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.
1) 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.
2) 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.
3) 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.
4) Salento Peninsula
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”.
5) 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.
6) Tremiti Islands
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.
7) 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.
8) 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”.
9) Itria Valley
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.
10) 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.
It is situated in the Salento peninsula, on a rockery mass that falls down to the sea. The Aragonese walls surround the village where you will walk down characteristic streets made by stones and you can visit the Romanesque Cathedral with its Renaissance rose window. Do not miss the Castle built up at the end of the 15th century, as request by Alfonso d'Aragona. Outside the city center you can visit Punta Palascìa lighthouse and Grotta dei Cervi.
12) Polignano a mare
The coast of Polignano is one of the most beautiful in Puglia. 30 minutes from Bari, it has a jagged coastline with very steep slopes. Its historic city center shows up the signs of the Arab, Byzantine, Spanish and Norman cultures, all places that we recommend you to visit, along with the Matrice Church from the 13th century and the "Pino Pascali" Museum.
13) Santa Maria di Leuca
Renowned seaside place in the southernmost part in Salento, it’s much appreciated by the tourists. The coast is very jagged and made of white rocks and natural caves. A beautiful white lighthouse overlooks the bay and just at its foot stands the Basilica of Santa Maria de Finibus Terrae. Along the sea front, there are some elegant noble buildings and liberty-style villas and you’d also see the ending part of the Apulian Aqueduct with a fascinating impressive waterfall.
It is a seaside town that is situated along the coast of Salento, and is divided into two areas: the old Town, perched on a limestone island, and the new village, connected to the island by a bridge. In the old part of the town you can see the Fontana Greca, a monument of Renaissance origin, the Cathedral of Sant'Agata, one of the greatest examples of Baroque in Salento, the Church of Santa Maria della Purità with a beautiful majolica floor. Finally, you will admire the Castle of Gallipoli, a defensive stronghold belonging to the old Town along with its Torre del Rivellino.
15) Gravine di Puglia
It is a town nearby the city of Bari, located in the Alta Murgia National Park area. The Gravine are rocks shaped by the erosion of the water that has carved the limestone rock. They can reach a depth of over 100 meters and are very similar to the Canyons. There are rivers flowing at the bottom of the Gravine, they can become torrents that may further sculpt the rock, as they flow by. Thanks to the presence of these watercourses and natural caves located on the rock walls, several populations settled over the years, making these places their houses or using them for defensive purposes.