Puglia Holidays

The not-so-Achilles heel

The heel of the boot of Italy, the crystal-blue shores of Puglia are where many Italians traditionally go on holiday. Fort towns Gallipoli, Bari, Monopoli and Brindisi are steeped in Byzantine, Roman and Baroque history. They come alive during summer evenings, which can be whiled away strolling around ornate churches, getting lost in the labyrinthine streets and enjoying long, languid al fresco meals.

There’s more to Puglia holidays inland. Way uphill, Ostuni is a whitewashed delight, and Alberobello is home to an array of unique homesteads. Lecce is a delicate beauty, its ancient Roman amphitheatre hosting classical and contemporary concerts to this day. Along the shore, take your pick of the west coast’s lively beach bars, or seek out the more chilled beaches, such as Polignano a Mare’s majestic cove, where you can plunge into the cool waters where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet. In rural areas, stay in ‘masserias’ – working farms – that double up as hotels, and gorge yourself on their local produce. This area is renowned for its olive oil, and generous portions of food will leave no one hungry. So there’s no need to dig your heels in for one thing or another – holidays to Puglia offer something for every type of sun-seeker.

Three tips for a top trip

Use your Sunday
If you’re planning a long road trip, Sundays are ideal, as local, religiously observant residents prefer to take a day off from driving on the highway.
Stay up all night
Expect evening meals to stretch late into the night, especially in the height of the balmy summers, where entire families hang out until the small hours.
Eat like a local
Specialities from the Puglia region include ‘orecchiette con cima di rapa’ – ear-shaped pasta with bitter broccoli – and ‘pasticciotti’ – moreish oval-shaped pies filled with sweet custard.

Best attractions to see in Puglia

Festa di Santa Domenica

Tiny Scorrano transforms into a day-glo spectacle of neon for a week-long festival of light every July. A food market serves up delicious snacks, too.

Matera town

This hillside town in Basilicata, comprising abandoned caves, is awe-inspiring. Explore the Unesco-listed Paleolithic limestone ‘Sassi’, some of which have been transformed into understated hotels.


A canny tax fiddle from the 14th century gave rise to stunning ‘trulli’ – houses with deftly stacked stone roofs. You can even stay in some of them.

Your Puglia questions, answered

Rural areas are tricky to reach without a vehicle, but a good train service links the main cities and towns, providing spectacular views during your journey.

Shh, don’t tell anyone, but Puglia is relatively unspoilt. Gentrification is creeping in, but you can still enjoy Italy’s beautiful food and wine on a budget.

English isn't as widely spoken as it is in some of Italy’s tourist destinations, so a ‘per favore’ or a ‘grazie’ will always be appreciated.