Explore Charming Puglia: the Heel of Italy’s Boot

Updated On: November 07, 2022

Puglia Italy

Puglia, known as Apulia in English, is the region forming the “heel of Italy’s boot” in the south. It borders the Ionian Sea to the southeast and the Adriatic Sea to the east. To the south, it borders the Strait of Otranto and the Gulf of Taranto. Puglia is Italy’s eighth most populated region, with a population of around 4 million.

As a region that different cultures had conquered, Puglia has traces of many cultures shown in every spot. Puglia is known for its ancient farmland, olive oil production, charming coastline, and whitewashed hill towns.

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The beautiful seascape of Polignano a Mare

The ancient towns in Puglia have splendid scenery and an authentic atmosphere. They are loaded with extravagant churches, fine archaeological sites, old, whitewashed houses, and cobblestone streets.

Because of its geographical shape, Puglia has a coastline of around 800 kilometres long, the longest coastline of any mainland region in Italy. Such a long coastline means various beaches in Puglia, each of which has its own allure. 

Therefore, Puglia is one of the top Italian holiday destinations, especially for those who prefer quieter and more secluded places. If you are one of them, we provide you in this article with everything you need to know about Puglia to help organise your holiday. Scroll down and take notes!

Trip Preparation: Visa Requirements

Citizens of countries within the Schengen area are free to visit Italy. They will, however, need to get a passport stamp on entry as proof of official arrival. The passport should be valid for at least six months from arrival.

If European Union citizens are to stay up to 90 days, there are no visa requirements. If they are to stay longer than 90 days, they must obtain “permission to stay.”

Visitors from other countries must produce a visa and a valid passport issued by their home country within the last ten years. The passport should be valid for at least three more months beyond the planned date of Exit from Schengen.

Other documents may be required from non-EU citizens, including:

  1. An invitation letter from an Italian host
  2. A round-trip ticket
  3. Proof of financial means for a trip to Italy

The Italian State Police website provides visa details; contact the Italian embassy or consulate in your home country for further information.

Puglia Ports and Airports: How to Get There?

Puglia has two main airports that receive daily international flights: Bari-Palese Airport and Brindisi-Casale Airport.

Most flights arrive at Bari-Palese Airport, located in Bari, as it is the main airport in the region. Brindisi-Casale Airport is less well-served internationally and receives flights from low-cost companies. It is, however, the better choice for reaching the Salento region in the very south.

Another popular option is to fly to Rome or Naples, for which flights are often at low prices, and then rent a car to visit Puglia or take the train.

Besides, Puglia has several ports along its coast, but only two of them are used for tourism connections. The first is the port in Bari, which has daily connections to Durazzo in Albania, Antivari in Montenegro, and Corfù, Igoumenitsa and Patras in Greece.

The second port is Brindisi, which has daily connections to Valona in Albania, Corfù, Igoumenitsa, Cefalonia, Paxos, Zante, and Patras in Greece, and finally, Çeşme in Turkey.

Weather: Best Time to Visit Puglia

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Puglia has a Mediterranean climate, so the summer is hot and dry while the winter is mild.

The hottest month of the year is July, with average temperatures of 30°Cs (maximum). The coldest month of the year is January, with average temperatures of 11°Cs (maximum).

The driest month of the year is June, with sunny days and only 14 mm of precipitation. On the other hand, the wettest month of the year is November, with around 99 mm of precipitation.

If you are willing to enjoy hot, sunny days on the beach, then the best time to visit Puglia is between July and August. However, this is peak time, so keep in mind that prices will be inflated to match the demand.

The weather between May-June and September-October is lovely and perfect for walking and exploring the city.

Map: Where to Stay in Puglia?

Deciding where to base yourself in a region is not easy, especially if it offers many beautiful destinations, as in Puglia. In a try to narrow it down for you, we introduce the top 5 destinations to stay in Puglia:

1. Bari

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View of the port of Bari, Apulia, Italy

It is the capital city of Puglia and an important gateway and economic centre to the region. It is a historic but forward-looking town that can trace its roots back over 2,000 years. If you plan to visit Puglia, you should spend at least two to three days in Bari, strolling around and soaking up its authentic atmosphere.

Bari is a port city, but besides the working port, there is the old harbour where you will find fishing boats. It is an authentic Bari experience to wander amongst the traditional fishing boats, chit-chat with the fishermen, and watch the nets getting repaired. The fishermen also land and sell their catches straight off their boats, where you can buy the freshest seafood.

In addition, the coast of Bari features spectacular seaside towns and gorgeous beaches. In fact, it is sometimes regarded as the most beautiful coastline in Italy. From rocky to sandy beaches, you will find the perfect beach for you in Bari with dazzling blue waters.

2. Lecce

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Cathedral of Lecce, a masterpiece of baroque art in Salento, Apulia, Italy

Lecce is located in the Salento peninsula in southern Puglia. It is not surprising that it is nicknamed the “Florence of the South” as it is a charming city. It is a historic centre and a significant draw for Puglia’s tourism industry.

Lecce is known as a Baroque city due to the Baroque architecture and monuments found there. It boasts numerous churches and squares, including the Basilica of the Saint Cross, St. Mary of Providence, and Addolorata Square.

Among Lecce’s highlights is the Roman amphitheatre, which hosts some Roman ruins built around the second century in southern Piazza Sant’Oronzo. And don’t miss the famous Lecce Cathedral! It features fascinating carvings, historical artwork, and goldwork.

It is easy to navigate Lecce on foot as most tourist places are within walking distance of each other.

3. Taranto

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Taranto’s beautiful coastline at blue hour

Located onshore of the Ionian Sea, Taranto is one of the most beautiful cities in Puglia. Taranto has a unique rustic appeal due to its rich history.

Taranto is a city of a strategic position in the Mediterranean, making it a huge naval port with a great fishing fleet. It lies between two large bays: the Mar Grande and the Mar Piccolo. Therefore, it is known as the “city of the two seas.”

It is a charming city surrounded by sparkling water and flecked with olive groves. It is also home to some beautiful historic towns, villages, and sites.

Taranto is also a perfect place for wandering around and taking in the atmosphere of its streets and alleys. Exploring the ancient Old Town (Citta Vecchia) is one of the exciting activities in Taranto.

Other historic places, such as the 15th-century Aragonese Castle and San Cataldo Basilica, are exciting and calling for a visit. The Spartan Museum of Taranto and the MArTA Archaeological Museum also offer various collections of artefacts from the oldest ages.

4. Polignano a Mare

Polignano a Mare is a coastal gem before the sparkling waters of the Adriatic Sea. This city is perched atop a limestone cliff and boasts unmatched views and atmosphere. It is one of the most popular Puglian cities where travellers choose to stay.

Polignano a Mare is famous for its fabulous beaches. It is a spot where you can find many picturesque sandy or pebbly beaches. Besides, the cliffs and coves flank the crystal waters of some beaches, adding to their allure.

In addition, the history of Polignano a Mare is one of the unique features that it offers. This city has roots back to when Greek settlers founded the settlement of Neapolis in the 4th century BC.

The historic centre of Polignano a Mare features white-washed, winding streets with many sites of different cultures. It has the “Pino Pascali” Museum and some old churches, such as the Matrice Church from the 13th century.

5. Ostuni

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Beautiful Architecture of Ostuni, Italy

Ostuni is a city of a central location on a hill in the province of Brindisi, making it a good starting point for the journey to other nearby attractions. This stunning city is also known as the “white city” because its streets and buildings are white-washed due to limestone rocks.

Ostuni boasts a marvellous history apparent in its old town, architecture, and ancient cobblestone streets.

The cobblestone streets feature spectacular white houses that give the city its brilliant white appearance. Those narrow streets have plenty of shops and are suitable for strolling. There are also many restaurants and bars where you can enjoy a meal with a fantastic view.

The centre of the old town features the 15th Century Gothic Cathedral, which is impressive outside and inside. You can also discover some old homes, which belonged to the noble and, of course, the striking Bishop’s Palace.

Best Things to Do in Puglia

The captivating charm of Puglia is inescapable! With its spectacular landscape, incredible views, vibrant culture, rich history, and picturesque beaches, you will always find something for everyone in Puglia. Below is a list of 5 things to do in Puglia:

1. Take an Olive Oil Tour

Puglia is a region where olive groves are found in great abundance. In fact, the area depends on extra virgin olive oil as one of its most important resources. No wonder they call it the “green gold” in Puglia.

If you’re looking for a unique activity to do in Puglia, visit an olive farm and wander through the olive trees. The sight of the oil mills is spectacular, and the olive oil produced there is purer than in most other places. The harvest season is typically from October to November, so you may be lucky enough to observe the olive harvesting process if you visit Puglia at this time.

You can take an olive oil tour to visit a family-run olive oil farm. It is a one-of-a-kind experience to observe the olive oil-making process and learn everything about it. You can also taste the freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil during your visit. Trust us; you will never forget how delicious it tastes.

2. Stay Overnight in a Trulli

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Traditional Trulli houses in Alberobello

Alberobello is a small town home to distinctive cone-shaped houses called the “Trulli.” These houses are made of mortarless limestone boulders and have domed roofs.

Staying in a Trulli overnight is one of the unique experiences in Puglia. It gives an authentic and ancient atmosphere; it will feel as if you’ve travelled in time to the prehistoric era.

There are plenty of private Trullis in the historic centre of the town. Trulli can also be found in places other than Alberobello, such as Ostuni, Martina Franca, Fasano, and Locorotondo.

3. Stay at a Masseria

Suppose you are not into activities or have had enough. In that case, Puglia also offers places to relax away from the big city and tourist attractions. You can head out to the countryside of Puglia to live an authentic local travel experience: A stay at a traditional Masseria.

A Masseria is a traditional farmhouse from southern Italy that sits within a larger country estate. The Masseria dates back to the sixteenth or seventeenth century.

Staying at a Masseria is one of the best experiences in Puglia. Usually, hosts offer tours of their land. In addition, you will get to taste their fresh food and products, including olive oil.

4. Spend a Day at the Beach

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The shoreline of Puglia, around the heel of Italy’s boot, makes up more than 10% of Italy’s entire coast. Featuring some of the best beaches in Italy, Puglia is a perfect Italian destination to enjoy a beach holiday.

One of the remarkable things to do in Puglia is to spend a day on one of its gorgeous beaches. On numerous beaches along the coast, you will find various sandy or pebbly beaches. Some beaches are large, while others are only small, hidden coves. Regardless, all beaches boast pristine, turquoise waters, making them ideal spots to soak up in the sun on a hot summer’s day.

5. Grab Some Gelato

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various Italian gelato ice cream flavours in a gelato shop

Undoubtedly, Italian ice cream is the best, and Puglia, particularly, is known for its gelato. A trip to Puglia is not complete without refreshing yourself with delicious ice cream.

Plenty of shops and parlours in Puglia offer high-quality and various flavours of gelato. The exceptional flavours are the fresh seasonal fruits, such as berries, peach, cherry, melon, and the “fiorone.”

Here are some of the best artisan ice cream shops in Puglia:

  1. Caruso in Polignano a Mare
  2. Ciccio in Piazza in Ostuni
  3. Mille Voglie in Alberobello
  4. Bar Fod in Cisternino
  5. Caffè Roma in Monopoli

Puglian Cuisine: Popular Dishes in Puglia

Puglia takes pride in its simple and tasty cuisine that uses seasonal and local ingredients. The locally produced ingredients include olive oil, cheese, tomatoes, eggplants, and mushrooms.

Puglia is a good region for agriculture. It produces durum wheat, making it home to many popular pasta dishes in Italy. Its mild climate also helps grow rich vegetation that is used in the preparation of such fantastic food.

Here is a list of 5 popular dishes from Puglia’s cuisine:

1. Orecchiette

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The most famous pasta made in Puglia is orecchiette, a Puglian classic. Its name translates to “little ears” because of its concave shape. This shape, as well as its rough surface, allows the pasta to hold onto sauces.

Orecchiette can be prepared in different ways. It is usually served with broccoli rabe, and this is called “Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa.” It can also be served with rich veal sauce, and this is called “Bari-style ragù orecchiette.”

2. Focaccia

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You can consider this dish the special pizza of Puglia. Focaccia is an Italian flatbread made from a round dough similar to a pizza dough but can be either sweet or savoury. The focaccia dough is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Typically, focaccia is flavoured with olive oil and can be topped with cherry tomatoes, herbs, or black olives.

Focaccia can be consumed as a snack or as a lunch dish. Some bars even serve it as an appetiser.

3. Taralli

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Taralli can be described as crackers, something between bread and cookies. They are small rings made from crispy tiny pieces of bread prepared with olive oil.

Taralli can be made sweet or savoury. The savoury Taralli can be found in different flavours, including chilli pepper, garlic, onion, and fennel seeds. The sweet Taralli can be glazed with sugar.

4. Sgagliozze

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Sgagliozze is an Italian signature street food that is prepared throughout Puglia. The Sgagliozza consists of square-shaped pieces of deep-fried polenta.

Sgagliozza is often sold by street vendors, and it is served and eaten hot.

5. Panzerotti

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Panzerotti is one of the most delicious street foods to try in Puglia. It is made of deep-fried dough pockets filled with mozzarella cheese and tomatoes.

Panzerotti is served extremely hot, and the molten mozzarella steeps out as you take a bite. Be careful, or you may stain your clothes.

There is another popular version of panzerotti that contains mozzarella cheese and prosciutto. It can also be oven-baked, but the fried version is much tastier and more flavourful.