12 Very Best Things To Do In Puglia, Italy

Hands down, Puglia is one of the best regions in Italy to visit for a holiday. Not only does it have some of the prettiest Italian cities, but it’s also one of the most iconic spots in Southern Italy that are just too gorgeous to miss.  

With the iconic trulli houses around Alberobello, coastal cities like Monopoli and the historic city of Bari make Puglia one of the best places in Italy to visit and that’s even before we get thinking about the delicious regional foods in Puglia.  Now, we’ve always loved our visits to Puglia and always rent a car. It makes it so much easier to explore the region, especially to find some of the smaller spots. That being said, don’t fret if you don’t drive, there are some train lines, buses and transfer options available too. So, to make it nice and easy for your trip, I wanted to share some of the best things to do in Puglia that I’m sure you’ll love.  Have the best time exploring Puglia… and don’t forget to try all the delicious foods, olive oil and burrata! You’ll leave stuffed. 

1.) Alberobello

Probably one of Puglia’s most iconic towns, Alberobello is more famous for its unique trulli houses that are situated within the town and are lovely to see.  Apparently, it’s said that these houses were once used by farmers who would build them and then quickly destroy them when the local government would try and collect their taxes.   Now, I’m going to give you advice we wished we had before visiting Alberobello. Yes, it’s beautiful to see the Trulli houses are totally stunning to see. 

That being said, the reality for us was that we didn’t need more than 3-4 hours in Alberobello. Now, don’t mistake that as me saying not to go, it’s well worth visiting, but you don’t need, say, 2-3 days exploring Alberobello.   Once here, be sure to park in one of the car parks (we parked here). Though don’t worry if there’s no room, there are many other car parks along this road. Each charges a small fee for parking.   After parking, stroll the trulli houses and explore the little pottery store, they’re so lovely. Hankering for a bite? Grab a table at  Ristorante Il Pinnacolo that’s in the Trulli area of Alberobello itself.   Oh, and don’t forget, you’ll see many other Trulli houses dotted all across the Itria Valley in Puglia, just not typically in such a large cluster as in Alberobello.   Fancy staying in a Trulli House? Well, we found the most gorgeous hotel about 25 minutes from the centre of Alberobello, right in the gorgeous olive groves of Puglia.  It’s called Borgo Canonica and you can actually sleep in a Trullo in the hotel.  In fact, the hotel is fully made from authentic Trulli houses. It’s bliss and easily one of the best things to do in Puglia.  Read more: Best things to do in Matera

2.) Matera

Okay, I know that Matera isn’t technically Puglia, but it’s right on the regional border of Puglia and Basilicata and can’t be missed. Around a 1-hour drive from Alberobello (and about 10 minutes from the Puglia region), it’s a totally historic city that dates back thousands of years.  In fact, Matera is considered one of the oldest, constantly inhabited, cities in the world.   Now, for reference, there are two parts of Matera, the ‘old’ and ‘new’ parts of the city. To be honest, you’ll want to spend most (or all) of your time in the old part of Matera; especially for the cave hotels that are so unique. It’s the kind of place that’s totally unique and, as most cars aren’t allowed in the old centre, you’ll have all the winding streets to yourself.   Looking for a cave hotel to stay in? We stayed at Aquatio Cave Hotel & Spa and totally loved it. We had our very own cave room and their pool is within one of the caves itself.  

Just remember that point about not being able to drive in the old centre of Matera; make sure to secure some parking (like we did) with the hotel when you book. Our hotel then picked us up from the garage that they arranged and took us directly to the hotel. It was all so easy.  

 After arriving, be sure to check out the Saint Agostino Church, Santa Lucia alle Malve Church and Duomo Matera. The religious buildings in Matera are just beautiful to see and steeped in history.   Oh, and don’t forget to book this guided Matera tour. It will take you right inside the cave houses and it’s well worth booking to get the most out of your time in the city. Plus, you’ll get to see all the grottoes and Sasso Barisano and the Sasso Caveoso.  

 Fancy a bite to eat? Make sure to book a table at  La Lopa. 

 The restaurant is so good and serves up some regional favourites that we loved. Plus, the restaurant is just so cosy and cute. Oh, and make sure to stop off at I Vizi degli Angeli for their yummy gelato. Read more: Best things to do in Matera

3.) Poliganao a Mare

Perched on the Puglian coastline, visiting Polignano a Mare is one of the best things to do in Puglia if you fancy a seaside town, with a gorgeous (but sometimes busy) little beach. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that Polignano a Mare has one of the most famous beaches in all of Puglia.   Around a 30-minute drive from the city of Bari, Polignano a Mare it’s a beautiful town that’s got that perfect mix of yummy seafood restaurants, quaint little streets and the most lovely coastline to visit. You can easily spend a few, pretty relaxed days here as it’s quite small. Though, if you’re short on time, a day trip can suffice.   We stayed in San Michelle Suites and booked one of their suites that overlooks the gorgeous cove of Lama Monachile. The views from the rooms and the rooftop are just stunning… especially for an aperitivo at Sunset.  Apparently, the sunrises are great from here, too! Though, we’re never able to take ourselves out of bed that early in the morning!   Oh, and don’t forget to take some time to relax and chill on the beach at Lama Monachile and pop into the town itself and grab a table at Specchia Sant’Oronzo. Their local seafood is so good, especially their octopus.  Read more: Best things to do in Bari

4.) Monopoli

Yeah, this ain’t the board game! Honestly, there’s the most gorgeous little town in Puglia called Monopoli and it’s totally worth a day trip (or longer if you want to take it more chilled).   It’s easily one of the best things to do in Puglia as you make your way down the eastern coast of Puglia.  

Once you arrive, make sure to wander the little streets around Palazzo Palmieri. It’s the kind of town you can visit with no real plan, but end up seeing so many spots.

Oh, and don’t forget to walk the coast around the harbour and Cala Porta Vecchia. 

For a bite to eat or local Puglian wine, pop into Pinsotti for some of the best pizzas in the town. We loved it. That being said, if you want some local seafood, pop into Osteria Perricci which was so good for lunch. 

Read more: Best things to do in Matera

5.) Bari

Bari is typically the gateway city to the wider Puglian region, especially for international visitors. You see, this is where the largest airport is, with direct flights from cities like London and other bigger transport hubs. 

Though, don’t see Bari as just the arriving and departing point to visiting the best things to do in Puglia. It’s so much more than its airport. 

We spent a few days in Bari and totally love the old part of the city, right on the seafront (by the harbour).

Once here, be sure to check out the old part of Bari (Bari Vecchia). It’s the totally gorgeous harbourfront area of Bari that’s filled with winding cobbled streets, quaint restaurants and museums, too.

Truth be told, we spent most of our time in this area and don’t regret it one bit. Yes, the ‘newer’ part of Bari is lovely, but the real gem is the old town. 

After strolling around, be sure to stop off at San Sabino Cathedral, Castello Svevo and the Bari Museum, too.

Don’t forget to book this incredible pasta experience in Bari.

You’ll head out on a guided tour of Bari and even get to make your own traditional pasta (Orecchiette) and get to taste a tipple of local wines from Puglia and gelato too! Just be sure to book in advance, places fill up fast. 

Read more: Best things to do in Bari

6.) Ostuni

Not too far from Brindisi, Ostuni is the perfect city to stop when visiting the best things to do in Puglia in the eastern region. 

Perched on a hilly area of Puglia, Ostuni is a great city to visit for a trip to explore its white-washed streets, quaint alleys and gorgeous little cafes. It’s the kind of city that’s perfect for a stroll.

After arriving, be sure to check out the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the area around Arco Scoppa and don’t forget to spot the Colonna di Sant’Oronzo that’s stood in Ostuni since the 1700s.

That being said, if you want to make the most out of your time and avoid getting lost in all the little alleys, book this Ostuni walking tour that’ll take you all around the historic centre. It’s a great way to see the city, especially if you’re short on time. 

Feeling peckish? Grab some delicious pasta from Osteria Del Tempo Perso – the octopus is soo good from here. Alternatively, if that’s full, grab a table at Il Posto Affianco; their orecchiette is all homemade and totally yummy.

Read more: Best things to do in Matera

7.) Lecce

One of the things that makes Lecce so special is its ornate Baroque buildings and carvings. It’s totally beautiful to see and one of the best things to do in Puglia if you love pretty spots. 

There’s been history in Lecce for thousands of years, with Romans using this city as one of their key fortifications in Puglia. Once you’ve arrived in Lecce, be sure to head inside the utterly beautiful Basilica di Santa Croce and the stunning.

Oh, and don’t forget to pay a visit to the ruined Roman Amphitheatre. It’s totally impressive to see. 

To make things easier, book this Baroque and underground Lecce walking tour. It’s such a great way to see Lecce and ensure you access to spots that you might not consider when going alone. We loved it, and the guides are so informative! 

Finally, for a casual lunch, hop into Osteria Da Angiulino. It’s not a fancy or huge spot, but the food is really good, especially for the fave e cicoria. Just be sure to book a table on weekends – this small spot can fill up fast. 

Read more: Best things to do in Matera

8.) Gargano National Park 

Situated on the northern fringes of the region, visiting Gargano National Park is one of the best things to do in Puglia if you want some time in the great outdoors. 

If it’s the beach you’re looking for, make sure to head to Baia di Campi. Not only is there a gorgeous sandy bay, but it’s also got some lovely views of Campi Island, too. Oh, and don’t forget about the beautiful Baia delle Zagare and Baia dei Faraglioni, too. They are stunning beaches in Puglia that are too good to miss.  

Finally, if you hire a boat, be sure to check out the coastline around Grotta Sfondata. The rugged coastline of Gargano National Park is stunning to see. 

Read more: Best things to do in Matera

9.) Grotta della Poesia

Visiting Grotta della Poesia in Salento is easily one of the best things to do in Puglia. Now, the wider region of Salento actually includes cities like Lecce and Brindisi but one special spot always stands out to us, Grotta della Poesia. 

If you’re driving around (after visiting Lecce and Brindisi), make sure to head to the coast at Grotta della Poesia (Poetry Cave) that’s not too far from Lecce itself. It’s a colossal and totally beautiful rugged bay, cave and tunnel that’s just so stunning to see.

Oh, and don’t forget you’ve got Nfucaciucci Bay with its crystal clear waters that are totally stunning, too. 

Afterwards, as you continue your journey through Salento, be sure to stop off at Gallipoli. It’s another baroque town that’s picture-perfect to explore. 

Read more: Best things to do in Brindisi

10.) Vieste

Surrounded by Gargano National Park, the coastal city of Vieste is really easy to visit after exploring the rugged coastline around this northern part of Puglia. 

Once here, make sure to stroll the streets around the Church of Saint Francis, take the trails around the coastal roads and footpaths that meander Vieste and pop for a bite to eat at Vecchia Vieste.

Not only is the seafood delicious but the setting, is just gorgeous. 

11.) Trani

Perched between the cities of Bari and Barletta, visiting Trani is one of the best things to do in Puglia as you work your way up the northern coast of the region. 

After parking up, take a stroll down to the historic harbour area and stop off at family-run restaurants that line the front. That being said, one of our favourite foodie spots is Ristorante Pescandalo which serves up fresh catches of the day that are brought into the harbour itself.

Now, we loved Trani, but don’t feel like you need to spend days here. It’s well worth going as part of a wider road trip and stopping for a few hours to chill. 

Read more: Best things to do in Matera

12.) Otranto

A stunning coastal town, visiting Otranto is one of the best things to do in Puglia when exploring the Salento region. Once here, make sure to explore the Cathedral of Otranto,  Castello Aragonese and stop off for some sunset drinks at Maestrale. A perfect place for an Aperol spritz. 

If it’s seafood you’re after, grab a casual lunch at SoFish. It’s a street-food-style eatery that has some of the tastiest catches from the coastline around Salento. It’s quick, fresh and totally delicious.

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