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Puglia, also called Apulia, is a region in southern Italy, that sits in Italy’s heel alongside the Adriatic Sea. Whether you’re visiting Italy for the first time or you’re a regular visitor, you may have noticed Puglia is having its moment in the sun. Before you begin planning your journey to this delightful region of Italy, get some inspiration from some of the gorgeous Puglia towns that you can visit.
From Puglia’s capital city, Bari, to Alberobello and Polignano a Mare, each town is extraordinary in its own right, offering unique experiences, cuisine and architecture — you’ll definitely struggle to pick a favorite. Whitewashed buildings, winding streets, Baroque buildings, and delicious food are just some of our favorite things you can encounter in Puglia’s beautiful towns.
Major Towns in Puglia, Italy
There is no denying that Puglia is a treasure trove of fantastic towns and cities. Bari and Lecce are two of the most populated cities and popular with visitors, boasting iconic sites you won’t want to miss.
When you visit Puglia, you can’t skip the region’s capital city. Bari has been occupied since approximately 1500 BC and has since blossomed into the largest port city on the Adriatic coast. Puglia cities like this are filled with rich history and culture, mouth-watering food, and plenty to see and do within the town’s walls.
Bari Old Town is one of our favorite places to visit thanks to its labyrinth of narrow alleyways, historical buildings, and impressive cathedrals. The Basilica Cattedrale Metropolitana Primaziale (Bari Cathedral) and Basilica San Nicola are two of the most notable sites.
The Piazza Mercantile has been a central location since the 14th century and is surrounded by impressive residences, including the Palazzo del Sedile. Then there is also the Medieval castle, Castello Svevo di Bari, just a short walk from Bari Cathedral.
The old town is the perfect place to experience local cuisine and learn from the women along the streets of Bari Vecchia who make the region’s popular orecchiette pasta.
Where to Stay
Enjoy a wonderful blend of modern luxury and comfort at The Nicolaus Hotel in Bari’s residential area of Poggiofranco.
This city in Puglia is nothing short of breathtaking. Often called the “Florence of the South”, Lecce is deemed one of the most romantic places in Italy. Experience the culture of southern Puglia, exceptional views, superb wine and food, and unique local crafts, including stone carving and papier-mâché.
Lecce is home to several unique architectural features, including many Baroque churches scattered across the city. The most impressive are the Basilica di Santa Croce and the Catedral de la Asunción de Santa Maria (Lecce Cathedral).
The Centro Storico (historic center) sports many buildings in the classic Baroque architectural style that the city is known for and has fantastic restaurants, like Osteria degli Spiriti and Nonna Tetti. You’ll also find some lovely piazzas, including central Piazza del Duomo. Lecce also holds the remnants of a Roman Amphitheater that seated an estimated 15,000 people in its heyday.
Where to Stay
Palazzo San Lazzaro is a comfy and attractive accommodation ideally located just a few minutes from local hotspots, like Piazza Sant’Oronzo, in the city center.
Inland Towns in Puglia, Italy
Imagine sitting on a hill overlooking Valle d’itria (Itria Valley) and the breathtaking surrounding countryside, taking in the views of olive groves and the distant Adriatic Sea. Well, that’s what these hilltop towns in Puglia have to offer.
Ostuni is nicknamed “the White City” for its stark white buildings clustered together on the hill. It is undoubtedly one of Puglia’s most beautiful towns. Centuries ago, the old city was built on a hill to protect its citizens from invasion. Nowadays, it’s easy to get lost amongst the narrow streets and whitewashed houses in Ostuni and its Centro Storico.
Ostuni isn’t quite as popular as more prominent cities in Puglia, but don’t let that deter you from visiting the picturesque destination. Along the town’s outskirts, you can look up the hill to see some of the most spectacular sunset views.
Duomo di Ostuni (Ostuni Cathedral) sits at the top of the hill and brilliantly showcases Romanesque and Gothic architecture, not to mention views of the countryside. There are also several small boutiques, and restaurants dotted across the town to check out.
Where to Stay
Casa Sea la Vie is a fabulous holiday home in the white city of Ostuni that boasts a rustic and charming interior design with bright pops of color.
Your Puglia itinerary wouldn’t be complete without visiting Alberobello in Valle d’itria (Itria Valley) named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996 for its Trulli dotted across the hillside.
The rounded white Trulli houses date back to the 14th century and were initially used as storage and living space for agricultural workers. Interestingly, the cheap materials used to build these homes meant they were easy to take down if needed and were intended to reduce dreaded taxation costs.
Besides the traditional dwellings, Alberobello is surrounded by lush olive groves, which make for some Instagram-worthy photos. The Rione Monti area has small souvenir shops that sell lovely handcrafted goods from the locals. Don’t forget to visit the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua and Alberobello in Miniature.
Where to Stay
Trullo Alfieri offers a quiet retreat within the traditional housing style of the town, where you can enjoy picturesque garden views that make for an enchanting visit.
Altamura is an ancient city with a rich history and abundant architectural marvels that everyone should see on their Puglia trip. Not only that, but it’s popular amongst archaeology enthusiasts following the discovery of the “Man of Altamura.” This fossil is 130,000 years old and is one of the most well-preserved Neanderthals to date.
You can learn about the “Man of Altamura” at the Altamura National Archaeology Museum. If that isn’t up your alley, there’s still the Cattedrale di Altamura (Altamura Cathedral) that dates back to the 13th century, plus many other significant buildings in the Centro Storico (historic center).
The town is also known for Pane di Altamura (bread of Altamura). This distinct bread’s crisp outer shell and soft interior come from a centuries-old recipe. The European Union has even awarded the bread the Protected Designation of Origin status.
Where to Stay
Modern luxury and private gardens and terraces await you at Fuori le Mura. This hotel is conveniently located near the Altamura National Archaeological Museum.
Beach Towns in Puglia, Italy
Coastal Pugliese towns, reaching from the Salento region to the Gargano Peninsula, offer more than just views of the Adriatic and Ionian Sea. Here you find some of the best beach towns to see when visiting Puglia.
Monopoli is right on the spectacular coastline and is home to some absolutely beautiful beaches. The walled city has architecture reminiscent of the Middle Ages, with towering castles and impressive ancient buildings.
The historic port city offers the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic coast. The location is perfect for swimming and sourcing seafood, but the cuisine here has so much more to offer. From local cheeses like Canestrato Pugliese to catch of the day fresh seafood, there’s always something delicious to try at the many bars and restaurants in town. Trattoria La Locanda dei Mercanti is one of our favorite places to try local fish dishes.
Monopoli has a strong cultural heritage which you can discover at several sites including the Basilica of the Madonna della Madia (Monopoli Cathedral), Castello di Carlo, and Il Bastione del Molino Ruins. Ancient history lovers should visit the Chiesa di San Salvatore, the oldest church in Monopoli, from around 313 AD, though be warned, if you’re easily the church of Santa Maria del Suffragio o del Purgatorio is home to skeletons and skulls on full display.
Where to Stay
Casa EXUMA offers a gorgeous modern design and is nice and close to local beaches, including Cala Suschetta Beach, just 0.37 miles away from the hotel.
Polignano a Mare
Polignano a Mare is one of the most visited locations in Puglia. The town dates back to the 4th century BC and is a charming town with wonderful beaches and views of the Adriatic Sea to tempt you.
Polignano a Mare is perhaps best known for its rocky limestone sea cliffs and the famous Cala Porto beach. Surrounded by cliff faces and Medieval-style buildings on either side of its cove, Cala Porto beach is the place to go to watch daring cliff divers, take a dip in the sea or simply enjoy the views.. When you’re done soaking up some sun, you can head into town to explore the sites.
The main square, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, has plenty of restaurants and bars to grab a bite of local cuisine and have some drinks. Polignano a Mare is also known for its delicious, fresh focaccia bread. The town also has a contemporary art museum, the Fondazione Museo Pino Pascali to explore if you’re an art lover.
Where to Stay
If you want a well-decorated, sustainable place to stay near the Centro Storico of Polignano a Mare with gorgeous views of the Adriatic Sea and a private beach, then Echi di Puglia Marsento is for you.
Sitting in northern Puglia lies the “Pearl of the Gargano”, known as Vieste. Whether you want to walk along a sandy beach or explore hidden sea caves along the coast, it’s safe to say Vieste has something for everyone.
You can find Baroque and Romanesque architecture throughout the Vieste, including the 11th-century Concattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta (Vieste Cathedral). Being in the Gargano Peninsula, there are also lovely mountain-top views, small villages, and even the Gargano National Park to explore.
LIke in all places in Puglia, there is exceptional food and wine to enjoy. However, the highlight of Vieste is the sea caves, beaches, and grottoes. It’s worth taking a boat ride through these enchanting locations beneath rocky cliffs along the coast, including the popular Baia delle Zagare.
Where to Stay
Piazzetta Petrone Apartments boasts some incomparable ocean views and is within walking distance from Pizzomunno and San Lorenzo Beach.
Trani is an enchanting seaport city found along the Adriatic coast. While some Puglian towns cater more towards large crowds of tourists, Trani brings a more serene atmosphere.
Being a seaside town, the seafood there is out of this world, so try restaurants on the edge of the waterfront, like Le Lampare al Fortino or Osteria La Banchina. There are also many impressive sites and buildings, like the Basílica Catedral de San Nicolás Peregrino (Trani Cathedral), which sits on the edge of the bay overlooking the ocean.
Trani Centro Storico, particularly the Jewish quarter, has some impressive historical buildings like the Scolanova Synagogue or Castello Svevo di Trani. Chiesa d’Ognissanti (Church of Ognissanti), built by the Knights of Templar, is another worthwhile visit.
Where to Stay
La Bachina Holiday Rooms is located in Trani’s historic center and offers modern comfort, excellent decor, and access to lush amenities.
Gallipoli is a gorgeous beach town in the Salento region. Its large fortresses and fortified old town walls are instantly recognizable. One of the more imposing sites is Castello Angioino di Gallipoli (Gallipoli Castle), which overlooks the bay area.
The Salento Peninsula is known for its incomparable beaches, and Spaggia della Purita (Beach of Purity) in Gallipoli is no exception. The sandy beach is a great place to catch some sun and relax while admiring the unique natural surroundings.
The Basilica Cattedrale di Sant’Agata (Gallipoli Cathedral) is located at the very southern tip of Gallipoli and showcases the Romanesque and Baroque architecture that Puglia is known for. You’ll find museums and fantastic local markets, like Gallipoli Fish Market and Cuore Salentino, selling anything from seafood to souvenirs.
Where to Stay
Dimora Nova offers unique and charming accommodation near notable spots such as Castello di Gallipoli and Gallipoli Cathedral.
Otranto – another must-add to your Puglia itinerary — was once an important port and commercial hotspot; today, this seaside town has a wonderful blend of history and scenic beauty.
The Centro Storico is enclosed by imposing fortified walls built after the Ottoman conquest of Otranto in the 1400s. Then, in the old town, you’ll find impressive historical monuments, including the Monument to the Martyrs of Otranto.
What is a Puglian town without some architectural masterpieces? Otranto has excellent locations like Castello Aragonese, Cattedrale di Santa Maria Annunziata (Otranto Cathedral), and the Chiesa di San Pietro (Church of San Pietro).
If that wasn’t enough, there are plenty of natural sites to explore. The Alimini Lakes Nature Reserve is technically 10 minutes out of the town but well worth the visit.
Where to Stay
MARIMAR Apartments Otranto is incredible accommodation with charming and cozy rooms, not to mention exquisite coastal views.
Towns in Puglia, Italy – Wrapped Up
There you have it – these phenomenal Puglia towns perfectly combine Italian charm and stunning scenery. From the enchanting streets of Bari and Polignano a Mare to the Trulli-dotted Alberobello, you’re bound to have some unbelievable experiences.
So, whether savoring the delicate flavors of locally-produced olive oil or exploring historic architecture, you’ll never fall short of things to do in Puglia. Now, what are you waiting for? It’s time to plan your trip to Italy to visit these idyllic Puglian towns.