Puglia, Italy travel guide
Buongiorno Cakies! It’s Amanda, popping in with the Puglia travel post I promised! I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get it together, but you know.. new baby and a business, and a home renovation thrown in there for good measure. But I’m finally putting my experiences in Puglia down on paper (well, screen). I’ve had SO many of you email me saying you’re planning a trip to this area, so I hope it helps in your travel plans!
Travelers tend to visit Italy for its food, history, landscape and culture rather than its beaches. In Puglia, all of those come together magically. A big draw to this region, beyond all the chic whitewashed architecture and crystal clear water is the agriculture. They produce most of the olive oil (more than any other Italian region), wine, tomatoes, artichokes, eggplant and wheat (for pasta!). So wherever you go, the food and wine is superb and likely came from nearby. Plus, burrata was invented HERE, people! That alone is the main reason to go. Once you’ve had burrata from Puglia, you’ve pretty much tasted heaven.
And first of all, a disclaimer.. this was only my first trip here, so I am by no means an expert on the region, but we did travel throughout many of the southern parts of the region and I took lots of mental notes. I’ve received many questions asking how we traveled here, and we flew from Los Angeles to Rome and then right into Bari. I’d recommend flying into Bari unless you have time to travel by train (and enjoy trains!). Bari is on the coast and is close to many of the places you’ll want to visit in the region. So you can easily rent a car at the airport and drive short distances (with pretty views of olive groves and a few mountains!) across the heel of this boot.
Ok let’s get on with it!
Months before our trip, I did a lot of Instagram research (as one does) and found this gem, Masseria Moroseta (which I did a post on awhile back). It had just opened and we decided it would be the perfect place to begin our time in Puglia. It is a very short drive away from Ostuni, a quaint white washed town, famous for its maze of streets, archways and stairways where you can get happily lost in the merriment.
In addition to their famed masseria, Masseria Moroseta just announced their Moroseta Villas, set in the heart of the country, for those of you looking for a countryside escape. Moroseta books up quick, so make sure you reserve your spot 6 months ahead of when you want to visit if it’s during the summer. If you’re going in the fall, a few months ahead would likely be fine.
Isn’t it just so perfect? And that’s Beppe, the groundkeeper. He has two new bulldog roommates now, since we were there!
We spent a day or two in Ostuni, walking, eating and exploring our way through it. I found this great guide if you’re looking to explore the town further.
While we couldn’t imagine a more beautiful location and wanted to stay in our masseria forever, we headed to our next spot, Smith Hotels’ Borgo Egnazia in the coastal town of Fasano. Borgo is as dreamy as it gets. More whitewashed stone, dreamy pools, bright bougainvillea everywhere you turn, and likely some of the best food we’ve ever had at a resort. Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel got married there in 2012, so…if it’s good enough for them…
I could go on and on about this place, the insane breakfast spreads, the delicious lunch and dinner spots, the Roman spa treatments where you lay on a giant stone while being scrubbed and massaged, then dip in hot and cold pools surrounded by candlelight. It was all just too much. If you are lucky enough to go here, I’d recommend the townhomes as opposed to the hotel rooms. They’re so super unique and quaint!
Did I mention the perfectly rustic breakfast spreads? Pure Instagram fodder right here, folks.
And this burrata below? Well, you can learn to make that at a nearby farm’s cheese-making tour that Borgo offers their guests.
Borgo also boasts a beach club, where you can sip your Aperol spritzer and eat fresh seafood at the edge of the sea. Heaven, much?
One of the amazing things about Puglia is that you can have a home base and take day trips to so many cool attractions. One of them being Grotta Della Poesia, a giant sinkhole at the edge of the sea. It is said to have been a favorite swimming spot for an ancient princess, and the sight of her swimming there inspired poets. I’d like to think my swimming techniques there moved my husband in the same way. lol. Visitors nowadays come mainly to take leaps from its 15 foot cliffs into the clear waters, to scuba dive, swim from the sinkhole through an underground sea cave and back out to the sea. You can even rent a boat from to get up close and personal to all the cliffs and grottoes in the area.
We had an aperitif one evening at the nearby Masseria Cimino, and I nearly died of cuteness in there. Gah, why does Italy have to be so effortlessly cool.
One of our day trips was to the little town of Polignano a Mare. A shining gem on the coast, perched atop a 20 meter-high limestone cliff.
The views! The views! You may have seen this exact photo of the main beach Lama Monachile many times on Instagram, but it never really gets old.
Annnd of course, the famed Ristorante Grotta Hotel Palazzese. A fairy tale cave restaurant (with so-so food, but again, those VIEWS!) that you can check off your bucket list. Worth a visit if you’re in the area for sure!
Next in our Puglia tour was down south to the town of Lecce aka the “Florence of Southern Italy.” We stayed at Smith Hotels’ artful La Fiermontina. Definitely would recommend! The location was fantastic.. a short bike ride into the main part of town, but private enough for a quiet stay.
Lecce was beautiful. Really a lovely place. We were likely some of the only foreign tourists there (well at least it seemed that way), so we got to wander the town at our own pace, without any giant crowds. We took day trips from here to an olive grove and company, Azienda Agricola Taurino, where we picked olives and watched the process of making olive oil. And also drove down the coast, stopping at cute little towns like Torre Dell’Orso (where you will want to stop and check out the Two Sisters rocks), Otranto, and Santa Cesarea Terme.
Next on our destination list was the town of Matera. We packed up our belongings and started out from Lecce for our 4 hour drive inland through the countryside. We stopped at Alberobello along the way, which is small town that has been made a UNESCO World Heritage site for its unusual districts of trulli, the characteristic white-washed conical-roofed houses of the area.
We didn’t really know what exactly to expect when we landed in Matera. In the days before we came, we told other travelers that this was on our tour. They were astounded and jealous that we were going. People’s eyes would light up when we mentioned it and it became clear that this was a pretty special place, located amongst the craggy mountains. When we arrived to this view, we literally looked at one another and said “Holy sh*t!”
I was moved to tears a couple of times here. It’s just.. so.. unique.. and breathtaking. Unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. Matera is a town located in a remote area, with complex cave dwellings carved into the mountainside, teetering on the edge of a ravine. Its two cave districts were inhabited from prehistory until the 1950s, when — overcrowded, poverty-stricken and disease-ridden — they were evacuated by the state. Dubbed “the shame of Italy,” Matera remained largely abandoned for decades. In the 1990s, the Sassi started its rebirth and now is a place of wonder for travelers. Here is a handy guide I found, if you want to learn more about the area.
Here, we stayed at Smith Hotels’ Sextantio Le Grotta Della Sevita which was probably the most unique hotel we’ve ever seen. The rooms are bathed in candlelight, which burns ’round the clock. No fire hazards here, since everything is stone! Sleeping in an ancient cave (with comfy beds and modern conveniences) is likely one of the most spectacular and romantic things to experience. Definitely a spot to consider if you’re an adventurous type that loves unique spots.
I wanted to send along some other resources to check out for lodging in this region, since I only mentioned a few places in this post. The Thinking Traveler showcases villas appropriate for 2 or 15 people. The Perfect Hideaway has reviewed some Pugliese gems that are worth a visit as well! Another way to search for places to stay is to literally type in “masseria” in Instagram Top search, and you’ll find some pretty cool masserias (which are basically boutique hotels).
And with that, folks, I’m out! I hope all this info helps in your travels. And if you have any specific questions, don’t hesitate to write them below in the comments and I’ll answer them. Buona notte! – Amanda
(Photos: by me!)