All About Puglia’s Stunning Beaches
Puglia is a narrow peninsula at the heel of Italy’s boot that is nestled between the Ionian Sea to the west and the Adriatic Sea to the east. Known for its incredible seafood, sun, and 500 miles of coastline, it’s no wonder that Puglia is the ultimate destination for a beach vacation. Come August, when temperatures reach their peak and many of Italy’s cities and towns shut down for Ferragosto, you’ll find Italian tourists flocking to Puglia’s shores. Many of the region’s beaches have received a Blue Flag, an international recognition given to beaches with superior water quality, environmental management and education, and accessibility. In fact, after Liguria, Puglia has the most Blue Flag beaches in all of Italy!
Puglia’s unique geography makes for a diverse beachgoing experience. On the southeastern side, the tempestuous Adriatic has created breathtaking cliffs and rocky beaches that are quintessentially Italian. On the southwestern side, you’ll find pristine sandy beaches and the calmer waters of the Gulf of Taranto. Meanwhile, up in the northeastern “spur” of Gargano, you’ll find all of the above nestled between whitewashed crags and verdant forests. Both sides of Puglia are stunning in their own right. The best part? You don’t have to choose! Southern Puglia is only about 30 miles across, meaning you can watch the sunrise in eastern Otranto and easily make it to Gallipoli for the sunset in the west.
Because it is a peninsula, Puglia’s waters and beaches are strongly affected by the winds. A famous saying here is “va dove ti porta il vento,” or “go where the winds take you.” For many of those living in Puglia’s most southern region of Salento, where you can easily travel between the two coasts, it’s common practice to “read” the winds before deciding which beach to visit. If the Tramontana, or north wind, is blowing, it is best to choose a beach on the western side, as the Adriatic sea will be especially turbulent. However, if the Sirocco, a hot wind from the south, is blowing, it’s best to visit beaches on the eastern side, as the Ionian sea will be agitated.
The Beaches of the East Coast
The rougher waters of the Adriatic have molded the east coast into a wonderful hodgepodge of landscapes. Along this coast you’ll find a variety of cliff formations and rocky beaches, as well as the occasional stretch of sandy beach. While many people flock to sandier beaches like Torre Dell’Orso or Baia dei Turchi, the rockier, cliffside beaches are not to be missed. Though they may not be your first thought for a beach vacation, rocky beaches exist in many parts of Italy, and it’s not unusual to see Italians laying out on sunbeds precariously balanced on the boulders. There is something truly magical about swimming in the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean under the dramatic slopes of Puglia’s cliffs. If you plan a visit here, just remember to bring water shoes to protect your feet!
While you can find rocky beaches in most towns along Puglia’s east coast, our favorites include:
- Lama Monachile in Polignano a Mare
- Ponte dei Lapilli in Polignano a Mare
- Cala Incina in Monopoli
- Cala Tre Buchi in Monopoli
- Torre Sant’Andrea in Melendugno
- Cala di Grotta Monaca in Otranto
- Cala dell’Acquaviva in Marina di Marittima
The Beaches of the West Coast
The gentle Ionian sea on Puglia’s southwestern side paints a different, but equally gorgeous picture. Here, you’ll find some of the most pristine white sand beaches in Italy. In fact, the beaches at the very southern tip of Puglia are called the “Maldives of Salento” due to their beauty. While you’ll still find the occasional rocky beach, like the famed Porto Selvaggio in Nardò, this landscape is naturally calmer thanks to the sheltered nature of the Gulf of Taranto. These beaches are perfect for sitting, soaking up the sun, and truly living la dolce vita. Our advice for the best day possible is to reserve chairs ahead of time at a beach club, sometimes called a lido or stabilimento. You’ll be given a sunbed and umbrella for the day, along with access to bathroom facilities and the on-site restaurant, many of which have excellent food. Few beach clubs in Puglia take online bookings, so we recommend calling or asking your hotel concierge to assist you with making a reservation.
Some of our favorite of these beaches include:
- Punta Prosciutto in Porto Cesareo
- Torre Lapillo in Porto Cesareo
- Spiaggia di Pescoluse in Pescoluse
- Spiaggia di Ginosa in Ginosa
- Punta Pizzo in Gallipoli
The Beaches of Gargano
In the northeastern part of Puglia lies the peninsula of Gargano. With 85 miles of coastline around Gargano National Park, full of massive white cliffs, lush forest, and crystal-clear waters, the beaches here have a unique feel. Many are nestled between the cliffs with a mixture of soft sand and colored pebbles. Gargano is well known for the robust variety of its beaches; each one is distinctively enchanting. With narrow bays, caves, and secret coves to discover against the backdrop of ancient woods, you’ll feel a true connection to nature in Gargano. Check out these beaches on your next visit:
- Spiaggia di Vignanotica in Vieste
- Spiaggia di Pizzomunno in Vieste
- Cala della Sanguinara in Vieste
- Punta delle Sirene in Vieste
- Baia delle Zagare in Mattinata