With so many beaches, art cities, Unesco sites and beautiful spots it's hard to narrow it down to just ten not-to-be-missed places during a holiday in Puglia.
Castel del Monte - World Heritage Site in Andria
Castel del Monte is one of the most mysterious places in Italy and, absolutely, a Puglia place worth visiting. Built around 1240 by Federico II, the castle is situated on the peak of an isolated hill in Andria, overlooking the Murgia Valley on one side, and with a sweeping view of the Adriatic Sea on the other. It is characterized by an unusual octagon shape with octagonal towers at each corner. In 1996, UNESCO included Castel del Monte on their World Heritage list for its outstanding universal value as much for its architectural beauty as for the mystery that still surrounds it.
Suggested Hotels: Lama di Luna Biomasseria (Andria), Resort Bufi Private Beach (Molfetta)
Monopoli and Castellana Caves
Monopoli is a small Apulia town whose historical and natural beauty never fails to capture the hearts of travelers. Its old town boasts 19 medieval churches and countless cobblestone alleys. Furthermore, just a few km from Monopoli, sitting in a location with amazing geological features, you can find Castellana Grotte’s stunning rock formations and unique stalactites. The “Grotte di Castellana” began to form about 90 million years ago and it is one of the most important attractions of Puglia and natural heritage of inestimable value to Italy.
Suggested Hotels: Il Melograno (Monopoli), Don Ferrante Dimore di Charme (Monopoli), Relais Corte Altavilla (Conversano)
Bari - The old town and Torre Guaceto Nature Reserve
Bari, the capital of Puglia, is a bustling, well-known port and university city. It is located on the Adriatic Sea and boasts great architecture, stunning churches, a nice seaside promenade and a very interesting historic center with narrow, winding streets and a castle on one side. It is also an off-the-beaten-path destination boasting spectacular gems as the protected marine area and wildlife reserve Torre Guaceto, an hour's drive south of Bari. The reserve includes a stretch of coast six kilometers long, characterized by typical Mediterranean landscape ranging from the sea to sand dunes, Mediterranean scrub and marshes, bordered by centuries-old olive groves.
Suggested Hotels: Oriente Hotel (Bari), Borgobianco Resort & Spa Puglia (Polignano a Mare), CalaPonte Hotel (Polignano a Mare)
Salento is most southern part of Puglia, home to small and charming towns as Gallipoli, Otranto, Lecce, Santa Maria di Leuca. Some of the best beaches in Puglia, and even in Italy, can be found on the Salento Peninsula: take a day trip along a variety of nearby sea resorts including Porto Cesareo, Torre Lapillo, the Alimini beach and the stunning “Maldive del Salento”.
Suggested Hotels: Vivosa Apulia Resort (Ugento), Masseria Li Foggi (Gallipoli), Tenuta Centoporte (Otranto), Le Capase Resort (Santa Cesarea Terme)
Gargano Promontory and Vieste
The stunning Gargano promontory is one of the most naturally diverse areas in all of Puglia. Jutting into the Adriatic Sea in Foggia province, it is sometimes described as the spur on the heel of the Italian boot. While much of the inland of Gargano is covered by a national park, the Foresta Umbra, along the coast you can find golden sandy beaches and little historical towns. Vieste, one of the most popular summer destination in Puglia, is a small, steep, cobbled town, spilling down the hillside above the sea on the eastern coastline of the Gargano.
Suggested Hotels: Hotel Il Porto (Mattinata Gargano), Hotel Baia dei Faraglioni (Mattinata Gargano)
San Domino, San Nicola, Capraia, Cretaccio and Pianosa are the five tiny islands that make up the Tremitis. It is a small archipelago of rare beauty in the Adriatic Sea and a renowned tourist destination because of the clear seas and the beauty both above and below water. The islands are indeed a very popular diving destination because of the numerous coves and underwater caves in the archipelago’s waters. The Tremiti islands' tourist season runs from May to October, though a handful of hotels and restaurants are open year-round.
Suggested Hotel: Masseria La Chiusa delle More (Peschici)
Alberobello - The Trulli Town
Also known as the Trulli Town, Alberobello was named a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1996 because it is an exceptional example of a form of building construction deriving from prehistoric techniques that have survived intact and are still functioning in the modern world. A “Trullo” is indeed a small limestone house, made with drywall, roughly worked limestone boulders collected from neighboring fields and topped with a conical roof. The Trulli are typical of Alberobello, but you can find some great examples also in Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Cisternino and Fasano.
Suggested Hotels: Le Alcove (Alberobello), Abate Masseria & Resort (Noci), Nina Trulli Resort (Monopoli)
Lecce - The gem of the Salento peninsula
Often labelled as the “Florence of the South”, this incredibly charming city is one of the must-see places in Puglia. Due to the many Baroque monuments which can be found here, Lecce is also best known as a Baroque city. It boasts a marvelous historical centre, numerous churches and squares, such as St. Mary of Providence, the stunning Addolorata Square and Basilica of the Saint Cross. One of the most striking aspects of Lecce, is the Lecce stone (or pietra leccese) which has been used to construct buildings of the old town. Furthermore, Lecce is definitely a place to indulge in some delicious typical dishes, such as the “rustico leccese”.
Suggested Hotels: Mantatelure Dimora Esclusiva, DoubleTree by Hilton Acaya Golf Resort, Risorgimento Resort
Located in the heart of Puglia, this fertile valley spreads over the Province of Bari, Brindisi and Taranto. It stretches from Putignano in the north to Ostuni in the south and is characterized by a flourishing vegetation and a large amount of olive groves, from which they obtain one of the most delicious Italian olive oil. The Itria Valley is also famous for the trulli, the secret masserias and the vineyards from which they obtain high quality white wine.
Suggested Hotels: Borgo Egnazia, Masseria Cimino and Masseria Torre Maizza (Savelletri di Fasano), Villa Cenci Relais Masseria (Cisternino)
Ostuni - The white city
Settled in the province of Brindisi, Ostuni is also called the White City because of the low houses and narrow streets characterized by limestone rocks. The narrow streets and staircases of the old town are filled in history but also full of local and shops that enliven the nightlife. Ostuni and its countryside house also several Masserias, ancient farmhouses typical in Southern Italy. Many were abandoned in the late 19th or 20th century, but luckily a lot of them have been snapped up, restored, and turned into wonderful accommodations.
Suggested Hotels: Masseria Moroseta, Masseria Cervarolo, Relais La Sommità, Masseria Salinola