The cities and towns of Italy are known throughout the world, but there’s one corner of Italy that remains a hidden gem. After visiting the likes of Rome, Milan, Naples, Tuscany and The Amalfi coast, I decided it was time to go in search of a lesser-known, more rustic Italy. Puglia is a region of Italy I have been longing to discover for some time, and with the help of Classic Collection Holidays, my dream recently came true. My friend Katie and I hired a car for our Puglia adventure and explored 4 towns over 4 days. Here is my guide to the picturesque towns of Puglia.
Puglia in a Nutshell
Puglia is a rural region on the south coast of Italy. Imagine rolling hills, sun-drenched vineyards and olive trees alongside a stretch of spectacular coastline. The beaches in Puglia have soft white sand and the colours in the ocean range from aquamarine to azure blue. Rustic farmhouses and quaint towns remain frozen in time and feel a world away from the cosmopolitan Italian cities.
In a nutshell, Puglia has all the charm of Tuscany but with the added element of being by the coast; queue the incredible seafood and picturesque ports. The food I ate in Puglia was the best and freshest I’ve ever tasted in Italy, making it a dream destination for foodies.
First up on our hotlist was the iconic whitewashed town of Ostuni. It’s located about 8km from the coast and offers beautiful panoramas of the ocean. Head to the Commune di Ostuni (a central square) and grab a freshly made pizza at Restaurant Garabaldi. We dined on fresh pizza and a caprese salad, washed down with 2 glasses of Aperol Spritz in the sun. It was bliss.
If you’ve still got room after lunch, cross the square and pick up a gelato for your climb up to the Catherdral of Ostuni. The route up to the Catherdral is lined with interesting (tourist geared) boutique shops selling everything from sandals to fresh pasta and olive oil. Beyond the Catherdral, walk under the arch, take a right and you’ll find yourself in the narrow backstreets of Ostuni. The white stone pathways and buildings feel incredibly historic and it feels like a little journey back in time.
Ostuni did feel extremely quiet when we visited on a Tuesday, but I can imagine it gets much busier at the weekend. I would recommend allowing half a day or a few hours to visit Ostuni, factoring in a leisurely lunch and a stroll around the backstreets.
Next up is the enchanting town of Locorotonda. Navigate your way into central old town, which has narrow streets enclosed by tall white stone buildings. The maze of winding streets sporadically open up into pretty piazzas and you’ll find a handful of charming wine bars.
It was in Locorotondo that we had the most amazing pizza of the whole trip. Our hotel Masseria Montanepoleone made us a reservation at Casa Pinto, which is a tiny pizzeria located beneath the streets of Locorotondo. It has to be the most authentic and romantic pizzeria I’ve ever dined at, and it was extremely reasonable in price too. Visit Casa Pinto for an evening meal to get the best experience, but be sure to make a reservation. I’d recommend visiting Locorotonda in late afternoon and staying for dinner at Casa Pinto. It’s very small so you don’t need to allow a full day.
Monopoli was the largest town we visited in Puglia and is located right on the sea. The newer and more developed areas are not that remarkable, but it’s the historical centre that draws in the crowds. Plan your own mini walking tour and visit the Old Harbour, The Cathedral and Castello Carlo V, all of which are nestled away in the historical centre. The Castello Carlo V clings to the waters edge and visitors can explore the historical stone interior. It’s a spectacular sight overlooking the blue water.
Add a touch of luxury to your time in Monopoli by going for a drink on the rooftop of the 5-star Don Ferrante Dimore di Charme. Katie and I came here to rest tired feet and sip on Aperol spritz in the most fabulous of settings.
The iconic Truli houses of Alberobello are a must for anyone visiting the region of Puglia. These circular homes with slated dome roofs have become synonymous to the region but can only be found within a 10km radius. The biggest concentration of Truli houses in Alberobello, but you’ll find them spread around the countryside of this area. The village has become increasingly more touristy over the past few years, but it’s still totally worth a visit. There are plenty of places to stop for lunch or a refreshing gelato before hitting the road again.
If you still have more time to spare in Puglia, consider pairing a trip to Monopoli with the nearby Poligna a Mare. Lecce is another beautiful town with great food and restaurants and Bari is a larger town right on the coast. I didn’t visit these places but they were all recommended to us by locals.
How to Get Around
To put it simply, a hire car is the only option in Puglia if you’re looking to travel independently. I was quite apprehensive about driving in Italy before this trip, but the roads are quiet and well sign posted. The freedom of driving definitely added to the fun of our trip, and our routes took us through the most beautiful landscapes and green rolling hills.
Where to Stay
I stayed in two hotels during my trip to Puglia, both of which were perfectly located to visit all of the towns listed in this post (all the towns were between a 15 and 35 minute drive). Although both hotels were luxurious and boutique in style, one was on the beach and the other was in the countryside. It’s a personal choice which style you’d prefer, but I would highly recommend both of them.
Canne Bianche Lifestyle Hotel & Spa, Torre Canne
Canne Bianche Lifestyle Hotel & Spa is a beachfront boutique hotel close to the small town of Torre Canne. It’s whitewashed walls and bright rooms give it the feel of a stylish beach house and has an aura of wellness and calm throughout. The pool area is incredibly chic and has immediate access to the sandy beach. It’s also home to a spa, a bar and has one a la carte restaurant. Expect to dine on fresh seafood, local wines and delicious homemade pasta.
Stay at Canne Bianche with Classic Collection from £869 per person based on 7 nights B&B with flights from Gatwick and private transfers
By staying at Canne Bianche, you can combine busy days of exploring the towns with days of poolside bliss, which I think is a perfect combination for any holiday in Puglia. From the reception to the restaurant, the staff were incredibly helpful and couldn’t do enough to help us plan our stay. If you’re craving ocean views, great food and laid-back Italian living, Canne Bianche is an amazing choice.
2) Masseria Montanepoleone, Pugila
Masseria is the Italian words for farmhouse and this incredible boutique hotel was once a 17th century farmhouse. With only 21 individually designed rooms and suites, Masseria Montanepoleone oozes rustic charm. From the tomatoes on the freshly baked focaccia bread to the olive oil on the tables, everything here is home-grown with love. Masseria Montanepoleone sits on its own private estate, and has a chic pool area for relaxing. For a rustic yet luxurious Italian base, this hotel is a perfect find.
Stay at Masseria Montanapoleone with Classic Collection from £909 per person based on 7 nights B&B with flights from Gatwick and private transfers.
SHOP THE POST
What did you think of my guide to the picturesque towns of Puglia? Are you visiting Puglia soon or has this post inspired you to go? If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, please leave me a comment in the box below. Jess x
Want more Inspiration? Watch my Puglia video diary below.
Need help with your summer holiday wardrobe? Find out What I Wore in Puglia
Many thanks to Hilton Manchester Airport for our comfortable 1 night stay after arriving back from Puglia. Prices start from £100 when booking direct at hilton.com
This post has been sponsored by Classic Collection Holidays. All views and photos are my own.