Last updated on March 16th, 2021 at 10:33 am
We had been dreaming of a Puglia road trip for a long time. At some point we stopped dreaming and started planning. Before we knew it, we were on the road, excited to be setting off on a 2-week trip across Italy’s heel. Now, full of memories of stunning countryside, gorgeous towns and warm smiles, we can’t wait to help you plan your own dreamy Puglia itinerary.
Puglia is one of the most authentic regions in Southern Italy. It’s one of those places that can steal your hearts without you even noticing. For Puglia’s beauty is simple, raw and unpretentious.
There are countless beautiful places in Puglia and we wish we had all the time in the world to visit each and every one of them. Sadly, we didn’t. However, we made sure we included as many gorgeous places as possible in our 2 weeks in Puglia itinerary. At the same time, we tried to take it quite slow. It wasn’t easy. Yet we somehow did it.
So, if you’re thinking about taking a Puglia road trip yourselves, you’ve come to the right place. This is where you’ll find all the practical information, tips and inspiration you need to plan the most amazing Puglia itinerary that will make you fall in love with the charms of Italy’s sun-kissed heel.
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Table of contents
- Why & When To Take a Road Trip in Puglia Italy
- How Long Should Your Puglia Itinerary Be
- How To Choose Your Puglia Road Trip Home Bases
- Driving in Puglia Italy
- Our Complete 2 Weeks in Puglia Itinerary
- Day 0: Athens – Patras – Bari
- Day 1: Bari
- Days 2-5: Polignano a Mare – Itria Valley Towns + Monopoli
- Day 6: Lecce
- Days 7-8: Grecia Salentina Towns
- Day 9: Salento (SP366) – Otranto
- Day 10: Salento (SP87 & SP358) – Gallipoli
- Days 11-12: Matera
- Day 13: Castel del Monte – Trani
- Day 14: Bari – Patras – Athens
- Day 0: Athens – Patras – Bari
Why & When To Take a Road Trip in Puglia Italy
Why Plan a Puglia Road Trip
At the planning stage of our trip to Puglia or even before that, when the region made its way into our minds and unnoticeably climbed to the top of our bucket list, we already knew that we would be exploring Puglia on a road trip. Using public transport just wasn’t an option this time.
We’re not saying that you CAN’T explore Puglia by public transport. Of course you can. In Italy, trains and buses can take you pretty much everywhere you want. What we’re saying is that you SHOULDN’T. To put it simply, Puglia feels as though it’s made for road trips.
For one thing, Puglia’s gorgeous countryside, picturesque tiny villages and pristine beaches will make you want to pull over every couple of kilometres to take pictures or simply take in the beauty. It would be a huge shame to let all this pass hastily before your eyes while you’re on a bus or a train.
Another reason is that Puglia’s relaxed rhythm of living is so seductive that you will quickly get used, if not give in, to it. You won’t want to set alarm clocks or run to catch a bus when that happens, trust us. Last but not least, you must definitely experience a farmstay in Puglia and only your car can take you to the prettiest ones which are located outside of the region’s main towns.
Best Time To Visit Puglia
When deciding when to visit Puglia, keep in mind that the region is home to some of the most spectacular beaches we’ve seen in our lives. Therefore, you don’t want to miss swimming in their crystal clear waters. Although winters in Puglia are mild, still you won’t be able to swim unless you are winter swimmers, in which case you deserve our respect.
So, since April and October are generally warm and pleasant but can also be stressfully unpredictable at times, we believe that the best time to plan your Puglia road trip is between May and September. That said, do your best to avoid July and August, which is peak season in Puglia and Italians will be flocking to the region for their summer holidays.
How Long Should Your Puglia Itinerary Be
We know that time is a part-time traveller’s worst enemy. But some destinations are just impossible to enjoy when you’re in a hurry or when you try to squeeze too many things in too little time. Puglia is one of those places.
We spent 2 weeks in Puglia. It may sound a lot but it still felt as though we were doing things a bit hurriedly sometimes. Not to mention that there were places we skipped altogether. For instance, we didn’t even go near the province of Foggia in the northern part of the region.
That said, we guess it would be OK to plan a 10-day Puglia road trip if you can’t stretch your vacation days more. But, please, don’t plan a Puglia itinerary that is less than 10 days long.
How To Choose Your Puglia Road Trip Home Bases
Probably the hardest thing about planning your Puglia road trip is to decide which places to use as your bases from where to explore the region. But fret not! We’re here to help!
You will most probably start your road trip across Puglia from either Bari or Brindisi. Each of these cities is home to an international airport and a port alike. From there you can rent a car (if you’re not travelling by your own car, like we did) and set off on your magical journey.
Starting from either Bari or Brindisi, you’ll want to follow a circular route that will save you valuable time. In the spirit of saving even more time, it’s better to base yourselves at as many different locations as you can handle along this circular route rather than travel back and forth all the time. Packing-wise this is a huge pain in the neck. But it can work miracles when it comes to time management.
We tend to overnight at many places but we know that this is quite tiresome for most people. Therefore, we’re not saying that you should spend every or every other night at a different place like we did. But, if you’re following a Puglia itinerary that’s similar to ours, try to split your time between the following five areas by choosing one destination from each as your home base:
- Bari / Trani / Polignano a Mare / Monopoli
- Alberobello / Locorotondo / Ostuni / Cisternino / the countryside of Itria Valley
- Lecce / Grecia Salentina towns / Otranto
- Leuca / Gallipoli / Nardò
Although distances from one place to another in Puglia are not outrageously long, we recommend splitting your time in that way so that you can enjoy each place to the fullest rather than rush from one destination to the next.
Also, for us, choosing multiple overnight locations means that we can see how places look like after the sun is down (which we love doing by the way) without having to drive back to our accommodation at night (which we hate).
That said, if five home bases still seem a lot to you and you don’t mind driving when it’s dark, you could use only three places as your home bases: One from areas 1 & 2 above, one from 3 & 4 and Matera. You just need to overnight at Matera rather than visit on a day trip. More on that later on.
Driving in Puglia Italy
- When driving in Puglia, keep on the right side of the road.
- Italians tend to drive quite fast so be extra careful as someone may pop up in front of you out of nowhere. It did happen to us more than once.
- As far as fuel is concerned, while diesel is the word used in Italy for, well, diesel, if you need unleaded petrol instead, you should ask for benzina at the gas station.
Take The Roads Less Travelled
Driving through Puglia is all about taking in the beauty of an authentic region which remains unspoilt to an impressive degree. This is why it’s best to keep on b-roads all along your Puglia road trip. That’s where the true miracles lay hidden. In our day-to-day description below, we’re mentioning a couple of provincial roads that are too scenic to miss.
The only thing we didn’t particularly like about Puglia’s b-roads was that there were frequent potholes on the road so make sure you don’t damage your car. Other than that, driving in Puglia, which is an overall flat region with only a few moderate hills, is generally very easy, with no demanding road conditions, such as mountain passes and the like.
Probably the most important thing to remember while driving in Puglia is NEVER TO ENTER the (in)famous ZTL zones. The latter are areas within the limits of Italian historic centres where driving is prohibited, justifiably so, if you ask us. The historic centres all over the world are valuable gems and they should be respected and preserved in every way.
If you are about to enter a ZTL zone, you will know it. There are signs and even yellow flashing lights sometimes at the entry points. Now, you may think, We are tourists, we’re out of harm’s way, let’s enter the ZTL anyway. Apart from the fact that this way of thinking is wrong in so many ways, there is a painful fine for entering the ZTL zones which will be delivered to you by mail no matter how far your home country is.
If your accommodation is in a town’s historic centre, the best thing you can do is contact the hotel prior to your arrival and let them know that you’ll be arriving by car. Sometimes, hotels can provide temporary parking permits for their guests but they have to be notified in advance in order to be able to do so.
Parking in Puglia
Another thing you should be mindful of while driving in Puglia is parking. Although you can park for free in smaller towns, villages and in the countryside, the most popular towns in Puglia usually have designated parking spaces along their streets. Prices vary. During our 2-week Puglia road trip, we paid everything from 0.50€ to 1.50€ per hour.
Keep in mind that in some towns (e.g. Alberobello) there was a daily cap. Moreover, with a few exceptions, most towns had different prices according to time zones within the day and/or seasonality (off-peak/peak season etc). So, make sure you read thoroughy the directions and information displayed on parking ticket vending machines each time.
Here are some examples so as to give you an idea:
Municipal parking lots:
Polignano a Mare: 1.5€/hour all day long, no daily cap
Alberobello: 1.5€/hour, daily cap: 6€
Cisternino: 0.5€/hour on peak hours
Martina Franca: 1€/hour on peak hours
Calimera: 0.8€/hour on peak hours
Attractions parking lots:
Castel del Monte: 5€
Castellana Caves: 3€
Bauxite Lake: 3€
Our Complete 2 Weeks in Puglia Itinerary
Day 0: Athens – Patras – Bari
Our 2 weeks in Puglia road trip itinerary officially started the moment we set foot in Bari. However, getting from Athens to Bari was part of the fun so we couldn’t just leave it out. Hence Day 0 on our Puglia itinerary.
As I explained above, there was no debate as to the way we would explore Puglia. We would do so on a road trip. Therefore, flying to Bari and then renting a car made no sense to us. For many reasons.
First of all, flying from Athens to Bari and then renting a car for two weeks would cost us a lot more than driving our own car to Patras Port and then taking the ferry to Bari from there.
So, after some quick research, we chose Superfast Ferries for our trip to Bari. The latter offer the newest, cleanest and most reliable ferries on this route. Superfast Ferries, which connect Greece to Italy in partnership with ANEK Lines, offered us a 40% press discount. That said, special offers and deals for everyone are available throughout the year. Just make sure you check the official Superfast Ferries website every now and then.
Secondly, we do avoid flying whenever that’s an option so as to reduce our carbon footprint. Last but not least, Katerina always embraces an opportunity to enjoy a trip without having to step inside a plane. Flight anxiety-free travel is her favourite kind of travel!
So, on a sunny April morning, we jumped on our FIAT 500 and headed to the port city of Patras in Western Greece. After having lunch and then taking a quick stroll around the city, we got on board the ferry for our overnight trip to Bari. The magic had just begun!
Day 1: Bari
If Bari is your entry point to the region, it makes perfect sense to spend your first or even a couple of days there. Bari is a vibrant port city with an utterly charming Old Town. One day is enough to discover all of Bari’s treasures. However, Bari can also serve as an ideal home base during your Puglia road trip. Therefore, you may want to consider spending quite a few days there.
Days 2-5: Polignano a Mare – Itria Valley Towns + Monopoli
For the following four days, we chose to stay in three different locations (Locorotondo, Savelletri, Ostuni). However, all the towns we visited on days 2-5 on our Puglia itinerary are not far from one another. Therefore, they can easily be seen on day trips from a single home base.
During these four days we got to visit two of Puglia’s prettiest towns on the Adriatic Coast, Polignano a Mare and Monopoli, as well as explore the stunning Itria Valley. If you plan to check out all the places we did in this part of our Puglia road trip, the order in which you choose to do so doesn’t really make a difference.
Day 2: Polignano a Mare – Castellana Caves – Locorotondo
Total distance covered on Day 2 (Bari – Polignano a Mare – Castellana Caves – Locorotondo): 78km
After a wonderful first day spent in Bari, we set off for one of the most beautiful places in Puglia: Polignano a Mare. This stunning coastal town is perhaps the most famous among the best towns in Puglia, especially for its picture-perfect beach, Lama Monachile. Words can’t begin to describe how charming Polignano a Mare is. We only wish we had more time to spend there. But we will go back for sure.
After spending the better part of that day in Polignano a Mare, we reluctantly left it behind and headed towards Itria Valley, where we’d spend the following few days. Our first stop would be the charming town of Locorotondo. Yet, before getting there, we stopped at the impressive Castellana Caves, where we enjoyed a tour of the dark chambers that hide in their depths.
As soon as we left Castellana Caves, we realised that our plan to wander around Locorotondo that evening was out of the question. There was a terrible thunderstorm raging outside which would only get worse by the hour, according to local radio stations. So, we headed to our home for that night which was a gorgeous renovated trullo house just outside the quaint town of Locorotondo.
Once we stepped inside the trullo, we felt happy and relieved that the weather was forcing us to stay inside. The trullo was fantastic and we wanted to spend as much time there as possible. This is why we asked our host for directions to the closest mini market so as to go buy groceries and prepare dinner at the trullo.
Yet she was so utterly kind that she wouldn’t let us go outside in the storm. Instead, she provided us with everything we needed herself. That’s when we realised that our Puglia road trip would be an experience like no other.
Day 3: Locorotondo – Alberobello – Martina Franca – Savelletri
Total distance covered on Day 3 (Locorotondo – Alberobello – Martina Franca – Savelletri): 51km
The following day we woke up to a cloudy sky but the worst was over. The strong gales that raged all night long had finally subsided. So, nothing could stop us from setting off on a fantastic journey across Itria Valley. We would spend the entire day driving through the jaw-dropping Apulian countryside with stops to the most picture-perfect towns and villages we could ever dream of.
One of the best places to visit in Itria Valley is picturesque Locorotondo. Perched on top of a hill in the heart of Valle d’Itria, Locorotondo is one of Italy’s prettiest villages. What’s amazing about Locorotondo is that there aren’t any must-see attractions to check out there. The best way to spend your time in quaint Locorotondo is to get lost in its enchanting Old Town which bears a strong resemblance to the Greek Islands.
Locorotondo, like any other Italian town for that matter, is home to many beautiful churches. If you happen to stumble upon one or two that are open, step inside to admire their gorgeous interiors. We particularly liked Chiesa Madre di S. Giorgio and Chiesa di San Nicola di Myra.
If it’s time for your caffeine fix while you’re in Locorotondo, head to the irresistibly vintage Caffe della Villa and enjoy your espresso the Italian way, which is standing at the bar. Last but not least, don’t leave Locorotondo without taking in the views to the surrounding countryside from the scenic road that encircles the quaint hilltop town.
Alberobello is the most popular of all Itria Valley towns and one of the most photographed places in Puglia. The reason is quite simple. This is the best place to check out the region’s unique trullo architecture. Alberobello is the town with the most and best-preserved trulli buildings in Itria Valley.
The fact that Alberobello is the only town in the entire world where one can admire this type of architecture in such great density is the reason why the small town receives hordes of tourists on a daily basis. During peak hours, Alberobello feels inversely proportional in size to the crowds it attracts.
To be honest, this excessive popularity kind of spoils the magic of an otherwise fascinating place. We’re not saying that you should skip Alberobello for being too touristy. Certainly not. Just try to visit either very early in the morning or late in the afternoon if possible.
Once in Alberobello, there are two major areas you should want to check out. The first of them is Rione Monti, a slightly uphill neighbourhood which is home to more than 1000 trulli, most of which are now turned into souvenir shops, cafés and restaurants. This is the most touristy part of the town but you can’t possibly skip it as it’s gorgeous.
For a more authentic experience, don’t miss the chance to walk around the Rione Aia Piccola district. The latter comprises about 500 trulli, most of which are still inhabited by locals. Therefore, this part of the town is way more laid-back and peaceful.
One of the most interesting places to visit in Alberobello is Trullo Sovrano. The latter is a magnificent trullo construction built in the first half of the 8th century. It is the only two-storey trullo in the town and it operates as a museum. Walking around its interior will give you a clear picture of the furniture, personal items and way of life in a trullo of the past.
After Alberobello’s crowds and hectic atmosphere, getting to Martina Franca during the locals’ siesta was exactly what we needed. To say that we embraced the quaint town’s peacefulness would be an understatement.
Although Martina Franca is the largest town in Itria Valley, it’s not as popular as other towns there. We’re not saying that as a bad thing of course. On the contrary, Martina Franca has a unique blend of buzzing local life and irresistibly laid-back ambience.
The Old Town in Martina Franca is adorned with Baroque gates which open to magnificent squares. Equally enchanting are the quaint narrow alleys that surround these gorgeous open spaces. Martina Franca is really worth spending as much time as you can spare because, alongside Locorotondo, it’s the most authentic town in Valle d’Itria.
After an entire day literally on the road, we left Martina Franca and headed to our home for the next couple of days, a traditional masseria just outside the fishing village of Savelletri.
Day 4: Monopoli – Savelletri
Total distance covered on Day 4 (Savelletri – Monopoli – Savelletri): 29km
Waking up the following morning, we were determined to spend as much time in and around the masseria as possible. Enjoying the stunning countryside was one of the main reasons why we’d planned this Puglia road trip after all.
Therefore, we spent the better part of day 4 of our Puglia itinerary soaking in the sun at the masseria and the surrounding countryside. We walked around the gorgeous estate amid tall olive trees and colourful flowers, we swam in the swimming pool, Katerina went on a bike tour through the countryside and we both enjoyed a fantastic cooking class.
Staying at a masseria is a unique experience which offers various ways to keep you busy during your vacation. At the same time, life at the masseria helps visitors delve into local culture and tradition in the best possible way. This is why we can’t recommend this type of accommodation enough.
It was not until late in the afternoon that we decided to leave the masseria so as to explore the charms of one of Puglia’s most beautiful towns: Monopoli.
Monopoli is a charming seaside town which could easily serve as your home base instead of more obvious choices such as Bari or Alberobello. This picturesque town boasts the most authentic vibes while its piazzas, streets and marvellous promenade scream dolce vita.
There aren’t any top-rated attractions in Monopoli. The best way to enjoy your time there is to wander around its beautiful historic centre. Hands down the most enchanting part of Monopoli is the Old Port with the iconic blue fishing boats. This exact spot is among the ones we love the most from our entire Puglia itinerary.
Before heading back to the masseria, we paid a short visit to the tranquil fishing village of Savelletri. The latter is super tiny and feels utterly relaxed. Keep in mind, that it’s also home to a couple of nice restaurants if you feel like having dinner by the sea.
Day 5: Cisternino – Ostuni
Total distance covered on Day 5 (Savelletri – Cisternino – Ostuni): 38km
It was with a heavy heart that we left the masseria behind first thing the following morning. But the road was calling and on that day we were about to visit two of the most gorgeous places we saw during our 2-week Puglia road trip.
Cisternino is a picture-perfect, all-white village in the heart of Itria Valley. What Cisternino lacks in size, it makes up for in charm. The village’s tiny historic centre has no shortage of picturesque alleys and hidden magical courtyards to explore.
The heart of Cisternino beats at the quaint Piazza dell’ Orologio, a sun-kissed square where you should definitely stop for a Spritz or two. For unique views to the trulli that dot the Apulian countryside, head over to Villa Comunale, a small garden at the edge of the Old Town.
Last but not least, meat-lovers will most definitely want to sit at one of the village’s many fornelli. The latter are no-frill grill restaurants which Cisternino is particularly famous for, especially among locals.
Our next stop was Ostuni, Italy’s so-called White City. Ostuni is one of the most beautiful places in Puglia. It’s built atop a hill overlooking the countryside. Wandering around Ostuni Old Town feels as though you’re somehow teleported to a Greek Island’s whitewashed Chora. Moreover, some of the region’s best masserie are scattered in the area around Ostuni and we had the pleasure to stay at probably the best among them.
Day 6: Lecce
Total distance covered on Day 6 (Ostuni – Lecce): 76km
Lecce is often called the Florence of the South and for good reason. This century-old town in the heart of Salento is packed with superb art and it’s a unique stronghold of the most exquisite Baroque architecture. A stop in Lecce is mandatory during your Puglia road trip so make sure you spend at least one full day there.
Days 7-8: Grecia Salentina Towns
Total distance covered on Day 7 (Lecce – Sternatia – Martignano – Calimera – Castrignano de’ Greci – Melpignano – Sternatia): 54km
Total distance covered on Day 8 (Sternatia – Martano – Carpignano Salentino – Corigliano d’Otranto): 24km
Grecia Salentina is the collective name for a cluster of small towns and villages in Salento which share a common dialect, the fascinating yet endangered Griko. If you haven’t heard of Griko before, an easy way to understand what it’s all about is this: imagine the Greek and Italian languages had a baby. This baby would be Griko.
The Greek-speaking towns of Salento (Grecia Salentina) are the remnants of the once prosperous colonies the Ancient Greeks had founded in Southern Italy.
Nowadays, wandering around these sleepy towns is an absolutely unique experience and this is why you should include some of them in your Puglia itinerary. We’ve written a thorough article about our emotional trip to Grecia Salentina which can also serve as your ultimate guide to the area.
Day 9: Salento (SP366) – Otranto
Total distance covered on Day 9 (Corigliano d’ Otranto – Grotta della Poesia – Otranto via SP366): 45km
On the 9th day of our Puglia itinerary it was time for us to leave the mainland behind and fill our eyes with the beauty of Puglia’s shoreline. Make sure you stay on the coastal SP366 for this part of your Puglia road trip so that you don’t miss checking out the region’s amazing coastline which is abundant in azure beaches and lonely watchtowers that used to protect the region from pirate invasions in the past.
Leaving Grecia Salentina behind, our first brief stop was at a unique natural wonder, the Grotta della Poesia. The latter is a natural swimming pool of emerald waters surrounded by dramatic cliffs. Next up we visited some of Puglia’s most beautiful beaches such as Torre dell’Orso, Spiaggia degli Alimini and Baia dei Turchi, before reaching the seaside town of Otranto where we would spend the night.
If we were to plan a summer vacation in Puglia, then we would most definitely choose Otranto as our home base. This quaint coastal town is home to an enchanting Old Town as well as a fantastic beach right in the heart of the town.
Day 10: Salento (SP87 & SP358) – Gallipoli
Total distance covered on Day 10 (Otranto – Santa Maria di Leuca via SP87 & SP358 – Gallipoli via SS274): 96km
When we woke up the following day refreshed and ready to resume our road trip across Puglia’s charms, nothing could prepare us for the wonderful places we were about to visit. Our drive from Otranto to Santa Maria di Leuca was one filled with wonders and definitely among the best parts of our entire Puglia road trip.
In order for you to enjoy the same route as we did, please make sure you follow the SP87 and SP358 coastal roads all the way from Otranto to Santa Maria di Leuca.
We made our first stop at the surreal Bauxite Quarry and Lake which is situated just 10 minutes by car from downtown Otranto. This surreal scenery is the result of both nature and human intervention as the emerald lake was formed after a bauxite quarry that used to be on this site was abandoned in the late 70s.
Our second stop involved an easy hike to the majestic Punta Palascia Lightouse which stands silent but vigilent at Italy’s easternmost point. After that, we marvelled at a series of secret coves and pristine bays such as Porto Badisco, Tricase Porto and Marina Serra as well as a brief stop at the spa town of Santa Cesaria Terme before reaching the imposing Ciolo Bridge.
While planning our Puglia road trip itinerary, we had somehow failed to fully grasp the importance of having as much time as possible to spare in this part of our route. This is why we’re encouraging you not to make the same mistake. Once at Ciolo Bridge, make sure you have plenty of time in your hands. We can’t stress this enough and here’s why.
First of all, the bridge itself is really impressive and you just won’t get enough of taking photos from every possible angle. Especially if you stumble upon a daredevil or two jumping off the bridge into the emerald waters below. Luckily we didn’t. I’m not sure our hearts would handle the shock, to be honest.
Secondly, the area is very scenic with the bridge looming above a gorgeous natural fjord in the emerald waters of which you can swim on a warm day. There is a tiny rocky beach just underneath the bridge to which you have access via steps that start from the bridge itself.
Last but not least, a stunning walking path starts from the bridge and it’s really worth experiencing it. The Sentiero delle Cipolliane is a fairly easy 2.2km long hiking path which passes through landscapes of rare natural beauty while offering unique views to the Adriatic Sea.
Santa Maria di Leuca
Santa Maria di Leuca is a coastal town built on the southermost tip of the Salento sub-peninsula. A popular summer resort since the beginning of the 20th century, Santa Maria di Leuca is caressed by the winds of two seas, the Adriatic and the Ionian, which meet each other just off the shore of this whitewashed town.
Santa Maria di Leuca’s top attraction is definitely its iconic lighthouse which is the most important lighthouse in Italy, second only to Genova’s. Equally impressive, the Sanctuary of Santa Maria is located just a stone’s throw from the lighthouse and offers breathtaking views to the town itself and the sea beyond for as far as the eye can see.
As mentioned above, we had severely underestimated the treasures that lay hidden in this part on our Puglia itinerary. Therefore, although the idea was to carry on driving along the coastal road until we reached Gallipoli, we realised that we wouldn’t have enough time to do so after all. So, it was with a heavy heart that we took the much quicker yet far less interesting SS274 instead.
This change of plans had made us really grumpy. Yet the moment we set eyes on Gallipoli, we were happy again. Gallipoli is one of the most authentic towns in the Italian South. Its historic centre may feel rather rough around the edges compared to other beach towns in Puglia. But, at the end of the day, this is also what makes Gallipoli quite unique.
Days 11-12: Matera
Total distance covered on Day 11 (Gallipoli – Santa Maria al Bagno – Punta Prosciutto – Matera): 181km
After two quick stops in Santa Maria al Bagno and Punta Prosciutto, we headed straight to Matera the following morning and stayed there for two full days. We didn’t even go near the car on day 12 on our Puglia itinerary. We just spent the entire day savouring the charms of that ancient wondrous town.
Matera is not in Puglia but in Basilicata, which is another authentic region in Italy’s South. However, no Puglia road trip is complete without a visit to this ancient cave town which, according to our humble opinion, is the most impressive destination in Italy, second only to Venice.
The nucleus of Matera Old Town are the Sassi. The latter are two neighbourhoods in Matera’s historic centre which are entirely carved in rock. There are literally no words to describe the wonder that is Matera. You just have to experience it yourselves. This is why we consider Matera an essential stop on every Puglia itinerary.
Because of the fact that Matera is very close to Bari, many people choose to visit the cave town on a day trip. Please, don’t be those people. In order for you to fully grasp Matera’s unique vibes, you have to overnight in the heart of the Sassi. You just can’t miss the spectacle of the dimly lit historic centre at night and you most definitely don’t want to skip the experience of staying at a cave hotel.
Day 13: Castel del Monte – Trani
Total distance covered on Day 13 (Matera – Castel del Monte – Trani): 108km
On day 13, our first stop was Castel del Monte. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the best things to see in Puglia. Castel del Monte is built atop a hill which is surrounded by the most stunning countryside. The drive towards the castle was among the most scenic ones of our entire Puglia road trip. After visiting Castel del Monte, it was time to enjoy the last stop on our Puglia itinerary. This was no other than the elegant coastal town of Trani.
It seems that the last place we visited during our Puglia road trip was meant to become one of our favourites in the region. What we loved about Trani the most was its gorgeous promenade and its authentic ambience. Furthermore, it was also there that Puglia gave us the gift of the prettiest sunset we had seen in the region. Now that’s what we call the best farewell gift of all!
Day 14: Bari – Patras – Athens
Total distance covered on Day 14 (Trani – Molfetta – Bari Port): 48km
When we woke up in our cosy room in Trani the following morning, there was just one question whirling in our minds: How on earth had 2 weeks in Puglia flown so quickly? But they had. So, there we were picking the pieces of our broken hearts while packing our things for the last time during the course of those 15 days.
The idea was to head back to Bari, park the car and wander around the Old Town until it was time to get on the ferry for our journey back home. Home? We didn’t know what home actually meant at that point. Because Puglia sure did feel like home by then.
However, that last stroll around Bari never happened. Any guesses why? Well, who’s the usual party crasher while travelling? That’s right! The weather. For the entire duration of our last day in Puglia it rained so heavily that staying outside was next to impossible.
So, how did we spend our final moments in Puglia? We went to a huge super market just outside Molfetta on our way to Bari and shopped our hearts out in local products. We know it sounds pathetic but we still have pasta Pugliese and cafe d’orzo in our pantry thanks to that raid. Yes, it felt like a raid rather than a casual day at the super market.
Just picture it. Two passionate with Italy people, who are utterly miserable for leaving their beloved country on a rainy day that won’t even allow them a last stroll BUT who have the privilege to travel in their own car, therefore knowing that cabin baggage allowance has no power over them this time. We just HAD TO buy everything, right?
Relieved that customs officers never confiscated the dozens of orecchiette packages and tomato sauce jars we had unsuccessfully camouflaged with beach towels and the like, we reluctantly boarded the ferry sad and grumpy. But, still, there was a flicker in our hearts.
For that was not Goodbye, it was See You Later, Puglia Nostra.
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