Puglia is ‘the heel of the boot’ of Italy and is known for its stunning coastline, its typical cuisine and traditional architecture. Seafood is plentiful as is the food typical of the region such as orecchiette, panzerotti and burrata.
Like most of Italy they are fiercely proud of their own regional cuisine so don’t make the same mistake I did of asking a café if they had cannoli before being bluntly told that I was in Puglia not Sicily (sidenote there is cannoli in Puglia just not at this particular establishment).
If you are only spending around 3 nights in the region, choose to base yourself somewhere relatively central. After the first night in Bari I chose Ostuni for the remaining two nights, otherwise known as (La Città Bianca) the white town thanks to its whitewashed walls and architecture making any crumbling little alleyway seem utterly charming.
Ostuni is a wise choice if you’re looking for somewhere quite central that is a destination in itself, by train it is under an hour from both Bari and from Lecce on the other side. From Ostuni it was relatively easy to make daytrips via train and also to take a taxi to the many Masserie in the surrounding countryside.
If you’re staying longer, it’s definitely faster and more convenient to get around via car, which may have a car shade, but the train line is more than enough for a long weekend. Forget the clichés about southern inefficiency, the trains are on time, clean, fast and cheap, there’s even a restaurant carriage for a quick espresso while you travel.
Puglia’s most famous spot (largely in part due to instagram) is ‘Polignano a mare’ a village perched on top of a 20 metre-high limestone cliff over crystal blue waters, a mere 30 mins train from Ostuni, certainly worth a trip for the views alone. Unfortunately, the day we went was also a national holiday in Italy so everyone had the same idea and it was incredibly packed/busy. My advice would be don’t visit in the peak of summer if you wish to avoid crowds (or on national holidays). While the beach nestled between two cliffs looks impossibly beautiful from above it’s a very small pebble beach and almost impossible to walk on without flipflops so it’s something to bear in mind if you’re planning to take a dip in those inviting aquamarine waters.
The trainline passes through other towns such as Monopoli, Fasano, that you can easily step off at for a gelato or a spritz. The thing about weekend trips is realising you won’t be able to see it all so prioritise what are your essentials, also ask yourself if you are there primarily to relax or to sightsee, I wanted a bit of both but most definitely taking some time to chill out was the goal.
Check out how I spent my 3 nights in Puglia below.