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Are you looking for the very best places to visit during a holiday in Puglia, Italy? Then you’ve come to the right place!
If you’ve read other blog posts of mine you know that I am a very efficient traveler and that I love to see as many places as possible in the short time that I sometimes have to visit a region.
Puglia is located in the South of Italy, in its famous heel, and is a region that gets visited more often every single year. It became incredibly famous due to an Instagrammable restaurant in one of its towns. But save yourself a huge disappointment and a lot of money by skipping said place. 😉
Instead I will list our favorite places to eat or have an Aperol Spritz that we personally experienced.
In this article you’ll find the best places to visit in Puglia and some insider tips to help plan your holiday even better!
The 11 Very Best Places To Visit In Puglia, Italy
Among the best places to visit in Puglia you’ll find all of what the region has to offer. From harbor towns next to the crystal clear turquoise water to rocky cliffs and hilltop towns.
It truly is no surprise that Puglia has become one of the trending destinations to visit in Italy. There are so many incredible places to visit and no matter what type of traveler you are, Puglia will have something for you.
Wether you’re a history buff who can’t get enough of visiting stunning churches or a bon vivant who loves to discover unique restaurants, this article will give you some incredible ideas to plan the perfect Puglia itinerary.
And as you might know I also don’t shy away from the truth. In this article you’ll find all of my brutally honest opinions. Even on places that everyone else gushes about online :p.
How to get around in Puglia
The best way to get around Puglia is to simply rent a car.
🚘 I always use SunnyCars when booking a rental car cause their company policy makes me feel the most at ease.
There’s never any hidden costs with them and free cancellation up to 1 hour before rental start. Their price is transparent and everything is included. So no worries about any extra costs when you pick up your rental. You won’t need any extra insurance cause its all covered in the original price.
💡 TIP – The following parking rules in Italy are a must to know if you don’t want to risk getting fined:
- Blue lines: You can park your car here but need to pay.
- White lines: Free parking where you’re allowed to park.
- Yellow lines: Only locals can park here.
Where to stay in Puglia as a base
We stayed in the beautiful town of Monopoli and we would make the same decision all over. It’s the perfect place to stay when visiting other places in Puglia. In the early morning you can wander through the beautiful streets and in the evening the centro storico comes alive and you’ll be in for a gastronomical treat.
We stayed at a unique boutique hotel called Le Contrade Dimore Pugliesi. We loved its location right by the waterfront and that it was situated in the heart of the centro storico and only 5 minutes walking from a public parking.
Other hotels you might like in Monopoli:
- Borgo Albergo 35 Relax & Spa: Built in an ancient building these rooms offer a unique and romantic experience.
- Al Chiasso 12 – Another beautiful gem to stay in the heart of Monopoli.
The most beautiful places to visit in Puglia
1. Monopoli, my favorite place to visit in entire Puglia
The picturesque town of Monopoli is the perfect place to base yourself when visiting Puglia.
This beautiful town by the sea has the perfect size to stroll around for a couple of hours and has some incredible hidden gems when it comes to restaurants and hotels.
The town of Monopoli is less known among tourists and I honestly have no idea why. It definitely was one of my favorite places to visit in Puglia.
Its centro storico consists of the typical maze of narrow streets that make walking around so special. You’ll come across picturesque squares, ornate churches and one inviting terrace after another.
💡 TIP – Have dinner at La Locanda sul Porto and order their Locanda Mixed Appetizers. You’ll thank me later!
🚘 PARKING – Park you car here and you’ll only be 5 minutes walking from the centro storico.
📖 CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT ALL THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN MONOPOLI.
2. San Vito
San Vito is still a hidden gem in Puglia and only 20 minutes driving from Monopoli.
San Vito is a romantic natural port where you’ll have a stunning view of the imposing Benedictine abbey.
The picturesque and colorful fisherman boats only add to the dramatic flair. San Vito was one of my favorite discoveries and since it’s very small you’ll only need a couple of minutes to take it all in.
🚘 PARKING – There are free parking spots when you drive down the road to San Vito.
3. Polignano a Mare, the most overrated place to visit in Puglia
Polignano a Mare is at the top of everyone’s list when visiting Puglia but I honestly didn’t get the hype. The entire town felt overly touristic and a lot of construction was going on all over the place.
When it comes to restaurants or bars I don’t really have a recommendation here. We only had 1 Aperol Spritz and then drove off to the next place to end the day on a more positive note.
Polignano a Mare became especially famous because of Grotta Palazzese, a restaurant built inside a cave. But do yourself a favor and don’t waste your money here. Their menu is as expensive as a Michelin restaurant but the food has become terrible ever since a new chef took over.
🚘 PARKING – We parked our car right outside of the town at a free public parking.
The Valle d’Itria offers countless places to explore in Puglia. One of them is the beautiful town of Locorotondo. Known for being among the “Borghi più belli d’Italia” (which means one of the most beautiful villages in Italy), it definitely is one of the best places to visit in Puglia/
The Valle d’Itria is a stunning green expanse of countryside, far away from the aquamarine waters of the Mediterranean and the cute seaside towns.
The centro storico of Locorotondo, don’t you just love how that flows from your lips, can be found on top of the hill. It’s the epitome of a picturesque Italian town with narrow streets that you can get lost in for hours.
💡 TIP – Do a wine tasting at Vini & Affini or simply sit down on their terrace and enjoy a glass of red wine.
💡 TIP – One of the most beautiful viewpoints over Locorotondo can be found near the Cappella Votiva – Contrada Cerrosa
🚘 PARKING – We parked our rental car in one of the main streets of Locorotondo.
5. Martina Franca, a hidden gem to visit in Puglia
Martina Franca is another hidden gem in Puglia. Here you’ll find the whitewashed alleys, laundry drying in the breeze, cats napping in sun-drenched streets and the chatter of TVs and families reaching you from the open windows of the local homes.
But you’ll also find outstanding Baroque Architecture (Barocco Martinese) and lovely restaurants and wine bars. This style is somewhat reminiscent of the baroque of Val di Noto in Sicily and has elaborate church facades in light-colored stone.
💡 TIP – Grab a drink at one of the bars on the main square . It’s the perfect place for some people watching.
🚘 PARKING – There’s a lot of hustle and bustle going on around the centro storico of Martina Franca. We got a little lucky here and found a parking spot after driving around for a little while. You’ll notice that a lot of Italians truly don’t give a damn when parking their car.
Cisternino is one of the smaller towns in Puglia and just like its sister towns it boasts a small, utterly charming old town centre that has remained virtually intact for centuries.
The historic center is a fascinating example of spontaneous architecture, where you will find wonderful trulli perfectly preserved and historical palaces, such as the palace of the Governor, the Episcopal Palace, the Capece tower.
🚘 PARKING – The centro storico is pretty much surrounded by streets where you can park your car. Just make sure you only park within the blue or white lines.
7. Ostuni, one of the best places to visit in Puglia
The city of Ostuni can be spotted from far away. Towering over the Valle d’Itria it is known as the ‘White City’ (La Città Bianca in Italian) thanks to the white painted old town which crowns the very top of the city.
Ostuni is most famous for its white painted old town which forms a maze of cobbled streets and narrow staircases.
A wander through Ostuni can feel reminiscent of a stroll through a Greek island settlement and this is no coincidence. In times gone by, Apulia was greatly influenced by Ancient Greek culture and the vestiges of this can still be felt to this day.
💡 TIP – Grab an Aperol Spritz and charcuterie board at Borgo Antico to enjoy one of the best views from Ostuni.
🚘 PARKING – There’s a decent parking lot at via Specchia.
8. Alberobello, the most touristy place to visit in Puglia
Alberobello is known as Puglia’s trulli town. But one thing you really have to know before your visit is that the trulli are very concentrated and only make up a very small part of the city. For the biggest part you’ll be driving through a very old and more industrial looking part of Puglia.
But these clustered conical-roofed whitewashed structures are an icon of the region and they’re also what drew me into this region as well at first.
But I will warn you. There’s only one way to have a nice experience here and that is to come super early in the morning. This is the only way that you’ll avoid the 1000’s of tourists that visit this small town every single day.
💡 TIP – Across from the trulli located in the Rione Monti you’ll find a great vantage point that offers a view over the entire Trulli village.
💡 TIP – Head across to the Rione Aia Piccola district, which has 500 or so trulli and is less commercialized. Here you’ll catch a glimpse of how the locals actually live inside these gnome-like homes and you’ll get a taste of what this place used to be like before it got swarmed with tourists.
🚘 PARKING – There are plenty of parking lots where you can leave your rental car.
9. Gravina in Puglia
Gravina in Puglia is one of those places in Apulia that always gets overlooked! But that might change soon since it just got featured in the latest James Bond movie ‘No time to die’.
Often called the smaller Matera, Gravina in Puglia is also made up of ravines and cliffside built homes.
The town’s most famous attraction is its bridge. It was built in the 17th century, was then destroyed by an earthquake in 1722, and was later restored and repurposed as an aqueduct by the Orsini’s, a powerful family from Rome.
🚘 PARKING – You’ll have to park your car in one of the streets leading up to the bridge.
10. Matera, the most spectacular place to visit in Puglia
Okay, okay, I know. Matera technically isn’t located in Puglia, but right across its border in Basilicata. But most people who visit Puglia will also go on a day trip to Matera. And rightfully so!
Matera is one of those places that’s so gorgeous and totally unique and definitely fits the list of one of the most beautiful places to visit in Italy.
There’s a ton of things to do in Matera but make sure that you have plenty of time to walk around the old part, the sassi of Matera. Make sure you’re wearing proper shoes cause you’ll be doing a lot of stairs and the old cobblestones are very slippery.
💡 TIP – The sunset in Matera is exceptional, make sure to stick around for it if you’re visiting Matera on. a day trip.
🚘 PARKING – There’s a guarded parking at Via Lucana and it’s only 2 minutes walking until you reach the sassi of Matera.
Bari is the capital city of Puglia region and a charming Italian port city. But if you don’t have enough time to add one more place to your itinerary, this is the one I would skip. Although its centro storico is beautiful it can also get very crowded during the day. Especially since the town of Bari is a stopping port for a lot of cruise ships.
💡 TIP – Grab lunch at Ristorante Del Centro, far away from all the tourist traps and where all of the locals go.
🚘 PARKING – Try to park in the area of the above mentioned restaurant. From there its only 10 minutes walking until you reach Bari Vecchia.