Top 12 things to do in Puglia, with some cool insights.
Many of you have probably been to Italy. The glamorous Milan, the romantic Venice, the timeless Rome, the enchanting region of Tuscany and its masterpiece, Florence.
Mind you, you did well. They are absolutely awesome places to visit (although I might find a couple of arguments about Milan-the city itself, but that’s a whole other article). #truestory
But what about below Rome?
There is so much in the South of Italy awaiting for you to explore it.
This time , is the time of the so called “Hill of the Boot”, or, as I like to call it affectionately, the little Seahorse – if you look at the shape, you will most likely see what I mean. #Imnotcrazy
At the end of the day, it is where I am from. #proud
In this Top 12, you will find the highlights of what not to miss out in this captivating region, plus some cool insights that as local and former tour guide in Puglia I know. #sharingiscaring
Many tourists pass through Puglia during their Eurotrip: they get to Brindisi and catch the ferry for Greece. That’s it, end of their Apulian Experience.
If only they knew, there is so much to do and see, for any kind of travelers, all year round.
1. Lose -and Find- yourself in unique and rural guest-houses
In Puglia will find guest-houses for any type of experience and budget: rustic, cultural, luxurious…
The common factor? They are immersed in the nature.
Each place will have a different yet charming vibe: you may be surrounded by olive trees, winyards, local bushes, eventually meet some farm animals, and/or admire the sea at the horizon and ear its calm waves dashing on the shore.
Insight: Let the host tell you about ancient local tales while picking some fruit from their trees or having some of their homemade products; or participate to a cooking class and learn how to make handmade pasta. Orecchiette (=little ears) are Apulia’s most famous pasta shape.
TIP: Look for the names : “Agriturismo” or “Masseria”, or ask a local (feel free to contact us for an insight from a former Tour Guide and a local – ergo me, Cris.) for the most authentic experience.
2. Join the “Raw side” with (Extra Virgin) Olive Oil tasting among olive trees
Extra Virgin Olive oil tasting is a must when in Puglia: appreciate the “Yellow Gold”, n1 product in every Italian house, and let the guide show you how it’s made.
Also, have actual olives!! I cannot find such great flavour anywhere else in the world. My favourite are “Olive in calce”- ask for the most juicy ones!! #foodporn
TIP. There are shops all over Apulia where you can taste it, although for best experience and local taste, find a specialised Masseria.
My Nonno used to make olive oil from his yard, and the flavour of the homemade oil is just superb.
Insight: The presence of olive trees in the region is so massive (60 Million olive trees), that Puglia, a tiny slim piece of land, produces 12% of the worldwide olive oil. About 5 million of these trees are considered monumental: their unique shape and their age can shock you.
3. Sip the local prestigious wines nestled in some beautiful scenery
Nero di Troia, Primitivo di Manduria, Bombino nero, just to name a few, are a treat for any wine-friendly palat.
More to it, every town has a special wine, so you could do a wine tour around Apulia and with this excuse, you get to see amazing sceneries.
4. #livelovebeach on one of Salento’s paradisiac beaches
Crystal clear waters, vast sandy beaches, sun setting right on the sea, cheap cocktails, arabic-feel bars…
Salento will amaze you.
As actual bottom of the Boot, the Mediterranean sea gives its best waters and currents and splits into two smaller seas: the Adriatic and the Ionic.
Insight: The “end of Italy“ is right at that joining point, and is called Santa Maria di Leuca. Jump on a boat trip from there and go snorkeling in one of the Grottos, you won’t regret it.
Here’s the thing: you can surely dedicate yourself to beach hopping, rent a holiday house and a car and get google maps on. but PLEASE keep in mind that public transport are not an option there as you will end up wasting your days and cursing Italian transport system.
Or you may find a “no brainer” holiday resort solution more appealing. Thanks to the many facilities and activities they offer, you will most likely never want to leave and have the time of your life laying on beautiful private beaches and let the staff look after you.
TIP. If you go there in August, especially on Sundays avoid free beaches OR get there REALLY early (otherwise just camp there, that is how early you need to be) or else you will most likely sunbathe on your neighbour’s lap – which of course, in case you are looking for a partner or “a little adventure” could come in handy – otherwise can be pretty frustrating.
5. MANGIARE (Eat) the local Street food
Open your chakras and unleash your belt. Puglia is long and slim, although the dishes are so different from city to city.
Insight: One thing in common they all have: olive oil (of course) and the size. Small portions are not really an option.
From “Patate riso e Cozze” (potato, rise and Mussels), to “Orecchiette alle cime di rape”, to “focaccia”,”panzerotti”, “rustico”, “frise” and the more the merrier.
Insight: Pugliesi, and Baresi especially love their fish, and the custom is to eat raw seafood (mussels, clams , oysters, etc), sprinkled with lemon to “cook it up”. They are absolutely delicious, but you can ask for a cooked version of course if you feel like your stomach or your immune system are not up to it. To avoid an indigestion, eat it in trustworthy restaurants.
6. Get mesmerised by the unique town of Trulli and spend the night in one!
Ever heard of Trulli? They are ancient, unique and let’s say it, cute traditional conical inhabitations you can only find in Puglia.
Alberobello is the picturesque town where they were born and were you can spend a day trip or get a real feel and book a trullo for a night. They are incredibly fresh inside and very romantic, too.
TRICK. Check if there is a light festival during your visit, it is a pretty magical experience.
7. Fun Concerts, Parties, traditional Sagre, Pizzica and more
Night owl? Party person? We’ve got you covered!
Especially in summer, Puglia becomes an huge arena, packed with (mostly) free concerts on the beach, sunset parties, open air discos, music festivals.
Dance it off in a castle rocked on top of the Sea, or in one of the many luxurious venues that will leave you open-mouthed.
If you are more of a strolling kind of person, you may like the night markets full of handcrafted (and pretty affordable) goods stalls, or try the local specialty food during a characteristic “Sagra” (my favourite is one the “Sagra del Polpo” -Octopus festival- in Mola) and dance some traditional Pizzica or Tarantella in the “Piazza” with some live folk music.
8. Admire the real-life Nativity village of Ostuni
In the south of Apulia, between Bari and Lecce, in the Province of Brindisi, there is a small town called Ostuni, or, locally, known as “citta’ bianca” (white city).
Insight: If you are hitting the road, make sure you stop by between the sunset and the evening. It is quite a show to see the whitewashed houses being hit by the rose colour of the sunset and all the lights turning on, creating a magical atmosphere, like in a real-life Nativity.
9. Sing “Volare” in Polignano, Unesco Heritage
Polignano is the place where you hear the “wow” and “oooh” from the visiting tourists.
With a Unesco Heritage beach nestled in the rocks, and houses fearlessly built on the edge of the rock, you will feel like in a black and white movie where the lovers look at the sea from a balcony and kiss.
Insight: Ever heard “Volare” from Modugno (than also interpreted by the Gypsy Kings)?
Right there, in these narrow “photogenic” streets covered with love poems, Domenico Modugno composed his timeless song. Maybe drinking some of that “caffe’ Speciale” that they do just in Polignano, with secret ingredients, or having some Focaccia.
10. Look for the Sacred Graal in Castel del Monte
Yes indeed you read well. It is said that this uniquely shaped hexagonal castle once hid the notorious Cup that the Templars craved so much to find.
There is a huge esoteric mystery around the shape of the castle and some say it was used for astronomical purposes…and as a SPA for the nobles.
Insight: On a side-n-sweet note, they produce some pretty prestigious wine in Castel del Monte and there is…drum roll…a sugared almond factory and museum just in the castle’s surroundings .
11. Meet the real Santa Claus in the Saint Nicholas Basilica
Oh, oh, oh!!! You may not see him in the flesh, but as for the bones, you are in the right place! The Basilica di San Nicola is a beautiful example of Apulian Romanesque style and is enclosed by the ancient walls of the fascinating old Town of Bari (by the way, my home town. #proud), where a stroll is pretty much a must.
The Sea promenade just in front of the Basilica is also worth a stroll.
TIP. Get a guide to show you around and ask them to tell you the stories of when they took (actually stole, but we like to say took) the bones of the Saint from Turkey.
12. Enjoy the fisherman’s life in the not-so-known-but-breathtaking Tremiti Islands
Not many know the existence of these Pearls in the Adriatic sea, near the worth-a-visit Gargano promontory.
It’s great to spend a weekend there and explore the fisherman’s lifestyle, with the comforts of the tourism.
Get to Vieste, in the Gargano, have a night there and enjoy the romantic views from the coastal promontories, and get an early boat for tremiti in the morning.
These are just highlights of what you can find in Puglia, but I hope you got a little taste of this attractive and friendly region and it now looks more than just a place where to catch a ferry from.
Please let us know your thoughts, the highlights you would add to this top 12, or if you are thinking to go and would like more insights, get in touch with us!