Rich in fine architecture, heavenly beaches and culinary delights, Puglia is the very definition of a dream destination. This Italian region forms the heel of the country’s boot-like shape. Naturally, it enjoys all the local flavours and ingredients that Italy is known for, and this makes it ideal for a self-catering holiday.
With so much to see and do, you’ll want the flexibility that self-catered accommodation provides. That way, you’ll be able to discover more of this stunning part of Italy. Without further ado, here’s the best places to visit in Puglia that you really don’t want to miss.
Here we have a beautiful port town simply full of memorable experiences. Visit Bari Vecchia, the medieval old town, and watch its residents making orecchiette pasta. This pasta, typical of Puglia, is incredibly well suited to self-catering holidays. With a bag of orecchiette and a few simple ingredients, you can whip up a tasty and traditional dinner in a matter of minutes, leaving even more time to explore.
The Basilica di San Nicola holds the final resting place of Saint Nicholas, the man who became the model for Santa Clause, and is well worth visiting. After this, relax at the Pane e Pomodoro beach or get cultured at the Teatro Petruzzelli opera house, the fourth largest theatre in Italy.
Altamura is an old city, featuring Roman and Gothic architecture, and a must-see for anyone visiting Puglia. It’s also home to (arguably) some of the tastiest bread in Italy – focaccia, frisella (crunchy, oven baked wheat dough), puccia (stuffed pizza dough) and ‘Altamura bread’ (traditional Apulian bread). Buy a few different varieties and make a mouth-wateringly tasty packed lunch. As you wander the streets of Altamura, be sure to visit the fascinating Altamura Cathedral – a Roman Catholic structure dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
This fairy-tale-esque town is made up of over 1000 Apulian, cone-shaped huts that were built entirely with stone. These houses, known as trulli, have limestone roofs, giving them a rustic – but wholly photogenic – appearance. Close to here, you’ll find Castellana Caves. Take an insightful guided tour through the caves and travel more than 60 metres below the ground – if you’re brave enough!
Puglia holidays aren’t complete without a visit to Lecce. Often referred to as the ‘Florence of the South’ because of its dramatic baroque architecture, this city is packed with iconic sights. The Roman Amphitheatre here is one such attraction, and it occasionally plays host to plays and concerts, gifting you an idyllic chance to bask in its glory. Wonder around the town, then stop off at a bakery and buy a slice of pasticciotto, one of Lecce’s signature delicacies.
Not far from here, there’s Otranto, a town best known for being the setting of Horace Walpole’s pioneering gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto. The history of the city’s real castle, however, certainly rivals Walpole’s story – visit for yourself to see why. Dedicate a few hours to unwinding at the Maldives of Salento, too. These sandy strips are renowned far beyond Italian borders, and are perfect for a spot of sunbathing.
Want to read up about more Villa Plus destinations? Take a look over at the blog.
By Arianne Fabrice, a travel journalist who specialises in the popular resort destinations in and around Europe. Having worked for some of Paris’ premium travel mags, she’s recently moved into English-language publications.