What to see in Puglia

Cities, beaches and essential attractions of Puglia

With a large number of beaches, UNESCO sites and fascinating destinations, it is difficult to narrow the field to just fifteen places not to be missed during a holiday in Puglia .

1) Castel del Monte – Unesco site in Andria

Castel del Monte is one of the most mysterious places in Italy and, absolutely, a destination that is worth visiting if you are in Puglia. Built around 1240 by Frederick II, the castle is located in Andria , on the top of an isolated hill overlooking the Murgia valley on one side, and offers a breathtaking view of the Adriatic Sea on the other. It is characterized by an unusual shape with an octagonal plan and also octagonal towers at each corner. In 1996, UNESCO placed Castel del Monte on their World Heritage Site for its universal and exceptional value both for its architectural beauty and for the mystery that still surrounds it.

2) Monopoli and the Castellana Caves

Monopoli is a small Apulian city whose historical and natural beauties capture the hearts of travelers every year. Its historic center includes 9 medieval churches and countless cobbled alleys. Furthermore, a few km from Monopoli, in an area with incredible geological characteristics, there are the splendid rock formations and stalactites of the Castellana Caves . Their formation dates back to about 90 million years ago and they represent one of the most important attractions in all of Puglia and a natural heritage of inestimable value for Italy.

3) Bari, the historic center

Bari, the capital of Puglia, is a lively port city and a well-known university city. It overlooks the Adriatic Sea and boasts great architectural works, marvelous churches, a romantic promenade and an interesting historic center where narrow and winding streets dominated by an ancient castle wind their way. Bari can still be considered an alternative destination and boasts numerous hidden treasures.

4) Salento Peninsula

Salento is located in the southernmost part of Puglia and is home to small and charming seaside towns such as Gallipoli , Otranto , Lecce , Santa Maria di Leuca. Some of the best Apulian and Italian beaches, are located right in the Salento peninsula. Organize an excursion along the coast so as not to miss any of the seaside resorts in the area: Porto Cesareo, Torre Lapillo, the beach of Alimini and, above all, the splendid “Maldives of Salento”. Visit the protected marine area and natural reserve of Torre Guaceto, located just over 20 km from Brindisi. The reserve includes a six-kilometer stretch of coast, characterized by the typical Mediterranean landscape: a blue sea, sand dunes, small lagoons and centuries-old olive trees.

5) Gargano and Vieste

The splendid promontory of the Gargano is one of the most luxuriant and surprising natural areas in all of Puglia. Stretching towards the Adriatic Sea in the province of Foggia, it is described as “the spur of the heel of the boot”. While much of the hinterland of the promontory is covered by the Umbra Forest, along the coast there are golden sandy beaches and small historic villages. Vieste, one of the most popular summer destinations in Puglia, is a small seaside town perched on the east coast of the Gargano.

6) Tremiti Islands

San Domino, San Nicola, Capraia, Cretaccio and Pianosa are the five small islands that make up the Tremiti. It is a small archipelago of rare beauty surrounded by the Adriatic Sea and, for this reason, it is a renowned tourist destination for lovers of the sea and diving. The islands in fact offer numerous coves and underwater caves surrounded by clear waters. The tourist season of the Tremiti Islands lasts from May to October, but a small number of small hotels and restaurants are open all year round.

7) Alberobello – The city of the Trulli

Also known as the “city of the Trulli”, Alberobello was named a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1996. It is an exceptional example of building built with prehistoric techniques and, nowadays, numerous trulli have survived intact and are still today functional. Specifically, a “Trullo” is a small limestone house with a typical conical roof, made with dry stone walls obtained from the processing of limestone boulders collected in the nearby fields. The largest number of Trulli are found in Alberobello, but they are typical of the whole Valle d’Itria and you can find them in Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Cisternino and Fasano .

8) Lecce – The Florence of the South

Often called the “Florence of the South”, this incredible and fascinating city is one of the places to visit in Puglia at least once in a lifetime . Offering numerous examples of architecture and works of art from the Baroque period, Lecce is also called the “Baroque city” par excellence. It boasts a wonderful historic center, numerous churches and squares: Santa Maria della Provvidenza, the splendid Piazzetta dell’Addolorata and the Basilica of Santa Croce. One of the peculiarities of Lecce is its typical stone, called Lecce stone, used to build most of the buildings in the historic center over the centuries. Lecce is also an undisputed destination for a gourmet holiday and to savor its delicious typical dishes, such as the “Rustic Lecce”.

9) Valle d’Itria

Located in the heart of Puglia, this fertile valley extends between the provinces of Bari , Brindisi and Taranto . It is characterized by lush vegetation, includes one of the largest quantities of olive groves, from which one of the finest Italian olive oils is obtained. To characterize the Itria Valley are also the trulli, the numerous and welcoming farms and the vineyards from which renowned white wines are obtained.

10) Ostuni – The White City

Located in the province of Brindisi, Ostuni has been nicknamed the White City due to its typical low limestone houses that populate the narrow streets of its center. If the narrow streets and the numerous stairways of the historic center are wrapped in an ancient historical charm, the numerous small shops and clubs enliven the nightlife and summers of Ostuni. In its countryside there is a varied choice of Masserie , ancient farmhouses typical of Southern Italy. Many farms were abandoned in the late 19th century, but thanks to restoration projects, many of them have been recovered and transformed into splendid hotels.

11) Otranto

It is located in the Salento peninsula , on a rocky mass that falls sheer to the sea. The village is enclosed by the Aragonese walls, you will walk in stone streets and you can visit the Romanesque Cathedral with its Renaissance rose window. Not to be missed in Otranto is the castle built by Alfonso of Aragon at the end of the fifteenth century. Outside the inhabited center the lighthouse of Punta Palascìa, Grotta dei Cervi .

12) Polignano a Mare

The coast of Polignano is one of the most beautiful in Puglia. At 30 minutes from Bari, it has a jagged coast with very steep escarpments. The historic center of Polignano shows us the signs of Arab, Byzantine, Spanish and Norman cultures, which we recommend you visit, together with the 13th century Mother Church and the “ Pino Pascali ” Museum Foundation.

13) Santa Maria di Leuca

Renowned tourist resort in the extreme edge of Salento. The coast of Santa Maria di Leuca is very indented, made of white rocks and with natural caves. The bay is dominated by a beautiful white house next to which stands the Basilica of Santa Maria de Finibus Terrae . On the seafront, elegant stately homes and Art Nouveau villas follow one another, the terminal part of the Apulian Aqueduct with a fabulous monumental waterfall.

14) Gallipoli

Gallipoli is a seaside town located along the Salento coast, and is divided into two areas: the historic center , perched on a limestone island, and the new village, connected to the island by a bridge. In the ancient village you can admire the Greek fountain, a monument of Renaissance origin, the Cathedral of Sant’Agata , one of the greatest examples of Salento baroque , the Church of Santa Maria della Purità with a beautiful majolica floor. Finally, the Castle of Gallipoli , the city’s defensive stronghold with its Torre del Rivellino.

15) Gravine di Puglia

It is a municipality in the city of Bari , located in the Alta Murgia National Park area. The ravines are rock formations created by the erosion of the water that has carved out the limestone rock. They reach a depth of over 100 meters and are very similar to canyons. At the bottom of the  Apulian ravines flow rivers that can become streams, which, as they pass, further sculpt the rock. Thanks to the presence of waterways and natural caves present on the rock walls, over the years various populations have settled who used these places as homes or defensive places.

The places to visit absolutely in Puglia:

  1. Castel del Monte, Unesco site in Andria
  2. Alberobello – The city of Trulli
  3. Monopoly
  4. Caves of Castellana
  5. Ostuni 
  6. Bari 
  7. Salento (Lecce, Otranto and Gallipoli, Santa Maria di Leuca)
  8. Polignano a mare
  9. Tremiti Islands
  10. Valle d’Itria


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