Puglia: A Classic Week in the Heel of the Boot

Photo by Martha Bakerjian

Highlights and top sights in southern Italy's Puglia region

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On this classic one week itinerary, you’ll visit the top places to go in southern Italy’s Puglia region. Puglia has a diversity of great places to go, from seaside towns and beaches to charming villages and the unusual trulli and you can see the best of them with a week.

A car is recommended although it would be possible to reach most of these places by train. You’d need to do some good planning and be willing to adjust your schedule to the train schedule. For best places to go by train, see our Puglia Coast Train Trip Itinerary.

Spring is the best time to visit Puglia. Fields are full of poppies, citrus blossoms scent the air, and you can usually swim in the sea by late April. It’s not yet too hot and the coast won’t be overly crowded with beach-goers. Autumn, however, is another good time to go. Of course if your main objective is spending time at the beach in the hot sun, summer is probably best for you.

Where to Go on Puglia’s Coast

The coast city of Bari makes a good starting point for visiting Puglia. Bari has an airport and is a major stop on the train line, making it easy to access. If you stay in Bari, a car is not recommended. However you can pick up a rental car when you’re ready to leave the city. From Bari you can visit both Trani and Polignano a Mare by train. If you arrive by car, stay in either Trani or Polignano and visit Bari as a day trip.

Bari has an interesting historic center that’s a pedestrian only zone and a castle by the sea. The most visited site is the Church of Saint Nicolas. There’s also a nice seaside promenade and a long pedestrian-only shopping street.

Trani has one of Puglia’s top Romanesque cathedrals in a stunning setting by the sea. Next to the cathedral is a good castle. Plan to spend at least half a day in Trani.

Polignano a Mare is a stunning town built on a cliff overlooking the sea with a small, picturesque historic center. It’s known for the restaurant and hotel built right into the cliffs and the nice beach below the cliffs.

Inland Puglia Top Sights

After a couple of days on the coast, drive inland (from Trani) to Castel del Monte. The unusual octagonal castle was built by Federick II and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Next go south to Alberobello to see the trulli zone, an area with a high concentration of these unique stone houses. At the edge of town is a winery and wine museum. Several other small towns in the area are good to visit, too, so we recommend 48 hours in Alberobello.

Salento Peninsula

The rest of the week will be spent exploring the Salento Peninsula. Start in the city of  Lecce, a good base for visiting this area. Lecce’s historic center is full of Baroque monuments but it also has Roman remains, museums, and good places to shop.

Otranto is the top town to visit on the Salento. The town has an interesting historic center reminiscent of Greek villages, a castle believed to be the setting for the first Gothic novel, and a beach in walking distance of the old town. Don’t miss the cathedral with its 12th century floor mosaics and unusual Chapel of Skulls.

Continue exploring this area with our Salento Peninsula road trip itinerary.

Explore More of Puglia:

If you have more time, visit the Gargano Promontory, the most northern part of Puglia often called the spur of the boot or find more places to go on our Puglia Maps and Travel Guide.

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
* Places in Puglia: Lecce the Baroque town

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