Puglia (the bit of Italy that looks like the heel of the boot) is big. And when I was researching our trip there I had a lot of trouble trying to work out which towns to use as bases. No guide books or blogs really covered it or were helpful in that regard, so that’s why I decided to write this post, in case you’re thinking of going there and are having the same problem.I should also mention I prefer to stay put in one place for 3-4 nights and do day trips from there into the surrounding area. I find it saves a lot of time packing/unpacking and moving house all the time.
So I was looking for 3 or 4 nice towns in which to do that. My criteria for ‘nice towns’ = somewhere that:
- is interesting enough to walk around at night after dinner
- has good options for eating out
- has somewhere great to stay (I tend to go for B&B’s first, Airbnb second and hotels third)
- … and if there’s a beach, so much the better!
There are a lot of masserie in Puglia – these are converted farmhouses on country estates, and they can be extremely charming. I’ve stayed in few of these types of places in Southern Italy but I’m not a fan. I like to stay somewhere where there’s something to do and a bit of action. I love nothing more than wandering the streets of the old town, people watching and seeing where I end up. So they’re not my cup of tea, but they may well be yours.
Then of course you have to work out what you want to see in the area, and how you want to spend your time. I got a map and after I’d worked all that out I highlighted all the attractions and grouped them. Then I short-listed towns that made sense from a geographical perspective, and researched until I found the right ones. Easy!
There’s a lot to see in Puglia so I chose five towns. We stayed 17 nights overall and were sightseeing every day.
Where did we stay in Puglia?
We ended up staying in Monte Sant’Angelo (2 nights), Peschici (3 nights), Trani (3 nights), Polignano a Mare (4 nights) and Lecce (5 nights). Although not in Puglia, we also stayed in Matera (2 nights). As it’s so close (and so fabulous), I’m going to include it.
Did I pick the right towns?
I’d highly recommend Monte Sant’Angelo, Trani, Lecce, Polignano a Mare and Matera as bases if there are things there and nearby you want to see. Here are photos of each so you can get a feel for what they’re like.
Peschici was cute where we were in the small old town, but ugly once you stray from that, plus there wasn’t as much to do there as I’d thought. I had also considered Vieste in that area, it might be better, or you could skip it altogether.
We found ourselves driving south a lot from Lecce and if I had my time again I’d include Otranto as a base as well. It’s a surprisingly lovely town and set amongst a really lovely stretch of coastline I wish I’d had more time to explore.
So you can work out whether these places interest you, these are the daytrips we made from each town we stayed in:
- Monte Sant’Angelo – San Giovanni Rotondo, San Severino, Lucera
- Peschici – boat trip to the Isole Tremiti (we never got to do this because the weather was bad), eat at a trabucco
- Trani – Castel del Monte, Barletta, Bari, Castellana caves
- Polignano a Mare – Alberobello, Locorotondo, Cisternino, Martina Franca, Ostuni
- Lecce – Gallipoli, Otranto, and the coastline between these towns
Of course everyone’s itinerary will be different because your interests will also be different. For example, most of the sights in and around Monte Sant’Angelo are religious, so while I love them (not another church cries Mr Travelling Pantaloni!), they may not be your cup of tea at all.
My recommendation: where to stay in Puglia
For the general traveller wanting to see the best of Puglia, I’d recommend staying in Trani (3 nights), Polignano a Mare (4 nights), Lecce (3-4 nights) and Otranto (2 nights), then go to Matera in Basilicata (2 nights). That’s a two week itinerary right there!
Looking for more information on what to see and do in Puglia?
Then read on!
You can find stories and posts about our travels in Puglia here:
- Polignano a Mare
- Monte Sant’Angelo
- Eating at a trabucco
- Porto Greco
- My favourite beaches in southern Italy (includes some in Puglia)
You’ll need a car to see the best of it, especially exploring the pretty coastline, so I recommend you read my post on driving in Sicily here (which applies to Puglia as well).
If you’ve travelled to Puglia I’d be interested to hear what your recommendations would be, so leave them in the comments!
Until next time, happy travels (and happy travel planning!),
The Travelling Pantaloni