This post is also available in: Português
Find in this Puglia itinerary article all the things to do in Puglia! You will find out here what’s the best way to travel in Puglia, either renting a car, by public transport or cycling; what are the best places in Puglia that you cannot miss; the most beautiful beaches and all the details for a complete Puglia travel guide! If you have never thought of travelling to this region, after reading this post, we hope you will make sure to visit Puglia!
Map of Puglia in Italy
Let’s start with the question where is Puglia? Puglia is in Southern Italy and is the “heel of the boot”. Although it might appear as the most southern part of the country, it is almost on the same line as Rome, as the country is “crooked” on the map!
Puglia has many regions, from Gargano all the way down to Santa Maria di Leuca, where both the Adriatic and the Ionian sees meet. There are over 800 km (497 mi) of beautiful beaches and endless charming historic cities for you to explore.
We lived in Italy for over a year and travelled quite a lot around and when people ask us “Is Puglia worth visiting“, our answer is a massive YES. Puglia is one of the most diverse, beautiful and interesting regions of Italy.
Both the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea give its beaches crystal clear water, let alone the charming towns. However, don’t mislead yourself into thinking tourism in Puglia is just about gorgeous landscapes. This is a destination full of history and tradition too.
Due to its strategic position, pilgrims, travellers and even invaders considered Puglia the gateway to and from Europe for many centuries. This convergence of so different cultures and people was vital in the development of their culture, which stands out for its plurality and hospitality.
How to get to Puglia Italy
If you are wondering how to get to Puglia Italy, it is super easy! There are a few options:
- Getting to Puglia by plane: for those travelling to Puglia by plane, there are three airports – Bari, Foggia and Brindisi. As the capital of Puglia, Bari has the biggest airport, and it is probably the best place for you to arrive. There are direct flights to Bari Airport from many European cities, such as London, Paris and Cologne.
- Getting to Puglia by train or car: Alternatively, you can fly to Rome and rent a car or take the train to Bari. This 400 km (267 mi) long route is easily made both ways.
How to get around Puglia (car, bike and train)
Renting a car in Puglia
As opposed to North Italy, which counts on a good network of public transportation, the south of the country is more “lacking”. There are not so many railways in Puglia and buses won’t take you everywhere.
Therefore, we suggest a good old Puglia road trip. Renting a car in Puglia is surely the best way to go around and be able to visit the most remote villages and the best beaches in Puglia.
As we already explained, Bari is the capital of Puglia and the best place for you to kick off your Puglia road trip. If you are looking for a more flexible Puglia itinerary, you can easily pick up and drop off the car from different cities – you could arrive in Bari and leave from Rome for instance (make a quotation here).
Cycling in Puglia
Another option not so much considered by the majority of tourists in Puglia – and extremely pleased by the way – is to cycle in Puglia. If just reading this previous phrase makes you breathless, a ride on a motorbike will do the job too. Cycling also demands time. If you don’t have much time for your travel in Puglia, then surely rent a motorbike or a car.
We spent a month cycling around the whole Puglia region and we cannot recommend a better way for a different Puglia road trip.
Most of the time, you cycle on a flat land and the scenery is stunning. Travelling by bike is extremely immersive and allows you to absorb everything you see and experience as no other means of transportation can. Is that something you are interested in, by the way?
Getting around Puglia by train
Travelling around Puglia without a car is possible by train (you can check prices and routes on Trenitalia). Bear in mind though that this is not the most convenient, because trains do not reach all the most touristic cities. BlaBlaCar also works in Puglia.
Puglia itinerary – Best cities of Puglia
So, where to go when travelling to Puglia? We are going to lay out the most important cities and activities and then give you below our suggested itinerary according to the length of your holidays, such as what to do in Puglia in 3 days, or what to do in Puglia in 7 days.
We shall begin this Puglia guide with Bari, the capital city of Puglia.
Bari – the capital of Puglia
Time in Bari – Puglia: One to two days
Bari has one of the oldest historical city centres in the region. It’s walled and with many alleyways, which reminds some Middle Eastern countries.
Even though the old town of Bari looks slightly abandoned, don’t miss out on the opportunity to wander about it, at least for a few hours. You will probably feel the bohemian vibe and see nice old ladies chatting on their doors and windows, making fresh pasta or just standing still. It’s quite the stereotype of Southern Italy!
Make sure to visit the spectacular Bari’s main cathedral. You can see other tours available in Bari here.
You can easily explore the city of Bari in just a few hours. Unless you feel a strong connection with it, we advise you to cross Bari out of the itinerary and enjoy more time on other wonders of Puglia.
Find your accommodation in Bari here.
Castel del Monte in Andria
Time in Castel del Monte: half-day activity
Another cool stop to add to your Puglia itinerary is the Castel del Monte, located in the city of Andria, near Bari. Also known in Italian as the castello otagonale (octagon castle of Puglia).
Adria is a charming little town with public parks, squares, churches and palaces. On the way there, you find the Castel del Monte, the mysterious fort built by Frederick II, now a UNESCO Heritage Site in Puglia.
The architecture of the castle aims at perfect symmetry, with a pinch of spooky fascination for the number 8. The octagonal castle has eight sides – obviously! – eight towers and eight rooms on each of its two floors. The centre has an eight-sided courtyard and used to have an octagonal fountain too. From there, you can see the sky, through an octagonal shape, of course.
Other sinister facts about this castle is that it has no kitchen, moat or bridge, which makes everyone think about the purpose of it. Surely, not for a comfortable living nor for a military purpose.
Anyway, the castle lies gloriously on top of the mount near Andria, overlooking the sea of Puglia.
Admission to the castle costs €7 and it is open every day from 9am to 5pm. See more information about the Castel Del Monte.
Grotte di Castellana
Time in Grotte di Castellana: half-day activity
The Grotte di Castellana is a complex of incredible caves and grottos with formations dating back more than 90 million years. There are two types of guided tours:
- Complete: It has a 3km of distance, takes 2 hours and passes through the famous Grotta Bianca (White Grotto). It costs €18.
- Short: The short tour takes about 50 minutes and walks around 1km. It costs €15.
Polignano A Mare
Time in Polignano A Mare: One to two days
This illustrious city is one of the best places in Puglia. It’s also the hometown of Domenico Modugno, the famous singer of “Volare”. Even if you are not fond of well-worn destinations – just like us – it is yet impossible to not fall in love with this town.
Its white houses, stone-paved alleyways, cliffs meeting a stunning blue sea, amazing restaurants and rather hospitable people will definitely win your heart over.
Polignano A Mare is one example of a city that makes you lose track of time. Don’t miss out on sunbathing on the beach, try one of the homemade ice creams and visit the Domenico Modugno statue. A Puglia itinerary is surely not complete without a stop in this charming city!
For those staying for one or more nights in Polignano, we recommend the cosy and centrally located Malu B&B, however, there are many other hotels to choose from.
Alberobello – the city of the Trulli
Time in Alberobello: One-day activity
The city, famous for the trulli, has long taken the fancy of tourists. Just like Polignano, Alberobelo has lost some – or more – of its originality. Currently, there are not many people living in trulli as most of them were turned into shops, restaurants and hotels. Yet, visiting Alberobello is more than fascinating and also one of the best towns in Puglia.
Find out more about the history and legends of Alberobello in this article.
Tip: A cool thing, if you want to extend your visit to Alberobelo, is to spend the night in one of the trulli houses.
Cisternino – the place to eat
Time in Cisternino: half-day activity
This was recommended to us by some locals and we simply loved it, so we are including it in this Puglia itinerary. Cisternino is a cute little town, typical of the Valle d’Itria region.
However, the purpose of your visit is not to wander about its alleyways. In Cisternino, you have a clear goal: Eat at the Al Vecchio Fornello Restaurant and try their famous bombetas. Seriously, it’s a must!
Ostuni – the Città Bianca
Time in Ostuni: One to two days
Ostuni is known as the Città Bianca D’Italia – The White City of Italy. Well, it’s just a charming town with an old city centre and alleyways, but white. But let’s not undermine its charm too. The relaxing atmosphere is greatly appreciated over here.
Our greatest surprise, however, was to experience Ostuni at dusk. Just when the sun goes down, the Città Bianca turns into a bohemian scenario, with many restaurants illuminated by candles, bars with cushions on the stairs of the old city, live concerts and many more attractions.
To have a true feel of Ostuni, we recommend staying in a traditional house in the city centre, like The Welcome B&B, but there are many other hotels and B&Bs there.
PRO TIP: Locals do not see Ostuni as a gastronomical sight. So, avoid their expensive touristy restaurants and swing by the neighbour town Ceglie Messapica, just 12km – or 7 miles – away. Ceglie is the gastronomic hub of the region. Our advice is the L’Antico Arco Osteria, where local friends took us. Their food and hospitality are out of this world.
Lecce – the capital of the Baroque
Time in Lecce: One to two days
Lecce is also called the Capital City of the Baroque in Italy, and is another must-see in Puglia! The town has a gracious city centre, is full of churches, mansions, a Roman amphitheatre and many more interesting sights.
We stayed in an awesome B&B there, the Le Giravolte, one of the best b&b in Puglia. But, as it only has three rooms available, you might want to book in advance.
Check here to see other accommodations in Lecce.
Otranto – the best of Salento
Time in Otranto: One to two days
Otranto was one of our favourite cities in our Puglia itinerary! Otranto is not just gorgeous, it’s very – really, very! – historical and has plenty of nice places to see.
The castle holds art expositions, including photo exhibitions, pictures and so on. There is a church with the largest medieval intact mosaic in the Western world. Also, you can see a sanctuary with the mortal remains of more than 800 men killed during the Turkish invasion in the XV century.
In addition, there is a Bauxite Lake that makes you feel you are inside a portrait.
But let’s not forget the charming alleyways, the turquoise sea and the gastronomy, as usual delicious. And obviously, the hospitality of the people in Otranto is incredible.
Find out where to stay in Otranto.
Grotta della Poesia
Time in Grotta della Poesia: half-day activity
A piece of the cliff – but not the edge – fell off, forming a wonderful natural swimming pool of seawater. The Grotta della Poesia is of extraordinary beauty and it cannot stay out of your Puglia itinerary. Have a look at the aerial video we did from there!
PS – This is an example of an incredibly remote place which you would hardly be able to visit via public transport.
Time in Gallipoli: Two to four days
Gallipoli is probably the most famous city of Puglia, mainly among youths. Mainly also because is one of the best beaches in Puglia. Therefore, if you are not much of a party-lover, this won’t be your cup of tea. If you are, though, you might be interested in reading our full guide about the Full Moon Party, in Thailand.
Nevertheless, it’s worth visiting its historical city centre and one of the best Puglia beaches. Moreover, you cannot miss the Frantoio Ipogeo and its history. It was down in these cellars that local workers lived in sub-human conditions, pressing olives to produce oil that would keep the lights of most European capitals on over the XV to XIX centuries. The oil of Gallipoli was exported all over Europe and that gave them international recognition and wealth.
TIP of accommodation: Just 7km away you will find the Tenuta La Baronessa, a very traditional Masseria which can serve as a base for you to explore the region of Salento. It is one of the best places to stay in Puglia. You can read more about this Masseria over here.
Otherwise, find more accommodations in Gallipoli here.
Salento – the West coast of Puglia
Time in Salento: A day trip to four days
The west coast beaches of Puglia can very well be the most beautiful beaches in Puglia. But they can very well be the wildest too. For this reason, if you are travelling with children, perhaps, is wiser to check if the place you are planning to visit has the infrastructure to welcome the little ones.
Santa Maria Al Bagno, Porto Selvaggio, Porto Cesario, Torre Colimena, Torre Chianca, and Punta Prosciutto are to name a few of the best beaches in Puglia you should make an effort to visit or spend the weekend in Puglia.
We recommend staying in Porto Cesareo. Find accommodation here.
Time in Taranto: One to two days
Visit Taranto is more of an anthropological visit than a touristy one. The city suffered greatly from the construction of a factory, which let the place practically impossible to live in. Taranto is ugly, dirty and with a historical city centre that many judges as dangerous. Yet, it is interesting and quite historical too.
If you have some spare time, make sure to spend a day in Taranto. It is worth going even if it is to understand the question about emptying historical city centres of Puglia during the economic boom of post-II World War.
Find your accommodation in Taranto here.
Extra things for your Puglia Itinerary
- Watch a Pizzica Concert. It’s the traditional music/dance of Salento and has its origins in an exorcism ritual that used to be carried out mainly on women a long time ago.
- Staying in a Masseria, the traditional Puglian farms, where you can have a sense of the countryside life in Puglia. There are many beautiful Masserias around Puglia, more specifically in the Salento region.
- Visit the city of Matera, Europe’s Capital of Culture 2020. Matera is not in Puglia but in Basilicata, the neighbouring province. It was the place where the film The Passion of the Christ, with Mel Gibson was filmed. It’s different than anywhere else and everything else you have seen. It most definitely should be on anyone’s itinerary of Italy. You could add Matera at the end of your Puglia itinerary, on your way back driving to Bari or Rome.
- Visit the wild Gargano region: If you have some spare time, don’t miss this authentic and pristine area in northern Puglia.
Our suggested Puglia itinerary for 3, 7 or 14 days
It is worth emphasising that this is a rather flexible travel guide. The idea is to provide you with enough information so you can make a decision about the order of the cities and tailor your Puglia itinerary towards your taste and needs. If you have any comments, advice, or doubt, be sure to leave them in the comment section below or get in touch with us directly.
3 days in Puglia itinerary
If, for the unfortunate event of having only three days to travel in Puglia, we recommend you to:
- Option 1: you can arrive from Bari and stay three days in Polignano a Mare, using it as a base to visit the nearby cities of Monopoli, Polignano A Mare, Alberobelo and Ostuni.
- Option 2: Focus on the Salento region, more on the South. Use Gallipoli or a Masseria as your base and explore the beautiful beaches and cities of Maria Al Bagno, Porto Selvaggio, Porto Cesario, Torre Colimena, Torre Chianca, and Punta Prosciutto.
Puglia itinerary 7 days
A week in Puglia is perfect. You will be able to visit quite a few places and enjoy both the Adriatic and Ionic coasts.
- 01 day – Bari
- 02 day – Polignano a Mare
- 03 day – Alberobelo (sleep in Ostuni)
- 04 day – Ostuni
- 05 day – Lecce
- 06 day – Otranto
- 07 day – Return to Bari by car – 2h10min
Tip: If you are the kind of traveller who prefers to avoid daily check-ins and check-outs, our suggestion is to choose two cities as a base for this 7-day itinerary in Puglia. Our recommendation is Polignano A Mare and Lecce.
Puglia itinerary 14 days
Two weeks in Puglia is what we recommend if you want to enjoy the most of Puglia.
- 01 day – Bari
- 02 day – Castel del Monte (Bari)
- 03 day – Polignano A Mare
- 04 day – Polignano A Mare
- 05 day – Grotta Castellana & Alberobelo (sleep in Ostuni)
- 06 day – Ostuni
- 07 day – Ostuni
- 08 day – Lecce / Otranto
- 09 day – Lecce / Otranto
- 10 day – Lecce / Otranto
- 11 day – Gallipoli
- 12 day – Gallipoli
- 13 day – Porto Cesario
- 14 day – Porto Cesario (return to Bari by car – 2h)
Where to stay in Puglia – what cities use as a base
A good way to visit Puglia, considering that cities are very close to one another, is to choose two or three cities as a base and, from there, explore the rest of the peninsula. Otherwise, you would spend one night in each city and that can be exhausting. To have as a base, we recommend:
- Bari or Polignano A Mare to explore the northeast;
- Ostuni to visit the Vale D’Itria
- Lecce for the southeast and west
- A Masseria in the countryside of Salento to better know the beautiful Puglia beaches of the west coast
- Vieste for the Gargano Region
* This article was updated in May 2023 *
See the summary of this Puglia Itinerary in these FAQs
Getting to Puglia is very easy. There are three airports in the region (in Bari, Brindisi and Foggia). As the capital of Puglia, Bari has the biggest and main airport (national and international flights). There are direct flights to Bari from many European destinations such as London, Paris, Cologne, etc.
Alternatively, you can fly to Rome and from there take the train to Bari (4h) or rent a car to drive around Puglia.
There are 3 airports in Puglia, but the biggest one is Bari, with direct flights to many European cities. Alternatively, you can use Rome airport (430 km away) and take the train or rent a car to Puglia.
The best way is surely renting a car, as it allows you to visit even the most remote beaches and villages. However, cycling is also a beautiful and immersive way to get around Puglia (the region is pretty flat). It is also possible to travel in Puglia by train, but you won’t be able to get off the main cities.
Yes, but with many restrictions. There are trains from the biggest cities, but not the small charming villages and beaches. Thus, our recommendation is for a road trip.
Surely the best way to travel around Puglia is by car. You can either rent one in Rome and drive to Puglia, or arrive in Bari, and then take the car (it is also possible to pick up the car at a destination and drop it off at a different one). Puglia is a small province, you can easily drive around and enjoy the best the region has to offer.
We lived in Italy for over a year and travelled quite extensively around the country and can say for sure Puglia is one of the most beautiful and interesting regions in Italy. There are over 800 km of beaches with crystal clear water and many charming historical towns too.
– Polignano a Mare
– Castel del Monte
– Grotte di Castellana
– Grotta della Poesia
– Salento Beaches: Santa Maria Al Bagno, Porto Selvaggio, Porto Cesario, Torre Colimena, Torre Chianca, Punta Prosciuto.
1. Polignano a Mare
7. Grotta della Poesia
8. Porto Selvaggio
9. A Masseria
10. Punta Prosciutto.
Option 1: Arrive from Bari and stay three days in Polignano a Mare, using it as a base to visit the nearby cities of Monopoli, Polignano A Mare, Alberobelo and Ostuni.
Option 2: Focus on the Salento region, more on the South. Use Gallipoli or a Masseria as your base and explore the beautiful beaches and cities of Maria Al Bagno, Porto Selvaggio, Porto Cesario, Torre Colimena, Torre Chianca, and Punta Prosciutto.
01 day – Bari
02 day – Polignano a Mare
03 day – Alberobelo (sleep in Ostuni)
04 day – Ostuni
05 day – Lecce
06 day – Otranto
07 day – Return to Bari by car – 2h10min