Situated in the ‘heel’ of Italy’s southeastern peninsula with its long stretch of Adriatic coastline to the east and Ionian coast to the south, Puglia has become one of Italy’s most popular destinations for Australian travellers.
From January to September 2023, more than 44,000 Australians visited Puglia accounting for over 122,000 overnight stays – making Australians the ninth largest market for visitors to the region, globally, and the second largest among non-EU countries.
Known for its countryside blanketed with olive groves and vineyards, historic port cities, fresh seafood, and pasta dishes featuring local ingredients, the allure of this southern region is plain to see. If you haven’t visited already, here are the top reasons Puglia has earned its place on the map for Australian travellers.
Poligano a Mare: A real-world fantasy land
Perched atop the characteristic limestone cliffs of the Adriatic coast, Poligano a Mare is a charming town known for its cove beaches and clear turquoise water, fantasy-like sea caves and grottoes, and narrow meandering streets slicing through historic white-washed buildings.
One of the most iconic foodie experiences in Poligano a Mare is the Grotta Palazzese – an exclusive restaurant built into a natural cave overlooking the ocean.
Aside from relaxing on the beach and enjoying the sun, or the evenings spent enjoying the local hospitality, the town also attracts visitors for its programme of events and festivals taking place throughout the year, from the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in July to the Feast of the Patron Saint of Poligano a Mare in June.
The charm of Alberobello’s Trulli
Characterised by their conical roof, Trulli are the traditional dry stone homes of the region, believed to have originated from the 15th century.
The town of Alberobello is one of the best places to see these beautifully preserved historic homes in their highest concentration, earning its place as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
You can explore the town to appreciate the architecture in situ, while some Trulli homes in the region have been converted to accommodation for a trulli unique overnight stay.
Aquatic treasures on the beaches of Salento
Salento is at the southernmost end of the Puglia region. With white sands and clear blue waters, Salento’s coast is dotted with protected coves and long stretches of beautiful beaches which are a magnet for travellers looking for the ultimate European summer beach escape.
With so many to choose from, they’re rarely ever crowded and each of them has something unique to offer. From the towering sand dunes and still waters of Punta Proscuitto and the islets of Torre dell’Orso, to the private rocky coves of Acquaviva di Marittima and Torre Sant’Andrea, everyone will find their favourite spot to lay a towel.
Discovery on the Gargano Peninsula
Jutting into the Adriatic Sea, the Gargano Peninsula in the province of Foggia is a small promontory offering incredible diverse landscapes, from its hilly forested interior to the tall limestone cliffs that plummet into the sea below.
You can explore the historic mountain town of Monte Sant’Angelo with its castle, maze of streets and cave church, or the relaxed coastal town of Vieste with its many restaurants, bars and gelaterias.
Other popular activities on the Gargano Peninsula include taking a boat tour of the sea caves, beaches and cliffs, visiting the Tremiti Islands by boat – a group of five islands off the north coast of the peninsula, and hiking the trails of the Umbra Forest, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The flavours, culture, and history of Bari’s Old Town
Bari is the capital of the Puglia region, featuring a vibrant Old Town district filled with boutique shops, restaurants, historic churches and many other sites of cultural or architectural significance.
Highlights of Bari’s Old Town include the medieval fortress of Castello Svevo, the pilgrimage site of Basilica di San Nicola, the Swabian Walls which offer elevated views of the city within and ocean outside, and the Piazza Mercantile – the lively main square in Bari Vecchia. Meanwhile, a food tour of some of Bari’s most popular street foods or a visit to the portside restaurants of Porto Vecchio is a great way to familiarise yourself with the local cuisine.
Have you ever been to Italy? What was your favourite region? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?