Puglia – Italy’s Hidden Beachside Paradise

Puglia beaches polignano

Puglia ranks as one of the highlights of our travels so far. This southern region of Italy provided the perfect combination of relaxation, beaches, towns to explore, good food and great locals. If you haven’t heard about Puglia before, don’t worry, we hadn’t either a few years ago! Have a read of our blog, including our thoughts on the individual cities we stayed, and I’ll be surprised if you’re not adding it to your travel ‘bucket list’.

The experience in Puglia was unique, and felt more authentic than some other Italian regions. As we road tripped through Puglia, we realized through talking with locals that the region was primarily a destination for Italians. Not many of the restaurants or shop owners spoke English. The prices were cheaper than the ‘touristic’ Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre. The locals were friendly and welcoming! And there were hardly any English speaking tourists. And we loved it!

Where is Puglia:

Located in southern Italy, Puglia is referred to the ‘heel of the boot’. Sitting on the Mediterranean sea opposite Croatia, Puglia is a 4 hour train or 1 hour flight from Rome. Some of the major cities in Puglia include Bari (key for airport/train station/ferry port), Brindisi (airport/ferry port), Polignano a Mare, Monopoli, Lecce, Otranto and Galipolli.

When should you visit Puglia?

We visited at the end of June and found this time to be the perfect time! Why? Puglia is a region visited by Italians for holidays. The Italian holiday period starts around July, with one local informing us that had we visited next week the same towns that were sleepy and charming would be much busier with Italians. The weather during June was excellent 29-33 every day. If you are visiting during the end of summer/autumn, consider checking the weather, as we have heard the weather during this time isn’t as optimal (note: we don’t know this for fact).

How to get around Puglia:

You have a few options to get around Puglia, with the ‘best’ options being either 1. Driving, or 2. Trains. Our thoughts on these options are listed below:

  • Driving: Puglia is super easy to drive around, with the costal road often quiet and no tollways. We drove during our week long stay in Puglia, so we have a slight bias here. The benefit of driving in Puglia is being able to reach the small towns (e.g. Alberobello, see our day trip here). Additionally, if you are keen to visit the beaches outside of the main town you will likely need a car. Most of the beachside towns have beaches at the main town, however many of the popular beaches, e.g. Punta Prosciutto where we visited, are over 30 minutes out of the town. However, car hire is relatively expensive, particularly if you are wanting to get an automatic car. The price of petrol in the current climate also doesn’t help with your budget.
  • Trains: The trains in Italy are actually quite reliable. In Puglia, trains will take you between the major towns, e.g. from Rome to Polignano a Mare, or down to Lecce. Trains to the smaller towns e.g. Alberobello, or the beaches, are not available. Trains take longer than driving, and you don’t have the luxury of your own schedule.

Key thoughts: If your budget allows, we would recommend a car hire. The roads are very easy to drive. However, if you plan on just staying at the towns for the majority of your stay, perhaps trains will suffice.

How long should you spend in Puglia:

This is a tough questions to answer, as it really depends on what you want to see, and what style of stay you want. We visited for 6 days, which was adequate, but we left wanting a little more. We know some friends who stayed for over 2 weeks and loved every moment of it. We will list how long you could spend for the optimal in the following towns to give you a rough guide (note: this may vary depending on individual preference).

  • Bari: 0-1 days – use this as your entry point, there are better towns to spend your time and we wouldn’t advise even needing to visit the city.
  • Brindisi: as above.
  • Polignano a Mare: 2-5 days – pending the style of holiday, and your itinerary, Polignano a Mare is the perfect place to stay a few days. You have a great beach, a cute old town, lots of restaurants and little shops!
  • Monopoli: unsure – Monopoli is one of the towns we didn’t make it to when we visited. From what we have read, and heard from others, it is similar but slightly smaller than Polignano a Mare. You could easily visit for a day, or spend a few days here.
  • Alberobello: day trip (1 day max) – Alberobello is perfect for a day trip, however you can see the town easily in a few hours. Staying here would likely be overkill.
  • Ostuni: 1 day – we loved our 1 night stay in Ostuni, and left feeling like we had spent the perfect amount of time there. It is a small town, with no beach (this is a factor in summer!), but has lots of excellent restaurants and bars. If you wanted a slower style trip perhaps a couple of days would be appropriate.
  • Lecce: 1-3 days or day trip – Lecce is a small inland town. The town itself was very quaint, and we loved our day-trip visit here. A 1 or 2 night stay here would be appropriate, however longer you may find you have fully explored the town. Additionally, the heat during summer may become overwhelming in this inland town. However, if you want to use Lecce as a base for day trips, a longer stay may be appropriate (we would recommend staying along the coast during summer due to the heat).
  • Gallipoli or Otranto: 3-5 days – These seaside towns sit on opposite sides of the Salento region. We stayed in Gallipoli for 3 days, and found this to be the perfect amount of time. However, if we were wanting to slow down more, a few extra days would be appropriate. Whilst we didn’t make it Otranto, we have heard it shares similarities to Gallipoli and thus the stay length may be around the same mark. If you wish to base yourself in one particular town for a week or 2 over summer, then both of these options, or a smaller town along the coast, would be appropriate for a longer stay.

See more detailed proposed Pulgia travel itineraries here!

Do not miss when visiting Puglia:

  • Going to Polignano a Mare! All of the towns in Puglia are stunning, but Polignano a Mare has the most ‘wow factor’. Make sure you visit!

  • Try the seafood! Puglia is a coastal region with plentiful seafood. The restaurants have some excellent seafood options that you just need to try. Some of the budget friendly seafood options included Pescaria in Polignano a Mare (see our post on Polignano a Mare) and La Polperia in Gallipoli (see our Gallipoli post here).

  • Swim in the crystal clear waters! The beaches of Polignano a Mare are among the best in Europe. The water is stunningly clear, and it’s warm! The beaches in the main towns are excellent (e.g. the main beach in Polignano a Mare is unlike any we have swum at), and often a short 20-45 minute drive out of the town will give you even better beaches.

  • Have an Italian wine and enjoy the vibe! The Italian wines are so cheap here, and wonderful! Sit in an old town, or along a cute alleyway and enjoy a glass of excellent wine!

  • Wander the old seaside towns! These old towns in Puglia are stunning! Whitewashed walls, stone pavers, cactus plants lining the streets, and stunning views of the sea down little side alleyways. Make sure you spend some time wandering these cute old towns!

  • Watch the sunset! Some of our favourite moments in Puglia were watching the sunset and enjoying the vibe of the town at dusk. In particular, the sunset at Gallipoli beach was a highlight we will remember for a long time. Whilst we have seen better sunsets, the atmosphere, combined with the beachside towns, created wonderful moments!

Accommodation in Puglia?

We found the accommodation in Puglia some of the cheapest and best of our trip! We spent between $95-115 (AUD) per night and had some great places. The accommodation we stayed at is listed below:

Check out further Puglia accommodation below:

Read more about our Puglia Adventures:

If you have visited Puglia are agree with out thoughts, or think we have missed some of the hidden gems in this region, please comment below so we can see them next time we visit!


Check out some of the moments from our incredible stay in Puglia by clicking here!! This was one of our favourite places from our travels!

Have you been to Polignano a Mare? Take a look at this incredible Puglia town here!

Check out more stories, moments and recommendations from our time in Puglia! Check it out here!

Take a look at some more highlights, tips and advice from our travels in Italy! Check it out here!

Check out further highlights from our time in the Europe! Take a look!

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