sure to park and then walk across the bridge to the Gallipoli Centro Storico.
The other option is to get to Gallipoli by train. Gallipoli is served by the private Ferrovie del Sud Est rail (and bus lines). Be mindful that this train does not run on Sundays.
When to Visit Gallipoli
Summer is the time of year when Gallipoli and the Puglia region see an influx of visitors. Italians and tourists enjoy vacations by the sea. The beach resorts, hotels, and vacation rentals in and around the Gallipoli area will be at their busiest.
But southern Italy, including Gallipoli, has a mild climate. Spring and fall are great times to visit. The temperatures will be pleasant, prices will be lower, and there will be fewer people.
And if you’re hoping to enjoy the beach, visit Puglia and Gallipoli in May, early June, September, or October when the weather is likely to be great for some time on the beach.
In winter, Gallipoli and all of Puglia are at their quietest. And while it may not be beach weather, days are pleasant with sun and temperatures that range between 45-60°F.
What to Do in Gallipoli Italy
You can make the most out of your visit to Gallipoli in the span of a weekend. Or you just might consider using Gallipoli as a base as you explore southern Puglia.
Either way, strolling through the old town and the new part of the city, relaxing on the beautiful Gallipoli beaches, and partying the night out are all part of the must-see and must-do things in Gallipoli.
1. Visit the Centro Storico.
Also known as Gallipoli Vecchia, your visit to the city should start in the old town. To access it from the new town, you need to do a gorgeous walk along the bridge connecting the 2 parts of the town.
The old city became an island in 1484 when Gallipoli passed into the hands of the Venetians, who decided to cut the strip of land that linked the Gallipoli peninsula to the mainland. This was strategic and meant to increase the chances of defending the island.
The bridge was built in the 16th century. It consisted of twelve arches and a wooden drawbridge which is now gone.
Another peculiarity of Gallipoli Vecchia is the fact that the city, although enclosed within a city wall, is still visible from the outside because it has been built at the height of the walls themselves.
Do a walking tour (on your own or with a guide) to see the fishermen hauling in the day’s catch and to discover the countless churches, the Castle, and the maze of streets in the Centro Storico. The history, architecture, and the sights within the old town are one of the main reasons why Gallipoli is one of the best towns in Puglia to visit.
2. Explore the Castello Aragonese.
At the entrance of Gallipoli Vecchia is one of the main attractions of the city, the Aragonese Castle (or Angevin Castle).
Built in medieval times, the Castello di Gallipoli underwent consistent changes during the 16th century when the Aragonese enlarged the original structure by adding towers and bastions as well as the city walls.
The fortress is surrounded by the sea, and it still houses the cannons and catapults of the past. The Aragonese Castle is open to visitors: you can admire several internal rooms, the prisons, tunnels, and secret passages. And if you are lucky enough, you might be able to attend special events and temporary exhibitions hosted inside the castle.
The Castello Aragonese is, without a doubt one, of the symbols of the city and a can’t miss!
3. Marvel at the Cattedrale di Sant’Agata.
Located at the highest point of Gallipoli Vecchia, the Cathedral of Saint Agatha is absolutely worth visiting. The Cathedral overlooking the old city is a baroque church dating back to the 17th century, rebuilt to replace the ancient Romanesque church.
The Cathedral has a Latin cross plan with three naves and a golden facade made with characteristic Salento stones. Lecce is known for its gorgeous Baroque architecture but the Cattedrale di Sant’Agata is also one of the greatest examples of the Salento Baroque.
On the inside, the Cathedral of Saint Agatha is as spectacular as on the outside: entering, you will be astonished by the numerous works of art from stone statues to baroque altars, and beautiful canvases.
The Gallipoli Cathedral is a must-see!
4. Don’t Miss Chiesa di Santa Maria della Purità.
The Chiesa di Santa Maria della Purità is a real gem. Built in the mid-17th century, it is in an incredible location, right in front of the Spiaggia della Purità. The sandy beach, the promenade, and the simple, white façade of the Church create a perfect blend that makes the walk to the Church really special.
The exterior of the Church is decorated only by three large majolica panels depicting respectively: the Madonna della Purità, Saint Francis, and Saint Joseph. However, the simplicity of the exterior is in total contrast with the ornate inside!
As soon as you enter, you won’t know where to look first! Every inch of the inside is richly decorated with gold trim and 18th-century paintings. If you’re like me, you’ll want to sit for at least a few minutes to take everything in. The longer I spent inside the more I saw!
The Chiesa di Santa Maria della Purità is definitely one of the most beautiful churches in Gallipoli. It will take your breath away.
5. Church-hop through the Centro Storico.
Gallipoli Vecchia is full of churches you can visit if you have time.
Besides the most famous Cattedrale di Sant’Agata and Chiesa di Santa Maria della Purità, I recommend you see the Chiesa di San Francesco d’Assisi with its beautiful arched porch, the Chiesa di San Francesco di Paola, and the Santuario di Santa Maria del Canneto, right next to the bridge that connects the town and the new Gallipoli.
6. Learn about the History of Olive Oil.
In the center of Gallipoli’s old town, there is a small gem of a museum called!
The Hypogeum Oil Press of Palazzo Granafei (Frantoio Ipogeo di Palazzo Granafei in Italian) is located underground and you’ll find restored olive presses dating back hundreds of years. But along with them, you’ll discover an important part of Gallipoli’s history.
This former oil mill has information not only about how olive oil was made, but also teaches how vital olive oil was for the local economy. Just a short visit to this one-of-a-kind museum reveals a door to Gallipoli’s past and layers it upon what you might have already learned by touring the Centro Storico.
I loved how it connected the production of olive oil to the city’s location along the sea, making it a very successful export. It’s a can’t miss when you’re in Gallipoli!
7. Admire the Palazzi.
Tucked into the narrow streets of the Centro Storico and among Gallipoli’s historic architecture are several palaces in Renaissance and Baroque styles. These palaces were owned by the families of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, which ruled Southern Italy during the first half of the 19th century.
Strolling through the city, make stops to observe the Palazzo del Seminario, commissioned by Bishop Gonzalo de Rueda. The building’s facade is ornate in the Baroque style. Today, the palazzo is home to a Diocese Museum with religious objects and paintings.
The Palazzo Tafuri stands out for its Baroque front made of the local Salento stone.
Palazzo Rocci is Gallipoli’s City Hall today. But in the 17th century, it was owned by the noble Rocci family.
The more you wander, you’re likely to come upon many more of these beautiful palazzi. This was one of my favorite things to do in Gallipoli because the more I walked through Gallipoli’s old town in search of gorgeous and historic architecture, the more it felt like I had been transported into my fantasies of Italy.
8. Stop to See the Greek Fountain.
A few steps from the famous bridge that leads to the Centro Storico, the Greek Fountain is quite a unique monument. Some believed it to be the oldest fountain in Italy, dating back to the 3rd century B.C.
However, historians now believe that the Fountain was built during the Renaissance when it was typical to create new sculptures representing the ancient past.
Mythological scenes are depicted with incredible fineness, and the details are just marvelous!
Whatever the truth of its age is, the Greek Fountain is an interesting monument to visit in Gallipoli.
9. Relax and have Fun at Gallipoli Beaches.
You cannot say that you really enjoyed Gallipoli without spending at least half a day on one of the beautiful beaches in the area!
It is not a coincidence that Gallipoli is affectionately referred to as the “Ibiza of Italy”: fun, musical events, and beaches of white dunes and blue waters make Gallipoli one of the best destinations to party and relax!
One of the most famous beaches is the Spiaggia della Purità, right in front of the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Purità. Its location at the edge of the old town is similar to the beach in Monopoli.
This small bay is nestled between the towers and the bastions of the old town. It’s an authentic paradise combining aquamarine waters and Gallipoli’s historic center.
The Spiaggia della Purità, or La Puritate (as the locals call it), is very popular, and it is one of the most frequented beaches of Gallipoli. My tip? Visit the Spiaggia della Purità at sunset… you won’t regret it!
Baia Verde is another incredible beach in Gallipoli. It has a large pine forest that opens onto a beach almost 2 miles long, with fine sand and crystal clear waters. The landscape reminded me of the Tremiti Islands in northern Puglia.
The beach at Baia Verde is not free, but you are guaranteed to feel relaxed!
You should visit Baia Verde at night if you like partying: the Bay is known for many discos and summer clubs!
Punta della Suina is one of the most beautiful beaches in Salento. Located only 1 mile from Gallipoli, this beach is even more than a must-see than the famously photographed beach in Polignano a Mare!
The coast here alternates sandy stretches with rocky views, and the water is incredible: aquamarine and crystal clear. And given the beach’s location next to the Sant’Andrea Island Regional National Park, there are some easy coastal walking and hiking trails if you’d like to explore the coast and escape any crowds at the beach itself.
10. Feast your eyes on the Gallipoli Fish Market
As you walk across the bridge and enter the old town, take a moment to check out the Gallipoli fish market. The sea is a way of life in Puglia. Local fishermen serve up the day’s catch from oysters to sea urchins!
If you arrive in the early morning, you’ll be treated to the spectacle of the traditional fish auction, where customers eagerly clamor over the best catch of the day.
Later, pull up a seat outdoors and enjoy a meal of some of the freshest fish imaginable!
11. Meet some Locals…under the Sea!
The turquoise waters off the Gallipoli coastline are stunning to look at. But if you’d to get active in the water, don’t miss the chance to explore the waters around Sant’Andrea Island.
The island is off the coast of Gallipoli’s old town. (Remember, the old town is also an island!) And although the island is closed to visitors, you can swim and snorkel in the crystal clear waters surrounding it on a boat tour.
It’s a great way to learn about the sea life in this part of southern Italy, but also to get away from the crowds at the beaches and look back at Gallipoli from the water.
12. Enjoy the Gallipoli Sunset.
Whether from a Gallipoli beach or one of the cafes with seaside views, finish the day in Gallipoli by watching the sky turn a dusky orange over the azure waters.
Along the ancient walls of the city, you’ll have a wide-open fantastic view. Nothing else is needed to enjoy this moment…except perhaps a glass of local wine or some gelato!
Afterward, dine out at one of the many delicious restaurants in Gallipoli Vecchia (The food and ambiance at Le Garibaldine are fantastic!) and toast to spectacular Gallipoli!
Hotels in Gallipoli Italy
If you plan to spend more than a day in Gallipoli, you’ll need somewhere to sleep. In fact, Gallipoli can make a great base for exploring the Salento area of Puglia. There are plenty of accommodation options for any budget.
As with most places in Puglia, the best types of accommodations to look at are vacation rental homes, agriturismo properties, or B&Bs.
For the best of the best vacation homes, look at the properties listed on Plum Guide.
Plum Guide has a couple of homes listed in Gallipoli and several more throughout the Puglia region. Not only are these homes styled in the traditional southern Italian way with features like brick arched vaults and spectacular sea views, but each property has also been carefully selected after passing a vetting process.
The B&B Corte Casole is located at the heart of centro storico. Historically a home of fishermen, the venue has been restored by maintaining the authentic charm of the residence thanks to the use of the majolica, typical of Salento.
The B&B Palazzo Vergine I Due Mari is situated in the new part of Gallipoli, right in front of the sea. At 500 meters from the train station, this B&B serves breakfast on its terrace, from which you can enjoy the views of the port and the city of Gallipoli.
With its long coastline and the sprawling Ionian Sea, Gallipoli is one of the best places in Puglia to visit. Whether you are looking to relax and immerse yourself in history and art, or you prefer to dive, snorkel, kitesurf, and clubbing, visiting Gallipoli will make your vacation memorable!
So, what questions do you have about visiting Gallipoli, Italy?
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