| |

The Best Areas to Stay in Puglia: The Ultimate Guide

Sharing is caring!

Puglia is a great choice for an Italian vacation destination. The hardest part of planning a trip to Puglia is the itinerary. Discovering the best area to stay in Puglia and the best spots to visit in Puglia is a challenge. With so many beautiful choices and unmissable towns it can be overwhelming–especially because Puglia is not as well known as spots such as Tuscany or Rome. 

Puglia is a great choice for an Italian vacation destination if you’re looking for la dolce vita and a slower pace of life. Because Puglia’s not as well known as other regions in Italy, it makes for an authentic and quiet vacation. In fact, when we did see tourists, they were all European. We were always the only ones speaking English, and without any other Americans around, there was a more authentic charm to our trip. 

As I said, with so many beautiful spots and small, must-see towns, it can be overwhelming to choose the best area to stay in Puglia and the best spots to visit. 

So where’s the best area to stay when you’re traveling in Puglia?

It’s not like Rome or Florence where there’s the must-do tourist activities and hot spots. Coming up with a workable itinerary often plagues travelers looking to experience the region’s charm. But don’t let it hold you back! Having done the research, I made an itinerary for my trip, and now through experience I can confidently suggest the best areas to visit and stay to enjoy the magic of Puglia. 

Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot, is a blend of towns on the Adriatic Sea.

The region is full of tranquil countryside, crystal clear waters that line the coast, olive groves stretching as far as the eye can see, and architecture that tells stories of a bygone era. The people are the warmest and friendliest I’ve met in all of Italy, and the history is rich. It’s a culture that embraces the Italian lifestyle and la dolce far niente. 

The best area and spots to visit in Puglia, Italy

The Best Area to Stay in Puglia is Monopoli

Nestled along the Adriatic coast, the town of Monopoli is a hidden gem in Puglia. It’s increasingly gaining popularity as an ideal base for exploring the region. Monopoli offers the perfect blend of seaside charm and accessibility to Puglia’s most renowned attractions. On my trip to Puglia, we spent a week in Monopoli, using it as a home base for day trips. Not only was it a perfect central location, but I fell in love with Monopoli and have decided that I want to retire there. 

Why Monopoli is a Perfect Home Base for Puglia

While popular towns like Alberobello and Polignano a Mare often get crowded, especially in peak seasons, Monopoli remains relatively less touristy. It’s an authentic Puglian experience, allowing travelers to enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere without missing out on vibrant local life.

Monopoli offers the convenience of city amenities and the charm of a coastal town, making it an excellent home base for day trips around the region.

Whether you’re soaking in the historic beauty of its streets, indulging in exquisite food, or hopping on a train to your next Puglian adventure, Monopoli provides a perfect backdrop for a memorable Italian holiday.

Monopoli’s central location is conveniently situated within an hour’s drive of major Puglian sights.

This proximity makes it ideal for day trips to locations like Alberobello, Ostuni, and even the Salento area. Day trips are more convenient than lugging your bags all around the region and checking in and out of hotels. Monopoli is well-connected by Puglia’s regional rail network, making it easy for travelers to venture out.  You can rent a car, hire a car, or take a boat to see the sights. And for that reason, I recommend Monopoli as the best area to stay in Puglia. 

Best Spots to Stay or Take a Day Trip to in Puglia

Lecce: The Florence of the South 

The city of Lecce, located right on the heel of the “boot,” is known for its Baroque architecture, earning it the nickname “The Florence of the South.” The city is full of beautiful history, elaborate churches, and lots of sightseeing. The winding streets are like a labyrinth from a quintessential Italian postcard.  While Lecce is a captivating destination in its own right, its southern location does make it less central for exploring other Puglian towns. You should stay a few nights here rather than use it as a hub for day trips.

Alberobello: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Famous for its trulli, which are traditional Apulian dry stone huts with conical roofs, Alberobello is a must-visit and continues to grow in popularity. Staying in Alberobello is like stepping into a fairy tale. It’s perfect for those seeking a unique cultural experience. You simply cannot go to Puglia without seeing Alberobello. Because it can easily be seen in a day, you could just do a day trip here. I spent the day here exploring the trulli, taking a cooking class (check it out here), and then enjoying an aperitif in the center of town. 

Polignano a Mare: Coastal Beauty

Polignano a Mare is renowned for its breathtaking cliffside views and beaches. It’s ideal for beach lovers and adventure seekers. This area offers stunning sea views, boat tours, and a lively culinary scene. On my trip to Puglia we saw Polignano a Mare by boat. This way, you get to see all the beautiful cliff sides without having to spend the time driving to the city. I loved every second of this and would highly recommend it if you’re trying to spend your time wisely. You can easily do a day trip here, or stay a few days somewhere on the water to soak in the beauty of the coast. 

Ostuni: The White City

Known as “La Città Bianca” for its white-painted architecture, Ostuni offers a picturesque hilltop setting. Ostuni is perfect for those who enjoy a blend of beach proximity and historical charm. Its hilltop location offers stunning views of the Adriatic. I only spent a few hours in Ostuni as a day trip, but for my next trip to Puglia I would definitely spend a few days here. It’s a wonderful representation of the best elements of Puglia–stunning buildings and seaside views. 

Bari: The Cosmopolitan Heart of Puglia 

Bari, the bustling capital of Puglia, offers a unique blend of urban energy and historical charm, making it a compelling base for exploring the region. As Puglia’s transport hub, Bari provides excellent flight, train, bus, and ferry connections. 

I flew from Rome to Bari on my last trip and then ventured out. I would highly recommend flying into Bari and then staying a few nights in this amazing city. The old town, Bari Vecchia, features historical landmarks like the Basilica of Saint Nicholas. It’s truly a must-see. Bari’s street food and traditional Puglian cuisine draw food lovers from all over the globe. 

When you’ve been traveling around Italy for a bit and are on the hunt for a larger bed and more modern hotel–this is the city for it. Bari is a wonderful Puglian city that’s authentic, with a street full of nonnas making homemade orecchiette, but it’s also large enough that it has the highest number of upscale hotels in the region–something that you can really appreciate after sleeping several nights on a small Italian bed. 

Bari’s location offers easy access to beautiful beaches and towns like Polignano a Mare and Monopoli, making it ideal for day trips. Combining a vibrant urban atmosphere with rich cultural heritage, Bari is more than just a gateway to Puglia; it’s a destination that offers an authentic Italian urban experience with the convenience of exploring the region’s coastal and rural highlights.

Martina Franca: A Hidden Gem in the Heart of Puglia

Nestled in the rolling hills of the Itria Valley, Martina Franca is a picturesque town. Although it’s less traveled than the others, it’s special in its own right. The town is renowned for its annual summer opera festival, the Festival della Valle d’Itria, which attracts music lovers worldwide. Martina Franca is known for its stunning baroque and rococo architecture. The town’s Basilica di San Martino (tickets are only a few euros) and Palazzo Ducale (free to visit) are just a couple of the architectural sites to see. If you’re looking to get away from tourists, Martina Franca offers the perfect Puglian experience.

Martina Franca is peaceful, but it’s not on the coast. Its hilltop location offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside, ideal for those seeking a blend of relaxation and exploration. It’s a perfect stop for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in the region’s rich heritage and tranquil rural life. If you’re a wine lover, you have to make a stop to I Pastini. This winery is not only breathtaking, but the wine is incredible. You can do a tasting, buy a few bottles to take home, and even sponsor a vine. I still order I Pastini wine to this day.

Traveling to Puglia, Italy was hands down one of the greatest trips of my lifetime. 

Everything in Puglia is unforgettable–from the views, to the food, to the people. Wherever you decide to go in Puglia, make sure you schedule time for slow Italian living. This is what Puglia is truly about and the way to absorb the Puglian culture. If you want to read more about my experience in Puglia, read about my time in Monopoli and Alberobello. Leave me a comment with questions and any feedback you have from your own trip to Puglia. 

By Jillian Minter

Similar Posts