Best Places to Visit in Puglia
Best Places to Visit in Puglia – pin it

We found ourselves in Puglia almost by chance. We were offered the chance to spend five autumn weeks housesitting down in the tip of Italy’s heel – near where the British food writer Patience Gray had lived and written.  We loved it so much we have just arranged to go back in the spring. Following our own explorations, here are some notes about the best places to visit in Puglia.

About Puglia Region

Puglia, or to give the region its English name, Apulia, is a coastal land of mountains, beaches and olive groves in the southeastern tip of Italy, it comprises the Salentine Peninsula, commonly known as the heel of Italy’s boot, and then up to and including the Gargano headland spur which projects into the Adriatic Sea on Italy’s northeastern coast.  Puglia region’s coastline is longer than that of any other in mainland Italy. 

The region includes two national parks – Gargano National Park to the north and Alta Murgia National Park in the west. Besides these, the majority of Apulia is a rolling rocky heathland of blood red soil, outcrops of white limestone, olive groves and small fields surrounded by drystone walls and many containing tiny ancient one room stone dwellings.

Until recently this region of 60million olive trees produced 40% of Italy’s world-famous Olive Oil.  Unfortunately the plant bacterium Xylella fastidiosa spread by the spittlebug prevents the trees from taking up water from their roots and they dry out and die of thirst. The first infections of olive trees in Europe by this American bacterium began around Gallipoli in 2013, and now the landscape and local economy are marred by some groves of dying trees. Read more interesting facts about Italy.

Overseeing this beautiful but dying landscape are some beautiful historic towns including Italy’s best kept secret, Lecce, the “Florence of the South”

Climate of Puglia

The climate of the region, just as in most parts of peninsular Italy, is Mediterranean with dry, sunny summers and mild, rainy winters.

History of Puglia

Puglia has been occupied since the Stone Age or earlier.  Apart from paleolithic archaeological sites we came across on our cycle rides, one of our neighbours showed us a collection of twenty or more tiny stone arrowheads they had collected on walks.  In the last five centuries BC it was colonised by the Greeks, and then by the Romans owing to its position on Mediterranean Sea routes. After the fall of the Roman Empire the area was overrun for four hundred years by various European barbarian tribes. In the ninth century Pugliua again gained strategic importance as the gateway of the Adriatic on the Byzantine sea route between Constantinople (Istanbul) and Venice. Then, from the eleventh century it was occupied and fought over between the French and the Spanish and at one stage the Austro Hungarian empire for eight hundred years until for a few decades in the nineteenth century, Puglia was part of a new independent kingdom alongside Naples and Sicily.  With such a rich and varied strategic history it is hardly surprising that Puglia contains so many sites representing different historic cultures.

Map of Puglia – places to visit in Puglia

Places to visit in Puglia


Gargano is a historical sub-region in Puglia’s province of Foggia. It consists of a wide mountain massif with numerous peaks and highlands, and forms the spine of the Gargano Promontory projecting into the Adriatic Sea, forming the “spur” on the Italian boot’s ankle. 

What to see in Gargano

Vico del Gargano: This ancient little town dates back to pre-history. Visitors can wander through the narrow streets of the town, which is compact and quite easy to get around on foot. 

Cool Place to Eat 


There are numerous stories explaining the history of Andria, but the earliest record of the city dates back to 915 and it obtained its city status in 1046 when it was enlarged and fortified. 

What to See 

There are a lot of things to see in this agricultural and winery city.

Cool place to eat 


Trulli date from ancient times, but the oldest examples of these little buildings existing today are in and around Alberobello, and date back to the 14th century. This small town is situated where Italy’s heel meets with its sole and you can wander here for an hour or so up and down narrow streets full of these enchanting buildings.

We have been told more than once that Trulli were designed for easy removal of the roof, so that if a tax inspector was spotted in the vicinity, the wily owners could hastily dismantle the roof and deny the existence of a rateable dwelling. These conical roofs comprise two layers of stone: an internal structural dome of corbelled and vaulted rocks, topped by a conical drystone roof of overlapping stone tiles laid with enormous skill and artistry in reducing circles up to a pretty little finial cap.  Each roof comprises tens if not hundreds of tons of stones, each one of which is laid with precision and skill. It is difficult to imagine a small structure which would be less suitable for hasty dismantling or easy re-erection!

Trulli today are typically whitewashed and many have mysterious runes and archaic symbols painted on their stone roofs, a tradition dating from the 1950s. Whatever their history and the reasons for it, the effect is completely enchanting and reminiscent of towns built for elves, imps and hobbits. 

What to see in Alberobello

When visiting Alberobello:

Cool place to eat 


Monopoli was first settled in 500 BC as a fortified city. The town sits along the Adriatic Coast, 40 kilometers southeast of Bari. 

What to see 

Cool place to eat 

Castellana Grotte 

Castellana Grotte is a town near Bari and named after the Castellana Cave system (Grotte di Castellana) which has its entrance nearby and extends for 3km underground at a depth of 60m. 

What to See 


Ostuni is a city and commune in the province of Brindisi, 8 kilometers from the shore. The timeless town sits on a small conical hill and its narrow streets and whitewashed houses form a delightful scene for a half day or evening excursion. 

What to see 

Cool place to eat


Bari is the capital of the Puglia region bordering the Adriatic Sea it is both an ancient and a modern port and has been inhabited at least since the second century BC.  The pedestrianised city centre streets are bustling with modern shops whilst a short walk away towards the shore you can find the narrow alleys and marble paved squares of the old town.

From Bari you can take ferry to Greece.

What to see 

Cool place to eat 


Lecce, the “Florence of the South” is the capital of Lecce province and one of the largest cities in Puglia. The city is over 2000 years old with a magnificent Roman Amphitheatre, and there are legends connecting Lecce with the Trojan War at the end of the second millennium BC.  It is a beautiful town to explore on foot, simply admiring the wonderful sights around every street corner.

Lecce, Puglia - Roman Amphitheater in Lecce

What to see 

Cool place to eat 


Otranto is an ancient port and a pretty modern marina town in the province of Lecce in Puglia.  The compact historic centre is a beautiful townscape of levels steps alleys and steep streets to explore, especially in the evening. The city occupies the site of the prehistoric Greek city of Hydrus. 

What to see 


Gallipoli is a city in the province of Lecce in southern Italy in Puglia. The old town forms a headland at the end of a long isthmus, and comprises a network of narrow streets and alleys lined with historic courtyard houses, small shops and restaurants.  At the centre is the magnificent west end of the basilica Cathedral of St Agatha, facing a street so narrow that one cant stand back far enough to admire the rich carvings which embellish it.

According to legend, the city was founded in ancient times by Indomeneus of Crete.


What to see

Cool place to eat 

Tricase and Tricase Porto

Tricase is a town in the province of Lecce, Puglia. Judging by the castle and Quercia vallonea, the city of Tricase may date back to 13th century.  The Town of Tricase contains the delightful historic Piazza Giuseppe Pisanelli flanked by two impressive churches and a number of cafes and restaurants, however the main attraction of the location is the delightful Tricase Port, approached down a winding cliff road and separated from Tricase city by 4km of open countryside.  If you have time, then take the coast road north from the Port, where we parked and left our vehicle to explore several small villages and rocky harbours with clear emerald waters on the way.

What to see

Cool place to eat 

Santa Maria de Castellabate 

This Italian town and hamlet is located in the province of Salerno, Campania, in Puglia. The town dates back to the 18th century. 

What to see 

Cool place to eat 

Polignano a Mare 

Polignano a Mare is a city and comune in the Metropolitan City of Bari, Puglia, southern Italy. Telling by the numerous archaeological excavations, the city may have been settled since prehistoric times. 

What to see 

Cool place to eat 

Isole Tremiti 

These archipelagos are located in the Adriatic Sea in the North of the Gargano Peninsula. They make up the province of Foggia and part of the Gargano National Park. It is inhabited since the late Iron Age in the between 4th and 3rd centuries BC. 

What to see 

Cool place to eat 

Itria Valley 

The Itria Valley is believed to have been developed since the sixteenth century. 

What to see

Martina Franca

Martina Franca is a small town in the Province of Taranto. The town has been hosting the annual summer opera festival called Festival Della Valle d’Itria.

What to see 

Cool place to eat 


This region is well known to Italians as a holiday destination and its population during the summer swells enormously.  We visited it off season and loved the rustic quiet, cycle rides, windy beaches under beautiful skies, and the historic towns.

Things to see in Apulia – Pin it for later

towns to visit in Puglia

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