Puglia itinerary: a complete guide to travel in Puglia

A crowded small beach in between rocks of Polignano A Mare
The beach of Polignano A Mare

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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 visiting this region, after reading this post, we hope you will make sure to visit Puglia!

Aerial view of Italian city surrounded by the sea at sunset
Vieste, in the Gargano Region and the sunset

Map of Puglia in Italy

Let’s start with the question where is Puglia? Puglia is in 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.

Map of the regions in Italy

Puglia is one of the most diverse, beautiful and interesting regions of Italy. Both the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea give its beaches a 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.

As for 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

A bike near the camping tent on top of the cliff with the sunset
Our bikes, our tents and the sunset seen from a cliff

Rent 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. You can renting a car here to travel more comfortably and manage to visit the most remote villages and beaches in Puglia.

Cycle in Puglia

Another option not so much exploited by the majority of tourists in Puglia – and extremely pleased by the way – is to cycle in Puglia. If just  by reading this previous phrase makes you breathless, a ride on a motorbike will do the job too. Cycling also demand 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 Puglia road trip.

Tiago with his bike looking at the beach with trees on each side
A pause to appreciate the sea of Puglia.

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 mean of transportation can. Is that something you are interested, by the way?

Airports in Puglia

If you are planning on travelling to Puglia by plane, it is good to know where is the airport in Puglia you will arrive to plan your trip. Puglia has three main airports that operate on commercial flights. The most important airport in Puglia is in Bari – also international. Also, there is the Salento airport, in Brindisi, also international. You might find a few commercial national flights only arriving and departing from Foggia as well.

Puglia itinerary – Best cities of Puglia

A crowded small beach in between rocks of Polignano A Mare
The beach of Polignano A Mare

So, where to go when travelling to Puglia? We are going to lay out the most important cities and activities and then tell you our opinion below for a itinerary according to dates, 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

One of the streets of Bari with a comune sign
One of the streets of Bari that leads to the main church

Bari has one of the oldest historical city centres of the region. It’s walled and with many alleyways, which remind some Middle Eastern countries.

Even though the old town of Bari looks like 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! Ah, before we forget, obviously pop in the spectacular Bari’s main cathedral.

Check in here some good deals in Puglia with our partners from Guide Your Guide:

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

The Castel Del Monte with octagon towers
Castel Del Monte

Andria is a charming little town with public parks, squares, churches and palaces. It’s on the way to the Castel del Monte, the mysterious fort built by Frederick II and on the UNESCO Heritage Site list too. Also known in Italian as the castello otagonale – octagon castle of Puglia.

The architecture of the castle aims perfect symmetry, with a pinch of spooky fascination for the number 8. The octagonal castle has eight sides – obviously! – eight towers and eight rooms in each of its two floors. The center 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.

The octagonal roof from the courtyard of Castel Del Monte
The octagonal roof from the courtyard of Castel Del Monte

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 neither for a military purpose.

Anyway, the castle lies gloriously on top of the mount near Andria, overlooking the sea of Puglia.

Grotte di Castellana

Time in Grotte di Castellana: half-day activity

It’s 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 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

Tiago and Fernanda posing near Domenico Modugno statue with our bikes
Fernanda, Domenico Modugno and Tiago

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 a 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 in the beach, try one of the homemade ice creams and visit the Domenico Modugno statue.

Find the best hotel deals in Polignano a Mare here.

Alberobello – the city of the Trulli

Time in Alberobello: One day activity

A dead end with trulli houses in alberobelo Puglia
The streets of Alberobelo, with the Trullis, in Puglia

The city, famous for the trulli, has long taken the fancy of tourist. Just like Polignano, 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.

You might want to spend the night in one of the trulli houses. Otherwise check more options here.

Cisternino – the place to eat

Time in Cisternino: half-day activity

The entrance of the Al Vecchio Fornello Restaurant in Puglia
The entrance of Al Vecchio Fornello Restaurante in Cisternino, Puglia

It’s a beautiful city and represents very much the region of the Valle D’Itria. However, the purpose here 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

View of Ostuni with all the white houses on top of the mountain
Ostuni – the Città Bianca of Italy

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.

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 is out of this word.

Have a look at the best hotel deals in the Città Bianca here!

A italian mama making fresh pasta in the restaurant
The granny making fresh pasta every day at L’Antico Arco Restaurant in Cisternino

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. The town has a gracious city centre, is full of churches, mansions, Roman amphitheatre and many more interesting sights.

Aerial shot of Lecce with the main cathedral
Aerial shot of Lecce

We stayed in an awesome B&B 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

Aerial shot of Otranto with the castle by the sea
Aerial shot of Otranto

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.

Otranto Church of Bones
The mortal remains of more than 800 men who died during the Turkish invasion

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.

an emerald green Bauxite Lake in Puglia
The emerald green Bauxite Lake

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 on the aerial video we did from there!

PS – This is the example of an incredible remote place which you would hardly be able to visit via public transport.

Aerial shot of the Grotta della poesia, a hole in the floor surrounded by the sea
That hole in the rocks is the Grotto!

Gallipoli

Time in Gallipoli: Two to four days

Gallipoli is probably the most famous city of Puglia, mainly amongst 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 read our full guide about the Full Moon Party, in Thailand.

Fernanda in front and the beach of Galipolli in the back in Puglia
The beach of Gallipoli

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.

Inside a Frantoio Ipogeo cave in Galipolli where oil were made
Inside a Frantoio Ipogeo

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 accomodation in Gallipoli here.

Salento – the west coast

Time in Salento: A day trip to four days

Aerial view of torre Chianca, an islet with a tower surrounded by crystal clear water
Aerial shot of Torre Chianca, near Porto Cesario

The west coast beaches of Puglia can very well be the most beautiful beaches in Puglia. But they can very well be the most wild too. For this reason, if you are travelling with children, perhaps, is wiser to check if the place you are planning to visit has infrastructure to welcome the little ones.

Santa Maria Al Bagno, Porto Selvaggio, Porto Cesario, Torre Colimena, Torre Chianca, Punta Prosciutto are just to name a few of the best beaches in Puglia you should make an effort to visit or to spend the weekend in Puglia.

We recommend staying in Porto Cesareo. Find accommodation here.

Taranto

Time in Taranto: One to two days

Tiago and Fernanda in front of a castle in Taranto with their bikes
Arriving at our final destination by bike, Taranto

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. 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

Twisted Olive tree with a hay next to it in an open field
The Olive trees in Puglia can date back 2000 years!
  • Watch a Pizzica Concert. It’s the traditional music/dance of Salento and has its origins from an exorcism ritual that used to be carried out mainly on women a long time ago.
  • The city of Matera, the Europe’s Capital of Culture 2020. Matera is not in Puglia but in Basilicata. 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.
  • If you have some spare time, don’t miss the more wild region of Gargano, in the north of Puglia.
ATTENTION: AVOID TRAVELLING TO THIS REGION – TO THE WHOLE COUNTRY AS A MATTER OF FACT – DURING THE MONTH OF AUGUST. PRACTICALLY EVERY ITALIAN CITIZEN TAKE HOLIDAYS OVER THIS PERIOD – KNOWN AS FERRAGOSTO – AND EVERYWHERE GETS INCREDIBLY BUSY AND EXPENSIVE.

Puglia itinerary – how many days

Aerial view of Punta Prosciutto, a islet surrounded by the clear green sea water
Aerial shot of Punta Prosciutto, one of the most beautiful places of Salento

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 comment, advice, or doubt, be sure to leave it in the comment section below or get in touch with us directly.

Puglia itinerary 3 days

If, for the unfortunate event of having only three days to travel in Puglia, we recommend you to:

  • Focus on Polignano A Mare and Alberobelo
  • Focus on Gallipoli and staying in a masseria

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 coast.

  • Day 01 – Bari
  • Day 02 – Polignano a Mare
  • Day 03 – Alberobelo (sleep in Ostuni)
  • Day 04 – Ostuni
  • Day 05 – Lecce
  • Day 06 – Otranto
  • Day 07 – Return to Bari by car – 2h10min

Puglia itinerary 14 days

This is what we suggest if you want to enjoy the most of Puglia.

  • Day 01 – Bari
  • Day 02 – Castel del Monte (Bari)
  • Day 03 – Polignano A Mare
  • Day 04 – Polignano A Mare
  • Day 05 – Grotta Castellana & Alberobelo (sleep in Ostuni)
  • Day 06 – Ostuni
  • Day 07 – Ostuni
  • Day 08 – Lecce / Otranto
  • Day 09 – Lecce / Otranto
  • Day 10 – Lecce / Otranto
  • Day 11 – Gallipoli
  • Day 12 – Gallipoli
  • Day 13 – Porto Cesario
  • Day 14 – Porto Cesario (return to Bari by car – 2h)

Where to stay in Puglia

Fernanda on her bike arriving in the middle of the square in Bari, Puglia
Arriving in Bari by bike

A good way to visit Puglia, considering that cities are very close from one another, is to choose two or three cities as 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 north east;
  • Ostuni to visit the Vale D’Itria
  • Lecce for the south east 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

* Article originally written on December 2018 and updated on July 2022*