There are so many amazing places to visit in Puglia, Italy. This guide will take you through the best Puglia towns and cities and a quick overview of why you should add it to the Puglia itinerary! Please let us know if there are any places in Puglia we left out.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 16 Mind-blowingly Beautiful Places to Visit in Puglia, Italy
- How to Get to Puglia
- Puglia Towns and Cities
- Do You Need Travel Insurance for Italy?
- What to Bring to Puglia
- Additional Puglia Reading
- Best Places in Puglia
16 Mind-blowingly Beautiful Places to Visit in Puglia, Italy
There are places in this world that will capture your imagination and force you to book a plane ticket there- Puglia is one of them. Located in the southeastern part of Italy, Puglia makes up the heel of Italy’s boot-like shape.
The region is known for its outstanding beauty, with rugged coastlines where towns perch precariously on cliffs and a hilly interior where whitewashed towns are surrounded by ancient olive groves and vineyards.
Puglia, or Apulia as it is known to locals, has an incredibly long and rich history and is believed to be one of the longest permanently settled areas in the world. Its more modern history has been somewhat turbulent, with rulers and invaders coming and going until finally, Italy united as one kingdom in the 19th-century.
One of the first foreign rulers in the area were the Greeks. They established many of the settlements you see in the region today and some of the town and city names have kept their Greek origins.
Eventually, the Roman Empire spread its reach to Puglia and built important trading routes, like the Via Triana. After the Roman Empire collapsed, Puglia transitioned quickly between Norman, Arabic, and Spanish control, each putting their own stamp on the region before being ousted by the next invader.
Today, the region is a vibrant and bustling area that oozes southern European charm. Visitors to Puglia flock to the beautiful seaside towns to take in the stunning views over the Adriatic and marvel at the outstanding beauty of the area. Along the coast, the dramatic cliffs give way to gorgeous beaches where you can relax and take in the summer sunshine.
In the Puglian evenings, it impossible not immerse yourself in the local culinary scene with amazing fresh fish available in pretty much every restaurant serving incredible dishes using the freshest local ingredients. The history of the region has been well-preserved and the area is one of the richest archaeological areas in Italy.
How to Get to Puglia
Reaching Puglia is fairly easy with two large airports servicing the area in Bari and Brindisi. Italy also has efficient railway connections with quick, reliable, and affordable options available. Alternatively, many of the big cities along the coast have large ports where cruise ships and ferries regularly arrive and depart from.
Puglia Towns and Cities
Throughout Puglia, there are hundreds of beautiful towns that are perfect for visiting, each with its own charm and characteristics. To help you decide which Puglia towns to visit, I have put together the following list of the sixteen best cities, towns, and places to visit in Puglia.
From coastal beauty to stunning hilltop towns, you will fail not to be taken aback by the beauty of these places in Puglia, and you will be itching to book your plane tickets to this awe-inspiring part of the world.
Do You Need Travel Insurance for Italy?
YES… travel insurance is one of the most important things to sort out prior to your trip. Most trips to Italy are problem-free, but you never know what might happen and it’s best to protect yourself against the unknown.
A small accident won’t end up ruining your holiday and your bank balance. I full-heartedly recommend booking your insurance with SafetyWing, a wonderful Norwegian company that offers amazing coverage at even more impressive rates. This is the provider we use and we have had nothing but great experiences with them.
What to Bring to Puglia
I am the master of over packing and I end up toting around heavy bags and bringing back even heavier bags as I often forget to bring some of the essentials. To avoid my mistakes I really suggest you bring along the following things for your trip to Puglia.
Italy power adapter: Europe is the land of crazy plugs, where three different kinds are available, one of which is predominantly found in Italy. They use this three-prong plug, which is far smaller than those used on the rest of continental Europe and you will quickly discover that either your plugs do not fit, or they fall out easily.
To avoid having to hunt down one during your trip I suggest bringing one or two with you to alleviate any unneeded stress.
Power strip: The mighty power strip is one of the best traveling companions in the world. A multiple socket power strip means you can charge all of your electronics easily with only one adapter. I recommend getting a power strip that also includes USB ports so that you do not need to carry around USB plug adapters which will make your luggage less bulky and cluttered.
Fodor’s Essential Italy guidebook: Even in today’s modern internet age, I try not to travel without a physical guidebook as you really don’t know when you will find yourself without access to the internet and trying to find out information about a certain location.
The excellent Fodor’s Essential Italy is the perfect guidebook to accompany you on your trip. It is full of expert knowledge and it will keep you on the right track and is brimming with excellent recommendations for all kinds of travelers.
Italy Phrasebook: I love the Italian language- it just sounds so sexy and alluring. I always try to learn a few new words when I go to Italy. Being able to speak a few words in the language really helps create a connection between yourself and local people even if it is just being able to order your coffee in Italian.
Additional Puglia Reading
Puglia is a well-traveled region of Italy and there are plenty of great books that you should read before traveling there. Here are some of the best books I have found about the region, with some great suggestions of what to do and where to eat during your stay in Puglia.
Best Places in Puglia
There are a few important cities in Puglia, with Lecce being one of the most vital to the region. The university city has had a long and enthralling history, transitioning throughout the ages and at one point physically moving two miles northeast.
The city is known for its Baroque-era buildings that make up much of the Lecce old town, with Via Libertini being one of the best streets for seeing a large collection of Baroque buildings. In the center of the Lecce, you will find an impressive Roman Amphitheatre that has held up over the years, although only the lower section of the two-story structure is the original.
In the summer evenings, you might be lucky enough to see a show in the amphitheater, sitting where spectators have sat for millennia. In the evening, enjoy Italian aperitivo with fantastic local wines grown in the surrounding areas.
Learn more about Lecce by taking a fantastic guided walking tour of the city.
Gallipoli, on Puglia’s western coast, is a breathtaking town split into two halves (if you Google the town, make sure you add Puglia into your search, as there is also a Gallipoli, Turkey). The new part of the town is located on the mainland of Italy while the old town teeters on a small island completely surrounded by the sea and only accessible by a 16th-century bridge or by boat.
Explore the defensive walls of the old town and visit the Castello di Gallipoli, which was used for many years as the town’s main form of defense. These days, it is used for more peaceful purposes as a tourist attraction and cultural center.
In the interior of the town, get lost amongst the tight streets and alleyways, where you will find hidden churches and beautiful piazzas that you can take a break and enjoy an espresso or some gelato while people watching.
Discover the city and learn all about its history by taking an organized walking tour, where an expert local guide will teach you everything you need to know about the wonderful Gallipoli. Gallipoli is truly one of the best places to visit in Puglia.
Brindisi has historically been one of the most important cities in southern Italy, with its large port and ancient Roman roads connecting it directly with Rome. The city remains an influential port and the hub for exports and imports to Greece and the middle east.
Spend time exploring the harbor where you will be greeted with classic little fishing boats bobbing around in the sea. By the end of the old Via Appia (one of the old roads to Rome), you’ll find a giant Mussolini-era monument to sailors. Throughout the castle, you will discover several castles that were built through the ages by different rulers.
Throughout Brindisi, you will also see many spectacular churches, some of which date back to before the 11th-century, however, some have had a difficult past with the cathedral having to be entirely rebuilt in the 18th-century after an earthquake destroyed the original.
To learn more about Brindisi, I recommend taking a guided walking tour of the city where you can learn all about the city from a friendly local.
Ostuni is a remarkably beautiful city that sits perched on a hill, teeming with charming, whitewashed buildings. The town has been in existence since the Stone Age, transforming over the years as different rulers have come and gone and has since become one of the best places to visit in Puglia.
Ostuni is best explored by foot. As you wander around the tight little streets and alleyways, amongst the vibrant white buildings, you will find stunning squares like Piazza della Libertà, a square that is packed full of history.
One of the most amazing things to do in Ostuni is to watch the sunset over the old town as it turns the white city, gold, and pink. In the evening, take the time to try Ostuni’s local wines that have been protected under European law. Ostuni is also famous for its olive oil, with ancient olive groves surrounding the city.
Make the most of your time in Ostuni, by taking a walking tour of Ostuni, complete with a delightful gelato tasting.
If you’re seeking somewhere to stay in Ostuni, you can discover some of our favorite Ostuni hotels here.
One of Puglia’s hidden gems is the small town of Trani. As people pour into Bari, they tend to head southeast along the coast to the more famous towns like Polignano a Mare. Despite its small size, Trani packs a punch when it comes to things to do, such as the beautiful Villa Comunale di Trani a wonderful park that has picturesque views over the city and the sea.
There is a Norman-era castle in the center of the town. However, it is important to make sure that you check if the castle is fully accessible and there are no restoration works ongoing otherwise you will find much of the building to be closed and not worth the entrance fee.
The quaint streets feel peaceful and make for a relaxing walk as you escape the crowds of tourists that you normally find in Puglian towns. There is also a fantastic Romanesque cathedral that dominates the town center.
To ensure you don’t miss any of the key sights in Trani, I recommend taking a guided walking tour of the town. I wish I had done that when I was there as I think I missed a great deal of the history of Trani.
Bari is the region’s capital and the gateway to exploring Puglia. The city has existed since around 300 BC and from then, it grew into one of the most important ports in the region.
Bari has also become one of the most important religious towns in Italy as people undertake pilgrimages to visit the relics of Saint Nicholas (in Basilica San Nicola), the man who would later become the legendary Santa Claus.
The relics are so revered in the Russian Orthodox church that there is even a special Orthodox church in the town to house the pilgrims. Along with the fantastic churches, Bari is home to many other historical buildings like medieval castles and grand palaces.
Spend some time walking along the seafront, where you can take a ride on the observational Ferris wheel or head to the fish market to try the fantastic fresh seafood that locals eat raw with a squeeze of lemon.
In addition to fresh seafood, Bari is famous for its Focaccia Barese and Orrechiette, an ear-shaped pasta that you can find local ladies making and selling on the streets.
Enjoy the sights and tasty treats of Bari on a guided street food tour of the city where you will eat your way around the city while taking in the sights. For me, Bari is synonymous with FOOD and it is imperative that you learn about it while visiting the Italian city.
Click here if you’re keen to see what to do in Bari from our guide.
Along the eastern coast of Puglia, you will find my favorite city I visited in the region, Monopoli, Italy. The small town isn’t as popular as many others along the coast but is still packed with incredible history and charm.
The old town is crammed full of cute little alleyways and streets where you can find little boutique shops or stumble across ancient churches and palaces.
One of the biggest draws to Monopoli is its stunning beaches that stretch south of the town and are some of the best spots to relax and enjoy the Adriatic sea in Puglia.
Throughout Monopoli, you will find old defensive spots where cannons were placed to protect the city from invaders like the Spanish Armada who were held off for three months.
There is also a large amount of Roman history in the area with the Via Triana having run through Monopoli and under the cathedral there are excavated Roman ruins.
Enjoy a private guided tour of Monopoli where an expert local will teach you all you need to know about this beautiful town.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Monopoli, be sure to check out our accommodation guide.
Polignano a Mare
One of the biggest draws to the region is the town of Polignano a Mare, referred to as the “Jewel of Puglia”. Legend has it that Polignano a Mare broke away from Greece and floated across the Adriatic and joined with Italy. Although this obviously isn’t true, Polignano a Mare, like most of the region, has Greek heritage.
There are many things to do in Polignano a Mare, such as the historic old town where you can wander around the streets to discover the hidden poetry written on the walls and stairways.
The town is perched high above the sea atop of the dramatic cliffs and from the old town, you can find many viewpoints that look over the coves and out to sea.
In the center of the town, you will find a gorge that leads to the Lama Monachile Beach, the main public beach of the town. Behind the beach, you will also find the Ponte Lama Monachile, the old Roman bridge that formed part of the Via Triana.
In the afternoon, take the opportunity to try Polignano a Mare’s special coffee, a boozy version of coffee that is popular amongst the locals. In the evening, eat dinner at the Grotta Palazzese restaurant, a restaurant that is built into one of the sea caves hovers above the tranquil waters below.
Take a private tour of Polignano a Mare where you will take in the sights of this darling clifftop town and try its famous “special coffee”.
Alberobello is one of the biggest draws to the Puglia region with its Trulli style houses. The houses were once commonplace across Puglia as they were quick and easy to build since there is no mortar holding the stones together.
Rumor has it they were built as a smart way to avoid property tax in the region as they were quick to dismantle when tax inspectors from Naples would enter the area. Today, tourists love to explore the town where the Trullis are packed tightly together and protected by UNESCO World Heritage.
While visiting the town, along with walking around the charming streets, you can spend a night in one of these beautiful houses in which design and building techniques have not changed in many years since they must follow strict building regulations under UNESCO rules.
Take a 2-hour walking tour of the town to learn all about its magical charm and its hidden secrets. If you are planning to stay the night Alberobello, you can book a stay in your very own Trulli house here.
Technically not fully in Puglia, Matera sits on Puglia’s border with Basilicata and is one of the most historically important towns in Italy, if not the world. It is believed to be one of the world’s oldest continuously settled areas with over 12,000 years of human activity.
The main draw of Matera is the Sassi, an ancient town that was built into the caves. The old cave dwellings were inhabited until the 1950s when they were finally deemed uninhabitable. The town has now been turned into a large open-air museum where you can explore the houses and see what it was like to live in a cave.
Surrounding the Sassi, there are religious monasteries and builds that have also been built into the caves by monks. The more modern part of Matera is referred to as the stone city since the buildings are made of local stone, which creates an imposing feel to the town that sits high on a hill.
Matera and its fantastically rich history can be slightly overwhelming, so I recommend taking a walking tour of the town to fully enjoy the treasures contained within. If you’re looking for the easiest way to visit Matera from Bari, be sure to check out our guide to it.
Altamura is one of the most fascinating towns in Puglia and is located more inland. The town exudes history, which dates back at least 130,000 years. Today’s Altamura, however, is relatively new having been built during the Norman times after the previous town was ransacked by the Saracens in the 10th-century.
One of the main sights in the new town is the famous Romanesque Cathedral. It is only one of four of that style in Puglia and the interior of the church still contains some of the original 13th-century reliefs from when the cathedral was first built. In the area around the city, you will find probably some of the most interesting ancient sites, starting with the remnants of megalithic city walls.
In the countryside around Altamura are huge man-made hills that were used as ancient tombs alongside burial caves in the hillsides.
The most interesting burial ground is that of the Altamura Man, a fossil of a Neanderthal that is 130,000-180,000 years old. It is the most intact remains of its kind, with even nose bones remaining. However, its so fragile and precious they cannot move it and to this day it still resides in Lamalunga Cave.
Keep hunger at bay by trying Altamura’s famous bread, the Pane di Altamura.
Take a guided tour of Altamura and learn all about its famous bread that is popular throughout Italy.
Many Puglian towns and cities have their routes in Greek or Roman origins, however, Barletta was known to exist at least 100 years prior to the Greeks settling in the area and is one of the best places to visit in Puglia today.
There is plenty to do in and around Barletta other than just eating amazing Italian food. In the center of the town, you will find the colossus of Barletta, a giant statue of an unknown Roman emperor thought to be Theodosius II. The statue randomly washed up on a beach after a Venetian ship sank and it is unclear where it originated from.
Barletta also has a fantastic cathedral in the center of the town, as well as a Norman castle. Just outside of the town are the ruins of Cannae, a small village that was the site of one of the Roman Empires’ most humiliating defeats in 216 BC, when Hannibal’s army was able to overcome a much larger and stronger Roman Army.
Discover more of Barletta’s hidden treasures by taking a guided walking tour with an expert local who will teach you everything you need to know about Barletta.
Vieste is an incredibly must-visit town on the eastern coast of Puglia. The town is located on the Gargano Peninsula and is known for its natural beauty. The waters around the town have even been awarded the Blue Flag for the purity levels.
Jutting out of the pristine, turquoise waters are amazing chalk rock formations. In the town itself, you will find a well-preserved old town where a maze of alleyways and stairways that creep up the hillside. Vieste is home to a triangular Norman castle that imposes itself on the coastline.
Each year, the city commemorates a darker part of its history, when its citizens were enslaved by the Turks and the elderly or weak were murdered. Along the coast, hunt out amazing viewpoints that are dotted along the cliff tops and in the old town.
Enjoy a private walking tour of this beautiful town, where an expert guide will help you navigate the winding streets of the old town and show you some of Vieste’s hidden spots.
As you head inland in northern Puglia, you will find the city of Foggia, a relatively large city for the region with a population of around 150,000 people. Although the area around the city has been settled for millennia, the first mentions of the city in its current form are from around 1000 AD.
Sadly, during WWII, the city was bombarded by the Allies and many of the buildings were destroyed. However, there are still some great places to visit in the city, such as the Palazzo Dogana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its cultural importance.
There are also many beautiful sights in Foggia, such as the cathedral of Santa Maria de Fovea which has been built incorporating two different architectural styles, Baroque and Romanesque.
Spend an evening tasting Puglia’s famous wines and learning about Foggia’s old town during a guided wine tour of the city.
Taranto is a fascinating city that, at one point, was one of the largest in the world. In 500 BC, it is believed that the population of Taranto was around 300,000 people. As the years went by, the city became one of the most important ports in Italy because the Italian Navy also based there.
As you explore the city, it is easy to discover its long and epic history, with the ruins of 6th century BC Greek temples still visible in the city center. Dotted throughout the city, you will find breathtaking palaces such as the Palazzo del Governo and a castle that was used to defend the city from frequent attacks by the Turks.
The coastal waters off of Taranto are rich with minerals and are home to some of the best mussels available in Italy… so good that they are on a list of regionally protected foods. In these waters, it is often common to see dolphins and whales.
Learn everything there is to know about this fascinating port city by taking a private tour with a professional local guide.
Santa Maria di Leuca
On the very tip of Italy’s heel is the quaint town of Santa Maria di Leuca. The small town has existed since the first century AD. The most notable sight in the town is the impressive lighthouse that stands at 47 meters tall and is the second most important lighthouse in the whole of Italy and it is definitely one of the best places to visit in Puglia.
Just below the lighthouse is a large sanctuary at what is classed as the end of the land. Below the sanctuary, a man-made waterfall marks the end of the Apulian Aqueduct that was completed in 1939 and a large concrete column celebrates the achievement, in true Mussolini style.
If you’re looking for awesome Puglia towns and cities, we hope that this guide gives you a great starting point to planning your trip. If you have any other great places to visit in Puglia that you recommend, please let us know so we can add them to our next Puglia itinerary!
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