In recent years Puglia has emerged strongly as a tourist destination and if you ask me with all due respect. This unspoilt part of Italy has unique spots, delicious food, wine, culture, history and beautiful beaches. Thanks to the long, slender shape of this region, you’re never far from the sea! An easy drive in both directions – east or west – will take you to the Adriatic or Ionian sea, where you can enjoy long sandy beaches and the turquoise coloured sea.
You can find the Puglia region in the heel of the Italian boot, about 2.5 hours by plane from Amsterdam. As a visitor you will be amazed how beautiful this region is. From the magical countryside, to the spectacular cliffs that rise above the blue sea and of course the many white villages such as Ostuni and Alberobello with the characteristic trulli.
According to the Italians, the beaches of Puglia are among the most beautiful in the country. We have fallen in love with this region since our car journey through Italy. Want to know why? Read and have a look at the pictures here…
Our journey started in Bari, in the heel of Italy after we took the night boat from Dubrovnik. As we left the beautiful Croatia behind us, we found ourselves in a totally different landscape, almost 2,000 km from home!
Immediately after our arrival in the harbour we drove to Polignano a Mare, a 35 minutes drive from Bari. When we entered this beautiful seaside town, we were immediately enthusiastically approached by two Italian ladies who were totally addicted to Sofie.
As a blond baby with blue eyes you are warmly welcomed by everyone in Italy. From young to old, everyone stops to admire Sofie and laughs at her. I like this so much about Italy because it allows you to make contact very quickly and the people here are genuine open and spontaneous.
Polignano a Mare, the pearl of the Adriatic Sea
Polignano a Mare is a stunningly beautiful small-scale resort. The bay is characterized by crystal clear waters framed by spectacular cliffs and natural bays with fascinating views.
The city also has a unique historical centre, full of picturesque narrow streets and typical houses with the entrance almost on the street. Often you see people sitting on the pavement or you hear them talking in the living room which is only separated from the street by a curtain. Taste the authentic atmosphere as you stroll through the states with whitewashed houses, beautiful flowers and balconies overlooking the sea.
What you can’t miss…
- Look for one of the 12 panoramic points where you can admire the Adriatic Sea in all its splendour, both day and night.
- Relax an afternoon on the white pebble beach Cala Porto, located in the center of Polignano a Mare. Also known as “Lama Monachile”. This is a very picturesque spot, sandwiched between the white buildings of Polignano and the azure blue sea.
- Take a boat trip to the famous sea caves in the area. Because of the erosive effect of water, wind and the karst phenomenon, unique rock formations have been created in these caves. Admire a play of colours and light and you will see that nature has created a true work of art here.
Did you know…
Polignano a Mare the birthplace of Domenico Modugno is, the singer of the famous song “Volare”? He is the symbol of the city and there is a statue of him on the Lungomare Domenico Modugno named after him.
Unspoilt and enchanting Puglia
Most people arrive in Bari when they visit Puglia. This is also the port of arrival if you come from Dubrovnik by night ferry. The airport of Bari is about 12 km from the center. We already had our own car with us, but I can definitely recommend you to rent a car if you want to discover Puglia by your own.
The city itself is not very special and the roads around Bari are not as well maintained as we are used to in the west, but once you turn off the main road towards the countryside you don’t know what you see. Especially the route from Polignano a Mare towards Alberobello, a ride of about 30 minutes is breathtakingly beautiful.
First you end up in a green hilly landscape while slowly climbing up between the olive trees. Then the landscape changes into grain fields and everywhere you see large rolled bales. On the way you see old Italian farmer males still very primitively cultivate their land.
Sometimes you see horses grazing around the Italian country houses and you do not see fences here, because everything is fenced off with old Roman walls. For miles you drive in an unspoiled and enchantingly beautiful landscape and you look out your eyes. Since then I know why Puglia is so popular, because it is still so unspoiled and often still undiscovered.
Valle D’Itria and Alberobello
A very special part of Puglia is the Itria Valley: a gently sloping landscape full of vineyards and endless olive groves characterized by picturesque cities, including Locorotondo, Polignano a Mare, Cisternino, Ostuni, Ceglie Messapica and the UNESCO World Heritage Alberobello.
Alberobello, city of white trulli
The story of this place goes back to the 15th century, when farmers were sent here to settle, but were not allowed to build a house. So they made temporary houses that could easily be demolished when the tax collector came.
These so-called “trulli” are round stone houses with a pointed roof of limestone where no mortar (fine concrete) is used. Hundreds of years later the “trulli” are still intact and deserve a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List for their special building technique.
Walk to the old town of Alberobello where you can admire more than 1,000 “trulli”. Be sure to visit my favourite area of Aia Piccola, a quiet and very picturesque part of the city. In the modern part of Alberobello, look for Trullo Sovrano, the only two-storey trullo built by a rich priest family in the 18th century. Here in a small museum you can get an idea of what life was like in these lovely, small houses.
Alberobello is a unique location with a fairytale atmosphere, a place of traditions with great architectural and historical importance. It’s very special to be able to walk here and you don’t know at first what you see when you see the city from the hill.
In high season it can be very busy here, but if you take your time there is so much to discover in the maze of white streets. If you ask me you shouldn’t miss Alberobello when you visit Puglia.
The white streets of Ostuni
Another town that is really worth visiting is Ostuni, which is scattered on the tops of three hills that offer great views over the sea.
A maze of streets and alleys leads you through the historic centre of the city. The white buildings, the blue sky and views of the Adriatic Sea (which is only 8 km away) make you feel like you are in a Greek town. Admire the beautiful palaces, the cathedral, the basilica and the statue of Sant’Oronzo.
You can not miss this impressive monument that stands proudly on the square. There is a nice market in Ostuni on Saturday morning with a range of fresh local products.
With its location on a hilltop, the white city of Ostuni can be seen from miles away. Even if it is not on your route, you really need to drive there. You will not be disappointed!
National Park Murgia & Matera
If you love nature and walking I can recommend you to visit the Alta Murgia National Park. This nature reserve is located in the provinces of Bari and Barletta-Andria-Trani.
You can also combine the Alta Murgia National Park with the historic city of Matera, which lies south of the park. Did you know that the “Ben-Hur” remake movie was filmed here? Another pearl of an old city that you absolutely should not miss during your visit in Puglia. See pictures below.
Car holiday through Italy
From Puglia we continued along the coast up towards Ancona, the capital of Le Marche. Le Marche is also called the Marches (de Marken in Dutch). The Marches is a beautiful area where especially the Italians themselves like to spend their holidays.
So if you want to discover another part of Italy where not so many tourists come then Le Marche with the beautiful coastal town Sirolo (if you google on pictures you know what I mean) is an absolute must to visit 🙂