Once an out-of-the-way and little-visited region, Puglia has become one of Italy's hottest destinations. It may surprise you to know that much of Italy's wine is produced this far south, much of it used for export and blending. Lots of olive oil is produced in Puglia as well.
Puglia may also surprise you with its wealth of archaeological sites, as well as the fine Baroque styles represented in Lecce's architecture and the interesting conical houses called trulli around Alberobello. Puglia is worth a couple of weeks of slow travel, and there's lots of coastline to explore.
Puglia is a fascinating region to visit, from the Gargano Promontory to the Trulli fanciful world of Alberobello, where you can rent a trullo for your vacation.
Puglia Cities to Visit
In the Gargano, visit the old cities of Monte Sant'Angelo, Lucera, Manfredonia, and San Severo, and the Padre Pio sanctuary of San Giovanni Rotondo. Vieste is near to the Foresta Umbra national park and is the holiday capital of the Gargano.
Trani, along the coast, features an old settlement right around the harbor with a seafront cathedral dedicated to San Nicola Pellegrino. Several 18th-century palaces, like the Caccetta, the Quercia and the Bianchi give you a good idea of Puglia's Romanesque period. The Swabian castle of Trani was built by Federico II between 1223 and 1249 and was up to recently used as a prison.
Bari is a port city with an interesting old center. You can get a ferry to Greece from Bari.
You can also get ferries from Brindisi, but it's a less interesting town.
Trulli country starts in Alberobello, where there are more than 1500 of the quirky conical houses. You can stay in a trulli hotel, or rent a trullo house for a week to get the feel for this interesting part of Puglia. Locorotundo and Martina Franca are also interesting cities to visit.
Lecce is blessed with a soft limestone so easy to work that Lecce became the center for ornate architectural ornamentation, called the barocco leccese, or Leccese Baroque. Lecce is a great town to walk around in, and it has several fine restaurants.
On the Salento Peninsula, the fishing village of Gallipoli has a nice port area and interesting historic center. Another nice seaside town is Otranto, known for its beautiful coast. Otranto was an important center of the Byzantine dominion in Italy and had a Greek bishop. A visit to its duomo is a must.
Santa Maria di Leuca is the southernmost town on the heel of Italy, where you might want to visit il Ciolo, a deep canyon carved by the sea.
If you have time, you can also visit the Basilicata town of Matera, the filming site of "The Passion of the Christ." If you go in early July, be sure to catch the Festa della Madonna Bruna.
Find out more about what to see in Top Places to Go in Puglia.
The Geography of Puglia
Most of Puglia is composed of relatively flat plains or small, flat-topped hills like you'll find in the murge Salentino, found from the area just northeast of Gallipoli to the point at the end of the peninsula.
The largest portion of Puglia's protected area is found in the center of the Gargano Penninsula, most of which is made up of the Parco Nationale del Gargano as well as the Foresta Umbra, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Protected areas like these form 6.7% of Puglia's total land mass of 19,362 square kilometers.
Puglia's population is just under 4 million people. Puglia's administrative center is Bari, which has a very interesting central core consisting of narrow, winding streets and alleyways.
Ferries to Greece depart from Bari and Brindisi.
Find Train Travel Times, Rail Information, and Driving Times
Getting around Puglia is fairly easy. There are lots of options, from driving your rental car to rail and bus transportation.
This Puglia Train Travel Times Map shows times for some typical rail journeys around Puglia. The lines in red represent the faster and more expensive Eurostar Italia trains.
For comparison with driving times, the distance between Foggia and Bari is about 120 kilometers. The Autostrada (Italy's fast toll road) route between these two cities could be managed at a top speed of 130 km/hour. Allowing for stopping to pay tolls, this journey should take around an hour in a car, as it does on the Eurostar. The regular train takes 40 minutes longer because it stops at many smaller stations.
You can use the form on Trenitalia to check the schedules and times to cities in Puglia. A network of rail and bus transportation to towns within Puglia is quite extensive, and is run by a company called Ferrovie Sud Est, which offers maps of their bus and train routes (click on "territorio" to see the train line map, then click "cartina autobus" to see the bus map).
Should you drive or take a train in Puglia? Well, personal preference plays a part, but there is a lot to see in Puglia's countryside that might only be accessible by car. That said, rail travel in Italy is fairly inexpensive, and if you're doing a solo trip you'll save money on travel and you'll not have to deal with navigating. Your choice.
The distance between Naples and Bari, taking the A16 to A14 Autostradas, is 261 km, a two-hour drive if all goes perfectly, at the speed limit of 130km/hr. Driving from Rome, it's about a 5-hour trip.