Puglia is not just the sea: there are millions of things to see. We tell you some, it is up to you to find the others
Puglia , the easternmost region of Italy fascinates with its Mediterranean light, whitewashed villages , paradisiacal beaches , picturesque trulli and wonderful farms immersed in a sea of olive trees.
Puglia is the meeting of East and West, tradition and modernity. A land washed by two seas and in the center of the Mediterranean that enchants any traveler. Here ‘s what to see in Puglia .
WHAT TO SEE IN PUGLIA
- Gargano Peninsula
- Tremiti Islands
- Trani and the Murge
- Valle d’Itria
- Caves of Castellana
- Martina Franca
- Castel del Monte
- Polignano a mare
- Santa Maria di Leuca
- Beaches of Puglia
The capital of Puglia appears stretched out on the Adriatic coast overlooking the Balkans. The city is divided between an old part on the sea and a new part, which dates back to the early nineteenth century, towards the hinterland. Bari fascinates for its contamination between ancient and modern, sacred and profane.
An air of the East can still be breathed in the narrow and winding streets of the old city that recalls the times when Bari was the fundamental hub for trade with the Levant, the main port of embarkation for pilgrims heading to the Holy Land. The best way to discover Bari is on foot.
Then starting from the Swabian Castle, near the majestic Romanesque-Apulian-style Cathedral, you walk through the crowded alleys to the basilica of San Nicola, one of the favorite centers of the Orthodox Church in the West.
Then we arrive at the Imperatore Augusto seafront which follows the course of the ancient walls, between the old and the new port, and which leads to Piazza del Ferrarese.
Old Bari is divided from the new city by Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, where there are two of the most important theaters in the city: the Margherita, now a museum, and the Piccinni, temporarily closed. The other, the famous Petruzzelli theater, overlooks Corso Cavour. From here starts via Sparano, the most elegant of the city.
The Gargano, nicknamed the spur of Italy, coincides with the mountainous promontory that extends into the northern part of Puglia. Semi-surrounded by the Adriatic Sea, but limited to the west by the Tavoliere delle Puglie, the Gargano peninsula includes the Gargano National Park, charming villages and coasts overlooking the sea.
To discover the Gargano you can start from Manfredonia and then continue to Mattinata, the beautiful Baia delle Zagare known for its high white cliffs and the two stacks, Pugnochiuso and Vieste , a picturesque center with narrow alleys and white houses overlooking the sea.
Continue to Peschici, another white village characterized by an intricate network of alleys, stairways, arches and courtyards overlooking the blue of the sea and the marina.
Going further up the coast we arrive at Rodi Garganico, an ancient fishing village defined by many as the “garden of the Gargano”, surrounded by citrus and olive groves, which stands on a promontory overlooking the sea. Do not miss Margherita di Savoia and a visit to the salt pans where pink flamingos come to overwinter.
Finally, trekking lovers can explore the Umbra Forest and climb to Monte Sant’Angelo, where the Sanctuary of San Pio da Pietrelcina is located.
The Tremiti Islands are the only Italian archipelago in the Adriatic Sea and are located off the Gargano. The pearls of the Adriatic offer crystal clear waters, unspoiled nature, low and sandy coastsbut also cliffs overlooking the sea.
The archipelago is made up of five islands: San Domino, San Nicola, Capraia, Cretaccio and Pianosa. San Domino, cloaked in Aleppo pines, is the largest and most beautiful island from a landscape and naturalistic point of view. San Nicola is considered an open-air museum that testifies to the history of the islands: towers, imposing fortifications, walls, churches and cloisters of a fortress-abbey, Santa Maria a Mare, which holds a significant historical and artistic interest.
Capraia is a desert island, inhabited only by a colony of seagulls. Cretaccio, little more than a rock, is a natural bridge between San Domino and San Nicola. Pianosa is the smallest island if we exclude the islets of Cretaccio and La Vecchia. The Tremiti islands can be reached by ferry from Vieste, Peschici or Rodi Garganico.
TRANI AND THE MURGE
Trani is a graceful light stone amphitheater overlooking the harbor. The city was an important commercial port until the sixteenth century, but experienced the period of greatest prosperity under the Swabian domination.
Frederick II granted the city numerous commercial and administrative privileges and promoted the construction of new fortifications, including the Swabian castle which can still be admired today.
Built on the model of the Crusader castles of the Holy Land, with a quadrangular plan, the light stone castle of Trani majestically overlooks the sea. As well as the Romanesque cathedral overlooks the sea.
If you then go inland from Trani you will reach the Altopiano delle Murge , a limestone plateau that extends between Puglia and Basilicata, up to the Serre Salentine.
Altamura is worth a visit, where you can admire the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, an example of Apulian Romanesque, built in 1232 by the Emperor Frederick II of Swabia.
Don’t forget to taste the Altamura bread, famous all over the world. Continue to Gravina in Puglia, seat of the Alta Murgia National Park. The peculiarity here are the so-called ravines of the Murgia, erosive incisions even more than 100 meters deep, very similar to canyons, dug by meteoric waters into the limestone rock.
Not far away is Castel del Monte , a magical fortress of the thirteenth century, built by Frederick II, in the plateau of the western Murge.
Elected a World Heritage Site by Unesco, the castle is known for its octagonal shape and its astrological symbolism. For this reason, it is thought that the castle could have been a sort of temple, or perhaps a kind of temple of knowledge, in which to devote oneself undisturbed to the study of sciences.
Monopoli is an ancient Apulian town overlooking the Adriatic Sea, located in the province of Bari, between Salento and the Itria Valley.
The origins of Monopoli should go back to a mighty Messapian fortress located on the border of Peucezia, as today’s Land of Bari was called before the Roman conquest. Then repopulated in the Middle Ages by the exiles of the destroyed Egnazia, Monopoli was already remembered as a flourishing seafaring city in the Byzantine and Norman age.
It was a bishopric from the 11th century, dominion of the Venetians and the Spaniards who left their mark on the Apulian city. Monopoli, today is known for its splendid coastal coastline where there are countless coves hidden among the rocks and lapped by a crystalline sea.
The old port of Monopoli is the gateway to the city for those arriving from the sea. It is an ancient natural harbor surrounded by historic pale stone buildings with Venetian, Gothic and Byzantine architectural resonances. Then you walk along the ancient walls and if you continue along the seafront you will notice some of the historic towers of the city.
Thus you enter the historic center between narrow streets paved with chianche (limestone slabs), arches and alleys, dominated by the cathedral of Santa Maria della Madia with its monumental façade and the baroque bell tower.
Finally, on the promontory called Punta Penna stands the castle of Charles V which has the pentagonal shape, typical of sixteenth-century fortresses.
Trulli, farms, white villages and a sea of olive trees, this is the postcard we have in mind when we think of the Itria Valley.
Geographically it is a portion of central Puglia between Bari, Brindisi and Taranto. It constitutes the southern part of the Murge plateau which gradually descends towards the Adriatic Sea and is also known as the Valley of the Trulli.
The typical cone-shaped stone houses that express the genius and creativity of its inhabitants are scattered throughout the Valle d’Itria but the greatest concentration is found in the triangle between Cisternino, Martina Franca and Alberobello , where there are 1500.
Today the trulli are recognized as a World Heritage Site by Unesco, many of which have been converted into boutique hotels and popular hotels.
Furthermore, the Valle d’Itria is a karst depression that extends between scenic whitewashed villages, including in addition to Cisternino and Alberobello it is worth seeing Locorotondo , another of the ” most beautiful villages in Italy”Which will amaze you with its circular shape and the narrow streets arranged in a concentric way from which the name originates. Do not miss Ostuni, the wonderful white city.
Perched on three hills, Ostuni is a picturesque medieval village that offers enchanting views of the sea, walking through alleys, steep stairways, courtyards, squares, white houses, Baroque and Rococo facades, shops, remains of the Aragonese walls, artisan shops and inviting taverns.
Valle d’Itria is a magical land to be discovered in freedom, wandering to discover these wonderful villages built on the hills to defend themselves from enemy attacks, beaches and coves of the Adriatic coast, narrow streets bordered by dry stone walls between expanses of olive trees. ‘eye.
Always considered the Gateway to the East, Salento is a magical land of sea, sun and wind. It is a subregion of southern Puglia which constitutes the heel of the Italian boot. Bathed by the Ionian Sea to the west and the Adriatic Sea to the east, the Salento peninsula is known for the most beautiful beaches in Italy.
Between the high and rocky coast of the East and the low and sandy coast of the West, a sea of olive trees, dry stone walls, farms, baroque cities and millenary villages. A land dominated by Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Swabians, Angevins and Aragonese, Salento is a treasure trove of history, art, culture, wild nature and good cuisine.
Then leave from Lecce , the city of baroque and stone embroidery, capital of the homonymous province and cultural center of Salento, nicknamed “the Florence of the south”.
Lecce amazes with its artistic and architectural beauties of the center, where works of art from the Roman, medieval and Renaissance periods meet. But the city is characterized by the baroque, an architectural style that spread to Lecce in the seventeenth century, during the Spanish domination, and was interpreted in such an original way as to give rise to the definition of “Lecce baroque”.
Then Otranto , “the easternmost point of Italy, has been a port city for millennia”, said the Yugoslavian writer Predrag Matvejevic.
Its ancient archaeological finds tell of trade with Greece, Crete and all the civilizations of the Mediterranean. Inserted in the list of the “most beautiful villages in Italy”, as well as being a Unesco heritage site, Otranto blinds you with its Mediterranean light when you walk in the historic center, between cobbled streets, alleys that lead to the sea, the intersection with the balls of granite of the Saracen bombards and the tour Puglia of the ramparts.
The southernmost inhabited center of Puglia is Santa Maria di Leuca , the last bastion of Salento, where the Adriatic Sea meets the Ionian Sea, therefore known in ancient times as the finis terrae. A few kilometers away are the mythical Maldives of Salento, including the beautiful beach of Pescoluse .
On the Ionian coast, on the other hand, there is Gallipoli , an enchanting city about 40 km from Lecce. Gallipoli is divided into two areas: the historic center, which stands on a limestone island, and the new village, connected to the island by a brick bridge dating back to the seventeenth century.
In internal Salento, on the other hand, villages such as Presicce, the city of oil and hypogea, Specchia, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, Acaya, one of the least known of Salento, but also Galatina, Nardò and Calimera stand out.
Known for Ilva, Taranto is a surprise that will make you put aside any prejudice. The maze of alleys in the center, under which centuries-old hypogea dug into the rock are hidden, guard fascinating churches, cloisters and noble palaces.
At the MArTa museum, which houses one of the most important archaeological collections in Europe, you will rediscover the story of when the Greeks landed on this land between two seas and transformed it into a thriving trading center in the Mediterranean.
Then discover the old city, the ancient Greek acropolis, built on an island artificially created by the Aragonese by cutting the isthmus that connected it to the mainland to better defend it from Turkish incursions and to connect the waters of the Mar Piccolo and the Mar Grande. The new city, with its orthogonal layout.
WHAT TO SEE IN PUGLIA IN 5 DAYS
5 days is not enough to discover the most beautiful things to see in Puglia, but we can do our best to explore some of the most beautiful places in the region.
Among the things to see absolutely in a 5-day trip to Puglia are the Alta Murgia National Park and Monopoli with its surroundings. Polignano a mare , perched on a rocky promontory, is one of the most beautiful seaside villages in Italy.
Visit the Salento coast from Lecce to Santa Maria di Leuca and if you have some time left, don’t miss the trulli region with Alberobello and the most beautiful villages in the Itria Valley.
BEACHES OF PUGLIA
But let’s move on to the highlight of Puglia: the beaches and the sea . Bathed by the Adriatic and Ionian, the coast of Puglia is the perfect place for summer holidays. The coast of the Gargano is indented and the golden beaches alternate with the white cliffs fringed by the stacks (here you will find all the beaches of the Gargano ).
The beaches of Salento are known all over the world for their crystal clear water and white sand. In addition to the sandy beaches there are the tuff cliffs and limestone cliffs that create natural pools and incredible turquoise sceneries. Below you will find some of the most beautiful beaches in Puglia:
- # 1 Pizzomunno beach
It is the beach of Vieste, famous for its white monolith and for a curious legend. Max Gazzè dedicated a song to her in Sanremo.
- # 2 Cave of Poetry
The Grotta della Poesia is located in Roca Vecchia, in Salento. It is a circular opening in the rock that forms a natural pool. It communicates with a smaller cave. In the first there is a small beach, in the second there are the remains of the passage of an ancient Salento civilization, the Messapi.
- # 3 Maldives of Salento
They are called this because the crystal clear water and white sand of this area really make you think of the Maldives. There is a bathhouse which is called the Maldives of Salento.
- # 4 Baia dei Turchi
It is a tuff cliff protected by a large pine forest. The tuff eroded by the sea forms pools and bays and is a great place to lie in the sun.
- # 5 Torre dell’Orso
In Torre dell’Orso, in Salento, there is an easily accessible white beach. Two similar stacks that look like two sisters look at it from afar.