Here are the top places to go when you visit Puglia. See our Puglia Travel Map to help locate these places.
Puglia's most southern part is the Salento Peninsula. Lots of good beaches dot the coast as well as picturesque towns with Greek-style architecture like Otranto (shown in the photo) and Gallipoli. Much of this area is covered with olive groves producing the high-quality olive oil that Puglia is known for, and vineyards for making Primitivo and Salice Salentino wines.
Puglia's most famous sight is the trulli, unique conical houses found in the the area around Alberobello. Trulli dot the countryside of central Puglia but the highest concentration of trulli is in the town of Alberobello itself and its trulli zone has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Bari is one of the largest cities in Puglia but it has a compact and very interesting historic center with narrow, winding streets and a castle on one side. Its most popular sight is the Church of Saint Nicolas, the saint commonly associated with Christmas. Bari has a nice seaside promenade, a big pedestrian street lined with modern shops, a lively square with bars and restaurants, harbors, and a theater. Bari is one of the main stops on the train line and has an airport.
Puglia's Gargano Promontory offers several diverse environments for visitors. Along the coast are good, clean beaches and several nice seaside towns. Much of inland Gargano is covered a national park, the Foresta Umbra. The promontory's highest point is the picturesque medieval town of Monte Sant'Angelo where pilgrims come to see the Archangel Michael Sanctuary in a grotto. Another popular pilgrimage destination is Padre Pio Shrine.
Trani is one of Puglia's most picturesque seaside towns. Trani's cathedral, in a beautiful setting on the harbor near the castle, is one of the best examples of a Romanesque church in Puglia, with fantastic carvings on the exterior and beautiful floor mosaics in the crypt. A nice place to stay is Hotel San Paolo al Convento, a 4-star hotel in a nicely restored convent facing the harbor.
Castel del Monte, about 30 kilometers southwest of Trani, is one of Puglia's top castles and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in the 13th century, the castle is famous for its unique octagonal shape. It stands atop an isolated hill, allowing the castle to be seen from a long distance and providing a 360 degree view from the castle's top. The castle is featured on Italy's one euro cent coins.
The Baroque city of Lecce, sometimes called the Florence of the South, is the southern terminus for the Italian rail line that runs along the east coast and is the main city of the Salento area. Its historic center is filled with ornate Baroque monuments and even has a few remnants of its Roman days. It's also a good city for walking and shopping. Lecce is well-known for its paper mache' handicrafts and there's a museum of paper mache' figurines in the castle.
Ostuni, the White City
Although Puglia has several towns whose buildings have whitewashed walls, Ostuni is one of the largest and most visible. Sitting atop a hill, Ostuni's white buildings make it stand out against the blue sky creating a beautiful image. Wander through the old alleys of its historic center, a pedestrian zone, inside its ancient walls and enjoy the views from the hilltop.
Unique Places to Stay
Puglia has a couple of unique lodging options. Some trulli, mostly found around Alberobello, have been remodeled and converted to hotels or vacation homes. Farm manor houses (masseria) have been renovated and made into guest lodging in many parts of the countryside with accommodations ranging from rustic to luxurious. See Where to Stay in Trulli or Masseria Lodging for suggestions.