With Italy as my all-time favorite destination, there are few places I still haven’t been to, and Puglia has been on my list for a while. While I could see myself living here for some months, before our move to Asia, I took the time and spent one weekend in Puglia.
I immediately fell in love with the region and with every narrow street I step foot on, every colorful door, stone house, and flower garden. And let’s not talk about the Puglia food or wine, because you won’t find it hard to choose souvenirs to bring back home as a gift for friends or for yourself.
Moreover, Puglia is still a hidden gem, a place where you can find small towns untouched by crowds of foreign tourists, where everything still remains authentically Italian.
Follow my guide and I’ll help you make the best out of your weekend in Puglia, and even help you plan your itinerary. Depending on your travel style, you can choose to do it all and have 2 packed days, or you can pick and choose what you prefer doing.
I’ll try to answer all your questions so that you won’t have to worry about a single thing!
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Spend a stunning weekend in Puglia with this perfect itinerary
Is Puglia worth visiting?
First things first, if you are here it means you are considering adding Puglia to your Italy bucket list or even planning a weekend trip there. I know what you are going through because I’ve been there myself and let me tell you one thing: Puglia is 100% worth visiting!
Especially if you are in love with Italy and are looking for a region that will surprise you with its beauty and authenticity.
If you would rather not plan your whole itinerary, here is a great option for a 2-day tour from Bari to Alberobello and Matera – the most beautiful destinations in the region. While it includes transfers and guided tours, this does not include accommodation. See more here!
Which airport serves Puglia? Where to land if you want to visit Puglia?
Puglia is served by the Bari International Airport and here is where you will start your trip in the region.
Another good option when traveling from the UK for example, is the Brindisi Airport, close to Lecce, more to the south of Italy’s heel.
It is worth checking both options, no matter where you are traveling from, especially when you are on a budget and want to optimize the trip and costs.
If you want to find flights that will get you there, make sure to check out Kiwi.com – an online flights aggregator that will help you find the best flight combinations. They have an extensive database of low-cost flights and traditional airlines, that will help you configure your perfect trip. Check your flight options here!
How to get around: do you need a car in Puglia?
The answer to this question depends a lot on a few factors such as the amount of time you have been driving, how willing are you to change buses or trains, or the budget you have allocated for the trip.
While it is possible to see Puglia without a car, this won’t give you the chance to see it properly. This part of Italy is not so well connected, and you will spend quite some time on the road. On top of that, some villages might not be easily accessible by public transportation, or you might have to go back and forth to Bari for a connection.
All in all, if you want to have a carefree weekend and go wherever you feel like going, it is very helful to rent a car.
Driving along the streets of these small villages scattered around the hills and plains of Puglia is almost therapeutic. Finding a parking space wasn’t difficult in any of the towns we have visited, and the parking fee was very reasonable (1-2 EUR per hour).
If you decide to rent a car for your weekend in Puglia, I suggest doing so in advance, because this way you can choose the type of car you want, and also save a lot on the car price.
My go-to car rental company is always Discover Cars. It is a great aggregator that will help you find and book the best option for renting a car during your trip, helping you save up to 70% on your car rental. They have a pretty good cancellation policy that would give you options in case your flight or travel plans change. Get your best offers here!
Other things worth knowing when you rent a car:
- make sure you have a credit card
- the name on the credit card needs to match the person with the driver’s license
- opt for insurance, especially in Italy
Puglia without a car
If, however, you choose not to rent a car, the best option might be to stay in Bari and travel by train.
There are options to get from Bari to Alberobello by train or bus (directly or with a change in Putignano), and a direct train linking Bari to Polignano a Mare, thus these could be your day trip destinations for your weekend.
Another option I always see coming up in different groups about travel to Italy is Omio.com. Sometimes, mixing the 2 tools could help you get the best deal and schedule the perfect itinerary when you don’t want to rent a car.
Where to stay for a weekend in Puglia
Even though you will land in Bari, I strongly suggest choosing another town as your base camp for your weekend in Puglia.
As such, we chose to stay in the picturesque town of Alberobello, set only 60 kilometers away from Bari. We absolutely loved our stay there, and it placed us close to all the things and places we wanted to see in Puglia.
Other great options are Polignano a Mare if you love the sea and want to have it close, Monopoli, or Locorotondo.
Extra TIP: No matter where you choose to stay in Puglia, go for an authentic accommodation option and stay in a “trullo”! There are plenty of such charming houses offering 5* services and even a pool.
Here are a few stunning options to choose from, Puglia villas with a pool or a view:
Masseria Le Cerase is a traditional white house with a stunning pool, perfectly located for daily trips to the sea or Alberobello, Polignano a Mare, or Ostuni.
Trullieu Guesthouse Alberobello – even though the Trullo guesthouse is located extremely close to Alberobello’s center, it is still hidden from all the noise and fuss. And it also has a free close-by parking space.
Furnirussi Tenuta – not only the rooms are spacious at this hotel, but they also have a big lake-like swimming pool.
Masseria Le Fabriche is a stone house in the middle of vineyards. You can easily imagine why this is a wine lover’s paradise destination. Explore also nearby beach Conte d’Ayala.
What to visit in Puglia for a weekend: a perfect itinerary
2 days in Puglia might not be enough, but you will get the chance to make a first impression and decide whether you want to come back later and spend a longer vacation in the region.
Day 1 – Alberobello, Martina Franca, Ostuni
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Alberobello is not as the name says it, a “beautiful tree”, but a rather small charming village famous for its trulli houses.
While you can see the dry-stone wall houses with the cone-shaped roof scattered all over the region, Alberobello has 2 whole districts made out of trulli: Rione Monti (the more touristic area), and Aia Piccola (the less explored district).
The houses were built like that for a reason back in the days, they manage to keep a somewhat stable temperature, especially during hot summer days, but today they are very charming accommodation options.
Painted in white, with contrasting flowers adornments, and colorful doors, walking on the streets in Alberobello will make you feel like in a fairy tale. Some of the buildings host souvenir shops, wine tasting bars, restaurants with hidden terraces, and even Chiesa di Sant’Antonio is hidden in a nineteenth-century trullo.
If you travel outside of the peak season, chances are you will have the charking village all to yourself, or you will get to share it with only a few other tourists. Even if we visited in August, we still had the chance to explore the empty streets, early in the morning.
Don’t expect to find many tourist attractions in Alberobello, the whole village in itself being the main attraction.
Other things worth doing in Alberobello:
- Take an Italian cooking class at a local farm – learn how to make some of the most iconic Pugliese dishes and get to taste them! See more here!
- Go on an Alberobello walking tour and learn the history of the village from a local. See more here!
15 kilometers away from Alberobello, you’ll find Martina Franca. You can get here in less than 20 minutes by car from Alberobello, or hop on the bus that links the 2 while going through Locorotondo.
The town is bigger than Alberobello, and the main attraction you’ll head towards will be the walled town, delimited by four Renaissance and Baroque gates.
The old town can be easily explored on foot in a few hours, and that’s what we did.
We stopped for a coffee at a bar right next to Porta di Santo Stefano, and we entered the walled town right in Piazza Roma where we admired the beautiful Palazzo Ducale. Further on, we let ourselves get lost on the streets and we stumbled upon the Basilica di San Martino in Pizza Plebiscito, the Chiesa di San Domenico, and many buildings with beautifully ornated balconies.
A local old lady passed us by several times wishing us a lovely walk with a full smile on her face.
Why wouldn’t you love such a place?
The white city, with a special vibe! This is one place I absolutely loved and somewhere I would go back to whenever I have the chance.
Set upon a hill, only 35 minutes by car and a little over 1 hour by bus away from Martina Franca, Ostuni lured us in with its magical white streets, colorful doors, and flower-filled windows and stairs.
As we parked on a steep street climbing all the way to the top of the hill, it was clear from the hanging laundry on the small balconies outside, that people were living their normal all Italian lives here, it wasn’t a touristic area, and you could feel the true local vibes.
We wandered through the maze of medieval streets, beneath the arches, along with the neverending buildings, we stopped to admire the Arco di Scoppa in Piazzetta Cattedrale, took a picture by the famous green door, walked along the city’s defensive walls packed with history and offering an impressive panoramic view.
Since we were famished, we had a delicious lunch at one of the restaurants we encountered along our walks, beautifully decorated with colorful ceramics.
If you want to learn more about Ostuni and its history, while exploring its narrow streets, book a walking tour with a local expert. Learn the story behind the white walls, reach the highest point by the Cathedral of Santa Maria of the Assumption, and admire the beautiful mix of white and blue as soon as your eyes meet the sea. Book your tour here!
Day 2 – Polignano a Mare and Monopoli
Polignano a Mare
Maybe one of the most popular destinations in the area, Polignano a Mare is such a vibrant town, with a restaurant that must be on anyone’s bucket list: the Grotta Palazzese cave restaurant.
Right behind Domenico Modugno’s monument, which welcomes you to the sea with its wide-open arms is where everyone that wants a perfect picture goes.
When we got there, the salty air was strong and extremely humid, and groups of young guys were jumping from the cliffs into the water, trying to impress girls or maybe the tourist with their skills.
From the Ponte Lama Monachile, we admired the popular beach bearing the same name, hidden just below the bridge. It was peak season, so the beach was packed with people, and there were many others climbing the stairs back and forth from the sea.
The smaller brother of Polignano, Monopoli is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered and bearing so much charm and authenticity.
The air felt damp, I felt it in my hair, on my arms, and in the smell, I started scenting as we approached the port.
Someone was playing old Italian songs on his guitar, luring tourists to gather around and listen to him, and maybe leave a euro or two as a Thank you.
Old fisherman meeting up and catching up over the day, most probably talking about what the day had brought; old ladies with their chairs outside of their shriveled building doors in the Old Town. That’s how authentic Monopoli is.
Along the sea, visit the Castello di Carlo V., step inside the Basilica of the Madonna della Madia, go on a walking and gastronomy tour, or even spend a day at the beach. As night falls, stop at one of the restaurants and bars with a sea view, and let yourself be seduced by the laid-back dolce vita.
What to eat in Puglia
Of course, you won’t go wrong with anything you choose to eat when in Italy. Italian cuisine is internationally renown for a reason, after all.
However, each region has its specialties and you might want to know the ones in the region, to try them on your weekend in Puglia.
Some local dishes to try in Puglia:
- burrata – the softer version of mozzarella is a typical Pugliese product, and you must try it here!
- some vegetarian antipasti – grilled, deep-fried, you name it
- lots of fresh fish dishes
- caciocavallo cheese
- hand-made pasta
- taralli pugliesi – some local kind of pretzels
- puccia – a sandwich made of pizza dough, with lots of delicious flavors
Just remember that in Italy restaurants are closed after 3 or 4 PM, and they reopen only for dinner at around 7 PM. That’s why you will have to keep an eye on the clock when organizing your Puglia itinerary and activities.
When to visit Puglia?
Located in Southern Italy, this is a region with mild weather and with very hot summers. That’s why, I would suggest avoiding the months of July and August, and planning your weekend getaway for May-June or September.
Outside of these months, you will have the region all to yourself, but you won’t have so many restaurants or activities to choose from.
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