Puglia, Italy ideal destination right now?

I can only think of 2 reasons why you would be reading these lines in the midst of the COVID crisis – you are looking to escape reality and travel through words and pictures or you are still travelling (luck you!!) and looking around for recommendations. We went to Italy right when the borders reopened in late July, we were seen as reckless at the time by some but now it’s probably the easiest destination (minus the new quarantine rule when you are back in the UK).

Here are my recommendations for a week in Puglia. You have a couple of options with regards to airports, we picked Brindisi for the convenience from LHR with BA. Being our very first “long” trip after the lockdown we needed some rest (go figured) and went for two hotels in a week to limit the packing/unpacking. It ended up being a great idea as surprisingly distances between town can be quite long, roads being narrow and poorly maintained in some places. However hotel number 2 (a Masseria!) could have been a tiny bit further south to make it even more convenient. Starting from the north:

Hotel La Pescheria

I couldn’t recommend this hotel more. It’s located near Monopoli (15 minute drive). Yes it’s expensive yes it’s small and not within walking distance of anything really interesting, yes the rooms are very basic (at least ours was), yes there is only one gastro restaurant for dinner and limited lunch options but what a service, beautiful swimming pools and above all what a scenery! I would go back without any hesitations. Make sure you book a room with seaview (don’t even think of booking anything else).

Restaurants/Snacks/Ice creams around Monopoli

  • In Ostuni: Borgo Antico Bistrot. You wil be lucky if you get a table. Extremely touristy but worth going if anything else but the view at sunset. Pizza Bellavista, best pizza ever (pictured above)! Extremely busy too but you can leave your name and come back when your table is ready. Taverna della Gelosia, very romantic candlelit dinner under the lemon trees – booking required.
  • In Speziale: Le Tony’s bar (first picture). On your way back from Alberobello or Martina France make sure to stop for lunch at Tony’s bar. A true institution that only locals know about. Specialty is the Panzerotti; fried mini calzone.
  • In Polignano a mare: Gusto Caruso Ice cream (middle picture above). Delicious home made ice creams with local ingredients, even the cones are made to order and you can chose to pour some dark chocolate or milk chocolate at the bottom of the cone. Enough said 😉

I am not going to detail all the things to visit nor the different villages as to be frank, they are all beautiful! However the places I enjoyed the most were: Alberobello (go early during the week to avoid the crowds), Polignano a Mare (swimming in the beach below the arches is a must), Monopoli (especially the Piazza Garibaldi – cafe Vini e Panini!), Locorotondo, Martina France, Cisternino, Ostuni (at sunset) and Grottaglie (the ceramic village!). Bari is not a city I would recommend, nothing special it’s just a big italian city.

Further south: the beaches

Beaches in the south of Puglia are truely beautiful, white soft sand and pristine blue water. No surprises the area is called the Maldives of Salento. I highly recommend to plan a day of beach hopping. Start in Lecce (have a quick look around) to buy food for a picnic on the beach (go to Lecce’s market, Porta Rudiae – ideal place to park too). Then follow the guide:

  • Cave of Poetry (Grotta della Poesia). Entrance isn’t free but definitely worth paying, especially if you are a frill seeker 😉
  • Torre dell Orso (busy but soft sand and transparent water with different private beach clubs)
  • Baia dei Turchi (softest sand ever)
  • Porto Miggiano Beach (private beach – Santa Cesarea term)
  • Marina Serra (natural pool with a castle tower overlooking the beach)
  • Ponte Ciolo (the very famous bridge)

And if you want more, the west coast features the maldive del Salento, punta prosciotto beach and torre san giovanni.

Masserias

I highly recommend you to try the Masseria experience. We hesitated for a while as most of the Masserias are secluded in the middle of nowhere and relatively far from the coasts but it’s worth the extra miles. Masserias are farms converted hotels (in some cases the farm is still operational!), they usually have a restaurant on site, swimming pools, outdoor cinemas, wine tasting, cooking classes, horse riding, yoga classes and are located in acres of olive trees – they are basically now luxury boutique hotels for wealthy travellers (but you can find relatively cheap ones too). If you don’t want to stay in a Masseria overnight, just go for dinner as the homemade cuisine is usually out of this world! We stayed at the Masseria Palombara, amazing food (luckily as the nearest town doesn’t offer that many restaurants!) especially the breakfast with plates of cakes or savoury options! We really enjoyed the outdoor cinema and the decor of this place is very well thought!

As you probably noticed I am not covering the very tip of Puglia, but I have heard amazing things on Gagliano del Capo or Galliponi for example. A good reason for us to go back there some day! If you have any questions do not hesitate to ask in the comments below. Tell me where is your favourite beach in Puglia too!

Enjoy!

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