A road trip in Puglia, South of Italy

It’s been a while we have been dreaming about a road trip in Puglia, Southest part of Italy. And finally, as Italy was one of the first country to reopen for French people, we booked our tickets and we were on our way 10 days later.

As always, we would work remotely half of the time, and take some days off as well: we needed strong wifi connexion and a precise itinerary, to make sure we would be on time in a comfortable place for our calls/days of work. That’s how we ended up starting in the cities near Bari, Polignano a Mare and Monopoli, then more remotely Alberobello, Matera and Ostuni, and finally, the Gargano National park – where we would be off for our entire time in the park. Finally, we would end our trip in Bari, with 3 days of work, but in the old city, to enjoy the town at night, with aperitivo, dinner and sunset.

Puglia is located on the “heel” of the boot of Italy: the Southest part of the country. It used to be a very poor area but has started to attract lots of tourists with the beauty of its villages, coastlines and its gastronomy.

Monopoli and Polignano a Mare

These two towns are located only few kilometers away from each other, and it would be a shame to miss any of them during your trip to Puglia.

Polignano a Mare, the Pearl of the Adriatic

Polignano a Mare is a lovely (and fancy) little village, with a magnificent scenery over the cliffs, especially at sunset. Some great restaurants can be found on our other article. Don’t miss the mythic beach of Polignano as well.

If you are there only for the week-end (landing in Bari), to stay in Polignano a Mare is also a great option.

Monopoli

About 25 minutes away from Polignano a Mare by car, Monopoli is a much bigger town, with a lovely city center, and a beautiful port.

Our best recommendation is to visit the old town at the end of the day, and to have some tapas while enjoying sunset by the sea, with an aperitivo (a Spritz, obviously!). We had some lovely local tapas from Puglia at la Salsamenteria.

  • Where to have some tapas in Monopoli ? La Salsamenteria – open everday 10:30am to 11:30pm – Lungomare Santa Maria, 70043 Monopoli BA, Italie
  • Where to have a drink in Monopoli ? Nice cocktails on a cute piazza next to the old port, at MiCasa – open everyday (expect Wednesday) 8am-2am – Via Orazio Comes, 56, 70043 Monopoli BA, Italie
  • Where to have a typical puglianese dinner in Monopoli ? Local products for a quick dinner and a good value for money at Trattoria La Locanda dei Mercanti – open everyday but Wednesday: Monday 7:30pm-11pm, Tue-Sun 12:30pm-3pm and 7:30pm-11pm – Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, 44, 70043 Monopoli BA, Italie

Alberobello: the city of trullies

You cannot go to Puglia and miss Alberobello, probably one of the most iconic village in the area. The reason ? Most of the houses there are dry-stone built which give a very authentic feeling when walking around the city.

Even if the origin is unclear, it seems that the trullies were first built to avoid paying taxes to the king: as they were not real habitations, the taxes were not applying. If anyone intended to complain, the houses could be destroyed and rebuilt very easily.

The town is not very large, and only half a day should be enough to visit the points of interest of the town. Two main districts to organise your visit: Monti (very famous and busy, make sure to arrive early, especially if you want to get a nice picture, without dozens of tourists on it) and Aia Picola (usually less crowded).

We decided to stay remotely from Alberobello and rented a room at the Villa Appolonia Bed & Breakfast. Our stay there was perfect: we loved the big and homemade breakfast, the pool (especially during the hot afternoon) and the kindness of our hosts. A place we definitely recommend!

Note that Alberobello (and most of the towns in Puglia, and more generally in Italy) are even more enjoyable during the evening. The temperature is a little lower, the town is very dynamic and the lights over the city offers you some great scenery, for a drink or a dinner.

Strolling in Alberobello
Strolling in Alberobello

Matera, from Italy National’s disgrace to Unesco World heritage site

Matera, technically not located in Puglia, is only 1h15 away from Alberobello: if you have a car, don’t miss this unique town, built in the rock and in the mountain, with a singular history: in 1948, the Justice Minister Palmiro Togliatti called the Sassi – the local troglodyte habitations – a national shame, but 45 years later, it became Unesco World heritage, giving Matera a new life.

Matera, Puglia
Matera, Puglia

If you are near by, you should definitely visit Matera: it’s an exceptional city, unique, and probably very different from anything you have seen before. Our advise is to spend one day there, but to make sure you spend the evening there. We missed it, but the city by night is pretty amazing!

The perfect place to have lunch in Matera is at Girotondo, where you will get the best pizza in Matera (so we have been told).

Girotondo (just outside the Sassi): Via Don Giovanni Minzoni, 2, 75100 Matera MT, Italy – +39 0835 197 0494Open everyday except Tuesday – Currently 6pm to midnight, but don’t hesitate to call as when we were there in June, we had lunch there.


Ostuni

We spent half a day in Ostuni, but we choose our time badly: it was resting time and everything was closed. The town is lovely though, and we highly recommend to go there at the end of the day, to have an ice cream, wander in the beautiful white streets and have a nice dinner in one of the many (and apparently delicious) restaurants there.

Where to stay in Ostuni ?

The best part of our stay there ? Our Airbnb! It was a lovely house with an amazing pool, shared with the two other houses. The house was spacious enough to work comfortably, and what a pleasure to spend the lunch time by the pool! The house is located only 15 minutes away from Ostuni: perfect for a quiet stay not far from town.


The Gargano National Park

After our first week in the most famous villages of Puglia, we headed North, to the Gargano National Park. François really wanted to do some hiking by the sea – eventually, it was way too hot for that – and see the most beautiful beaches of the park.

Where to stay in the Gargano National Park ?

You will see that there are not that many options to stay in Gargano National Park. Eventually, it does not really matter where you stay, as everything is always about 20/30 minutes driving. However, we ended up booking 4 nights at the B&B White House, and it was the highlight of our stay! Francesco, the owner, will do everything he can to make your stay as perfect as possible. His place, a small hotel with only 8 rooms, will oscillate between luxury and quietude. Adult only, a beautiful pool area, a perfect (and homemade) breakfast everyday and located only 7 minutes away driving from Peschici: it cannot get better!

B&B White House
Localita Mastrotonno
71010 Peschici FG
+39 349 0901782
info@residenzawhitehouse.it
From 50 euros per night.

The B&B White House, only few kilometers away from Peschici

Peschici

Peschici is a cute fishing village and is definitely a must see while visiting the Gargano National Park. That’s where we took our drone recently, and it was brilliant, especially for sunset!

If you want to spend the day at the beach, it’s also possible at Peschici. However, be there soon if you want to find a spot on the public beach. On the other hand, you can also rent a sun chair for the day (count 5 to 20 euros for this, depending on the beach). We are not big fans of private beaches, and that’s what we would reproach to Italy in general, but we have to admit, some are really beautiful!

The best of Peschici is to go there for sunset, stroll in the animated streets of the village, and end your day with a nice dinner. Our recommandations there are the following:

  • Ristorante La Taverna di Peschici – Piazza Del Popolo, 15, 71010 Peschici FG, Italy – open daily from 11:15am to midnight: the food there was not exceptional (but it was pricey), however the location was perfect to enjoy the evening in the fishing village. If you decide to go there, stick to some “classical” options, as what we did not really like was too adventurous for us.
  • DeVinum – Wine Bistrot Ristorantevia Vico Cantinieri, 2, 71010 Peschici FG, Italy – open daily from 6pm to midnight: Great advice on the wine, and the tapas are all delicious. Perfect for a romantic dinner!

Vieste

Vieste is the biggest city of the Gargano National park, and truly a beauty! We spent one evening there, and we loved it. It was during a match from the Euro, so the city was very animated, terraces and restaurants full.
Unfortunately we ended up in a not so good restaurant, so no recommendation here. However, we definitely recommend to visit Vieste: the old historic center is superb. Don’t miss the small streets of the city, the port and the view over the sea and the lighthouse. You will not be disapointed! Make sure to come early, as it can be a hassle to find a parking spot.

And, make sure to try the local beer, Bianca del Gargano!

Tremiti Islands

It would be a shame to go to the Gargano national park and miss the Tremiti Islands! Only 1h30 away from Peschici, the Tremiti Islands are a paradise with clear water, but also full of history. The Tremiti Isole used to be the place where Mussolini was keeping his political prisoners during fascim.

How to get to the Tremiti Islands ?

Go to Tremiti Islands by ferry

You can reach the Islands by ferry: book online your tickets for a departure from Vieste or Peschici. Count 40 euros per adult for round trip and 20 euros for children (up to 12).

Once you reach the islands, you will take a taxi boat to reach the main island.

The ferry will drop you in San Domino, where you will find a couple of restaurants and the castle. As it’s free, don’t forget to go up to have a great view over the archipelago!

Once you are done visiting San Domino (count about 30/45 minutes), it’s time to book a tour to see the whole archipelago. For 20 euros per person, they will take you all the way around San Nicola islands (and allow you to see each remote places of it). Then, you will have the possibility to swim and dive around Capraia, a natural reserve where boats are not allowed to berth.

At the end of the tour (1h), the boat will drop at San Nicola where you will enjoy the rest of your day. With your ticket, you can take any boat back to San Domino, and catch your ferry back to the continent on time. On San Nicola, the beaches are very small, and all private. Make sure to be there early, as it gets very crowded in the afternoon.

Don’t forget to bring some cash! The only bankomat is located on San Nicolas island (and therefore, not reachable without a taxi boat). A tip, just in case you ends up without cash on the Tremiti islands: kindly ask the person in charge of the tour to allow you to book the tour without cash, as the boat will drop you at San Nicola where you will be able to get some. We left our driving licence in exchange, and it saved our day! As you will see, San Domino is very small and not so beautiful compared to the other islands around.

Go to Tremiti islands with a rented boat

The other solution is to rent a boat (with or without skipper) directly from Vieste or Peschici. This option was too expensive for us, as it was about 100 euros per person, but it can allow you to avoid the crowd in high season, and to discover some hidden spots! If you wish to rent a boat without a skipper, don’t forget to bring your boat licence.

The Umbria forest

The Umbria forest is very famous in Gargano National Park, and bring a lot of freshness during very hot days. However, as we live next to Fontainebleau forest back in France, we did not find it that impressive. It was quite dirty, with lots of empty beers and plastic bottles, and too many arranged areas.

The beaches in Gargano National Park

Zaiana beach

Here, you will have both public and private options. Note that the parking on top cost 4 euros per day (in cash). Then, for the private beach, it will cost you around 20 euros per person for the day. It may be worth it if you plan to spend the whole day at the beach. If you prefer the free option, just go on the left of the beach.
Always make sure to keep an eye on your belongings.

Zaiana beach – about 20 minutes from Peschici.

If you are looking for more beautiful beaches, you will find many along the scenic road, from Vieste to Mattinata. However, as always, be there early, as they get crowded really quickly. If you rent a boat, it can also be a good idea to sail there and to explore the creeks.


Trani

We stopped in Trani on the way back from Gargano national park to Bari, and it was a good idea! Trani has a lovely historic center, with a beautiful port and view over the city, and a church, located at the extremity of the port, just by the sea!

We had lunch at Pesto di Pistacchio, a restaurant 100% vegan, and the only vegan restaurant we have seen in Puglia during our trip! As, non vegan, let’s be honest: we were a little sceptic. But, the food was great!
We highly recommend the address to any vegan person. For the non-vegan, just make sure not to expect something too similar to what you are used to, and you will find it delicious. The tiramisu, however, did not convince us.

Pesto di Pistacchio
(+39) 0883 1986093
info@ristorantepestodipistacchio.it
Via Tiepolo, 11 – 76125 Trani (BT)
Closed on Monday, Open daily 12:30-3pm and 7pm-11pm

The port of Trani, Puglia
The port of Trani, Puglia

Bari

The old town of Bari
The old town of Bari

It was supposed to be our less interesting stop, only while waiting for our plane and work remotely, but eventually, we loved Bari.
Bari is one of the biggest towns in Puglia, and probably where you will land. RyanAir offers lowcost flights from Paris and other big cities, which is very convenient for a weekend in Puglia, to Polignano a Mare, for instance.

We stayed in the old town, in a small Airbnb, and it was perfect: we could go out for lunch and dinner after our day of work. Also, we felt it was less touristic than any other places in Puglia, and more authentic.

Overall, we loved our stay to Puglia, and our only regret was not to stay longer. It’s one of the trip where we have done “the less”: less activities, less visits, less hikes and such, and it was a new kind of vacations for us. We would not choose the dolce vita for every holidays, but for these ones, it was absolutely perfect. We enjoyed our slow life, our daily aperitivo and our dinner with stunning sunsets. The people there were so kind to us. Here is a fun fact: we had issues with our car being taken away, at 10pm, just before leaving for our flight back home in the early in the next morning… many police officers did everything they could to help us, and we found our car back during the night (oh yes, one tip: don’t forget to pay parking, because they are quite strict with tickets, and your car may very easily be impounded!).


  • Reply
    wattwherehow
    August 9, 2021 at 8:26 pm

    Every post reveals something more beautiful about Italy than the last

  • Reply
    Kajol
    August 11, 2021 at 6:45 am

    A great itinerary for a road trip to Puglia. The place looks charming and cut off from cities for a well deserving break. Great post.

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