The sunny region of Puglia in South Italy is one of the most laid-back and unspoilt parts of the country. It is also a very diverse destination. With pristine beaches, loads of history, incredible local cuisine, vibrant cities and spectacular scenery, Puglia has something for everyone. Puglia is also special for yet another reason. It is home to a couple of accommodation types which are unique to the region. We wouldn’t want you to miss out on those, so we’ve compiled a list of the best places to stay in Puglia, keeping in mind to include a little bit of everything. Both in terms of accommodation types as well as the best travel tips on how to divide your time within the region depending on which area is best for what.
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Where to stay in Puglia: masserie, trulli and palazzi
Before going into detail about how to divide one’s time across the region in order to see as much of Puglia as possible in one go, there is one thing that we can’t stress enough. No matter how much (or little) time you’re spending in Puglia, make sure you book stays in a masseria, a trullo and, if possible, a palazzo as well. These may sound like somehow budget-unfriendly options but you can always find fantastic deals at booking.com.
Trust us when we say that, in Puglia’s case, it is worth saving money on something else rather than your accommodation. Splurging in such unique types of accommodation will take your trip to Puglia to a whole new level. This is the best way to immerse oneself in the secrets of real Puglia and grasp the very essence of this windswept land which feels like a lazy summer day and firmly refuses to succumb to the Sirens of mass tourism.
What is a masseria
Masserie are large fortified farm complexes which were built in Puglia between the 16th and 18th centuries. Most masserie have some main characteristics in common. They are surrounded by high walls and they comprise of various buildings arranged around a central courtyard. Apart from the landowner’s house, a masseria is made up of other buildings too. These include workers’ homes, stables, storage rooms for crops, olive oil mills, wineries, cheese making facilities and so on. Nowadays, most of these historical estates have been restored and turned into exceptional farmstays which range from traditional to luxury ones. Almost all of them feature on site restaurants which serve local dishes based on organic ingredients while many masserie are still working farms which produce oil, cheese, wine etc.
Our stay at Masseria Torre Coccaro
Staying at Masseria Torre Coccaro in Fasano was among the highlights of our 2-week road trip across Puglia. Situated among ancient olive trees and just a 5′-10′ drive from nearby Savelletri beach, this 16th century magnificent estate is restored to perfection with old buildings such as the chapel and the imposing watchtower still standing on its grounds. The masseria is a 5-star farmstay which manages to blend luxury and tradition in an irresistible way. Featuring private patios, rooms at the masseria are huge, impeccably clean, utterly comfortable and their decoration reflects the history and traditions of Puglia.
Common areas at the masseria have a nostalgic and stylish ambience that is hard to put into words. Hands down the most charming part of Masseria Torre Coccaro is the large central courtyard. It’s fairytale-like to say the least and particularly enchanting in the evening. No wonder couples from all over the world choose this very spot for their wedding parties.
Moreover, the masseria is home to a fantastic restaurant which serves exquisite homemade local dishes alongside a selection of the region’s best wines. Last but not least, the masseria features both an indoor and an outdoor pool, spa facilities and a dreamy beach club. On our first evening there, we were spoilt beyond repair when we were welcomed with full-body massage sessions followed by a dip in the warm waters of the indoor pool right before dinner time. We could definitely get used to all this.
Far from being just another luxury hotel though, Masseria Torre Coccaro offers its guests the priceless opportunity to experience the real Puglia. Apart from actually sleeping within the walls of a centuries-old masseria and enjoying meals prepared with organic products that grow in the farm itself, Masseria Torre Coccaro arranges a series of fascinating experiences for guests to feel closer to the traditions and mentality of Puglia. During our short stay, we took a fantastic cooking class with the masseria’s chef, during which we learnt how to make pasta and pizza from scratch. In about 1.5h, we prepared all three courses of a typical Apulian meal. The best part was that all the food we cooked with the chef was later served to us for dinner at the restaurant.
Masseria Torre Coccaro also arranged an amazing bike tour for Katerina. To be precise, the masseria arranged the bike tour for both of us. But, you know, I’m Maria, the weirdo who can’t ride a bike. Anyway, back to Katerina and her biking experience. It turns out that riding a bike among ancient olive groves and vineyards was an once-in-a-lifetime experience for Katerina.
During her 3h tour, she visited a traditional cheese making factory. There she watched how burrata and mozzarella are made before indulging in a delicious cheese tasting. After that, Katerina and her guide visited a different masseria where olive oil was produced and learnt everything about extra virgin olive oil and its secrets. She came back to the hotel with the brightest of smiles and I was so jealous I could die. The fresh cheese she brought along made me feel a bit better though.
What is a trullo
A trullo is a type of building unique to Puglia. Trulli are huts with conical roofs dating back to the 19th century. They were originally built as storage rooms or temporary shelters for either people or animals. With time, trulli were used as permanent residences as well. The interior of a trullo is simple and straightforward. There is a separate room under each conical roof. Living in a trullo wasn’t easy in the past. These constructions were very difficult to heat as warm air moved upwards and got trapped at the highest part of the conical roof. Nowadays, more and more trulli are being restored and turned into traditional B&Bs which offer an accommodation experience like no other.
We spent just one night in a trullo accommodation. Even though we’d love to stay more, that one night was enough for us to feel the unique vibes of sleeping inside an old building of such special architecture and history. Next time we’re in Puglia, we’ll definitely plan a longer stay in a trullo.
What is a palazzo
Palazzi are not unique to Puglia yet the region boasts some of the prettiest ones in Italy. An architectural element of cities rather than the countryside, palazzi were inspired by the palaces of wealthy families that lived during the Italian Renaissance. Those early palaces featured perfect symmetry and neat rows of windows. 19th and 20th century palaces were constructed under the influence of various architectural styles. A fine example is the city of Lecce in Puglia where elegant palazzi are built in absolute harmony with the city’s baroque character.
Best places to stay in Puglia Italy
Driving is the best way to explore Puglia. Therefore it is important to keep in mind that you will have to choose quite a few towns as bases from where to explore the region. In this section, we will give you a few tips about the best places to stay in Puglia depending on what each area of the region has to offer.
Indulge in the charms of authentic Puglia
It must be clear by now that you need to stay at a masseria and a trullo during your trip to Puglia. Masserie are scattered all across the region. However, there are some areas which are prettier and more authentic than others. We would strongly recommend choosing a masseria near Fasano or Ostuni. Both are ideal locations from where to explore the best towns in Puglia. Alternatively, Salento, Italy’s heel, is yet another totally unspoilt area in Puglia. Regarding trulli, they are only found within the area called Valle d’Itria, the so-called trulli zone. The latter includes gems such as Alberobello, Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Cisternino and other smaller towns. You can find luxury or rustic trulli in every single one of these towns. There are also many trullo hotels in the stunning countryside in between those towns.
Experience the diversity of Puglia’s cities
Most travellers choose Puglia for its gorgeous countryside and pristine beaches. For good reason. However, if you feel like visiting the region’s best cities as well, we would say that Bari and Lecce are the ones which are absolutely worth your time. A vibrant university city, Bari is Puglia’s most populated city and the second largest one in Southern Italy. Culture and history ooze from the Old Town’s narrow alleys. At the same time, Bari is a lively modern hub, just like any other major port city. Last but not least, Bari is the perfect base to explore the cosmopolitan coastline of the Adriatic Sea.
On the other hand, the historic centre of Lecce is a baroque dream washed in bright sunlight almost all year long. It is also the perfect base from where to explore the charms of Salento. More compact in size than Bari, Lecce has all those characteristics of an enchanting Italian city which makes visitors dream of living la dolce vita for the rest of their lives there.
Relax on the beach
Of course, the beach is one of the main reasons people choose to go to Puglia in the first place. There are countless seaside towns in the region. Some of them, although splendid and unique in terms of beauty, are also super touristy and crowded. Polignano a Mare, Monopoli and Barletta, to name but a few, fall within this category.
Thankfully there are also more laid-back seaside towns in Puglia which are equally pretty. These include Otranto, Gallipoli, Trani and many others. Whether you choose to stay in the Instagram-famous towns or the more tranquil ones is entirely up to you. They all have the most important thing in common after all. They are within easy reach of some of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean Sea. And that’s coming from two Greeks who can be annoyingly picky when it comes to beaches.
We have yet to explore the Gargano area in Northern Puglia. We will most certainly do at some point. You see, we left a piece of our hearts at this sunny corner in Italy’s Deep South. We can’t help it. We are bound to keep going back to this region for more. Ci vediamo, bella Puglia!
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Disclosure: We were guests at Masseria Torre Coccaro, yet, as always, all opinions are our own.