Planning to visit the “Heel of the Boot” and wondering what to do in Puglia? I have some great ideas for your trip!
My Recommendations: 10 Things to Do in Puglia
Gorgeous beaches, charming little villages, breathtaking cliffs, and delectable local food.
Puglia has many things to be proud of, and no wonder why for Italians, it’s one of the best places in Italy.
Even though the region has often been overshadowed by more popular destinations like the Amalfi coast, you should visit Puglia at least once in your life.
And if you’re already planning to do so, this article will help you to plan your trip.
This September, Puglia was a beautiful discovery for me, and I’m eager to share with you the things that fulfilled my trip.
So, here they are, 10 things to do in Puglia to enjoy it to the fullest!
I love the idea of slow traveling, and this list was made in accordance with this philosophy.
I included many of Puglia’s hidden gems and intentionally left out popular cities. My goal is to offer you ideas that Italians are fond of to make your experience as authentic as possible.
1. Go Snorkeling in Torre Sant’Andrea
Puglia has many stunning places, and Torre Sant’Andrea is definitely one of them.
This scenic beach with unique rock formations and caves is located on the Adriatic coast, not that far from Otranto. When you see the sea, you won’t be able to believe your eyes.
The crystal water has a gradient of blue color that changes depending on the light. So gorgeous!
Torre Sant’Andrea is an excellent place for swimming and especially snorkeling (don’t forget your water shoes!). The most fascinating part is that while you’re swimming with your mask on, the water is deep.
But the closer you get to a cave, the shallower it becomes, and at some point, you’ll be able to stand up in the water!
Torre Sant’Andrea may not offer you a relaxing beach time but a more adventure-like experience instead.
However, you can still sunbathe on the rocks. Trust me, it’s not as uncomfortable as you imagine!
2. Try a Delicious Flatbread Schiaccina
Do you know how to make swimming and snorkeling in Torre Sant’Andrea even better? Just add to that a delicious lunch at the seaside!
After you’ve been enjoying your time on the rocky beach for several hours, I bet you’ll probably be starving (at least I was!). Therefore, head to a pizzeria called Babilonia, which is less than 10 minutes away from the cliff.
You can opt for pizza, but I highly recommend trying their specialty, flatbread called schiaccina.
There are various fillings to any taste, and I had mine with tomatoes, speck (cured meat), mozzarella, mushrooms, and rucola. It was scrumptious!
At first, I mistakenly assumed that schiaccina was Puglia’s flatbread, but I was wrong. Schiaccina’s origins come from Tuscany, but the pizzeria did a great job of cooking it well.
So, even though it’s not a regional specialty, give it a try!
3. Get Lost in the Little Streets of Locorotondo
Usually, when people hear Puglia, they instantly think of Bari, Alberobello, or Lecce. However, Puglia has so many hidden gems that may surprise you with its unique beauty.
Locorotondo is one of them.
The history of this gorgeous town dates back to the third century, and it’s difficult to believe considering what great conditions the city is in.
Every street is well-preserved and polished, while houses are decorated with flowers that beautifully contrast with the white color of the walls.
Locorotondo is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, and unlike Alberobello, has fewer tourists.
If you’re wondering what to do in Locorotondo, my advice is just to wander around!
So, take a walk to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, visit Chiesa Madre di San Giorgio, and admire the frescoes in Chiesa di San Nicola. And don’t forget to try a local wine called Bianco Locorotondo DOC!
4. Give Pizza With Pistacchio Cream a Try
Pizza in Italy is like the “holy grail,” and Puglia offers its visitors inventive and creative toppings to try.
One unusual combination I had during my holiday in Puglia was Napoli pizza with pomodori secchi (dried tomatoes), burrata cheese, mortadella, and pistacchio cream.
I know you may ask, “sorry, what?” But hear me out!
The pizza’s dough was light with slightly crispy borders, just like Napoli pizza should have. With regard to the topping, all ingredients fit really well, and pistacchio cream added this original flavor.
Besides, pomodori secchi and burrata cheese are typical products of Puglia. And this means that the quality of those products is just unbeatable!
So, if you want to taste something, I would even dare to say, extraordinary, give this pizza a try.
I had mine in Il Vizio Pizzeria in the little town of Melpignano, but I’m pretty sure you can find it anywhere in Puglia.
5. Visit the “White City” of Italy
White here, white there, white everywhere.
Ostuni is an entirely white city that looks more Greek than Italian. And there is an easy explanation for that.
According to the legend, in the 8th century, the city was established by the Greek tribe called Messapii. They gave the city the name Astynéon, which in Greek means “a new city,” and allegedly, they were the ones who painted houses white.
Even though today, white color gives the city an aesthetic and even miraculous look, back in the day, it was chosen for strictly practical reasons.
Limestone, which mixed with water became white, actually had an antibacterial effect and protected the city from the plague.
The tradition of painting houses white remained, and today, the government even gives money to house owners to keep their estates in pristine condition.
Leaving history aside, Ostuni is Puglia’s hidden gem. It’s quite small but has some fascinating cultural heritage, and you can explore it in half a day just strolling through the maze of alleys.
So, if you’re wondering which places to visit in Puglia during your vacation, don’t forget to add Ostuni to your list.
6. Go Sunbathing in the Italian Maldives
What can be better than spending several thoughtless days on the beach? I can tell you. Nothing!
Puglia, with an abundance of beaches, is an excellent place to get lazy and leave all your worries behind.
So, if you’re wondering what to do in Puglia, head to one of the most famous places called Maldive del Salento, which literally translates as “the Maldives of Salento.”
As you’ve probably guessed, the place got this name for its fantastic sandy beaches and crystal clear blue water that reminds the tropical beauty of Maldives.
Maldive del Salento isn’t one beach but a 6 kilometers long coastline between Torre Pali and Torre Vado. In the peak season (from July to August), Torre Pali can get quite packed, but don’t worry!
To avoid crowds, just walk 100 meters north to Spiaggia dell’Isola della Fanciulla. Or, choose Torre Vado instead.
The latter is known for its serene atmosphere, where you can sunbathe, calmly read your book, and fully immerse yourself in the tranquility.
7. Get Inspired By Nardò‘s Architecture
The city is as beautiful as heaven. That was my thought when I visited Nardò, a charming little town in the province of Lecce.
Historically, Nardò had been conquered by Romans, Greeks, Byzantines, Normans, and many other powerful nations. And that’s what you can still witness in its architecture.
What did catch my eye in the first place was the Baroque splendor on every street. Piazza Salandra, Guglia dell’Immacolata, Piazza San Domenico, Fontana del Toro, and many other sights in Nardò looked like a true masterpieces!
Architecture is definitely what makes Nardò stand out, but that’s not the only jewel of the city.
Nardò is a fantastic destination for a relaxing vacation on the beach. So, whether you are looking for sandy shores or prefer wild and unspoiled beaches instead, Nardò has it all!
8. Say Yes to Aperitivo!
It’s late afternoon. You’ve already gone to the beach or explored the hidden gems of Puglia. So, what should you do next?
Let me help you with that. It’s aperitivo time!
Aperitivo is more than just a cocktail and appetizer platter. It’s a true ritual with everything Italians dearly love: a good drink, delicious food, and great company.
Besides, it’s just a splendid way to get ready for dinner.
The bitter taste of cocktails served during aperitivo stimulates an appetite. And you’ll magically discover that you still have space for pasta and dessert after you finish the drink with snacks.
So, what exactly can you expect from aperitivo in Puglia?
Aperol Spritz and Negroni are the most traditional cocktails that I highly recommend. But if you’re not a fan of bitterness, opt for any other to your taste.
What you will find on the appetizer platter is a selection of local cheese (caciocavallo, pecorino), hams (salami, soppressata, prosciutto crudo di faeto), taralli, deep-fried potatoes, and bruschetta.
9. Have a Peaceful Walk in Santa Maria di Leuca
Santa Maria di Leuca is another hidden gem in Puglia that I discovered by lucky chance during my vacation.
It’s the southernmost point of Italy, and if you go there, you’ll literally be on the lowest point of Italy’s heel.
The town is rich in history and natural heritage, and what struck me the most while strolling through its streets was that it hardly looked like Italy I was used to seeing.
The architecture in the Moorish style, atypical but elegant villas (just like the Aladdin castle!), unusual ornaments on the buildings… Everything looked so different!
As often happens, such architectural contrast can be easily justified by history.
Once established by the Greeks, Santa Maria di Leuca’s beneficial geographic location attracted many foreign invaders throughout the centuries.
And under the influence of conquerors, the city’s appearance was adjusted, shaped, and modified.
I would say that even though today Santa Maria di Leuca is part of Italy, it still has a strong Arabic vibe (which is awesome!).
In addition to the stunning architecture, Santa Maria di Leuca is where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet!
So, go to Punta Meliso before sunset to witness the color difference between the two seas!
10. Stay a Night in Trullo
Alberobello is probably one of the most famous places in Puglia, and when I saw this fairytale town with my own eyes, I understood why.
The whole city consists of 1,600 limestone houses with conical rooftops called trulli.
The origin of those buildings remains mysterious. All scientists know is that the first houses were built in the 16th century and used as agricultural storage facilities.
What was created to keep grain safe today is the main tourist attraction in the region.
You can have a one-day trip to Alberobello and admire trulli’s aesthetic beauty from the outside. But if you can stay a night in Trullo, you will have a completely different experience.
I did it myself and was absolutely amazed by the functionality and comfort level of the stay. Of course, all trulli are different, but here is what I can say about my experience in Trulli Magheia.
Inside, trullo was a well-furnished, and I would even say fancy, apartment. It was cozy and had all the necessary facilities starting with a modern bathroom and coffee machine and ending with a hidden patio.
So, if you’re wondering what else to add to the list of things to do in Puglia, think about spending a night in trullo.
What to Do in Puglia FAQs
What is Puglia Best Known For?
Puglia is a spectacular region known for its divine nature, charming towns, delicious food, and magnificent beaches.
Alberobello, Bari, and Lecce are probably the most popular tourist destinations. But the region has a vast amount of atmospheric little villages like Locorotondo, Santa Maria di Leuca, and Ostuni to explore.
Besides, I won’t exaggerate if I say that Puglia has one of the most stunning beaches in Italy and Maldive del Salento is one of them.
So, whatever your dream vacation is, there is an infinite amount of things to do in Puglia to make it perfect.
How Many Days Do You Need in Puglia?
You would need at least five days in Puglia, ideally one week.
Frankly, everything depends on your goals and what kind of vacation you want to have.
Do you dream of spending your leisure time only on the beach?
Or do you prefer an adventurous trip full of hiking, snorkeling, and diving activities?
Or do you want to discover the hidden gems of Puglia and try local delicacies?
You can choose one or combine all the options together. I personally spent five days in Puglia and had a chance to do all the activities mentioned above.
Was it enough? I wouldn’t say so. I reckon that if you want to spend a vacation in Puglia, you should spend at least one week in this region.