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Puglia Holidays: travel Guide, tips & inspiration

Welcome to Puglia, also known as Apulia, an enchanting region nestled in the heel of Italy's boot, offering an authentic and diverse Italian experience. Known for its breathtaking landscapes, stunning coastline, olive groves, whitewashed towns, and rich cultural heritage, Puglia captivates visitors with its unspoiled beauty and charming simplicity. This sun-kissed southeastern region of Italy boasts plenty to see and do from the iconic trulli houses of Alberobello to the breathtaking cliffs of Polignano a Mare, and the Baroque splendour of Lecce. Discover its renowned cuisine, from delectable seafood dishes to local wines and freshly pressed olive oil. Whether you seek relaxation on pristine beaches, cultural immersion in ancient towns, or culinary delights, with this travel guide we aim to unlock some of the secrets of Puglia, to help you ensure an unforgettable luxury Italian holiday.

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What are some of the must-see historical and natural sights in Puglia?

Puglia is a region steeped in both history and natural beauty, boasting a myriad of captivating sights, from Alberobello's UNESCO-listed trulli, distinctive traditional cone-shaped dwellings which date back centuries, to Lecce's beautiful Baroque architecture, showcasing ornate churches and intricately adorned facades. Along the coast, the dramatic cliffs and crystal-clear waters of Polignano a Mare captivate with their sheer beauty. The ancient city of Matera, though technically in Basilicata, is a nearby must-see with its fascinating cave dwellings. Puglia's natural wonders include the enchanting Gargano Peninsula, adorned with lush forests, picturesque beaches, and the striking limestone formations of the Grotte di Castellana, revealing a mesmerising underground world.

The Castel del Monte

Discover the awe-inspiring mystery of Castel del Monte, an enchanting Italian castle nestled in the heart of Andria, proudly adorned with UNESCO's stamp of approval. Crafted under the visionary guidance of Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen in 1240, this architectural marvel has captivated curious minds for centuries. Picture a fusion of styles, where Gothic, classical antique, and oriental influences seamlessly intertwine, painting a picture of unparalleled grandeur. The castle's intrigue deepens as it revolves around the number eight, symbolizing infinite balance between heaven and earth - from its distinctive octagonal structure to the eight towers that grace its silhouette. Wander through its meticulously designed eight rooms, each opening onto a captivating octagonal courtyard, and marvel at the meticulous craftsmanship. Perched majestically at 540 meters atop a scenic hill, this castle promises not just a historical journey, but a panoramic feast for the eyes, offering breathtaking views of the sprawling countryside. Uncover the secrets of Castel del Monte, where history meets architectural brilliance, and let your curiosity soar amidst its ancient walls. Experience a timeless adventure that will linger in your thoughts long after you leave.

Gargano National Park

Embark on an unforgettable adventure at the Gargano National Park, Italy's grandest natural marvel! Imagine a peninsula gracefully diving into the Adriatic Sea, inviting explorers from around the globe to uncover its myriad wonders. This isn't just a park; it's a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. Whether you're craving sun-kissed beaches, a deep dive into nature's embrace, or a journey through charming villages steeped in tradition, Gargano has it all and more. Dive into the azure waters, hike through lush forests, or stroll along cobblestone streets – your desires are the park's command. Here, every traveler finds their bliss. Join us as we unveil the top must-see destinations, ensuring your Gargano escapade is nothing short of extraordinary! Here are some magical places not to be missed:

  • The town of Manfredonia. It marks the entrance to the park and has a few places to to visit, including the Swabian-Angevin castle and religious buildings.
  • The Zagare Bay, a sublime pebble beach nestled between cliffs.
  • Peschici, a typical hilltop village at the top of a cliff and overlooking the sea. How good it is to get lost among the alleys of its historic centre.
  • The Lake of Varano, one of the largest lakes in southern Italy. Here, ornithology lovers will be delighted!

The Castellana Caves

Dive into the mysteries of Apulia region at the Castellana Caves, an ancient marvel at the gateway to the Itria Valley, with a history dating back 90 million years. Choose between two captivating paths, spanning either three or one kilometre, leading you through the legendary Black Cave adorned with unique mushrooms and the ethereal White Cave, hailed as one of the world's finest. Marvel at nature's artistry with draperies, fossils, and vivid stalactites and stalagmites in every colour imaginable. Uncover the secrets of this geological wonderland, where every step reveals a new chapter in Earth's history. Join us on an unforgettable journey into the heart of the Castellana Caves!

The caves of Castellana

 

Alberobello

Get ready to step into a fairy tale in Alberobello, a village unlike any other, renowned for its enchanting trullo houses. The Trulli are crafted from unjointed stones and adorned with symbolic cone-shaped roofs, and have graced the Apulian landscape since the 15th-century. Each trullo carries a legacy of peace and abundance, a tradition that traces back to prehistoric times. Alberobello's trulli, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, provide a captivating glimpse into history, inviting visitors to explore this magical village that seamlessly blends past and present. Wander through the winding streets, adorned with these iconic structures, and immerse yourself in the unique atmosphere that makes Alberobello a must-visit destination in Puglia. Here are the different places at find out if you are wondering what to do in Puglia:

  • Monti is the main district. It is particularly reserved for for visits because there are more than 1000 trulli here.
  • Aia Piccola is a small neighbourhood which still hosts a few residents today. Its narrow streets give it all its charm.
  • The Trullo Sovrano, the only two-storey building of its kind, now houses a museum.

 

What are the best cities and towns to visit in Puglia?

Puglia boasts an array of captivating cities and enchanting towns, each offering its unique charm and cultural allure. From Bari, to Lecce, and Gallipoli, here are some of the ones not to be missed:

Bari

As the region's capital Bari is the vibrant heart of Puglia, strategically positioned to act as a pivotal hub for trade and cultural exchange between Europe and the Middle East, the boasts centuries of stories and culture. Today, it stands tall as a bustling commercial port and boasts the Adriatic Sea's largest passenger port. Steeped in this legacy, Bari unfolds a treasure trove of historical sites and monuments waiting to be discovered. Begin your adventure in the charming embrace of "Bari Vecchia," the city's old town, where winding streets whisper tales of antiquity, captivating you at every turn. But the adventure doesn't end there! The city also enjoy a myriad of modern day attractions and entertainment, including plenty of excellent restaurants and bars.

  • Basilica di San Nicola (Basilica of Saint Nicholas): this iconic church houses the relics of Saint Nicholas, also known as Santa Claus. Its impressive Romanesque architecture and religious significance make it a top attraction.
  • Castello Svevo (Swabian Castle): this medieval fortress dating back to the 12th century, and offers insights into Bari's history along with picturesque views of the Adriatic Sea.
  • Cattedrale di San Sabino (Bari Cathedral): built on the ruins of the ancient Byzantine dome, this imposing Romanesque cathedral features intricate details and a beautiful interior, showcasing the city's religious heritage and a museum with interesting works of art.
  • Teatro Petruzzelli (Petruzzelli Theatre): known as one of Italy's largest and most prestigious opera houses, it's a stunning architectural gem hosting opera, ballet, and concerts.
  • Piazza Mercantile: a lively square in the heart of Bari Vecchia, surrounded by historic buildings and bustling with local life, offering a glimpse into Bari's vibrant atmosphere.
  • Finally, don't miss the city's 40 kilometres of beach facing the Adriatic Sea.

Monopoli

Step into the enchanting world of Monopoli, a hidden gem nestled in the heart of Italy's Bari province. What makes this town truly exceptional is its seamless blend of modernity and medieval charm. Imagine strolling through bustling streets that effortlessly transform into a captivating medieval center and a picturesque fishing port embracing the Adriatic. The harbour, adorned with small boats and houses draped in lime, paints a postcard-perfect scene. As you venture further, you'll discover pristine beaches, each one a slice of paradise. For an extra touch of magic, set sail on a boat and explore the coastal wonders beyond the city.

Lecce

Welcome to Lecce, affectionately known as “the Florence of the South” or the “Baroque Florence,” a city that embodies the epitome of southern Italy's beauty and charm. Imagine strolling through its historic streets, where the air is infused with an artistic aura, reminiscent of an open-air museum. Lecce's 17th-century baroque architecture will leave you spellbound, every corner adorned with intricate details that whisper tales of centuries past. But that’s just the beginning! Dive into our curated selection of must-see attractions in this ancient intellectual centre of Italy, and let Lecce weave its spell around you:

  • Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross): a Baroque masterpiece built in the 16th and 17th centuries and renowned for its intricate façade adorned with ornate sculptures and detailed carvings.
  • Piazza del Duomo: the main square of Lecce, surrounded by architectural marvels like the Duomo di Lecce (Lecce Cathedral), the Campanile (Bell Tower), and the Bishop's Palace, showcasing the city's artistic and historical grandeur, it is considered one of the most beautiful squares in southern Italy.
  • Basilica di Santa Maria della Grazia: a beautiful church adorned with exquisite Baroque decorations and a stunning rose window, representing another architectural gem in Lecce.
  • Amphitheatre of Lecce (Anfiteatro Romano): discover the ruins of this ancient Roman amphitheatre, hidden beneath the city, showcasing Lecce's ancient past and providing a glimpse into its history.
  • Museo Provinciale Sigismondo Castromediano: showcasing archaeological findings, art, and historical artifacts from the region of Salento. Named after Sigismondo Castromediano, an illustrious figure in Italian culture and history, the museum houses a diverse collection that spans from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages.
  • Piazza Sant'Oronzo: a bustling square featuring the remnants of a Roman column, an ancient statue of Saint Oronzo, and the Sedile, a historic seat used for public meetings.
  • Palazzo dei Celestini: this former Celestine monastery showcases elegant Baroque architecture and houses the Civic Museum of Lecce, displaying archaeological artifacts and artworks.

lecce-les-pouilles

Brindisi

Prepare to be pleasantly surprised by Brindisi, a city often overlooked but brimming with hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. This ancient port city is a double delight, offering a fascinating blend of heritage and beaches that captivate the soul. Channel your inner Phileas Fogg, the legendary adventurer from Jules Verne's classic "Around the World in 80 Days," and embark on a journey through Brindisi's atmospheric streets and its natural port. Experience the melancholic charm accentuated by breathtaking sunsets and the vibrant hues of the buildings that line the waterfront. And that's not all – the grand finale awaits at the Roman column, standing proudly opposite the sea, providing a panoramic vista that will steal your breath away.

Matera

Welcome to Matera, Italy's crown jewel, a city that wears its ancient heritage like a badge of honour. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and bestowed the prestigious title of European Capital of Culture in 2019, Matera is a time capsule waiting to be explored. Perched on the Murgia Plateau, it's a city intimately connected to its Neolithic past, with caves once inhabited by humans dotting its landscape. Here, you'll step into one of the oldest cities on Earth, where history comes alive through its troglodyte sassi. These unique dwellings, carved into the rugged tuff rock, cling to the mountainside, offering a glimpse into bygone eras. From the opulent days when aristocracy graced these caves to their eventual abandonment in the mid-20th century, the sassi have witnessed the ebb and flow of time. Today, these interconnected caves, restored and revitalized, beckon you to explore their secrets. Follow the stairs and galleries that link these ancient abodes, and let Matera's timeless charm envelop you.

Gallipoli

Nestled on the Ionian coast of Puglia, Gallipoli tempts visitors with its timeless allure, combining history, stunning landscapes, and a vibrant coastal atmosphere. This ancient city, whose name means "beautiful city" in Greek, enchants with its picturesque old town, Città Vecchia, situated on a limestone island connected to the mainland by a 17th-century bridge. Steeped in history, Gallipoli boasts a rich heritage showcased through its well-preserved Baroque architecture, historic churches such as the beautiful Basilica Cattedrale di Sant'Agata, and labyrinthine streets. While the impressive Castello di Gallipoli, is an enchanting 14th-century Angevin-Aragonese castle with panoramic views of the town and the Ionian Sea, and which houses exhibitions and provides insight into the town's maritime history. The town's crystalline waters and sandy beaches lining its coastline add a scenic backdrop, inviting relaxation and water activities – our recommendation: Spiaggia della Purità, known for its crystal-clear waters and views of the old town. From exploring the charming alleys of the old town to indulging in fresh seafood at waterfront restaurants along Gallipoli Harbour and experiencing the lively atmosphere of its local markets, Gallipoli offers a multifaceted experience, captivating travellers seeking a blend of history, culture, and seaside charm.

 

When is the best time to visit Puglia?

Planning a trip to the enchanting heel of the iconic Italian boot? Well, Puglia is calling, and it's ready to welcome you with open arms, no matter the time of year! That said, let's take a closer look and break down the seasons:

  • Summer: golden sands, endless sunshine, and a vibe that's nothing short of electric! Summer in Puglia is all about seaside wonders, major music festivals, and thrilling water sports. July and August are buzzing with energy, making it the perfect time for beach enthusiasts and partygoers. Just a heads-up, though – it's peak tourist season, so snag your accommodation early before they vanish like gelato on a hot day!
  • Winter: as the colder months descend, Puglia takes on a serene aura, however temperatures remain mild with only occasional rains. From November to March, the region enjoys a quieter atmosphere, and accommodation prices drop, giving you a chance to explore without breaking the bank. Just bundle up in the mornings – they can be a tad chilly!
  • Autumn and spring: as with so many Mediterranean destinations, here we have the sweet spot. Less crowds and delightful weather make outdoor activities and exploration a joy. From April to June discover the natural landscapes in bloom, and from September to October, enjoy still warm sea temperatures.

 

Where is the best place to stay in Puglia?

If you're itching to explore the stunning beauty of Puglia, and need a cosy spot to call home during your holiday, then you'll find a diverse range of accommodations to suit all preferences and budgets. Let's have a look at some of the types of accommodation available in this enchanting region:

  • Trulli: why not stay in a traditional trullo, the iconic cone-shaped stone houses we mentioned previously in Alberobello and the Valle d'Itria, it doesn't get much more authentic than this.
  • Masserie: experience rural Puglian life by staying in a masseria, a traditional farmhouse-turned-hotel, offering a combination of history, rustic comfort, and countryside tranquillity. One of our favourites is the four-star Victor Country Hotel - Masseria.
  • Agriturismo: Puglia is one of the best regions to enjoy a typical Italian Agriturismo experience, this offers a true immersion into Puglian rural life, typically a farm or countryside estate offering rustic luxury accommodations, with home-cooked meals made with local produce, usually grown on-site, and often offering agricultural activities to bring you closer to nature. Some of our favourites, the Agriturismo I Pozzetti, or charming Agriturismo Tenuta Mazzetta.
  • Boutique hotels: puglia boasts numerous boutique hotels, especially in historic towns like Lecce, Ostuni, and Gallipoli, these intimate accommodations offer stylish design, personalised service, and often unique settings in historic buildings.
  • Luxury resorts: being a Mediterranean region with an extensive coastline, Puglia features many luxurious resorts along its coastline, providing amenities such as sumptuous spas, private beaches, and high-end restaurants. Some of our favourites, the four-star MIRA Acaya Golf Resort & Spa, or the five-star Borgobianco Resort & SPA - MGallery Hotel Collection.
  • Holiday villas or apartments: often an excellent option for families or groups, offering more space, privacy, and the chance to experience life like a local.

The best type of accommodation in Puglia depends on your preferences, whether you seek a cultural experience, a countryside retreat, a coastal getaway, or a combination of these elements. VeryChic's travel experts have got your back, however, and work hard to unearth the best accommodations and negotiate the best deals to make your holiday in Puglia truly memorable.

 

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