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Puglia

Photo by Martha Bakerjian

Puglia Itineraries

Puglia Coast Train Trip

Puglia: A Classic Week in the Heel of the Boot

Puglia: Alberobello and the Trulli in 48 Hours

Puglia: Salento Peninsula Road Trip

Puglia’s Gargano Promontory in 48 Hours

Step back in time in this slow-paced region

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Puglia, or Apulia, is the southeastern region of Italy known as the heel of the boot. Puglia is a destination where you can relax, eat well, and really enjoy the slow-paced southern Italian life. You may sometimes feel like you’ve taken a step back in time as you experience the life style and hospitality that this region offers.

Puglia is long and narrow with a beautiful stretch of coastline on both the Adriatic and Ionian seas, making it a great place for lovers of charming seaside towns, seafood, and good beaches. The region has a diversity of fascinating places to visit but is not yet overrun with tourists.


Top Things to See in Puglia

Puglia’s most famous and unusual sight is the unique conical houses called trulli. Castles and cathedrals of Frederick II are prominent in towns and in the countryside, including the octagonal Castel del Monte. Both it and the trulli are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Puglia Italy
Trulli in Alberobello, Puglia

More top things to see are the white towns with picturesque medieval centers, the pilgrimage shrines of Padre Pio and San Michele, the natural beauty of the Foresta Umbra, the Salento Peninsula, and of course the many beautiful, clean beaches. Because of its mild climate, there’s a long season for swimming in the sea, generally from at least May through September.

Puglia is a top producer of good wine and olive oil. The region is known for delicious fresh vegetables and the ear-shaped pasta called orrecchiette. Many of the farm estates feature vineyards and olive groves. Olive trees are the main feature of the landscape in many parts of the region. Particularly beautiful are the poppies and wild flowers dotting the fields in late winter and early spring.

orecchiette pasta
Orecchiette Pasta from Puglia


Puglia Transportation and Places to Stay

Bari, on the coast, is one of the region’s largest cities. It also has one of its two airports, the other being Brindisi airport, further south along the coast. Budget airlines fly to both cities from other parts of Italy and some British and European cities, so although the region is at the very southeastern part of Italy it’s easy to access. Brindisi is also a popular place for taking a ferry to Greece.

A major rail line from northern Italy runs along the coast to Lecce and Taranto and there’s a line that runs from Naples to Foggia . A small, private rail line, Ferrovia del Sud-Est, serves many of the smaller towns. Buses connect towns and smaller villages.

Unique lodging choices in this part of Italy include staying in a trulli hotel or on a masseria, a farm estate that’s been renovated to make guest rooms or vacation apartments.

In-depth: See top places with our Puglia Highlights in 1 Week Itinerary or Explore the Heel of the Boot with these Maps of Puglia

Guides:
Old Puglia: A Cultural Companion to South-Eastern Italy (Armchair Traveller) by Desmond Seward
Smart Guide Italy: Puglia (Kindle edition)
Puglia: Rough Guides Snapshot (Kindle edition)

Click on the yellow bar above for when to go, costs, transportation, and background (including cuisine and more recommended books) or choose one of our itineraries from the boxes below.


When To Go

Puglia can be visited year-round but when to go depends on what you want to do. If you’re planning to swim in the sea, May through September are usually good months to go although in August the beaches can be very crowded. During summer, many seaside towns really come alive with nightlife and special activities, but they can also be very hot and crowded in summer.

Temperature-wise, spring and fall are the best seasons when it’s not too hot and not too cold. You may be surprised to know that inland parts of Puglia get occasional snowfall in winter. During winter, many seaside resort towns pretty much close down so if you’re visiting the coast in winter, it’s best to stick to the bigger cities and towns.

How Much Time To Spend

Puglia is a large region with a variety of places to go and things to see and do. If you’re limited to just a few days, or even a week, you shouldn’t try to see the entire region. With one week you can see the highlights of Puglia but for shorter visits consider choosing either Alberobello and the trulli or Lecce and the Salento. If you’re visiting without a car, parts of the Puglia coast are easily accessed and your visit can vary from a couple of days to a couple of weeks.

High and Low Season

Generally summer is high season, especially along the coast, and winter is low season.

Weather and Climate

Weather and climate varies throughout Puglia, with inland higher elevations getting some snow in winter while the coast usually sees milder weather. Summers are hot in most of the region while spring and fall are generally pleasant.

See Bari Weather and Lecce Weather for current conditions and historic climate.

Events and Holidays

Italy currently has 12 national holidays. Banks and most shops are closed on national holidays although in tourist areas some shops should be open. Most museums and sites are closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day and some are also closed on Easter and May 1. Public transportation runs on a Sunday and holiday schedule. You’re likely to find special events and festivals on most of these holidays.

Towns in Puglia have many great festivals throughout the year, often celebrating the town’s saint day. Putignano is known for its elaborate parades for carnevale. A big festival is held in Bari for Saint Nicholas in early May and also on December 6. Wine events are held at wineries the last weekend of May and there’s a 2-week festival of traditional music and Pizzica dance in Lecce and on the Salento Peninsula in August.

Time Zone

Puglia, along with the rest of Italy, is in the central European time zone, or GMT 2 hours. Daylight savings usually begins the last Sunday in March and ends the last Sunday in October. For most of the year, the time in Italy is 6 hours ahead of the time in New York.

What it Costs

Puglia is one of the more economical regions to visit in Italy. Food and lodging generally costs less than it does in the north although there are some very luxurious hotels and resorts, too.

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices often change and may depend on the season and the exchange rate so we don’t quote exact prices that could quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, we’ve indicated general price ranges for most points of interest.

Price ranges are quoted in € (euro)

See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
Free
€ => Tickets less than €15 per person
€€ => Tickets €15- €30 per person
€€€ => Tickets €30 and up per person

Sleep — Small towns/rural

€ => Rooms less than €60 for a double
€€ => Rooms €60 – €100 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €100 and up for a double

Sleep — Large Cities
€ => Rooms less than €100 for a double
€€ => Rooms €100 – €150 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €150 and up for a double

Eat
€=> €5- €10 per person for a meal (without alcohol)
€€ => €10 – €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol)
€€€ => €25 or higher per person for a meal (without alcohol)

Tours
€ => Tickets less than €25 per person
€€ => Tickets €25 – €50 per person
€€€ => Tickets €50 and up per person

Airfare and Car Rental Prices

Car rentals are available in several cities in Puglia. We recommend booking in advance as you usually get a better price than you will by just showing up and asking for a car.

Several European budget airlines, including RyanAir, fly into Bari and Brindisi from other Italian cities and cities in Europe and Great Britain. Book in advance for the best prices.

Exchange Rates and Currency

Puglia uses the euro for currency, as does the rest of Italy.

Money, ATMs, Credit Cards

The best way to get cash is usually by using a Bancomat, or cash machine. Many small restaurants, shops, and even places to stay may not accept credit cards so it’s always a good idea to have cash, especially if you’re traveling outside the main tourist destinations. Be sure to alert your banks before you leave that you’ll be using your debit and credit cards in Italy.

Tipping and Costs That Add Up

Unless you’re staying at a high-end resort or hotel and eating in high-class restaurants, tipping is not usually necessary. Tax is included in most restaurant menus and hotel rooms. Some cities add a per person per day city tax to rooms.

Transportation

While driving is really the best way to explore most of Puglia, there is a major rail line along most of the coast and two small, private rail companies that serve small towns in the trains of the southeast and Gargano trains.

Getting There

Puglia has 2 airports, Bari Palese Airport and Aeroporto del Salento or Brindisi airport. Both airports are served by Alitalia and several budget European airlines with flights from Italian and European airports.

A main rail line of Trenitalia, the Italian train company, runs along the coast as far south as Lecce and Taranto with stops in major cities on the fast trains. Regional trains serve smaller towns along the line. From Rome, there’s train service to Foggia on the coast where you can transfer to a train going along the coast.

Getting Around

Most of Puglia is best explored by car but there are trains and buses to many towns. In addition to the train line that runs along the coast, there are 2 private rail companies: Ferrovie del Sud Est, Trains of the Southeast, serving towns on the Salento Peninsula and the southern part of Puglia, and Ferrovie del Gargano that serves part of the Gargano promontory in northern Puglia. Local buses serve many small towns but local train and bus schedules are not made with the tourist in mind, they are for local commuters and students, so you may find the schedules inconvenient.

Transportation Hubs

The coast cities of Bari and Brindisi are the major transportation hubs. Each has an airport, ferry port, and fast train connections to other parts of Italy.

Background

Cuisine

In Puglia, people eat late. Generally lunch doesn’t start until 1:00 or 1:30 and dinner until 8:00 or 8:30, often later in summer.

Appetizers: Many restaurants serve a mixed antipasto of several different dishes usually including vegetables, seafood, salami, and cheeses. It’s a great way to try regional specialties and get a taste of many different dishes. Antipasto is often enough for a full meal or two people can split one order if ordering other courses.

First courses: Orecchiette, or little ears formed by pushing a thumb into a small ball of dough, are the special pasta of Puglia. Orecchiette are often topped with cima di rape (broccoli rabe) but can also be served with fresh tomato and basil or a meat sauce. Fave e cicoria, a fava bean puree served with chicory greens, is a special first course in the south.

Second courses: Very fresh fish and seafood are the stars of Puglia’s cuisine anywhere near the coast. Ask the waiter what’s fresh that day. Note that whole fish will be served with the head and tail left on. Lamb and kid, most common in spring, are also very good. Vegetables are often ordered separately and Puglia is well known for its abundance of good vegetables.

Desserts: Many desserts are made from the fresh fruits found in the region and often you can just order fresh fruit itself. Lemon sorbet, light and refreshing, is one of the most common desserts.

Vegetarians will usually find a variety of meatless items at most restaurants.

See also Special Foods of Puglia and Wines of Puglia.

Language

In tourist areas and big cities, many people speak at least some English. Italian is spoken in Puglia, however many locals use dialect when speaking to each other so don’t be surprised if you have trouble listening in to other people’s conversations.

Recommended Reading

Puglia Books:

* Old Puglia: A Cultural Companion to South-Eastern Italy
* Salento by 5: Friendship, Food, Music and Travel Within the Heel of Italy’s Boot
* Lonely Planet: Puglia and Basilicata

Websites and Maps

Puglia Map and Guide on Wandering Italy

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