Discover the 11 Very Best Places in Puglia – Italy’s Rising Star

pinterest image - best places in puglia
pinterest image - best places in puglia

There’s a theme in all of Puglia that goes like this:  Relax, roam, discover, dine, and repeat.  


Right now, the travel world is just waking up to this mysterious side of Italy.  


With its seductive landscapes and calming blue waters, Puglia isn’t merely an add-on in your sunny sojourn through Europe.  For a time, but maybe not for long, you'll be able to visit “the heel of the boot,” and feel like you’re experiencing a side of Italy that’s refreshingly novel.  This is not the Italy you may have experienced from past travels.  It’s unspoiled and authentic in a way that makes you feel like you’re home to visit family.  Your goal becomes how to fit in and feel like a local, by allowing your day to unfold the Apuglian way.  


This guide is designed to be your compass in navigating this unique experience.  It will enable you and your family to immerse yourselves in the most authentic way.  It's your gateway to discovering the very best places in Puglia, complete with practical tips for first-time visitors and a curated selection of unforgettable family-friendly accommodations.  Be prepared to step into a part of Italy that transports you to a bygone era a place where time stands still.


You’re entering what feels like Italy in the 1950's – and you won’t want to leave.

multigenerational family vacation - puglia
polignano a mare - best places in puglia
man jumping into pool l'argentiera the thinking traveller
girl looking over tower walls

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Table of Contents
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    Where is Puglia?

    sea luxury yachts puglia
    map of puglia
    Photo Courtesy: Google Maps
    I faraglioni di Sant'Andrea - puglia

    Puglia is undeniably emerging as Italy’s rising star in travel destinations. This sun soaked region is located along the south east coast – more commonly referred to as the “heel of Italy’s boot.”


    Where are some of the very best places in Puglia to visit?  In Alberobello, the whimsical trulli houses transport you to a fairytale world.  Be prepared to marvel at Medieval wonders in Ostuni.  Walk along the dramatic cliff edges in Polignano a Mare.  Learn about the local traditions of making pasta in Bari, where everyday Italian nonnas handroll fresh pasta in the streets.


    Next, head to the beach where you’ll be blown away by a kaleidoscope of blues.  Puglia is home to some of the best beaches in Italy and has been cleverly nicknamed “the Maldives of the Mediterranean.”  Hop on a boat to sail along the breathtaking coastline, where cities are built into limestone cliffs that kiss the water’s edge, and gargantuan caves loom underneath.


    And as you make your way through the region, driving from one town to the next, you won’t be able to take your eyes off of the 60 million olive trees that paint the landscape – some of which are 2,000 years old!   That means actual Romans who lived under the emperor Augustus planted the very trees flying by your car window.


    So if you’re searching for your next family vacation that offers not just a glimpse, but a full blown immersive experience into “la dolce vita,” then all signs point to Puglia.

    boy in olive tree orchard masseria brancati
    mom and son in ostuni
    olive trees best places puglia

    Need Help Planning Your Trip to puglia?

    The Best Places in Puglia: The Central Coast

    Puglia is a region in southern Italy that is subdivided into smaller sub-regions.  The cities mentioned in this particular portion the guide are some of the best places specifically located along the central coast.  The Google Map icons in purple indicate which cities we visited along the central coast.  Other parts of this guide will also cover the best cities in the Salento region, and Valle D'Itria (red and blue icons to be discussed later).  We did not visit the Gargano area.  There's always next time!

    Polignano a Mare

    Once you set your eyes on Polignano a Mare, a city poised majestically upon limestone cliffs, you'll be struck by its unparalleled beauty.  This ancient gem boasts a visual spectacle unlike any other. Whitewashed buildings stand like meticulously arranged Legos, each vying for a glimpse of the turquoise waters below.  


    A day here is simple and splendid.  Begin your journey by following the footsteps of the locals down to Lama Monachile beach, meandering beneath the Borbonico bridge. Find a spot to sit on the rocky shoreline, tucked between the city's encircling walls.  You can soak in the morning's rays, and swim out past the cliffs on a calm day.  When you're ready to explore the town, get lost in the labyrinth of streets in the historic center.  Finally, hop on a boat tour to learn about the city's past and see the unforgettable views from the water.

    best places in puglia - Polignano a mare
    lama monachile beach best places in puglia
    kids in doorway in polignano a mare

    Polignano a Mare Cheat Sheet

    • Must do: Spend an hour in the early morning on Lama Monachile Beach, when only the locals show up.  Then, walk over to this lookout for beautiful views of the city. 
    • Must eat: Mint Cucina Fresca - this beautiful small cafe is in the heart of the city, serving vegetarian friendly dishes, with a creative twist.  Reservations required.
    • Parking tip:  You can find a parking lot here, right outside the city center. 
    mint cucina fresca puglia


    Compared to its' neighboring sister cities, Bari is a little bit sassy, a little bit gritty, but unapologetically authentic and fun.  What makes Bari one of the best places in Puglia?  It's a place where the warmth of local life hasn't yet been overshadowed by the trappings of tourism.


    Anchored here for decades, multigenerational families add to the city’s vibrant energy.  Nonnas craft fresh orecchiette on the streets, a prelude to the midday family feasts that follow.  Why do they do this in the open air?  The roads in Bari's historic quarters are so narrow, and the buildings stand so tall, that there's limited space indoors.  Consequently, the locals spill out onto the streets, transforming them into lively meeting places for socializing and spirited conversations.  Feel free to offer a friendly "Ciao" as you pass by, and you might just find yourself invited to join for a hearty lunch.

    In the afternoon, wander through the shaded alleyways, amble along the waterfront to observe the dedicated fishermen, and pay a visit to the magnificent Basilica di San Nicola.

    Strada delle orcchiette bari best places in puglia
    orchhiette pasta bari

    Bari Cheat Sheet

    • Must Do: Head to Strade delle Orecchiette in the early morning to see the women making fresh pasta.  As a heads up, by late morning/lunch time, the pasta making is done for the day.  
    • Must eat:  The best focaccia I've ever tasted is located at Panificio Fiore.
    • Kid friendly activity:  Stroll along the lungomare – this promenade borders the coastline and you'll even pass a few playgrounds.  
    • Parking Tip:  There’s a good-sized parking lot here.  
    streets of bari -best places in puglia
    family photo in bari puglia


    What makes Monopoli stand out as one of the premier destinations in Puglia?  Monopoli is one of those cozy seaside cities that somehow just gets summer nights right.  It boasts a bustling historic center and a charming marina the kind of scene that would have surely inspired Van Gogh had he passed through.


    In the heart of town, both locals and visitors gather in piazzas, savoring apertivo drinks and exploring the inviting array of boutique shops.  The kids can enjoy the small carousels, run around the fountains, and play hide and seek amongst the row boats.  The whole evening feels like an ode to timeless, old fashioned fun.  Once you've savored a delicious meal in one of the town's trattorias, don't miss the chance to indulge in some artisanal gelato from Gasperini the local go-to spot!

    Monopoli Cheat Sheet

    • Must do:  This town is about taking it easy and exploring, but be sure to pay a visit to the marina.  It's like walking through a painting!    
    • Must eat: Locanda Sul Porto.
    • Kid friendly activity:  Check out the small amusement rides and carousel in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II.  Also, there are several kid friendly beaches nearby, such as: Cala Paradiso, Cala Sussca, and Porto MarzanoLocated a short drive away is ZooSafari, (drive through safari park), and Fasanoland (small amusement park).
    • Parking tip:  There’s ample street parking outside the city center.
    little girl shopping in monopoly
    kids exploring monopoly standing on a fountain
    monopoli - best places in puglia
    boy riding a ride in monopoly
    boy playing in boat in monopoli puglia


    Named after its limestone buildings, Ostuni ("The White City") is perched regally over the valley.  From the top, there are sweeping panoramic vistas of the Adriatic Sea, and a view of thousands of olive trees, stretched out like a lush carpet around the city.  Its commanding presence, exquisite architecture, and convenient proximity to many beautiful beaches, make this one of the best places in Puglia to visit.  


    After you make your way through the city gates, you’ll stumble upon cozy eateries nestled in little underground nooks, snake through ancient alleyways, and stand mesmerized by the Cathedral of Ostuni – the dominating building in the town center.   For the little ones, Ostuni is a playground of imagination, where they can pretend they are knights and princesses chasing dragons around every twist and turn. 

    ostuni at night - best places in puglia
    kids kissing on steps in ostuni puglia
    view from bistrot in ostuni

    Ostuni Cheat Sheet

    • Must do near Ostuni:  Take an olive oil tour at nearby Masseria Brancati to see trees that are 2,000-3,000 years old!  Also, drive to Piazzetta Martiri delle Foibe on Corso Vittorio Emmanuele II to see incredible views of the city.  
    • Must eat: Try Osteria del Tempo Perso or Osteria Piazzetta Cattedrale in the historical center for a date night, or Casa San Giocomo with the whole family.  A more informal option is Borgo Antico Bistrot famous for its sandwiches, apertivo, and valley views.  Panetteria Panis In Puglia is about a 10-15 min drive away from Ostuni.  They serve delicious traditional food like focaccia and panzerotti.  It was one of my favorite meals of the entire trip!
    • Kid friendly activity: The olive oil bike tour with Madera Bikes was one of our favorite experiences during our 3 weeks in Puglia.  Daniele is a fantastic guide who can easily customize the tour for kids. 
    • Parking tip:  This is the best parking lot it's an easy 5 minute walk to the historical center, and not too steep of a climb.  Do not try to drive into the city center and park!  The streets become very narrow and your car may get stuck (we tried it, unsuccessfully, our first day). 
    mom and son walking into small restaurant in ostuni
    family on bike tour with Madera bikes ostuni puglia Italy

    The Best Places in Puglia: Valle D'Itria & Matera

    As mentioned above (but in case you missed it), Puglia is subdivided into smaller sub-regions.  The cities mentioned in this particular portion the guide are some of the best places specifically located in the Valle D'Itria, labeled in red.  In addition to the cities in this guide, the Valle D'Itria also includes smaller cities like Cisternino and Ceglie Messapica; we didn't visit those, but you may want to consider them for your own travels.  I've also added a bonus city, Matera, to this section.  It's technically located in the neighboring region, but is a must-visit city. 


    Locorotondo’s allure rests in its simplicity.  This gem of a town, renowned by its unique circular layout of pristine whitewashed buildings, is often nicknamed "the prettiest town in Puglia."  The picturesque streets seem to leap straight out of postcard.  As you meander through the quaint lanes you’ll discover charming abodes, adorned with delicate flowers and laundry lines stretching from one windowsill to another.  Make sure to take a walk along the circular promenade fringing the town, where you'll see the sprawling vineyards of the Valle D’Itria and quaint trullo buildings peppering the landscape. 

    girl exploring Locorotondo
    kids running through locorotondo - best places in puglia

    Locorotondo Cheat Sheet

    • Must do:  This town is all about taking it easy -- so simply just enjoy exploring the tiny town and strolling along the promenade circling the perimeter.  
    • Must eat: Try the famous pizza at Casa Pinto.
    • Kid-friendly:  There's a small playground located along the promenade.  It's a good place to have the kids burn off some energy before setting into the heart of Locorotondo.  
    • Parking tip:  There’s a parking lot right next to the playground, as well as street parking.  
    girl at playground locorotondo
    valle d'itria as seen from locorotondo


    A few years ago, I stumbled upon a magazine photo showcasing the iconic cone-shaped trulli of Alberobello, Italy.  Surprised by this hidden gem, I couldn't forget those charming hobbit-inspired structures huddled together like something from a fairytale.  Determined to witness them firsthand, I embarked on a journey to the region.


    Was it worth the wait?  Absolutely!  That single photo sparked this entire memorable vacation.  However, it's worth noting that Alberobello, being the most renowned city in Puglia, has also become quite touristy (a different atmosphere compared to other cities in the region).  While touristy isn't usually my preference, I still yearned to walk its dreamy streets.  So we stopped here for an afternoon, where I gained some valuable tips on how I'd plan it differently for a future visit.  


    For the best experience (in high season), timing is everything.  Either come in the early morning before the day trippers have arrived (pre 8am).  Alternatively, delay your visit to the later afternoon when the sun dances on the whitewashed structures, bathing the entire town in a storybook glow.  Once you've explored the heart of the town, don't miss the chance to immerse yourself in the authentic charm of the Rione Monte District.  This peaceful neighborhood offers respite from the tourist crowds, allowing you to peek into the everyday lives of the locals through the trulli houses.

    Alberobello Cheat Sheet

    Alberobello - best places in puglia
    girl wandering alberobello - best places in puglia
    lane in alberobello - best places in puglia

    Martina Franca

    Martina Franca is a snapshot of local life in action.  While a smattering of tourist shops displaying local gems line the streets, it’s primarily a stage where Italian children engage in animated soccer games in the square, and where elderly men share stories and cigarettes outside a cozy trattoria.  This is people watching at its finest.  Few places you visit will transport you into the heart of a real-life Italian movie, but Martina Franca effortlessly achieves this enchanting ambiance, making it one of those rare cinematic moments you'll cherish forever.

    Martina Franca Cheat Sheet

    • Must eat: Il Ristorante Templari (request an outdoor table)
    • Kid friendly activity: Right next to Ristorante Templari is a small playground overlooking the valley.
    • Parking Tip:  There’s street parking, but this lot is right near the restaurant and playground. 
    family photo Martina Franca
    little boy in Martina Franca - best places in puglia
    playground Martina franca
    girl playing in martina franca - best places in puglia
    family sitting at martina franca


    Technically Matera isn't in Puglia (it’s actually located in Italy's region of Basciliata).  However, the burgeoning fame of Puglia has stretched its spotlight to envelop this neighboring marvel in many "Puglia-centric" itineraries. Simply put – it’s a "don’t-even-think-about-skipping-it” city.


    Why, you might wonder?  Matera boasts the distinction of being one of Europe's most ancient continuously inhabited settlements, with a history that spans a staggering 9,000 years.  The restoration of the city is a testament to Matera's captivating blend of history and modern luxury. 


    Learning about the history of this ancient town on a guided tour is one of the must-do activities.  While it is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, Matera used to be one of the poorest cities in Italy.  Sadly, the locals lived without electricity and running water until the 1960's.  However, now the transformation of the city has elevated it to every traveler's bucket list.  Imagine a night of sleeping in a luxury cave hotel, and then spending the morning wandering through a spiderweb of streets that feel akin to a Star Wars Planet Tatooine movie backdrop.  The ancient cave dwellings, known as "Sassi," are sculpted into the rugged terrain, creating a mesmerizing architectural wonder that seamlessly merges with the natural landscape.  If some of the roads and buildings look familiar, that's perhaps because the city has served as a movie set for James Bond: No Time to Die, Wonder Woman, and Passion of the Christ.

    matera sassi - best places in puglia
    girl in matera

    matera Cheat Sheet

    • Must do:  Even if it's not always your first preference to take a history tour on vacation, you may change your mind once you see this place.  Walking through Matera feels like stepping back in time, so I'd recommend touring it with a local guide.  The locals can really lay out the transformation of the city, and the history behind each chapter.  Our hotel (Sextantio Della Civita) arranged this tour for us and our guide was excellent.  
    • Must eat: Go to Osteria Al Casale for great pizza and pasta.  Also, have up a drink overlooking the sassi at a cave bar, Zipa Cafe
    • Kid friendly activity: The entire city is like a giant playground.  Kids will have fun crawlling over rock walls, or exploring cave museums like Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario.
    • Parking Tip:  You won’t be able to drive a car into Matera.  Many of the hotels will ask you to park at a designated lot, and then shuttling to their property.  Alternatively, if you're taking a car transfer instead, you will be able to be dropped off at the hotel directly.
    family photo matera
    little boy in matera

    The Best Places in Puglia: Salento

    The cities mentioned in this particular portion the guide are some of the best places specifically located in Salento, or the southern most part of Puglia.  These cities are labeled in blue.  We have saved towns like Santa Maria de Leuca, Gallipoli, Galatina, and Ugento for another visit, so they are not included in this guide.  


    Spending a day in Otranto is like stepping through a global portal; one minute, it feels like you're flipping through a Hellenistic history book, and the next, you’re soaking up vibes reminiscent of Middle Eastern cultures. This walled city has endured battles and heartache—it’s where countless citizens faced martyrdom, holding to their Christian faith against Ottoman demands in the 1400's.


    You can dive into its intriguing past by visiting the Aragonese Castle.  Then, spend some time roaming the streets tucked inbetween the walled city.  In this city, we indulged in some of our favorite shopping, and savored one of our most memorable meals—a delectable fish sandwich that I only wish I took a photo of before devouring, so I could attempt to recreate it in my own kitchen.  

    Otranto Cheat Sheet

    • Must do: See the mosaics at the Aragonese Castle, and check out the overlook next to the castle.
    • Must eat: Head to So-fish to taste their delicious fish sandwich.  This simple,, but perfectly executed sandwich, was one of my favorite meals of our entire trip. 
    • Kid friendly activity:  Located adjacent to the town is Lido Camillo, a family friendly beach club.  Additionally, if you're willing to hop in the car, you're only 10-20 minutes from some of the most jaw dropping beaches in Italy.  Torre dell’Orso has kid-friendly crystal clear waters.  A less crowded option would be the pristine sands along the Baia Dei Turchi.  
    • Parking Tip: You can find a large parking lot here.
    Otranto the thinking traveller puglia
    boat at otranto - best places in puglia
    boy playing at otranto with a toy


    What makes Lecce one of the best places in Puglia?  It's not called the "Florence of the South" for nothing!  Lecce is not only known for its splendid Baroque architecture and artistic vibrancy, but also for its unique character that distinguishes it from its Tuscan twin.  The entire city is covered in golden limestone buildings, with wrought iron balconies that hint at a slightly Cuban inspired energy.  Despite being one of Puglia's larger cities, Lecce still maintains a certain intimacy.  The heart of the town is where the Roman theater and amphitheater nonchalantly reside, as if merely on pause from an ancient performance.  You could spend 1-2 days fully immersing yourself in this city if not visiting as a quick day trip.  There's plentiful shopping, unique experiences (like an underground museum), and fantastic food.  

    lecce street - best places in puglia
    leccese a coffee in lecce- best places in puglia
    roman theater lecce

    Lecce Cheat Sheet

    • Must do:  The underground museum Museo Faggiano is known as one of the "don't miss" activities in Lecce.  You should also stop by one of the  papier-mâché shops in town.  This artisan craft has been a local tradition for hundreds of years.  
    • Must eat: The eggplant parmigiana at Mamma Elvira was phenomenal.  Also, if you're a coffee lover, then order a "Lecesse," - a famous drink you can only experience in Lecce.
    • Parking tip: You can find street parking outside the historical city center.
    women in lecce in the main square


    Had one of our accommodations not been nestled in Castro, I'm uncertain we would’ve ever discovered this hidden gem.  But, I am SO GLAD we did!  The town is comprised of two parts.  The fortified, historical center sits atop the hill, with panoramic vistas of the Adriatic Sea.  Then, down below, Castro Marina kisses the water’s edge.  You can find Italians hanging along the promenade, swimming in the marina, and enjoying a scoop of gelato.  A few minutes drive away, you’ll find unforgettable swimming coves, rejuvenating thermal baths, and some of the largest caves you can explore by foot in the world – Zinzalusa Caves.

    Castro Cheat Sheet

    • Must do:  Go for a swim at Cala dell’aquaviva.
    • Must eat: Da Amedeo - reserve a table in the orange garden.
    • Kid friendly activity:  Castro marina has small rides set up at night along the water. 
    • Parking:  If you're exploring the hilltop section of Castro, you can find parking in this lot, which is about a 5-7 minute walk from the historical center.
    town of Castro villas in puglia
    boy and dad walk castle walls in Castro - best places in puglia
    cala dell'aquaviva - best places in puglia
    young girls exploring Castro puglia

    Need Help Planning Your Trips?

    The Best Time To Visit Puglia

    The best time to visit Puglia for sunny weather, warm sea temperatures, and plenty of sunbathing opportunities, is June through September.  Temperatures generally linger around 80°F- 85°F.  However, the summer sun can sometimes push the temperature to 100°F in July and August. 


    If you prefer a more laid back (and cooler) escape, consider visiting during the low season, from October to April.  The crowds thin out, and you'll enjoy a more heightened authentic experience.  However, keep in mind that many shops close in the winter season in the smaller towns.

    When to visit Puglia - Quick Planning tips

    These are some of the most common Puglia planning questions I've received.

    • Which month did I visit?  We visited in June.  The weather was warm and consistent, with a temperature around 80F everyday.  It was warm enough to lay on the beach, and we avoided the summer tourist crowds.  
    • Which month would I avoid?  August would not be my choice, as it's the hottest and most crowded month to visit Puglia.  This is when Italians and other Europeans also head to Puglia.  
    • What to do before you go?  Other than the obvious -- making hotel, restaurant, and car rental reservations -- you'll also need to make beach club ("lido") reservations well in advance if visiting in July or August.  We did not need reservations in June. 
    torre dell'orso best places in puglia
    Torre Dell'Orso Beach, Le Due Sorelle
    boy at lido bambu best places puglia
    woman at staircase at masseria torre maizza
    coastline puglia italy

    How to Get to Puglia?

    Arriving by Plane

    If arriving from the US, you will need to connect through another major city in Europe first.  Then, you can either fly into Bari Karol Wojtyla Airport (BRI) or Brindisi Salento Airport (BDS).


    Since there are two major airports, you’ll want check which one is closest to your hotel.  If you’re planning to first explore Bari, Monopoli, Polignano a Mare, Ostuni, Alberobello, then fly into BRI.  Or, if you’re planning to first visit Lecce, Otranto or Gallipoli, then BDS is a better option.   

    Layover Tips if traveling with Little Kids

    • Which airport did I choose as a layover with kids?:  Munich is a great airport if flying from the US, and connecting into Puglia.  There is a small playground for kids to explore, as well as very clean family facilities.  We also loved the delicious breakfast at Dallmayr.
    • Leave yourself time during the layover:  We budgeted 2.5-3 hours for our layover in Munich.  It allowed us plenty of time to unload from the plane, get sometime to eat, and then make our way through customs.

    Arriving by Train

    If Puglia is one of your stops on a longer Italian journey, then you can alternatively take a train.  The main service provider, Trenitalia, offers direct routes into Bari or Lecce from major cities like Rome or Naples.

    girl looking out window on airplane
    little boy at munich airport playground

    How to Get Around Puglia

    Arranging for transportation is always, hands down, the trickiest part of a trip to Italy to coordinate.  


    Luckily, I've already done the research for arranging this in Puglia - and I've detailed below the exact steps I took to make everything run smoothly.  Is it absolutely necessary to rent a car in the first place?  YES!  In Puglia, public transportation isn't reliable, and having your own car is really the best way to explore the region.  However, you don't have to rent one right away -- and with kids tagging along, it may even be best not too.

    Here's what I did:  

    • When we landed, Apulia Slow Travel transferred our group to our first accommodation:   While it didn’t save us money (the cost of the transfer cancelled out the savings of delaying the car rental), it did eliminate the hassle factor of rental car logistics after a red-eye flight with kids.  Win for Mom!
    • We had our rental car dropped off the next day directly at the hotel…with car seats already installed:  Hotels in Italy will arrange the car rental and drop off for you!  It’s a splurge expense (about 100/150 euro fee), but I found it very helpful to ease our travel day.
    • We used rental cars for our 3 week stay:  During the next 3 weeks, we had our own car for exploring.  In general I found it very easy to drive and park near major towns in Puglia.  Trust me when I say, if I can do it, you can too!
    • Then we used Apulia Slow Travel to transfer back to the airport at the end.   The car rental company picked up our vehicle the day we left, which made our travel back home easier.  In fact, they retrieved the car from a different location than the drop off, because we had booked a few different hotels.  So if you plan to visit two different accommodations, it most likely won't be a problem.  Just let them know ahead of time your drop off/pick up location.


    Alternatively, if you prefer to rent a car right at the start of your trip when you land, you can do so through Auto Europe.



    • Google Maps worked perfectly in Puglia.
    • You will need to obtain an International Drivers License before you leave.  You can do this easily at any AAA (even if you’re not a member). 
    • Many luxury hotels will arrange a car rental drop off/pick up at your hotel – just ask!
    • Book a car with automatic transmission.  Many cars in Europe are manual transmission, so make sure to specify.
    • Drivers in Puglia are…assertive and loosely follow the rules.  Don’t let that deter you, but just keep it in mind -- especially when entering/exiting the round-a-bouts. 
    • Don’t assume your car can/will fit through any narrow road you encounter.  It’s best to park in designated parking lots outside of historical centers, and walk 5 minutes into town. 
    • Download the EasyPark App.  This will make paying more convenient, especially if you don’t speak Italian.  
    • Know your colors - Blue lines means you can park in a spot, but have to pay.  White lines mean you can park and it’s free.  Yellow lines mean no parking allowed.

    Is Puglia Worth Visiting With Kids?

    Every time we pick a new spot on the map to venture too, my husband — Mr. Practical — always chimes in with, “Is there enough to do there for the kids, honey?”  It’s a fair question...even though it’s usually followed by a loonnnnggg exhale from me. 


    After spending a few weeks in Puglia, we both can't stop talking about it this stunning region exceeded all of our expectations and more.  There is so much to see and do for all ages, but here's why it's specifically great to visit with young kids:

    • The cities are the perfect kid-friendly size -  Many of the cities in Puglia are small and compact enough to explore in half day or day.  Your little one's legs won't tire out with any marathon walks.  


    • The cities are backdrops for imaginations - In the mind of a 5 year-old, the narrow streets, hidden nooks, and enchanting castle-like architecture transformed each small hilltop town and seaside fortress into backdrops of knight, princess, and dragon battles. We spent hours just making up games, and playing hide and seek.


    • There are many kid-friendly beaches - Puglia’s coastline is filled with beaches where toddlers can splash in tranquil waters and parents can relax without the constant worry of unpredictable waves.  The sandbars stretch for hundreds of feet in some areas, making it easy to venture into with little kids.  You also have the option to pay for a beach club (or "lido), where there's beach chairs, umbrellas, and restaurant service.


    • Unforgettable (and fun) accommodations- The accommodations in Puglia are part of the adventure!  From cone-roofed trulli, to rustic masserias and fascinating cave hotels, each dwelling is an experience your kids won't soon forget.


    • Kid friendly attractions nearby- Sometimes kids just want to experience typical kid things -- like a memorable playground or action filled park.  In between exploring Puglia’s towns, be sure to check out the Zoosafari (a drive through safari zoo), Fasanoland (a small amusement park), Grotte di Castellana (a network of caves that kids can explore), or DinoPark (an outdoor park, which has life sized dinosaur replicas).
    kids at lamamonachile beach puglia

    Itinerary tip: how to balance exploration and relaxation with kids in Puglia

    Part of the excitement of visiting Puglia lies in exploring the hilltop and coastal cities sprinkled across the region.  This is a location that loves adventuring spirits.   You can hop in the car for mini road trips through Italy’s sublime landscape, and arrive 10-30 minutes later at a different city or beach.  The next day, off you go again!

    Moms – I can already hear your questions.  “How much time exactly am I going to be spending in the car with my little kids?  Is this the best destination for them?  Is it better to pick a place where we can just simply relax at a resort?”

    The best part about Puglia is that you can do both.  I also wanted to ensure we weren’t spending hours in the car, so everyday we dedicated half the day to a “no schedule” itinerary —  we lounged by the pool, or relaxed on a beach.  Then, the other half of the day included an adventure.  Sometimes we explored a new town, or embarked on an excursion like a family bike ride, or boating along the coast.

    Did we get to see everything on our list?  Nope!  But, the kids played in Puglia "their way," and we've saved some places to visit for another time.


    How Much Time Do You Need in Puglia?

    Puglia completely captured our hearts!  Some of our most mesmerizing travel experiences such as cooking in a castle, boating along dramatic coastlines, and exploring some of the most spectacular beaches  all happened in Puglia.  Even after spending a few weeks there, I was still left yearning for more time.  However, while an extended stay is splendid, a more realistic 10-14 days also offers a well rounded and fun-filled experience.   


    If you're planning two weeks, I'd set your itinerary up like this:

    WEEK 1: Let your adventures unfold across the Central Coast and Valle D’Itria, exploring jewel cities such as Bari, Polignano a Mare, Ostuni, Monopoli, Locorotondo, Martina Franca, and Alberobello.


    WEEK 2: Head to the Salento region to experience Lecce, Otranto, Gallipoli, and Santa Maria de Leuca.   Don't forget to explore some of the most stunning beaches in the Mediterranean, like Torre Dell’Orso, I Faraglioni di Sant’Andrea, and Pescalouse. 


    IF I HAD TO PICK ONE AREA TO FOCUS ON...Should your itinerary compel a choice, I'd gently nudge you towards the towns emphasized in Week 1, because the Central/Valle D’Itria region allows for a more comprehensive experience.  It's here you'll most likely see many of the cities dotting the top of your wishlist.  The Valle D'Itria also has more kid-friendly escapes, such as the zoo, caves, and amusement park.  However,  if your group prefers to prioritize unforgettable beaches, then I'd recommend pivoting to Week 2's layout, and experiencing the beaches in Salento.


    family in polignano a mare steps - best places in puglia

    The Best Places to Stay in Puglia with Kids

    A Lay of the Land and note about hotels in Puglia

    Within Puglia there are 6 provinces that break down into 4 general subregions.  For clarity, I'll focus on subregions: the Gargano Peninsula (north), the Valle D’Itria (central), Salento (south), and the coastal cities near Bari (central).  When making hotel reservations, it's a good rule of thumb to pick one accommodation per subregion you plan to visit. 


    Once you know which areas of Puglia you'd like to spend time, the next task is selecting a hotel or villa rental.  You may immediately notice in your search that Puglia is not saturated with familiar hotel chains.  ALLELUJAH!  You'll sleep in trulli (cone shaped) houses, converted farmhouses from the 1600's (masserias), boutique B&B’s, luxury villas, and cave hotels (if you plan to visit neighboring Matera).  


    While there are many stunning hotels in Puglia, there are a few properties that stand out as great choices specifically for family stays.  Luckily I’ve already completed all that research  – these are some of the best places to stay in Puglia with kids!

    Photo Credit: The Thinking Traveller

    Luxury Villa: L'argentiera (SALENTO REGION)

    Historically, I've always been a "hotel girl."  Then I discovered The Thinking Traveller.


    The Thinking Traveller is the most prestigious luxury villa rental company in the Mediterranean.  They have a highly curated set of villas in their collection, all of which have daily cleaning service, private chef if desired, and a local personal concierge.  You're never more than a text away from the answer you need. The villas in their portfolio can accommodate parties of 4-24 people.  All have been vetted by their team of experts.  In fact, only 1% of the villas that apply to be part of the exclusive collection are selected. 


    In Puglia, The Thinking Traveller offers villas that are trullos, masserias, seaside homes, or even castle stays!  During one portion of our 3 week trip we were a group of 11 people, so we opted to stay in a villa by the sea in Castro.  It was heavenly!  There was plenty of space for 7 adults to relax, and for 4 small kids to run around.  We started each morning with a jump in the sea, followed by devouring a delicious breakfast that the L'Argentiera chef whipped up.  Fresh bread, pastries, coffee, tea, and eggs (any way you want them) greeted us every morning.  We used our villa as a base to explore the Salento coast, but also spent time enjoying the Apuglian sun in our private infinity pool.  Some days, we didn't even want to leave!

    Good to know before booking...

    • Discount Code:  At certain times of the year, The Thinking Traveller will provide discounts to any guest using code "compassroam" over the phone when booking any of their villas.  Email me to see which perks are live!
    • Room tip:  This villa had 9 bedrooms, which can accommodate 18 guests.  Of these 9 bedrooms, there were 4 larger ones that all had sweeping sea views.
    • Laundry:   Having access to private laundry feels like a huge win when you're traveling with kids.   At this home, there's on site laundry, including both a washing machine and dryer.
    • Nearby towns: Castro, Otranto, Santa Maria dei Leuca

    Would you like to learn more about staying in a luxury villa in puglia?

    We spent a week staying with The Thinking Traveller at their property called L'Argentiera.  Check out the detailed villa review article, where I answer any questions you may have about this experience and property. 

    drone picture l'argentiera the thinking traveller - best places in puglia
    girls jumping into pool at l'argentiera - the thinking traveller villas in puglia
    Photo Courtesy:  The Thinking Traveller
    Photo Courtesy: The Thinking Traveller
    Photo Courtesy: The Thinking Traveller

    Masseria Torre Maizza (Coastal region)

    Set amid the ancient olive groves of Puglia’s countryside, Masseria Torre Maizza is one of my favorite hotels, and perfect for those seeking a high end luxury experience.   This impeccably restored 16th-century farmhouse offers spacious suites or connecting room options for families, a spectacular heated pool surrounded by flowers and ancient columns, two delicious restaurants, a relaxing spa, 9 hole golf course, and access to nearby beach clubs.

    Good to know before booking...

    • Room tip:  Rooms 27+28 connect to form a 2-bedroom family suite, with 2 king beds, 2 small sofa beds (perfect for kids), and 2 bathrooms.  Each also has a spacious private yard. 
    • Nearby towns: Polignano a Mare, Monopoli, Ostuni, Locorotondo
    masseria torre mazza
    woman walking in masseria torre maize
    masseria torre mazza - best places in puglia
    room at masseria torre maizza

    Masseria Cervarolo (Valle D'Itria Region)

    Masseria Cervarolo is perfect if you’re looking to experience a rustic Apuglian farmhouse, but you still wish to enjoy modern amenities -- like plush bedding and AC.  The masseria dates back to the 16th century, and is beautifully restored to showcase its unique past.  There are family suites available, a spacious pool, and plenty of land to explore.  You also have the option to stay in a trullo - the conical shaped buildings iconic to the region.  Lastly, don’t miss breakfast – the local yogurt, hand-spun mozzarella, and fresh fruit were divine!


    Good to Know Before Booking...

    • Room tip: Book rooms 18+19 for families.  These rooms can be connected to form a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom suite, with a private balcony overlooking the olive trees.  If opting for a trullo style room instead, then I'd recommend trullo 5.  
    • Nearby towns: Ostuni, Martina Franca, Ceglie Messipica
    masseria cervarolo best places to stay in puglia
    interior masseria cervarolo
    kids jumping on bed masseria cervarolo
    girl at pool at masseria cervarolo


    If you’re traveling to Puglia, a "don't-miss-experience" is sleeping in a cave hotel in nearby Matera.   Many of the caves have been carbon dated thousands of years, and with a lot of creativity, some of these have been turned into beautiful hotels.  While technically Matera isn't in Puglia (it's located in the neighboring region of Basciliata in Italy), it seamlessly integrates into many Puglia-bound itineraries. 


    Which cave experience did we choose?  We opted for Sextantio a 5 star boutique hotel carved within Matera’s rugged limestone cliffs, overlooking the gorge and just steps away from town.  It's the type of property where you feel as if you're stepping back in time just entering its caves.  In fact, the hotel's designers made a deliberate attempt in every detail, such as in the simple furnishings in the rooms, to best replicate what it may have looked like when the caves were used as houses over the centuries.  That being said, everything has been updated with modern touches.  The beds are insanely comfortable, there's electricity, and glass door showers.  What more do you need? 


    After you've had a rejuvenating night sleep in your personal cave, don't miss the delicious breakfast buffet inside what used to be a cave church.  The pastries are home made, and the cheese the freshest you can find!

    sextantio cave hotel matera - best places puglia
    girl in cave hotel sextantio matera

    Good to Know Before Booking...

    • Room tip: Cave 21 is a good layout for families.  There's a large king bed, and 2 twin beds (all together in one room).  There's also a private terrace.  For a smaller group, Cave 15 was beautiful too.  It had plenty of natural light, as well as a private terrace too. 
    • Floor plans are available:  Despite being a cave hotel, the website has up to date floorpans of each room.  I found this incredibly helpful when selecting a room that would best work for us.  However, make sure you email the hotel and clearly communicate which room number you'd like (or else they will just reserve the room class for you instead of a specific room).  Lastly, keep in mind that while all rooms have baths, only some have showers.  The floorpans will illustrate which ones have both. 
    • Take this product with you:  Room 21 was perfect for families, and there's even a small alcove to fit a pack and play.  However, we also used the Slumberpod, so that we could more easily room share with our 2 year old.  This is one of my favorite products!  It's easy to set up, and creates a black out safe sleeping space for your child.  (If you use code "compassroam" you'll receive 5% off).
    table spread at sextantio matera
    boy eating food at sextantio
    boy in a slumberpod in a a cave in matera
    sextantio matera best places in puglia

    Other Wonderful Accommodations In Puglia

    • Other Thinking Traveller Properties - Masseria Palmieri is located in the central area of Puglia, close to Monopoli, Pogliano a Mare and Alberobello.  We also considered Trulli Andrea for a unique trullo experience, as well as Castello di Caprarica as an alternative for the Salento region.
    • Borgo Egnazia - Borgo Egnazia replicates a traditional Apuglian village, complete with its own piazza, church, villas, pools, and golf course.  
    • Masseria Torre Coccaro - Set in a historic watchtower, Masseria Torre Coccaro boasts a blend of rustic charm and upscale elegance, featuring an enchanting olive grove setting, a renowned beach club, and organic culinary delights.  The orange garden room looked like a good option for families. 
    • Masseria Calderisi -  Masseria Calderisi is a 17th century farm, located on 24 acres of olive groves and gardens.  It's also known for its impeccable service, and a dedication to authentic regional experiences.
    • Baglioni Masseria Muzza - This brand new luxury resort is receiving excellent reviews!  There are family room configurations available.  It’s located near Otranto, as well as in close proximity to some of the most stunning beaches in Puglia (Baia de Turchi).
    • La Fiermontina - Nestled within Lecce's historic heart, La Fiermontina is an urban resort that showcases an olive tree garden, beautiful art collection, and reflects the Baroque influences of the city.  There are family rooms available too.
    • Castello di Ugento - Majestically restored, Castello di Ugento seamlessly fuses nine centuries of history with modern luxury.  The hotel houses a state-of-the-art culinary school, exquisite gardens, and artfully designed rooms within its ancient walls.
    Photo Credit: The Thinking Traveller

    Must Try Foods in Puglia

    Unlike many of other regions of Italy, where meat focused dishes take center stage on menus, Puglia instead shines a spotlight on seafood and vegetarian cuisine.   That's not to say meat enthusiasts won't find delicious options – they certainly will.  However, Puglia distinguishes itself by embracing a Mediterranean inspired culinary palette.  


    Moreover, Puglia has earned a well-deserved reputation for crafting some of the world's finest focaccia, cheeses, and olive oil.  You can find the tastiest focaccia in Bari.  You'll eat mozzarella and burrata cheese made fresh that morning from Alberobello.  And, since the region produces 45% of Italy's olive oil production (from its 60 million olive trees!), you'll be slurping that up at every meal too.   

    spagehetti with mussels puglia
    FullSizeRender (71)

    As you venture through the best places in Puglia, be sure to try some of the region's other signature dishes some may look familiar, while others may be totally new food experiences. 


    If you’re traveling to Puglia, you’re going to devour orecchiette (“ear shaped” pasta) everyday.  This is the region’s iconic pasta, and you’ll find women hand rolling it in the streets of Bari.  It’s usually cooked in a simple tomato sauce, and is quite delicious.

    Pane di Altamura

    The bread in the south of Italy is something special – if you’re debating buying a whole giant loaf, just do it.  The famous giant loaf, with a crunchy, golden crust, is called Pane di Altamura.  The recipe for it dates back to ancient Roman times!  Back then, it was primarily eaten by shepards and field workers, who had to leave home for days at a time.  They needed food that wouldn't spoil.  Today, this bread is still baked in some of the oldest ovens in the world -- ones today dating back to the 1400s!

    girl in matera with large loaf of bread
    matera bread


    Panzerotti can best be described as decadent “hot pockets.”  They’re light and fluffy fried dough, filled with melted cheese and tomato sauce.  


    Tiella became my “I have no idea what I’m eating, but it’s soooooo good” dish of the trip.  After completing a 3 hour bike ride, our guide took us to one of his favorite local restaurants, called Panetteria PanisinPuglia, and ordered our entire meal for us.  We sat next to a family of 30 Italians enjoying a birthday celebration no one spoke English, but we felt right at home.  Panetteria PanisinPuglia is known for their panzerotti, focaccia, and tiella.  Tiella is a warm dish of potatoes, rice, melted cheese, and….mussels.  I’m not sure I would’ve ever ordered this one on my own, but it was heavenly.  I devoured it so quickly that I forgot to take a photo!

    Travel Tips for Visiting Puglia

    Here are the answers to the top 5 questions I've been asked about Puglia.

    Is Puglia Safe?

    Puglia is VERY safe - the locals are friendly, warm, and welcoming often going out of their way to help visitors.  At night, the streets come alive, with people socializing and gathering in town piazzas.  We never once felt unsafe.

    What is the nicest area of Puglia?

    This is a difficult question because the changing landscape and scenes are all unforgettably beautiful.  Since Puglia is still relatively untouched by mass tourism, every city and beach feels like a local spot that can't be missed.  The "nicest area" to visit depends in part on what you're looking to experience.  Generally speaking, if you wish to see some of the most iconic towns, then you'll want to visit the Valle D'Itria region home to charming cities like Alberobello and Ostuni.  However, if you're inclined to visit the most unforgettable beaches, then you'll want to head south to the beaches in Salento.  Torre Dell Orso, Baia dei Turchi, I Faraglioni di Sant’Andrea and the beaches near Pescolouse, are considered the most stunning. 

    le due sorelle - best places in puglia

    What is the best town in Puglia to Stay in?

    While normally I do find it convenient to stay directly in a town with my family, it's not necessary to do so in Puglia where you'll be exploring by car regardless.  In fact, if you're traveling with kids, it's an advantage to stay outside the cities because you'll have more accommodation options that offer family rooms and have access to pools.  The towns are about 10-20 minutes away from most masseria hotels, so you're never in the car for very long.  


    As a reminder, there are four sub-regions of Puglia (Gargano, Valle D'Itria, Coastal Cities/Bari, and Salento).  We visited 3 of the 4 regions (+ a few days in Matera) in this order:

    With the exception of Sextantio Grotte Della Civita in Matera, these accommodations were not located directly in city centers.  We only opted to do so in Matera to experience sleeping in a cave hotel. 


    For those of you who absolutely prefer to stay in a town, this would be my recommendation:

    • Valle D’Itria (central region):  Stay in Ostuni because it has stunning views, and you’re close to many beautiful beaches.  Alternatively, consider using Monopoli as a base.  You're close to other cities like Polignano a Mare and Bari.  There's also many kid friendly beaches nearby.
    • Salento (southern region): Lecce, one of the largest cities, is another popular city to stay in.  You can spend 2 days exploring the city center, with beach options within 30 minutes driving.  If you prefer to stay closer to the sea, stay in the town of Otranto or Gallipoli.  Both of these walled historic cities are beautiful to explore on their own, but have stunning beaches just a few minutes drive away.
    map of puglia region
    Photo Credit:

    What is the prettiest seaside town In Puglia?

    There's no doubt that as you research Puglia, you'll be inundated with the iconic views and buildings perched over limestone cliffs in Polignano a Mare.  I'll never forget the moment my eyes saw this in person.  It was a true "pinch me" experience, so this town wins my vote for "prettiest seaside."  

    poggiano a mare - best places in puglia
    lama monachile beach in polignano a mare - best places in puglia

    Is Puglia or Amalfi Coast Better?

    I actually asked myself this exact question, and almost split the trip to include both.   I ended up allocating all 3 weeks of our trip to Puglia –  and we were never once bored!  I'll be saving a return visit to Amalfi with the kids for another time.


    Ultimately, choosing between these two areas of Italy comes down to personal preference, and they're both phenomenal.  It's like asking me to choose between chocolate lava cake and cheesecake -- they're both my loves.  


    That being said, if you've never been to Italy with little kids, you should keep in mind that Amalfi has a lot more climbing involved everyday.  It's not a stroller friendly destination.  Also, while Amalfi offers dramatic cliffside views and a plethora of upscale resorts, it's also dramatically more expensive and crowded.  


    Alternatively, Puglia offers rustic beauty, unique trulli houses, and less crowded cities.  I'll admit, I was a little concerned it wouldn't have the "wow factor" of the Amalfi, but I found Puglia to also be remarkably beautiful.  


    You really can't go wrong -- it just depends on what you're looking to experience as you travel through Italy.

    That's a Wrap

    If you've made it this far, then I think it's safe to say you're seriously considreing a family vacation to Puglia.  Whether you've bookmarked this rising star of travel destinations for an immeidate family holiday, larger multigenerational journey, or just visiting yourself, get ready to fall in love with Puglia.   If you've already seen the canals of Venice, the Colosseum marvel in Rome, and the historic masterpieces lining the walls and streets of Florence, get ready for something that's equally jaw-dropping, but entirely unique.   It's time to treat yourself to the new best kept secret in the world of travel.  Puglia!

    girl leaving church in matera
    family photo in bari puglia

    I hope this article has inspired your own getaway to Puglia.  If you have any questions, or your own travel tips, please leave them in the comments below.  Also, don't forget to sign up for the monthly newsletter, packed with travel tips, upcoming news, and access to FREE destination itineraries.

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