Puglia - First thing to know before you start your trip: if you set foot here, you won't be willing to return back home! The Puglia region is the heel of Italy's boot. It's an explosion of culture, gastronomy, history and breathtaking scenery. A large part of the region benefits from natural parks covered with olive trees dating back thousands of years. You can also find many historical masserias. The region is until now relatively untouched by mass tourism. As local friends have said: "You shouldn't tell people to come here! You have to say that there are thieves, snakes, that it is very dry". Simply because everyone who sets foot in this region falls in love with it.
If you're planning a trip to Puglia, make sure you take the time i needs! Clearly, you should not limit yourself to one city or region. You have to move from town to town without staying more than two or three days. And make a big tour because there are so many beautiful things to see and regions to explore. I would say that to get a good first impression of Puglia you should go for at least 10 days, 15 being the ideal.
Find out where to go in Puglia, the best addresses and all my tips to enjoy the most beautiful region of Italy, in my opinion, in this blog post!
Puglia Regions in Italy are is divided into several regions: Bari, Brindisi, Taranto, Lecce (or Salento), Andria and Foggia. As my husband is from Salento, we have always located our trips in this region. However, we also discovered the region of Brindisi and Bari. Salento is not very touristy. The mass of tourists stay near the airports of Bari and Brindisi. Therefore, the tourist economy has rather developed in these regions. So, Salento is quite unspoilt, and very Italian. If you don't speak Italian, it is difficult to make yourself understood in the region. Although hotels and restaurants are increasingly speaking English. The Bari area is much more touristy but still beautiful. Prices are also higher in this part of Puglia.
Puglia first experienced a Greek period in antiquity, before the region was invaded by the Romans a few centuries before Christ. The Latins developed the region for several hundred years. The fall of the Roman Empire led to a succession of invasions and wars in Puglia. The region fell under Byzantine rule before passing into the hands of the Normans. This marked the beginning of the feudal period for the region.
That's only a quick overview of the region's history, but why am I telling you all this? Simply because in Puglia, the vestiges of this complex history are very much in evidence in the architecture. Sometimes you'll admire the white buildings of a Greek-style village, sometimes a Turkish palace and sometimes you'll enjoy the winding streets of a Latin town. This architectural diversity makes the visits very interesting and makes you want to learn more about the region's past.
To get to the area, there are two airports: Bari and Brindisi. The two are not very far from each other (a large hour's drive) so choose your flights above all according to price and not where you are going in Puglia. Having traveled via both, I would say that flights to Brindisi are generally cheaper. The easiest and most economical way is to fly with Ryanair. During the summer holidays, ticket prices rise quite quickly, but if you do it in advance, you can get good deals. I paid €150 the first time I was, but €500 this year when booking the day before we left (which itches a little onsidering it was quite a lot for a Ryanair flight).
Once there, the easiest way to get around is to rent a car. But beware of scams! Last year we were heavily ripped off by Sixt at Bari airport. Our car was not available, supposedly we had one of the same size for the same price. In reality, we had a trunk twice as small and therefore our suitcases did not fit in it. They also told us that the insurance taken out on the Ryanair site was not sufficient, and that more was needed… So we ended up paying €1200 for 10 days of rental. And the story is not over! Since when I get home, I notice that I have been charged another 100€ more. Six months later, they again charged me €62 several times. Impossible to reach someone on site to demand an explanation or have supporting documents.
This year everything went well. We rented the car from another company (Luxauto), and we did not take any insurance when booking online. On site, we were offered additional insurance which we refused (these are only enough to reduce the deductible from 2500 to 1500€ and the insurance costs 600€… the calculation is quickly done). So we paid 470€ for 13 days and got a bigger car model than expected. To see if in 6 months my card isn't charged again, I'll let you know!
If you plan to stay in the same hotel for your entire stay or to avoid the hassle and trouble I went through, you can also book a private transfer from Bari airport or a transfer from Brindisi airport to at your hotel, it's up to you!
Of course, driving in Italy is not easy and the driving of Italians is quite original. The best thing is not to stress yourself out and to be very vigilant. For example, the entry lanes on the highways are very very short, which sometimes makes it difficult to fit into traffic. So be careful!
Also be aware that some city centers are car-free. But it's not always well displayed or crossed out. There are cameras that will take a picture of the plate of your car, see that you are not a resident. It could cost you dearly in fines. So find out well before leaving for a city where you are allowed to park. In general, the yellow strips on the ground are reserved for local residents. The blue bands delimit the paying zones. The white stripes allow everyone to park for free. And a sign indicates when you enter the waterfront area.
Of course, there are also buses but I have never taken them so I can't tell you properly on this subject.
Puglia is a destination that can be visited in "luxury mode" as well on a budget. There are as many magnificent pricey hotels, as sublime Airbnbs and Bed and Breakfasts at much more advantageous prices. In this destination, any type of profile can be found there.
Price level of activities, food etc… the Bari region tends to be more expensive than Salento. Where your meal costs you 20€ for two in Salento, it will cost you 30€ in the north, which obviously remains quite accessible. As I told you, the Bari region is much more touristy, so prices increase accordingly.
I'll write a detailed bog post by city in the following weeks but here is already an overview of the cities not to be missed during a stay in Puglia. The best addresses are not in this article but you can find them already on my mapstr while waiting for me to finish the blogpost of the respective cities.
As a reminder, the Italians have a different rhythm of life from ours. They get up at 5 a.m., and take a siesta from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. So if you go to visit a city in the afternoon, you will often find it deserted and most shops and restaurants will be closed. I therefore advise you to plan your visits at the end of the day or in the morning. On my behalf, I like to go to the cities already at 4:30 p.m./5 p.m. because they are still empty and it is very pleasant. Afterwards, around 6:30 p.m. you can have a little aperitif before heading out to dinner later (the restaurants do not open before 7:30 p.m./8 p.m.).
In genereal for the towns in this region, I would say one day is enough to visit. I advise you to sleep in the countryside in a trullo, a building typical of the region, and to hit the road every day at the end of the day to discover a city and have a bite to eat in the evening. You can also spend the day at the beach because the region is full of very nice beaches, although very touristy.
In Salento, we dive into deep and ultra-typical Italy. There are less activities in this much quieter area, but life is much more authentic there than in the north, and to me, this is where you eat the best food in all of Puglia! The region is also full of coves and much calmer beaches than in the north (however there is not much sand, the beaches are all very rocky). There are many natural spectacles to watch, such as the Torre Sant Andrea, with its limestone rocks devoured by the sea, the Grotta della Poesia San Foca (there are many Italian teenagers who come to play and dive there), the canale del Ciolo, Torre del Orso, Marina serra di tricase (a beautiful natural swimming pool) and so many others …
With this blogpost, you therefore have a first glimpse of all there is to do in this region that I literally fell in love with. This article will be supplemented gradually by other articles on each city, with accommodation, good addresses and tutti quanti.