All you need to know to plan your trip to Puglia, Italy. Best places to visit in Puglia, Puglia itinerary and the best things to do in Puglia for a perfect stay in the heel of the Italian boot.
Puglia, the heel of the Italian boot, is a place even Italian always mentioned with a sense of wonder.
Tell anyone you have been to Puglia and the reaction invariably is ‘Ah, Puglia. Bellissima!”, usually accompanied by a slight sense of surprise, as if this was a secret place, once they did not expect you to know about.
Puglia is no hidden gem (it is a gem, but it is not hidden!), however, it is true that compared with other parts of Italy it tends to see less international tourism and retain a more local feel.
I personally love Puglia: we went last time with the kids a few months ago and it was the perfect family vacation (you can find our Southern Italy itinerary here).
Puglia has something for everyone.
The kids adored the beaches, the crystal clear water and the fairytale village, we adults loved the architecture and historical cities in this area and we all adored the food.
Puglia has wonderful, varied food that is sure to woo the fussiest of foodies (big and small).
These are the best places to visit in Puglia and some of the most frequently asked questions about traveling to Puglia.
You will quickly see why I consider this area one of the very best places to visit in Italy!
The best places to visit in Puglia
The Gargano Peninsula
Gargano is the promontory stretching from the north of Puglia into the Adriatic sea and it is one of the most beautiful places in Puglia for nature lovers.
The area is part of the Gargano National Park and it is famous for beautiful carsic white rocks and stunning marine landscapes.
The park is perfect for executions and cycling and it is also a wonderful place for sea and sun lovers.
While the inland part of the park is covered in forests, on the coast Gargano has stunning beaches and also beautiful islands, Isole Tremiti, which are a gem of Mediterranean splendor.
Things to see in Gargano are:
- The National Park itself
- The Paleontology Museum of San Marco in Lamis, where you can see real dinosaur footprints (this is one of the best places to visit in Puglia with kids!)
- The Santuario di San Michele al’Agelo (Sanctuary), Unesco world heritage site
- The stunning Tremiti Islands
Castel del Monte
Castel del Monte Is a medieval castle dating back to the times of Federick the II.
Now Unesco World Heritage Site, this is an evocative special place with a peculiar octagonal structure that has intrigued historians for decades.
The castle is perched on top of a hill and it is an easy excursion from Trani worth making time for.
Trani is a small seaside town on the Adriatic coast with something special: a medieval church in romanesque style rights on the sea.
The church is like a vision against the endless blue of the sea and of the Apulian sky.
It is in a position usually reserved to a lighthouse, a beacon of hope almost, and has a peculiar cream color given to it by the local stone used for its minimalist facade
As well as the church, the town has a pretty marina and pleasant park with stunning sea views (there is also a nice playground for kids).
This is one of Puglia’s prettiest coastal towns and one not to be missed.
Polignano a Mare
A little farther South of Trani lies Polignano a Mare, a place recently become ‘instagram famous’.
Polignano is a small historical town said to be among the most important ancient settlement in this part of southern Italy however, this is not what attracts visitors.
Rather, they come for the spectacular position of Polignano, perched on a vertical ravine, dotted with caves and plunging into the Mediterranean!
Polignano is stunning but it does get crowded so some planning is advised.
Alberobello is one of the prettiest towns in Puglia and the whole of Italy as well as one of the most famous.
It is the place where you have the Trulli, peculiar houses with whitewashed walls and pointy roofs that resemble fairy houses or hobbit houses even.
Alberobello Is pretty and unique and one of the most beautiful places in Puglia however, it does get busy.
We loved staying here for one night so you can see it after the day trippers have gone.
Just 10 minutes by car from Alberobello, Locorotondo is one of the most pleasant towns we have seen in Puglia and a world apart from its famous neighbor.
A true Italy hidden gem!
Here, you do not have a city center made of trulli but you do have gorgeous whitewashed alleys that hide stunning churches and picture-perfect courtyards.
Clean, beautiful and quiet, Locorotondo Is like someone’s living room: a welcoming, beautiful place to relax.
Something special: Locorotondo Is known for its white wine, perfect to taste chilled on a summer day!
Locorotondo is a great base to explore Val D’Itria, a part of Puglia characterized by wonderful olive groves (Puglia is an important producer of olive oil) dotted with traditional trulli.
Martina Franca is a small historical town in Puglia surrounded by tall walls that hide a wonderful city center.
Here you have small whitewashed winding streets, pretty squares but also something very special: a series of baroque churches so distinctive and unique they belong to a special type of baroque called Barocco Martinese’.
Martina Franca Is beautiful and bigger than Locorotondo and, like it’s neighbors, makes a great base to discover Puglia or a wonderful destination for a day trip.
Grotte di Castellana
Grotte di Castellana (Castellana Caves) are a unique place to visit in Puglia.
Over 122 meters deep, they are a series of easy to access caves where it is possible to see fossils, stalagmites and stalactites that truly feel like an underground cathedral!
You can visit during the day but, for something special, you can also go after dark.
The caves regularly organize nigh excursions for small groups which allow you to see the caves at their quietest and even experience them in full darkness!
The caves are incredible at all ages and also child friendly
Salento Is the southernmost part of Puglia, the very end of the heel of Italy’s boot and is famous for Lecce, a city so rich of art it is called the Florence of the south, and for its beaches, among the most beautiful not just in Puglia big in the whole of Italy.
When you see photos of Puglia with white sandy beaches and crystal clear waterS, they are usually from here!
The whole area has stunning sandy beaches, perfect for a sea and sun vacation.
Among the best Puglia beaches, there are Punta Prosciutto, with stunning dunes and white sand.
Porto Selvaggio, with is a natural reserve, and the incredible beach of Pescoluse, closer to Santa Maria di Leuca, the Maldive of Salento’, with a beach and water so clear, you won’t believe you are in Italy!
Closer to Gallipoli worth seeing are also Punta Suina and farther north Baia dei Turchi.
Not far from the seas, this is also the area of the Alimini Lakes (Laghi alumni) which have incredible biodiversity and are a good place to spot birds and fish.
They are a fun places also for kids!
Worth seeing in this area are the cities of Lecce, Ostuni and Gallipoli, all with lovely town centers and a stone throw from stunning nature.
Best places to visit in Puglia as a family and things to do in Puglia with kids
Puglia is a very family-friendly destination, full of small towns and stunning villages easy to enjoy at all ages.
Locorotondo, Cisternino, Martina Franca and Trani are all easy to enjoy with kids and the beaches in Salento are among the kid family-friendly in Italy.
All the activities mentioned above are family-friendly and you can also add a few more activities if you want some extra kid-friendly fun.
Near Taranto, you can go on a dolphin and whale watching expedition with the Jonian Dolphin Conservation, which organizes educational day trips in the Gulf
Near Monopoli, you have Aquapark Egnazia, the largest water park in Southern Italy.
Near the Castellana Caves, themselves wonderful for kids, you also have Parco Avventura Indiana park adventure park
Best things to do in Puglia
No trip to Puglia would be complete without some experiences that are unique to the region.
These are my favorites.
Eat the incredible Apulian food
Puglia has amazing food, distinctive and among the most delicious in Italy.
Not to be missed are ‘orecchiette con le cime di rapa‘, which are a local handmade pasta (orecchiette) with local tender stem broccoli.
Also broad beans puree, surprisingly delicious and satisfying and stracciatella pugliese (made with burrata) are worth tasting and only the most famous of a true cornucopia of local deliciousness!
Experience a night in a trullo
Alberobello’s trulli are traditional dwellings, often dating back to the XVII century, however, they have been restored and now many serve as luxury accommodation.
Spending a night in one of them is special and a must-have Puglia experience.
We loved Trulli Anti right in the center of Alberobello, which are wonderful and has the best staff!
Have a look at our guide to Alberobello for all our tips!
Get lost in the white cities
Several of the prettiest cities in Puglia fall in the category of ‘white cities’, towns entirely made of whitewashed buildings framing meandering alleys.
The best way to explore them is without a map. You will get lost, but always find your way back!
This is the best way to see the prettiest courtyards and hidden corners of this little gems of loal architecture.
Experience Taranta Night
Participate in Notte della Taranta, ‘Taranta night’ or ‘Night of the Tarantula’, a nigh celebrating the traditional music of Salento, the Pizzica.
The night is more than just a pleasant concert: pizzica is the music that locals played to exorcise the women affected by ‘tarantismo’ a form of hysteria that was associated with the bite of the tarantula and that the music and accompanying dance were believed to cure.
I hope you found this overview of the best places to visit in Puglia useful. Happy travel planning!