During the time we lived in Italy, my only regret about visiting Puglia is that we didn’t go more often and see more of it. It truly is a special region with a stunning landscape, amazing food, friendly people and unique cities. On my list of things you can’t miss in Puglia, I’ve included my favorite towns, things to do and of course, the best local specialties (hint: pass me all the wine and burrata, please).
1. Visit the Town of Polignano a Mare
I first heard of Polignano a Mare when my husband suggested we watch the movie Spring. The only reason I even made it through the whole movie was because it was filmed in Puglia. I wouldn’t recommend the movie, but would 100% recommend Polignano a Mare. Known for its aqua blue water, cliffside white buildings and a charming beach, Polignano a Mare is one of the towns you have to see when visiting Puglia.
Stop at Il Super Mago del Gelo for a caffe speciale – their unique concoction of lemon, liqueur and espresso. If you’re not feeling bold enough to give it a try, they also serve traditional caffè, gelato and pastries.
2. Go to the Beach
A lido in Italy is a beach club that provides lounge chairs, sunning beds and umbrellas. Costs vary depending on the beach club’s amenities and time of year, but it’s usually around €20 for two chairs and an umbrella. Most lidos will have a little bar and bathrooms. Lido Morelli for tiki huts and a casual bar. Coccaro Beach Club for a more luxury experience.
I’ve never been more south near Otranto, but there’s a sink hole there called Grotto della Poesia. It’s like a natural swimming pool and is on my list for our next visit!
3. See the Trulli Houses in Alberobello
Alberobello is a small town known for its trulli houses, a white circular house with a grey coned top. The houses were built with stone for easy disassembly to pay less taxes in the 19th century and are now protected by UNESCO laws. You can see them dotted all over the countryside, but you’ll see one after the other in Alberobello.
4. Stay at a Masseria or Trulli
You might be surprised at how many accommodation choices you have in Puglia. From unforgettable masserias to charming airbnbs with rooftop terraces, there’s something for every preference and budget. If you didn’t get your fix from walking the streets of Alberobello, you can also stay in a trulli. Almapetra Trulli Resort offers 2 bedroom trulli cottages with a pool and shared barbecue area. Starting at around 100 euros a night, it’s an excellent value option for families. Book on Booking.com or Airbnb.
Choose Masseria San Francesco for an upscale accommodation with thoughtful interiors, a pool and a lively bar. Read my full review here. For the ultimate 5-star estate experience, do as Justin Timberlake does and choose Borgo Egnazia. JT and Jessica Beil wed at the luxury hotel in 2012.
Also Read: Where to Stay in Puglia
5. Wander the Streets of Ostuni
Ostuni is known as La Citta Bianca (the white city) because of its white buildings. It’s also one of my favorite places in Puglia. The city is full of cute cafes, gelaterias and shops with local products. Ceramic shops sell pumo di fiore in every color and size you could imagine. You’ll see this acorn shaped flower bud all over Puglia, serving as a symbol of prosperity and fertility.
6. Eat Burrata
Burrata is a type of cheese from Puglia and you have to try it. It’s a pouch made of mozzarella with cream and soft cheese inside. You’ll see burrata on the menu by itself, served on a green salad or with pasta. However it’s served, order it. Burrata is delicious and you won’t find it fresher than in Puglia.
7. Order a Plate of Orecchiette Pasta
The American notion of “Italian food” is a bit skewed. Food is extremely regional in Italy and each city will have its speciality dish. Orecchiette is an ear shaped pasta commonly found in Puglia. There’s even variations as to how it’s served throughout the region. Don’t want to wait until your trip? You can order orecchiette on Amazon to tide you over.
8. Try the Olive Oil
With olive trees over 500 years old, you can bet Puglia has some amazing olive oil. There’s over 60 million olive trees in the region that produce about 40% of Italy’s entire olive oil production. Olive orchards are an integral part of the Puglian landscape and one of the reasons I love this region so much.
9. Eat at a Masseria
Italy is renowned for its food and Puglia is no exception. Classic Puglian recipes tend to highlight vegetables like eggplant, fava beans and zucchini. Since the heel is surrounded by ocean, there’s also some fine seafood to be had. Even if you don’t stay at a masseria, you can still book a meal there. We had the most amazing experience at Masseria il Frantoio the first time we visited Puglia, and I’m still talking about it! The 8-course menu changes every night and costs €65 with wine pairing. They were happy to make accommodations for dietary needs. Reach out to them directly to make a reservation.
10. Try the Local Wine
It’s almost impossible to choose a favorite, but Puglian wine is definitely in my top three. Our small wine cabinet in Italy was filled with varietals from Puglia. Primitivo di Manduria and Negroamaro are two of several local varietals you’ll see featured on a menu. Full-bodied, red wine is practically a staple of the Puglian diet and you can’t visit without trying it.