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Giada's Travel Guide to Puglia
Giada's Travel Guide to Puglia

Guide to Puglia

When you think of vacationing in Italy, the usual hot spots come to mind: Rome, Milan, Tuscany. But in recent years, more and more vacationers have been flocking to Puglia, the southern “heel” of Italy’s boot. Dubbed the “Florence of the South,” this destination is teeming with idyllic beauty that takes you back to simpler times. With nearly 500 miles of coastline and gorgeous interior destinations, there’s so much to see and do in each of the six provinces that make up the region.

Each province offers visitors a unique experience and a glimpse into the region’s rich past. Travel to Lecce, the capital of baroque architecture, to witness the magnificent cathedrals built in the 17th century. Up north, in Bari, you can see Roman ruins underneath the San Sabino church or make your way to the small town of Alberobello to take in the charming cone-shaped roofs of the historic trulli. And, of course, you can’t miss the stunning views of the Adriatic sea when traveling along the coast.

And that’s just sightseeing! Puglia also offers incredible cuisine, from the region’s famous cherry tomato–stuffed focaccia to orecchiette pasta to, of course, the delicious seafood. Since Puglia is largely coastal, you can enjoy fresh and locally sourced seafood that pairs perfectly with their pasta dishes. 

Whether you’re going on a family trip or exploring the region solo, Puglia is the perfect setting for your next vacation.

Getting Around

If you want to experience the entirety of Puglia, it’s best to start north and make your way down south along the coast. Karol Wojtyla International Airport in Bari is the main airport serving the region and serves many international airlines, and it’s located just 30 minutes from the city center.

From there, you can either rent a car, a boat, or opt for train travel for the rest of your journey. Car or boat travel are the best choices to make your way down the coast and see all the small towns along the way—we guarantee you’ll want to make stops and snap photos throughout your trip! If you travel by train, we recommend choosing one or two of the larger southern towns to make your home base and then explore on foot or by taxi during the day.

We’ve organized our guide to this gorgeous region by province from north to south to help you navigate and learn where to stay, what to do, and most importantly, what to eat on your trip to Puglia.

Bari

   La Uascezze

If you want a traditional Puglian meal, head to La Uascezze. There’s a wide range of dishes to choose from to give you a taste of the region all in one place: eggplant parmigiana, baked omelets, stuffed mussels, cicerchie (bean) soup and more. If, by chance, a splash of wine gets spilled on the tablecloth, say “Uascezze!” to take part in their festive tradition.

Corte S.Agostino, 2/3/4, Bari
+39 320 628 4295

   Panificio Fiore

Want a quick bite to go? Head to this quaint little bakery near the Basilica di San Nicola to get a taste of their famous focaccia barese. Made with cherry tomatoes, olives, and sweet doughy bread, you can enjoy this Bari staple straightfrom the oven. Make sure to go early—this popular spot often has a long but oh, so worth it line.

Strada Palazzo di Città, 38, Bari
+39 080 523 6290

   Ristorante Antiche Mura

The name translates to “Ancient Walls Restaurant,” and that’s exactly what you see when you step into this seaside spot. Located in the heart of Polignano a Mare, this rustic restaurant features a gorgeous interior lined with antique white stones. Besides the lovely ambiance, you can enjoy a long list of local wines, seafood, and, of course, pasta.

Via Roma, 11, Polignano a Mare
+39 080 424 2476

   Ristorante Giampaolo

This airy restaurant with high, vaulted ceilings is known for its pizza, which is only available at dinnertime, and unique, hearty pastas. Giada and Aunt Raffy had a delicious meal here, including orecchiette with tomato sauce, fried basil leaf, and spicy ricotta, the Pugliese cheese of choice for pastas, and scialatielli (a short, almost rectangular pasta shape) made with local wheat and mushrooms.

Via Francesco Lombardi, 18, Bari
+39 080 523 8828

   Saleblu

Located in a former fishery, this restaurant is not just by the sea, it’s in the sea! The glass dining room is built on a rock promontory over the water, so it seems like there’s nothing between you and the waves. Of course, seafood is on the menu here—some of the freshest you’ll ever have, in artful crudos and innovative light dishes. Try the oyster martini!

Contrada Losciale, 63, Capitolo
+39 342 551 6758

   Trattoria San Domenico

This family-run restaurant is perfect for seafood lovers who want a taste of the ocean with a side of pasta. Try the rigatoni with octopus or spaghetti with mussels to appreciate the area’s abundance from the sea, and don’t forget to try one of their local wines.

Via S. Domenico, 3/5, Monopoli
+39 080 937 1992

   Cattedrale Maria Santissima della Madia

Cattedrale Maria Santissima della Madia

This cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary sits in a small square in the town of Monopoli. From the outside, you can admire its impressive Romanesque facade. But if you think the outside is picture-worthy, wait until you step inside the church; radiant marble, embellished paintings, and historical artifacts await.

Largo Cattedrale, Monopoli
+39 080 742253

   Cattedrale di San Sabino

Built over the remains of a Byzantine church during the 12th century, this cathedral is quite literally steeped in history. Go for a tour between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to see the Romanesque architecture and the underground crypt that features Roman ruins dating back to the first millennium.

Piazza dell'Odegitria, 70122 Bari
+39 080 521 0605

   Lungomare di Bari

In the mood for a stroll with a view? Walk the longest waterfront promenade in Italy to take in breathtaking sights of the ocean and seaside cliffs. During your walk, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to step onto the sparkling beaches or grab a bite at one of the cozy cafés or bars that dot the streets.

Lungomare Nazario Sauro, Bari

   Strada delle Orecchiette

One of the most famous streets in the Puglia region is a small alley in Bari’s Arco Basso where you can see local women making fresh orecchiette pasta right in front of their homes. Not only can you watch the process and buy the orecchiette to go, you can also partner with one of the nonnas to make a batch yourself!

Via Arco Basso, Bari

   See the Trulli

The past meets the present in Puglia, especially inthe small town of Alberobello, where the indigenous architecture is a UNESCO heritage site. The town is filled with trulli, limestone huts with an iconic cone-shaped stone roof that were originally constructed as temporary peasant housing in the 1500s. Visitors can walk the narrow alleys to get a closer look at the unique architecture that has been lovingly preserved.

Zona Trulli, Alberobello

   Il Melograno

This masseria, a 17th-century farmhouse-turned-hotel just outside of Monopoli, is a gorgeous retreat surrounded by olive groves and lush gardens. Some of those gardens provide the produce for the stunning on-site restaurant, where Giada had a delicious stuffed pasta with tomato and squash topped with burrata and truffle. The whitewashed rooms are serene and restful, outfitted with amazing antiques and original art.

Contrada Torricella, 345, Monopoli
+39 080 690 9030

   Locanda Don Ferrante

Formerly an ancient fortress, this boutique hotel is perched above a cliff, giving you 360-degree views of the Adriatic Sea. Guests can relax on the rooftop terrace or enjoy breakfast inside a 16th-century gunpowder cellar. For a truly VIP experience, choose to stay in one of the luxury guest houses.

Via S. Vito, 27, Monopoli
+39 080 742521

Brindisi

   Trattoria Bère Vecchie

This small restaurant in Cisternino serves up a wide range of meats, from sausages to lamb and roasted pork. Guests can select the meats they want straight from the butcher to experience a true Puglian dining experience.

Via Regina Elena, 8, Cisternino
+39 080 444 6638

   Borgo Egnazia

Check into this luxury resort and spa to enjoy a relaxing getaway like none other. Featuring four pools, two private beaches, a state-of-the-art spa, and a Michelin-starred
restaurant, you won’t want to leave the property. The hotel sits beside lush fields where the property gets its fresh fare for your meals, including tomatoes, eggplants, and their own signature olive oil.

Strada Comunale Egnazia 72015, Savelletri
+39 080 225 5000

Lecce

   Al Pescatore

With a patio that overlooks the water, this restaurant and hotel is Giada’s choice for a relaxing lunch. Order eggplant parmigiana with mussels and clams, the gnocchi pomodoro, or their fried fish tower—a real show-stopper!

Riviera Cristoforo Colombo, 39, Gallipoli
+39 0833 263656

   Caffè Alvino

At this famous pastry and gelato shop in the provincial capital of Lecce, don’t try to take your goodies to go—you’re encouraged to sit down and enjoy the experience. Try the local pasticciotto leccese, a small, cream-filled pie, or any of the decadent flavors of gelato.

Piazza Sant'Oronzo, 30, Lecce
+39 0832 266748

   Caffè Duomo

In the shadow of the stunning cathedral of Sant’Agata in Gallipoli, this is the perfect stop for coffee and gelato when you need a little sightseeing pick-me-up, whether it’s a classic coffee or a less traditional Snickers gelato.

Via Antonietta de Pace, 72, Gallipoli
+39 0833 264402

   Dolci Tramonti

This coffee, pastry, and gelato shop is the perfect place in Porto Cesareo to start the morning with a multigrain cornetto (a croissant with an Italian twist) and a cappuccino. Get there early before the crowds arrive to enjoy the waterfront views.

Via Ludovico Muratori, 12, 73010 Porto Cesareo LE
+39 348 413 0370

   Enoteca Mamma Elvira

This wine bar is the sister spot to the more formal La Cucina di Mamma Elvira, with the same dedication to local food and—most importantly—delicious local wines. About 250 Pugliese wines are available by the glass, ready for a supremely leisurely lunch.

Via Umberto I, 19, 73100 Lecce LE
+39 349 113 3126

   Gelateria Via Vai

On the piazza next to the fortress, this small shop is Giada’s choice for a gelato stop to cool off and enjoy some people-watching in the energetic town of Otranto. Dig into a bombolo here: an ice cream sandwich made with a warm brioche roll split and stuffed with fresh gelato in your choice of flavors.

Via Castello, 30, 73028 Otranto LE
+39 389 433 8218

   LaltroBaffo

At this modern restaurant owned by chef Cristina Conte, traditional Salento cuisine is given an exciting update. Giada loved the orecchiette with a pesto made of mint and basil, spaghetti carbonara with local sea urchin, and anchovies marinated with chicory, almonds, and clementines.

Via Cenobio Basiliano, 23, Otranto
+39 0836 801636

   L'Aragosta da Cò

Right on the waterfront of Porto Cesareo, this gorgeous restaurant is the spot for stunning sunset views to go with your dinner. The food is light and clean, with amazing fresh seafood options.

Via Silvio Pellico, 38, Porto Cesareo
+39 338 609 7273

   La Cucina di Mamma Elvira

This popular restaurant is known for perfectly executed Pugliese specialties like ciceri e tria, pasta with chickpeas topped with crunchy fried pasta, with a friendly, welcoming spirit. Aunt Raffy enjoyed a fried artichoke pasta here. Tip: Book in advance if you can!

Via Ludovico Maremonti, 33, Lecce
+39 331 579 5127

   La Granita

It wouldn’t be summer in Italy without frozen treats! This shop sells gelato, but the real draw is their icy-cold granita made with real fresh fruit. The lemon granita is tart, juicy, and so refreshing on a sunny afternoon.

Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, 51, Porto Cesareo

   La Piazzetta

Get a taste of Italian home cooking at this amazing mom-and-pop restaurant. Mom is in the kitchen making handmade pastas and gnocchi di sorrento, a local variation made with both semolina and potato that is cooked in huge batches and spooned directly onto your plate. It’s a must-try, along with orecchiette alle cime di rapa (a type of broccolini), spaghetti with zucchini and shrimp, and casarecce with mussels.

Piazza Dante, 1, Castro
+39 0836 947361

   Matre

Run by a husband-and-wife team, this restaurant is decorated with striking paintings in the baroque tradition of the city. The food is just as eye-catching, with an emphasis on fresh seafood and handmade pastas.

Via Antonietta de Pace, 116, Gallipoli
+39 0833 264430

   Salumeria Rizzello

A great way to save money on food when traveling is to stock up at a local deli or grocery store. On her trip through the region, Giada picked up some delicious prosciutto cotto and mozzarella at this small shop, which also makes panini for quick and easy lunches.

Via Silvio Pellico, Porto Cesareo

   Santa Monaca

Dine indoors or out on the small piazza on which this charming trattoria is located for optimal people-watching. Either way, you’ll enjoy gorgeous fresh seafood pulled from the waters that are a literal stone’s throw away from where you sit.

Piazza de Amicis, 13, Gallipoli
+39 329 596 3258

   Ristorante Lo Scalo

Stop in by boat to this beach club, hotel, and restaurant for a quintessentially Italian summer experience. Visitors can stay for a few hours or the night, all while enjoying delicious food and gorgeous views of the rocky coast. All of their produce comes from their own hilltop garden inland, and of course the seafood is as fresh as can be.

Via Amerigo Vespucci, Marina di Novaglie
+39 0833 533488

   Chiesa di San Pietro

Located in the historic center of Otranto on one of the highest hills in town, this small basilica is one of the oldest religious buildings. You can see its age quite literally on the walls: It features colorful Byzantine frescoes that date back to the 10th century!

Via S. Pietro, 10, Otranto LE

   Frantoio Oleario Ipogeo di Palazzo Granafei

Under the cobblestoned streets of the old city of Gallipoli is an incredible glimpse of history in this restored olive oil cave-slash-museum. In the 17th century, Gallipoli was home to dozens of these underground mills, which supplied most of Europe with lamp oil pre-electricity. This is the only one that has been fully restored and is open to the public.

Via Antonietta de Pace, 87, 73014 Gallipoli LE
+39 0833 264242

   Torres Sant’Andrea Beaches

There are beautiful beaches across Italy, but the Torres Sant’Andrea might top the list. You can soak up the sun with a stunning view of the rocky towers that jut out of the crystal-clear waters. When you’re not sunbathing, you can swim through the stone arches or (if you’re a pro) dive off of the cliffs.

Contrada Torre Sant'Andrea, Melendugno

   La Fiermontina

A 17th-century home-turned-hotel, La Fiermontina is an ode to the owners’ grandmother, Antonia Fiermonte, an artists’ muse and model who left Puglia for Paris in the 1930s. Her romantic spirit (she left one artist husband for another) can be felt around the gorgeously modern property—in fact, she’s depicted in a number of artworks found in the lobby and gardens. The café here serves traditional caffè leccese, an iced espresso with sweet almond syrup, which Giada enjoyed with a soft, chewy almond cookie.

Piazzetta De Summa Scipione, 4, Lecce
+39 0832 302481

   Palazzo Bozzi Corso

A sister to La Fiermontina, this hotel in a 17th-century palazzo is located in the heart of Lecce, just steps from the Basilica di Santa Croce. With purified air, en-suite saunas, and a “relaxarium,” it’s a serene, wellness-focused retreat from the city hustle.

Via Umberto I, 38, Lecce
+39 0832 156 0335
Bari
Brindisi
Lecce