17 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.

Simon and I have spent months exploring this fascinating region, and in this post, I share my recommendations for the best places to visit in Puglia Italy.

I also answer common questions about where to stay in Puglia, when to visit, and how to get around. 

You’ll find a map with all these Puglia destinations below.


Video: The Best Places to Visit in Puglia

Watch our video for an overview of where to go in Puglia.

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Where is Puglia Italy?

Puglia (also known as Apulia) is a region in Southern Italy. If you look at our Puglia map below, you’ll see that it’s located in the heel of Italy’s boot shape.

The biggest city in Puglia is Bari, which is a five-hour drive southeast of Rome (four hours by train) and three hours from Naples.

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Travel Tips for Visiting Puglia

Where to Stay in Puglia

The four main areas of interest to tourists are the Valle d’Itria, the coastline around Bari, the Salento Peninsula in the far south, and the Gargano Peninsula in the north.

A good strategy when deciding where to stay in Puglia is to choose a base for each of these areas and visit nearby towns on day trips.

I don’t think you need to worry about the exact town you stay in as you’ll be day-tripping to other places and can’t really go wrong.

I let accommodation availability and pricing help make my decision. Less well-known Puglia towns will be cheaper and likely just as charming. 

For example, on one Puglia trip, I searched on Booking.com for self-catering accommodation in the whole Valle D’Itria area that met my criteria (WiFi, kitchen, pool, price etc.).

I ended up finding a gorgeous little house at Trullo dei Messapi in the countryside near Ceglie Messapica, a town I previously knew nothing about.

It was great to get off the beaten track, and it was easy to visit more popular towns like Ostuni.

Less Than a Week in Puglia

If you only have time for one area, I recommend the Valle d’Itria as it showcases the best of Puglia with the most classic countryside and towns.

Although if beaches are your primary focus, you might prefer the Salento (read my guide to the best beaches in Puglia).

Anywhere in the Valle d’Itria would be fantastic, but our absolute favourite place to stay is Masseria Il Frantoio, an olive farm near Ostuni with incredible food.

Courtyard at Masseria Il Frantoio, Ostuni
Masseria Il Frantoio is our favourite place to stay in Puglia

7 to 10 Days in Puglia

If you have a week or 10 days in Puglia, I recommend dividing your time between the Valle d’Itria and the Salento.

You can easily visit Bari and the coastal towns from the Valle d’Itria, or if you’d prefer to stay on the coast, you can visit the Valle d’Itria from Polignano or Monopoli.

My ideal trip is a countryside stay in the Valle D’Itria (somewhere near any of the places listed below) with mornings spent day-tripping to other towns and afternoons relaxing by the pool or the beach near Ostuni.

Lecce old town is my favourite base on the Salento peninsula as it’s gorgeous, central for both coasts, and you can walk to lots of fantastic restaurants and wine bars.

If you’d rather be by the sea in the Salento, consider Otranto or Gallipoli or for a quieter town, Castro.

Or again, pick somewhere at random based on accommodation—a few times we’ve stayed in small towns near Gallipoli because we found an affordable rental, and it worked out great.

If you prefer just one base for your whole trip, you could take a day trip to the other area, but you’ll spend more time driving. From Ostuni, it’s an hour to Lecce and 1.5 hours to Otranto.

Lido Morelli beach near Ostuni in Puglia Italy
Lido Morelli beach near Ostuni

10 Days or More in Puglia

With a longer stay in Puglia, you have the option of adding on a trip to the Gargano Peninsula in the north or spectacular Matera in neighbouring Basilicata.

Puglia Accommodation

There’s a wide range of characterful accommodation in Puglia, mainly B&Bs and self-catering apartments or houses.

Masserie are fortified farmhouses that offer guest accommodation and often delicious meals—read our guide to Puglia masseria for our favourites.

For short stays, I use Booking.com to find accommodation. I use the filters to select my criteria (including review scores of 8+) and narrow down the options. You can choose “Farm Stays” under Property Type to find masserie.

For longer stays, you can get great deals for rental houses and apartments on Vrbo

Unless you are staying in the countryside, I recommend looking for accommodation in the old town or historic centre.

All these Puglian towns have modern outskirts which are less attractive, although if you are on a budget, it’ll be cheaper (and parking easier). 

Puglia Transport

How to Get to Puglia by Plane

You can fly into Bari or Brindisi airports in Puglia—I use Kiwi to find the best flight deals. Bari is usually cheaper.

Either airport works for the Valle d’Itria while Bari is closest to the Gargano and Brindisi is nearest to the Salento. 

How to Get to Puglia by Train

If you are visiting somewhere else in Italy, you can also arrive by train—Bari and Lecce are the main hubs. Rome to Bari takes 4 hours, and Rome to Lecce is 5.5 hours. 

You can search Trenitalia for timetables and to book in advance for the cheapest tickets. Be sure to use Italian place names (i.e Torino not Turin).

On a longer trip, you could consider travelling from London to Italy by train or get an Interrail or Eurail pass to visit multiple destinations in Europe.

Renting a Car

Renting a car is by far the best way to get around Puglia. It is possible by train or bus, but public transport is slow and limited.

We use Rental Cars and Kayak to find the best car rental deals.

We usually rent from Bari airport or the city centre, but Brindisi airport has rentals too.

One-way fees can be reasonable, so on one trip we rented a car in Lecce (after arriving by train), road-tripped north via the Valle d’Itria, dropped it off in Foggia after visiting the Gargano, and took the train to Rome.

For Brits, we recommend buying a separate car hire insurance policy to cover the excess as it’s much cheaper than getting full insurance with the rental company.

Driving in Puglia is fairly easy, but the narrow streets of the historic centres can be a challenge. Look out for ZTLs, zones where traffic is limited to local residents.

I recommend renting a small car, parking in the modern outskirts of towns (often free), and walking into the old town.

It’s best to carry coins for parking meters, as the credit card function often doesn’t work (or exist).

Public Transport

It is possible to explore Puglia by public transport, but you’ll need to research routes and check timetables in advance and have a lot of patience.

I recommend avoiding travelling on Sundays when services are even more limited.

Trenitalia is the national railway in Italy and their trains in Puglia will be faster and more reliable than the regional line FSE (Ferrovie Sud-Est).

You can find Trenitalia stations (from north to south) in Trani, Bari, Polignano a Mare, Monopoli, Cisternino, Ostuni, Brindisi, and Lecce. Note that some stations are quite far from the historic centre (Ostuni’s is a 30-minute walk).

The local FSE line connects Martina Franca to Locorotondo, Alberobello, Cisternino, Ceglie Messapica, and Lecce.

From Lecce there are direct trains to Gallipoli and Galatina, but you have to make two changes to get to Otranto and one change for Corigliano d’Otranto.

FSE (Ferrovie del Sud) train route map in Puglia
FSE route map

I recommend choosing a few potential bases (such as Polignano or Martina Franca and Lecce) and looking at train times and frequency to the places you’d like to visit.

You can see timetables on the Trenitalia website which also shows the “Regionale FSE” trains, or you can check the FSE website directly (no English option though).

There are also buses, but it’s not easy to find out the routes and timetables. There are more services in the summer.

Here’s a trip report on travelling Puglia by train to give you some ideas.

When to Visit Puglia

June and September are the best months to visit Puglia for hot weather and smaller crowds.

July and August are by far the busiest months—it will be hot, sunny and lively but crowded (especially the beaches) and accommodation is more expensive.

We survived August in the Salento (the absolute busiest time) by going to the beach early and exploring the much quieter inland towns.

It can be warm enough for swimming in May and October too, and it’ll be even less crowded.

On our two-week road trip in May, we had two days of rain, a few cloudy afternoons, and the rest was hot and sunny in the mid-20s Celsius, and we were swimming and sunbathing.

We found April and May a great time for sightseeing as it wasn’t too hot.

If you aren’t bothered about lazing on beaches, then winter is a quiet and inexpensive time to explore Puglia’s towns. Just note that many hotels and restaurants in coastal towns will close for the low season.

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Puglia Italy Map

This Puglia map shows our favourite Puglia destinations divided by the four main areas. The blue pins are for Bari and the coast, red for the Valle d’Itria, green for the Salento, and purple for the Gargano. 

I’ve also added Matera (in orange) even though it’s in the neighbouring region of Basilicata as it’s worth adding to a Puglia itinerary.

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Best Places to Visit in Puglia: Bari & The Coast

Bari is the main gateway to Puglia. It’s worth spending a day in the city, so you could either spend your first night there or day trip in from one of the nearby pretty coastal towns.

1) Bari

Bari used to be dismissed as just a transport hub (including by us on our first trip to Puglia), but it has grown in popularity in recent years, and we’ve come to love the atmospheric, maze-like old town.

While a day is enough to see the main sights, we liked it so much that we spent three days there on our latest trip. See our picks for the best things to do in Bari.

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.

Women making orecchiette pasta on the streets of Bari, Puglia
Women making orecchiette pasta on the streets of Bari
Orecchiette pasta on Bari street

Where to Stay in Bari

Bari Vecchia is definitely the most charming part of the city to stay.

We loved our stay at friendly B&B Murex, which has four modern ensuite rooms on the iconic pasta street. Breakfast (including delicious fresh focaccia) is served on the roof terrace.

Another B&B that looks great is 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

Bari focaccia from Panificio Fiore in Puglia
Bari’s focaccia is so good!

Don’t miss the amazing focaccia at Panificio Fiore or Panificio Santa Rita in the old town. It’s perfect for breakfast, a quick snack, or light lunch. 

Our favourite place to eat in the evenings is casual Pizzeria di Cosimo for wonderful, inexpensive pizza and panzerotto.

Our meal at La Cecchina was also delicious, especially the antipasti.

Our Bari Italy travel guide has more suggestions.

2) Polignano a Mare

Polignano a Mare, one of the best Puglia destinations
Polignano a Mare is one of the most beautiful places in Puglia

Polignano a Mare is a spectacularly positioned small town of white and golden buildings perched on a craggy rock overlooking the sea.

The pretty historic centre is a lovely place for a wander or an aperitivo on one of the small piazzas.

Beneath the old town is Cala Porto, a small white pebble beach surrounded by cliffs with clear emerald water.

It’s very photogenic but gets crowded in high season. It’s also known as Lama Monachile for the bridge that you must walk over to reach it.

I enjoyed runs and walks along the coast with many viewpoints on the way to Piazzale Marco Polo.

Polignano is near enough to the Valle d’Itria (30 minutes from Alberobello) to be a good base for exploring the area if you’d prefer to stay by the sea.

Where to Stay in Polignano a Mare

Malu B&B is the perfect place to stay in Polignano a Mare. It’s a friendly, family-run B&B with bright, modern rooms and an ideal location just outside the old town with fantastic views from the breakfast terrace and some rooms.

We splurged on the sea view suite and it was worth it.

View from breakfast at Malu B&B in Polignano a Mare
View from breakfast at Malu B&B

The statue of Domenico Modugno, the famous singer who was born in Polignano, is just outside the hotel and we were amused to hear people singing Volare below.

If it’s booked up, Lamare Cucine e Dimore is another popular B&B with sea views.

You can find other places to stay in Polignano here.

Where to Eat in Polignano a Mare

The most famous restaurant in Polignano is Ristorante Grotta Palazzese which is located inside a cave. You’ll need to book in advance and be prepared to pay a lot—more for the location than the quality of the food.

Most restaurants focus on seafood so vegetarian options are limited.

We ended up taking a break from Italian at Mint Cucina Fresca, a five-table restaurant in a cave-like room with a vaulted stone ceiling and quirky decor. Their focus is on creative, healthy dishes using local produce.

For a takeaway lunch on the beach, La Rotellina sells the Puglian snack panzerotti, fried dough stuffed with a variety of fillings.

Don’t miss a scoop of gelato at Gusto Caruso—they make excellent classics like pistachio as well as more unusual flavours like a tasty ricotta toffee.

Super Mago del Gelo is famous for its Caffè Speciale, an espresso shot with cream, amaretto and lemon peel. It was delicious even for a non-coffee drinker.

3) Monopoli

Monopoli, one of the best Puglia destinations
Monopoli port

Monopoli is another pretty coastal town 15 minutes from Polignano.

The historic centre features a maze of narrow streets, a grand basilica, and a castle overlooking a picturesque fishing port of bright blue boats.

Monopoli also has a small sandy beach with appealing clear water.

People relaxing on the small Cala Porta Vecchia Beach in Monopoli, Puglia
Monopoli is one of the best towns to visit in Puglia for a beach and historic charm

Where to Stay in Monopoli

We visited Monopoli while staying in Polignano, but next time I want to stay at Hotel Don Ferrante in the old fortress. The charming boutique hotel has stylish rooms, sea views, and even a small pool.

Where to Eat in Monopoli

Seafood dominates on the coast, so as vegetarians, we had lunch at Vini e Panini on Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi.

As the name suggests, they focus on wine and sandwiches, although they also serve platters and salads. It’s ideal for a light meal, and they even have a vegan menu.

4) Trani

Trani is a Puglia highlight
Trani harbour

North of Bari, the seaside town of Trani is often overlooked, but it has a beautiful harbour and a cathedral overlooking the sea.

It’s a good place to break up a journey between the Valle d’Itria and the Gargano or to visit the 13th-century Castel del Monte (40 minutes inland) with its unique octagonal shape.

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Best Places in Puglia: Valle d’Itria

The Valle d’Itria is a rustic valley of olive trees, vineyards, and hill towns.

It’s one of the most popular destinations in Puglia and is known for its iconic trulli, circular stone huts found dotted around the countryside.

If you only have time for one area in Puglia, this is the one I recommend. 

It can easily be reached from Bari or Brindisi airports. Most of the towns here are tiny, and the distances between them aren’t long.

Choose one base (I like staying in the countryside) and take day trips to the other towns. You could manage two or three in one day if time is limited. 

5) Ostuni

Ostuni, one of the best places to visit in Puglia, Italy
Ostuni is a Puglia must see

Ostuni is a maze-like white city on a hilltop 8km from the Adriatic Sea where you’ll find long sandy beaches.

It’s one of the best towns in Puglia to get lost wandering the alleys, climbing staircases, and dipping under archways.

I also love browsing the stalls of local fruit and vegetables at the Saturday market.

Ostuni archway in Puglia, Italy

Ostuni is one of the most touristy towns in Puglia, but you won’t want to miss it—just head down a side street to avoid the crowds and souvenir shops. 

See my guide to the best things to do in Ostuni Italy for more tips.

Where to Stay in Ostuni

View from our terrace of the 17th century chapel in the courtyard of Masseria Il Frantoio, Puglia
Masseria Il Frantoio

We absolutely love Masseria Il Frantoio, which is our favourite place to stay not only in Puglia but all of Italy!

It’s a magical place on an organic olive farm in the countryside a 10-minute drive from Ostuni and 15 minutes from the beach.

The 300-year-old stables and grain mill have been lovingly restored and converted to 16 comfortable guest rooms, and the beautiful grounds and pool are perfect for relaxing.

Best of all is the food (which all comes from the farm)—the eight-course tasting menu is incredible.

See our Masseria Il Frantoio review for more details or check the latest prices here

If you want to stay in the centre of Ostuni, Biancadamari is a stylish B&B with stunning views of the old town and sea.

You can find more places to stay in Ostuni here.

Where to Eat in Ostuni

Vegetarian dinner at Masseria Il Frantoio, an agriturismo near Ostuni, Puglia
Some of the dishes of our 8-course dinner at Masseria Il Frantoio: pizzelle, zucchini salad, fried artichokes, and ricotta tart

Masseria Il Frantoio is open to non-guests for their epic tasting menus, but you’ll want to take a taxi there to enjoy the wine pairing. 

6) Alberobello

Alberobello trulli in Puglia, Italy

Alberobello is busy and touristy, 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. 

It’s one of the best places in Puglia to see trulli. Trulli are conical stone huts found amongst the olive trees all over the Valle d’Itria. 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 Alberobello

One 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

Our trullo at Masseria Ferri in Puglia, Italy
Our trullo at Masseria Ferri

Staying in a trullo is a highlight of the Valle d’Itria. We stayed in one at Masseria Ferri near Martina Franca, a 25-minute 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.

7) Locorotondo

Locorotondo, one of the most beautiful towns in Puglia, Italy

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 always visit on day trips, but Locorotondo is a lovely area to stay—you can find trulli and holiday homes in the area here.

8) Martina Franca

Lovely Martina Franca is the largest town in the valley. It’s often overlooked and is refreshingly free of tourist shops.

The old town is an interesting mix of golden baroque and Greek-like white architecture with many grand palazzi and churches.

The Basilica di San Martino was built in the 18th century in the elaborate but graceful Rococo style.

Nearby Piazza Maria Immacolata is a gorgeous, semi-circular piazza lined with curved baroque buildings with wrought iron balconies and portici (archways) leading down side streets.

The maze of narrow side streets is perfect for aimless wandering.

Many of the streets are stark white with just the odd splash of colour—washing dancing in the breeze, vibrant pots of geraniums, a vivid blue door.

Where to Stay in Martina Franca

We visited on a day trip but would love to go back for a longer stay.

Martina Franca would make a great base for exploring the area if you don’t want to stay in the countryside or don’t have a car (there is a train station).

Options include B&Bs such as Relais Santa Maria or holiday homes like Casa Dolce Casa.

You can search for more accommodation in Martina Franca here.

Where to Eat in Martina Franca

We ate at Ristorante I Templari on the edge of town with a terrace overlooking the countryside.

It’s rather pricey, but the food was excellent including an absurdly large antipasti selection (do not get one per person as they tried to convince us to do) and some interesting vegetarian pasta dishes.

9) Ceglie Messapica

Ceglie Messapica, one of the best towns in Puglia Italy
Ceglie Messapica is a Puglia hidden gem

Ceglie Messapica is an off the beaten track town that makes an ideal base for exploring the Valle d’Itria.

The historic centre is a little grittier than the other towns on this list, but it has a very local feel that we enjoyed.

Surprisingly, it’s one of the best places to go in Puglia for food—the restaurants are excellent and affordable. 

It’s worth having a look inside the castle—it’s free and is home to a library and a small art gallery. Beyond the castle, you can explore the atmospheric Moorish-style narrow lanes.

Where to Stay in Ceglie Messapica

We loved our stay at Trullo Dei Messapi, a short drive from the town in a peaceful area of olive trees and trulli.

The beautiful grounds feature a large pool with comfortable sun loungers, a (non-heated) jacuzzi, and lots of flowers and pine, olive and fruit trees.

There are three houses—a two-bedroomed trulli and two one-bedroomed stone cottages.

Our one-bedroomed house was very cute and decorated in a rustic country style. The kitchen was stocked with DIY breakfast ingredients including homemade cake and fresh fruit which we ate on our private terrace.

The owner is very friendly and brought us fresh bread each morning.

I highly recommend it, and it would be especially wonderful for large groups.

Check the latest prices at Trullo dei Messapi here.

You can search for more accommodation in Ceglie here.

Where to Eat in Ceglie Messapica

You are spoilt for choice in this small town. Osteria Pugliese is a simple, rustic place that’s extremely good value and the antipasti selection is huge and delicious.

Cibus is more upmarket and expensive with some creative vegetarian options.

Da Gino is on the edge of town in a modern building and specialises in foraged vegetables. We didn’t use their menu—Gino just asked if we wanted antipasti, and of course, we did, and they brought us 13 delicious dishes.

We ordered our pasta after we’d finished and they were happy to split one portion between two bowls—we tried spaghetti with a local flower picked from nearby.

Don’t miss the local speciality, Biscotti di Ceglie, almond cookies stuffed with jam that are Slow Food certified. Forno San Lorenzo is a good local bakery.

10) Cisternino

Cisternino is one of the most beautiful towns in Puglia, Italy

Cisternino is 10 minutes from Locorotondo and has a similar feel with a tiny, charming historic centre of whitewashed houses up on a hill.

There are views of the surrounding countryside from Villa Comunale.

Where to Eat in Cisternino

Tables of a restaurant on a narrow street in Cisternino, Puglia

Cisternino is a picturesque place to dine (it’s famous for its meat) as many restaurants set up tables on the narrow streets.

We stuck to a lovely vegetarian aperitivo platter at the fancy cocktail bar Kimera on pretty Piazza Pellegrino Rossi.

Pick up some sweet treats from Chocolab on the main square, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele.

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Best Places in Puglia: 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 Puglia’s best beaches, there are many fascinating towns to explore.

See our Salento Italy travel guide for lots more tips.

11) Lecce

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. It’s one of Puglia’s highlights and the place we’ve spent the most time.

Read our detailed guide to things to do in Lecce for tips on sights, restaurants, transport, day trips and more. 

Lecce, Puglia

Where to Stay in Lecce

There are many gorgeous places to stay in historic buildings such as Dimora Storica Torre Del Parco 1419, a luxurious hotel in a medieval fortress and Palazzo Bignami, a stylish B&B very close to the centre.

You can find more hotels and B&Bs in Lecce here.

Where to Eat in Lecce

Fave e cicoria at La Cucina di Mamma Elvira in Lecce Puglia
Fave e cicoria at La Cucina di Mamma Elvira in Lecce

See our detailed guide to the best Lecce restaurants from gelato and cheap eats to traditional trattorias.

12) Otranto

Otranto, one of the best Puglia desitinatons

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

Otranto harbour, Puglia

Otranto 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 on day trips from other parts of the peninsula. Otranto makes a good base in the Salento, though.

Boutique Hotel Palazzo Papaleo has a beautiful view and is located right next to the cathedral.

You could also stay on a farm in the nearby countryside—Masseria Panareo looks stunning. 

You can find more hotels in Otranto here.

Where to Eat in Otranto

Postofisso makes amazing Puglian sandwiches called pucce including vegetarian and vegan options.

13) Gallipoli

Gallipolli beach in Puglia, Italy

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.

In July and August, Gallipoli does get uncomfortably busy, though—we prefer it in the shoulder season.

Gallipoli 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 (with a stop for a drink with a view), 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 always visit Gallipoli on day trips, but there’s plenty of accommodation.

Pascaraymondo Suite Palace looks amazing in a magnificently restored palace next to the beach.

Where to Eat in Gallipoli

We enjoyed the creative pizza at La Corte.

14) Corigliano d’Otranto

De'Monti Castle in Corigliano d'Otranto, Puglia

Corigliano 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.

Castello de Monti 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 a bar on the castle terrace, but I’m not sure if they do food.

The evening feasts at Masseria Sant’Angelo were some of our most memorable meals in Puglia.

15) Galatina

Tables and chairs in a quiet piazza with a church and potted plants in Galatina, Salento

Galatina is another of Puglia’s hidden gems, just 10 minutes from Corigliano d’Otranto.

The preserved historic centre features golden baroque churches like those in Lecce and palaces with wrought iron balconies and grand doorways.

Don’t miss the Basilica di Santa Caterina d’Alessandria with its stunning 15th-century frescoed walls and ceiling.

Where to Stay in Galatina

We visited on a day trip from Lecce, but Galatina would make an affordable, quiet, and central base for Salento.

Corte Baldi is a charming B&B in a palace in the historic centre just steps from the basilica.

Where to Eat in Galatina

Galatina is the birthplace of the pasticciotto pastry, which you can try at Pasticceria Andrea Ascalone. It does contain lard, though.

We had a delicious lunch at upscale Anima e Cuore in an old palace with a large terrace.

They focus on seafood, but there’s a separate vegan menu.

16) Castro

People swimming in aquamarine waters in Castro surrounded by a rocky harbour overlooked by a resort
Castro Marina

Otranto and Gallipoli are crowded in summer, so my new favourite seaside town in Salento is Castro.

While Castro Marina doesn’t have a sandy beach, there are beach clubs on the rocks and the water is gloriously clear.

I loved swimming with a view of Castro’s castle and old town on the hill above.

You can also take boat trips to visit nearby caves.

The coastal drive south to Santa Maria di Leuca is one of the best in Puglia.

Read my Castro Italy travel guide for details.

Where to Stay in Castro

One of the reasons I loved Castro so much is that we stayed right on the water at Hotel La Roccia.

Where to Eat in Castro

Delizie in Contea has fantastic platters of local products on a charming piazza in the old town.

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Best Places in Puglia: Gargano

The Gargano Promontory juts out into the Adriatic Sea in northern Puglia and is called the spur in the heel of Italy’s boot.

It feels very different from the rest of Puglia—greener and more mountainous with lush pine forests and a spectacular coastline of white limestone cliffs, colourful sea caves, and long sandy beaches.

It’s harder to get to than the Valle d’Itria and Salento, and we didn’t find the towns quite as pretty, so I only recommend coming here if you are in Puglia for more than 10 days or are a return visitor.

17) Vieste

View of Vieste old town from Via Judeca (Belvedere Ripa)

Vieste sits on a white cliffed peninsula jutting into the sea. The old town is an atmospheric maze of steep staircases with washing dangling from the simple white houses.

View from Via Ripe in Vieste old town in Puglia, Italy

On each side of the town are long sandy beaches that can be accessed on foot. You can take a beautiful boat trip down the coast to see dramatic sea stacks and grottos.

It’s the ideal base for exploring the Gargano. See our post on things to do in Vieste Italy for more information.

Where to Stay in Vieste

We stayed outside town at the wonderful Residence Maresol up a steep hill above Castello beach.

We loved the tranquil location amongst pine trees, sea views, modern apartments, and super friendly owners.

You can find more B&Bs and holiday rentals in Vieste here.

Where to Eat in Vieste

Our favourite places were in the countryside outside town—Country House Tavernola and Agriturismo Chalet degli Ulivi. See our Vieste guide for details.

More Gargano Towns

I think Vieste is the best base in Gargano, but there are many more towns to visit on day trips including: 

  • Mont Sant’Angelo – Picturesque mountain town with a famous cave church.
  • Peschici – Pretty seaside town close to lovely beaches. 
  • Vico del Gargano – An off the beaten track hill town. 

See our Gargano Italy travel guide for more details on places to visit in the area. 

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Is Puglia Worth Visiting?

Puglia is absolutely worth visiting for its fascinating history, varied architecture, friendly people, delicious food, and glorious coastline.

I hope this post has given you some ideas of where to visit in Puglia, but there are so many beautiful places in Puglia that these towns are just some of the possibilities. Enjoy!

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More Puglia Posts

Read our other Puglia blog posts to help you plan your trip to the region:

General Puglia Tips

Central and Northern Puglia

Salento Peninsula

Matera (in Basilicata)

If you enjoyed this post, pin for later!

Puglia Towns Guide Pinterest pin

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  1. Hi Erin
    I love your blog! I am going to a wedding in Bari in Sep 23 and was planning on travelling down the coast afterwards for about 7 nights. Some places I’ve noticed form your blog worth visiting would be, Poliganno a mare, Monopolo, Otranto/Salento. We hope to fly home from Brindisi and was wondering what you would recommend in terms of where to stay across those areas, I love the seaside! I would like to rent a car and do day trips rather than move accommodation multiple times, but if we were to do two or three accommodation options, I would love to know where you would recommend. We have never been to Puglia before so open to trying any areas.

    Reply ↓

    • I would divide your week between Polignano (or Monopoli) and Otranto (or for a less touristy spot, possibly Castro – we loved our stay last summer as we stayed right on the water at Hotel La Roccia.). You can easily take day trips to many places from there.


      Reply ↓

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