Puglia, or Apulia, is the region of southern Italy often referred to as the "heel of the boot." Much of the region is coastline with picturesque seaside towns, great beaches, and clean sea water. Inland the visitor will find unique sights, castles, and historic towns.
The region includes five provinces which are based around the major cities of Puglia, Foggia, Bari, Taranto, Brindisi, and Lecce. Bari is the capital of Puglia.
Top places to see in Puglia include Castel del Monte, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the unique conical houses found in the area around Alberobello.
Alberobello and the Trulli Zone
Puglia's most famous sight is the trulli, unique houses with conical roofs found in the area around Alberobello. Trulli dot the countryside of central Puglia but the highest concentration of trulli is in the town of Alberobello itself. Its trulli zone has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The first settlements with trulli buildings date as far back as the Bronze Age, while the trulli you can see today go back to circa1350. While the structures are strong, they were designed to be temporary and the more old and uneven structures were destroyed and reconstructed time and time again.
Puglia's most southern part is the Salento Peninsula. Lots of good beaches dot the coast as well as picturesque towns with architecture reminiscent of Greece like Otranto and Gallipoli.
In the area, you can see ancient ruins and buildings from both Greek and Roman times.
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.
Bari is one of the largest cities in Puglia. Visitors will want to see the 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.
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. The church has 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.
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. The main city of the Salento area, its historic center is filled with ornate Baroque monuments and even has a few remnants of 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 Castello di Lecce.
Castel del Monte
Built by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in the 13th century, the castle is famous for its unique octagonal shape. The architecture of Castel del Monte is a blend of elements from classical antiquity, the Islamic Orient and north European Cistercian Gothic.
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.
This impressive castle is featured on Italy's one euro coins.
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.
You can wander through the old alleys of its historic center, a pedestrian zone, inside its ancient walls, and enjoy the views from the hilltop.
Puglia's Gargano Promontory land mass 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.
Other things to see include the cathedral, the episcopal palace, the Abbey of Santa Maria of Ripalta and the volcanic rocks dating back to the Triassic Period known as "Black Stones."
Unique Places to Stay
Puglia has some unique lodging options. Some of them are in trulli buildings, mostly found around Alberobello, which have been remodeled and converted to hotels or vacation homes.
On the more elegant side, the Grand Hotel La Chiusa di Chietri, about 4 km outside Alberobello, is a large hotel with beautiful grounds, swimming pool, and a trulli village.
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.