8 Towns Not to Miss in Puglia, Italy

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Puglia, the region in the heel of Italy’s boot, is dotted with beautiful small towns in shades of white and gold, with unique architecture like the conical trulli of Alberobello and the extravagant Baroque of Lecce.

Rich in churches and palaces, hidden piazzas and winding alleyways, markets and slow food trattorias, Puglia’s towns are a highlight of a visit to the region and reason to entice you away from the endless coastline. In some towns you can even combine visits to cathedrals and castles with dips in the sea just steps from the historic centre.

These are our recommendations of Puglia towns to visit, focused on the two main areas of interest to tourists, the Valle d’Itria and the Salento (there is also the Gargano further north, but we haven’t been there yet).

A good strategy is to choose a base for each of these areas—masserie or fortified farmhouses that have guest accommodation or Airbnb apartments are a great option—and visit the other towns on day trips. Ostuni (or the nearby countryside) and Lecce are ideal places to base yourself, but you can’t really go wrong.

If you have the time, consider a side trip to spectacular Matera in neighbouring Basilicata. 

Puglia is one of the most beautiful regions of Italy. These 8 diverse Puglian towns are the highlights of the region including Ostuni, Alberobello, Bari, Lecce, Otranto and more. Click through to plan your trip to Puglia.


Bari & The Valle d’Itria

Bari is the main gateway to Puglia (the other airport is at Brindisi further south). The nearby Valle d’Itria, a rustic valley of olive trees, vineyards, and hill towns, is one of the most popular destinations in the region, known for its iconic trulli, circular stone huts found dotted around the countryside.

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Although we flew into Bari on our first trip to Puglia four years ago, we heard that it wasn’t worth visiting so we drove straight from the airport up the coast to the elegant small town Trani. This time we spent a night here and although the newer part of town is fairly nondescript, the atmospheric, maze-like old town is definitely worth a visit.

Bari Vecchia, one of the best Puglia towns to visit in Italy

Bari Vecchia

Bari Vecchia is a walled city crowded on a peninsula jutting into the sea. There was no room for expansion and the resulting overcrowding has meant that life is lived on the streets. As we wandered down the narrow alleyways on our first evening we felt like we were walking through someone’s living room, or well, everyone’s living room. Entire families from grandparents to babies sat outside their homes chatting, playing, napping, while washing dangled from balconies and scooters whizzed past.

It’s not just relaxing and socialising that takes place in the streets. In the mornings they become a pasta factory as women sit at tables outside their homes making the typical Puglian pasta orecchiette. These “little ears” are made by rolling the dough into thin logs, cutting off a chunk with a knife and shaping it by hand—all at an impressively rapid pace. Later in our trip we tried making them ourselves, and it’s not easy.

Women making orecchiette pasta on the streets of Bari, Puglia

Women making orecchiette pasta on the streets of Bari

Orecchiette pasta on Bari street

If you get lost in Bari Vecchia, look down. The black stone pavement was laid to help visiting merchants navigate their way out after market day; the white limestone paving will take you deeper into the maze.

If the characterful tourist-free old town wasn’t enough reason to visit, the focaccia is really really good here, smeared with roasted cherry tomatoes, olives and glistening with local olive oil.

Bari focaccia from Panificio Fiore in Puglia

Where to stay in Bari: We stayed in a rather characterless hotel in the new town. Next time I would choose one of the many B&Bs such as La Muraglia, which has lovely apartments with sea views in the old town. You can find more hotels, B&Bs and apartments in Bari here.
Where to eat in Bari: The amazing focaccia at Panificio Fiore in the old town is perfect for a quick snack or light lunch. Our meal at La Cecchina was delicious, especially the fried caciocavallo cheese and the carrot and zucchini salad.


Alberobello trulli in Puglia, Italy

Alberobello is another town we skipped on our first trip as we heard it was too touristy. And it is, but it’s such a unique and enchanting place (it’s not a UNESCO World Heritage site for nothing) that it’s worth a few hours.

Trulli or conical stone huts are found amongst the olive trees all over the countryside of the Valle d’Itria, but Alberobello is the only entire town of trulli—1500 of them. You half expect to see a hobbit emerge from these stubby homes of whitewashed walls and pointy roofs stacked with grey limestone.

Trulli in AlberobelloOne side of town is full of tourists and souvenir shop trulli, but head across the road to Aia Piccola and you’ll find trulli that are real homes without the crowds. See our trulli photo essay for more information and photos of these unusual dwellings.

Where to stay in Alberobello: Staying in a trullo is a highlight of the Valle d’Itria. We stayed in one at Masseria Ferri near Martina Franca about 25 minutes drive from Alberobello. Our cute trullo stayed wonderfully cool in the summer heat, the family that runs the place is very welcoming, and the food was superb. We preferred staying in the countryside rather than in Alberobello itself, but you can find hotels in Alberobello here such as the highly rated trulli of Tipico Resort
Where to eat in Alberobello: The antipasti at atmospheric cave restaurant Casa Nova were delicious.


Locorotondo, Puglia

Locorotondo is a labyrinth of whitewashed buildings; its quiet streets kept pristine by residents who decorate their balconies and staircases with pink geraniums. There are no major sights, but this means it doesn’t get many visitors, so it’s a delightful place to enjoy a leisurely lunch and stroll the streets.

Where to stay in Locorotondo: We stayed 20 minutes away in a trullo at Masseria Ferri. Locorotondo is a lovely area to stay in and you can find trulli and holiday homes in the area here.
Where to eat in Locorotondo: La Taverna del Duca serves simple but delicious local Slow Food. 


Ostuni archway in Puglia, ItalyOstuni is another maze-like white city on a hilltop just 8km from the Adriatic Sea where you’ll find some of Puglia’s most exclusive resorts. It’s a wonderful town to get lost wandering the alleys, climbing staircases, and dipping under archways; or browse the stalls of local fruit and vegetables at the Saturday market. See our Ostuni post for more photos.

Where to stay in Ostuni: We visited Ostuni from Masseria Ferri, a 30-minute drive away, but Ostuni is a fabulous area to stay. If you want to stay in the centre, Biancadamari is a stylish B&B with stunning views of the old town and sea. Or there are many budget apartments in the historic centre like 30 Metri Quadri.

On my next visit I want to stay at Masseria Il Frantoio in the countryside 10 minutes outside Ostuni. We visited on a day trip to tour their olive groves and sample their homemade olive oil and we didn’t want to leave. The 300-year-old stables and grain mill have been lovingly restored and converted to 12 guest rooms. The beautiful grounds are perfect for relaxing and the tasting menus are supposed to be incredible. You can find more places to stay in Ostuni here.

Where to eat in Ostuni: The elegant Ristorante Porta Nova has wonderful views of the old town and sea and an excellent version of Puglian fava bean puree. Masseria Il Frantoio is open to non-guests for their epic tasting menus. Here are some more Ostuni restaurants to try.

The Salento

The Salento is a hot, dry peninsula at the southern tip of Puglia. Its geographical isolation has meant that it has developed a strong identity with its own cuisine, traditions and music, influenced by its Greek past. Along with some of Italy’s best beaches, there are many fascinating towns to explore.

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Lecce's baroque cathedral, Puglia

Lecce’s baroque cathedral

Lecce is known for its exuberant Baroque architecture in the golden Leccese stone of the area, its churches lavishly decorated with cherubs, gargoyles and griffins, and delicately carved columns and cornices.

San Matteo church, Lecce

More baroque at San Matteo church

Lecce is one of Puglia’s larger cities but it’s still a walkable size, and it manages to be both lively and relaxed. One of my strongest memories is from after a cooking class with Cooking Experience when we had a long leisurely meal that lasted until nearly midnight. As we walked back to our B&B, the streets were alive with young people drinking in pavement cafes but also families out for a stroll, groups of friends licking cones of gelato or eating crepes from one of the street stands. The atmosphere was festive and friendly, such a contrast to the negative energy in a British town at pub kicking out time, and we found ourselves thinking, we could live here.

Lecce, Puglia


Where to stay in Lecce: We stayed at Spiriti Suite B&B, which has modern, elegant suites a 10-minute walk from the historic centre. There are many other gorgeous places to stay in historic buildings such as Dimora Storica Torre Del Parco 1419, a luxurious hotel in a medieval fortress, Palazzo Bignami, a stylish B&B very close to the centre, and Palazzo Gorgoni in the heart of the old town. You can find more hotels and B&Bs in Lecce here
Where to eat in Lecce: We’ve returned to Osteria degli Spiriti many times for their delicious Salento cuisine. Our Lecce cooking class was one of our favourite experiences in Puglia and the leisurely meal at the end was wonderful. Here are some more Lecce restaurants to try.


Otranto, Puglia

Otranto has a stunning coastal location where you can combine morning visits to churches with an afternoon swimming in the clean, impossibly turquoise sea.

Otranto harbour, PugliaOtranto is just 72 km from Albania and its location has resulted in many invasions, the worst of which was the Turkish siege in 1480 when they destroyed much of the city and tortured and killed its people.

Otranto Cathedral

Otranto Cathedral

Otranto’s principal attraction is the Cathedral with its mosaic floor built in 1163-1165—it survived the Turkish invasion although parts of the Cathedral were destroyed. It’s one of the largest mosaics in Europe and covers the entire floor. Its central motif is the Tree of Life, supported at the base by elephants, a symbol of purity, with branches telling pagan and biblical stories. Another tree near the front of the church depicts heaven on one side and grizzly scenes from hell on the other.

Mosaic floor in Otranto cathedral

Mosaic floor in Otranto Cathedral

In the chapel you can see the human remains of the 800 martyrs who resisted the Turkish invasion and refused to convert to Islam. The empty sockets of hundreds of skulls stare down at you in stark contrast to the beauty of the mosaic floor.

Skull chapel, Otranto cathedral

The chapel of skulls in Otranto’s cathedral

Where to stay in Otranto: We visited Otranto while staying at Masseria Sant’Angelo 20 minutes inland. Otranto makes a good base in the Salento, though, with a range of accommodation from 5-star luxury hotels like Hotel Palazzo Papaleo to affordable B&Bs such as Mediterraneo Camere. You could also stay on a farm in the nearby countryside—Masseria Panareo looks stunning, and Agriturismo Tenuta Sant’Emiliano is an affordable option on an organic farm. You can find more hotels in Otranto here.
Where to eat in Otranto: L’Altro Baffo is the place to go if you like seafood, although they did make us some tasty vegetarian dishes (off the menu). Primo is a better option for vegetarians/vegans.


Gallipolli beach, Puglia, Italy

Gallipolli’s beach

Gallipoli’s old town is on an island connected by a causeway to the mainland. It has a relaxed, elegant vibe, stunning churches, and a golden curve of sand right in the centre of town, plus many more along the surrounding coast. It was ruled by the Greeks for five centuries between 7th and 2nd century BC, but all signs of their existence were destroyed by the Romans, and most of the architecture seen now is from the Middle Ages.

Gallipolli in Puglia, Italy

Other than leisurely walks along the city’s seafront walls, the most interesting thing to do in Gallipoli is visit Frantoio Ipogeo in Granafei Palace, one of the 35 underground olive presses. It was first used in 1600, excavated by hand out of the soft rock, to make olive oil for lamps which was exported around the world.

You can see the original equipment used for grinding and pressing the olives and get a sense of what it was like to work in this dark, damp cave. Blindfolded donkeys were used to work the olive mill and they lived down here with the workers who smoked weeds and carved little sculptures to distract themselves from the miserable conditions.

Underground olive mill, Gallipolli, Puglia

Underground olive mill

Where to stay in Gallipoli: We visited Gallipoli from Masseria Sant’Angelo about 35 minutes away. The town has some good value accommodation like Salento Palace B&B and Palazzo Rocci. You can find more places to stay in Gallipoli here.
Where to eat in Gallipoli: Il Bastione has fantastic sea views, but it’s a seafood restaurant, so it’s not the best option for vegetarians. Here are some more Gallipoli restaurant ideas.

Corigliano d’Otranto

Corigliano d'Otranto castleCorigliano d’Otranto is one of the 11 towns of the Grecia Salentina that have retained their Greek heritage from the Byzantine period including the Griko dialect. It’s a small untouristy town with an interesting medieval castle that you’ll likely have to yourself. De’Monti Castle actually consists of two castles. The medieval castle was built in 1465 with four rectangular towers and was strong enough to resist the Turkish invasion when they came here after destroying Otranto. The castle was fortified further in the 17th century with four round towers and a moat that encircles the inner castle. Later a rich family transformed it from a fortress into a luxurious Ducal palace and added Baroque details to the facade.

Baroque details of the facade of Corigliano d'Otranto's castle

Baroque details of the facade of Corigliano d’Otranto’s castle

Where to stay in Corigliano d’Otranto: Our main reason for visiting Corigliano was to stay at nearby Masseria Sant’Angelo, a working farm where you can learn about the traditions of the area from warm-hearted host Rocco who is a passionate musician of the local pizzica folk music. We ate fruit from their trees, milked a goat, learned how cheese was made and enjoyed nightly feasts with the family. It’s a special, authentic place that will take you way off the beaten track.
Where to eat in Corigliano d’Otranto: There’s an excellent restaurant on the terrace inside the castle where you can enjoy typical dishes of the local area (currently closed in 2017). The evening feasts at Masseria Sant’Angelo were our most memorable meals in Puglia.

Map of our Top 8 Puglia Towns

Resources for Planning a Trip to Puglia

  • Accommodation – Search on Booking.com (hotels, B&Bs, farmstays and apartments) and Airbnb (rooms and apartments—get $38 off here).
  • Flights – Look on Kiwi.com for flights to Bari or Brindisi. It offers a lot of flexibility to help you find the best deals (choose a date range to find the cheapest day to fly).
  • Train travel – See The Man in Seat 61 for the best advice, read our post on travelling from Italy to London by train, and consider an Interrail or Eurail pass if travelling to multiple destinations in Europe. 
  • Pack light – To avoid paying checked luggage fees on airlines. My book, The Carry-On Traveller: The Ultimate Guide to Packing Light, shows you how to travel with just carry-on luggage on any trip. 
  • Travel insurance – Essential in case anything goes wrong. The best we’ve found is True Traveller (UK/EU citizens), which we’ve been using for the last six years. World Nomads (worldwide) is another reliable option. 
  • To track your travel expenses use our iOS app Trail Wallet, which will help you stay on budget and know how much you’re spending in both Euros and your home currency.
  • See our travel resources page for more tools and gear recommendations to help you plan your trip.

We hope we’ve inspired you to head south and explore the towns of Puglia. These are just some of the possibilities, pick a town at random and you’ll likely to find a fascinating history, beautiful architecture, friendly people, and delicious food.

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Ostuni is one of the 8 gorgeous towns in Puglia not to miss. There are so many hidden gems in this southern region of Italy. | Never Ending VoyageThank you to Puglia Promozione, the region’s tourism board, who hosted us in Puglia, and to Dionisio our guide who showed us around a number of these towns.


Are you planning your travels for 2018? See our Travel Resources page for our favourite tools and gear to help you plan the perfect trip. 

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83 Comments (5 pingbacks)

  1. Hello. I am planning to go to Puglia in September. How many days would you say I should reserve to see all the towns you suggest in this post?


  2. We like strolling around, watching local life, practicing Italian with the locals and tasting delicious food, and we might want to stop over at a farmhouse for olive oil tasting too.


    • Thank you so much for your very informative post. My husband and I will be returning to Italy the first of May for the third time, but the first to this area. We will be visiting almost every town you have mentioned. After much debate we decided to rent a car and will be staying in 5 different towns for our 15 day day trip. Reading of your adventures has us even more excited to return to beautiful Italy.
      Thanks again for all your information.


  3. I love your website and these posts! I am spending 10 days in Puglia in September and your posts have me very excited! Thanks for your wonderful sharing,


  4. Hey – great article I’ll definitely visit some of these lovely towns. Is it easy enough to visit them by train? I’m thinking of basing myself in Lecce or Ostuni. Are most of these towns connected by train, and is it a cheaper way of doing it than hiring a car? Would love to hire a car but I’m 22 and young driver surcharges seem to make it very expensive. Unless you know of a cheaper way to hire a car when I’m out there? I’ve been looking online so far. Would love to hear your advice. Thanks!


    • It is possible to visit many of these places by train but services are quite slow and infrequent. Hiring a car is definitely easier but it is expensive if you are under 25. You could also look into buses. If you are patient and don’t try to visit more than one place a day you should be fine. And avoid doing day trips on Sundays when services are even more limited.

      Lecce would be a good base for the Salento and if you have time you might also choose another base further north. Ostuni is well worth visiting but the train station is 3.5km outside of the town. I’ve heard Martina Franca is a better base for travelling by train—you can visit Alberbello, Locorotondo and Cisternino from here but Ostuni is trickier to get to.

      You can check local train times from Lecce and Martina Franca here: https://www.fseonline.it/index.aspx
      and trains from elsewhere here: http://www.trenitalia.com/

      Have an amazing trip!


  5. Hi! What an interesting article! I am travelling to Puglia in April and so looking forward to it. We are staying in Monopoli in an Airbnb apartment. Do you have any suggestions for places to eat there or things to do? I’m looking forward to visiting the places you mentioned in your article. Finola


    • Unfortunately we haven’t visited Monopoli yet (it’s on our list for our next visit this spring). Your Airbnb host should be a good source of restaurant recommendations. It’s a great base for visiting many of the places on this list. Enjoy!


  6. Wonderful post! My boyfriend and I are spending 1 week in puglia the firstweek of July. We will have a car and I speak Italian- do yu have recommendations on 2 to 3 placesto stay as our base. We love wine, food, people watching, views of the sea- you know..basically what everyone else loves. We love quiet but are also very cosmopolitan and enjoy energies of populated areas. Thank you in advance!!


  7. Hi Erin,
    Awesome post! We are a group of young girls from Australia, and were wondering where you would recommend to stay for the best night life?
    Also, what is the best way to move from each town without hiring a car?


    • I’d recommend staying in Otranto which is a beautiful town by the beach. There is plenty going on on summer nights. It’s a bit trickier (and slower) to get around without a car but you can take the train or bus from Otranto to Lecce and onwards to Bari and other places. You could also look into local tours.


      • Hi Erin,
        What a wonderful post!
        I am planning to go to Puglia with my 14 year old son for the last week of April.
        We’ll only have 1 week and will have no car. I guess we need to narrow down to 2-3 cities/towns since we want to keep leisurely pace and rest. Will you recommend flying to Bari, spending there 2 days and then taking a train first to Alborebello and then further on to Lecce and Otranto? Or flying to Otranto, and exploring around while being based there?
        Thank you!!


        • If the flights work out for you I would probably fly into Bari and spend one night there. Then divide the rest of your time between Alberobello (or I’ve heard Martina Franca is a good base for exploring by train in this area) and Lecce (you can visit Otranto as a day trip from there). From Lecce the closest airport is Brindisi.

          Have an amazing trip Nadira!

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