Puglia itinerary: 7 days exploring Puglia’s most beautiful cities and beaches
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Tucked down in Italy’s southern region, Puglia is rustic, soulful and understated. There are paradise beaches and pure-white cities that seemingly fall into the sea. This sun-washed region of Italy is also a foodie’s dream, offering fresh, raw seafood and wholesome orecchiette pasta.
The best way to see Puglia’s beautiful cities and beaches is to plan an unforgettable road trip. Here’s our pick of the places you need to add to your 7-day Puglia itinerary.
Between the Adriatic and Ionian seas, Puglia is unlike anywhere else in Europe, with its own fusion of identities. There’s the white and terracotta cubist buildings that reminded me of Morocco, and the labyrinth of lanes that could have been Mykonos or Santorini. The ‘masserie’ – or farmhouses – hide away in the rural parts, surrounded by ancient olive trees. And the region’s iconic trulli (little-domed buildings) proudly dot the landscape.
You can’t help but be charmed by Puglia. This is where the Italians themselves escape for the summer and it has the ideal combination of delicious food, crystal waters and historic cities. Ostuni is known as the White City and is stunning both up close and from afar. Then, there’s the glamour of Polignano a Mare, a coastal spot that’s home to Michelin-star restaurants and one of the most photogenic beaches in the world. The eastern coast has plenty to offer.
Don’t miss Matera on the Puglian border, one of the most breathtaking ancient cities I’ve ever seen. We wandered the streets of the central old town – or ‘Sassi’ – in awe at the incredible stone streets and views of the surrounding ravine. 7 days is the perfect amount of time to explore Southern Italy’s beautiful coastline, and here’s the perfect way to do it all…
Scroll down to read our ultimate Puglia itinerary.
Have you been to Puglia? Where did you visit and where did you stay? If you had the trip of a lifetime let us know so we can add your favourite highlights below. Tell us about your experiences and let’s raise the profile of the places that are truly unforgettable.
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Start by checking into one of Puglia’s most charming hotels.
Day 1: Check into Borgo Canonica in rural Cisternino
One of Puglia’s most charming hotels and a great first stop on your Puglia itinerary.
Charming Borgo Canonica
Start by checking into one of Puglia’s most charming hotels, Borgo Canonica in the Itria Valley. This is one of the most authentic areas of Puglia. Driving from Bari airport, we watched happily as the views became wilder and more rustic with miles and miles of olive trees and vineyards.
At Borgo Canonica, there are 15 trulli suites, decorated in soothing whites and stone, and a peaceful infinity pool, perfect for lounging and having long, lazy lunches. The food is the real show-stopper. Dinner is served in a former outbuilding next to the pool and is an ambitious gourmet delight. You can choose from two tasting menus centred around meat or fish. Highlights included the indulgent truffle spaghetti and the cuttlefish with chicory – fresh and succulent. Pair with a wine flight or opt for a Puglian Primitivo, you can’t go wrong.
Book your stay at Borgo Canonica
Stay at one of Puglia’s most charming hotels. Check dates, prices, hotel details and book your stay at Borgo Canonica on Expedia by clicking on the buttons below.
Get lost in the Old Town and follow Via Cattedrale which flows from the Piazza at the bottom of the hill up to the cathedral.
Day 2: Explore Ostuni, the White City
Discover the historic city of Ostuni.
Stunning city views
Ostuni is around a 20-minute drive from Borgo Canonica and it’s our second pick on our Puglia itinerary. Perched on a cliff edge with strong defensive walls, the city of white-washed houses tumbles and winds around the hillside with the magnificent Gothic cathedral at its centre.
Get lost in the Old Town and follow Via Cattedrale which flows from the Piazza at the bottom of the hill up to the cathedral. The street is full of boutiques and shops selling local olive oil and leather sandals. Borgo Antico Bistro is a picturesque spot for aperitivo and the tables spill down the zig zag of steps. Or, for something more refined, book a table at Dish. A little out of town, this spot offers the best views of the city and the menu is adventurous with dishes like ‘Octopus on the rocks,’ raw Gallipolli prawns (an acquired taste) and mouth-watering lobster rice.
Peering over the crystal clear waters.
Day 3: Visit the beach at Polignano a Mare
Day three of your Puglia itinerary. Explore Polignano a Mare.
Atop a limestone cliff and peering over the crystal-clear waters, this place lives up to its name – ‘at sea’. You can reach the old town through the grand Porta Vecchia gate, which is all white-washed streets with beautiful old squares and churches. Head to the panoramic terraces that offer amazing views of the cove.
For dinner, it has to be Grotta Palezzese – one of the most iconic cave restaurants in the world. Some visitors say it’s not worth the hype, but the atmosphere alone is worth it. Carved into a natural cave, candlelit tables are arranged artfully around the water’s edge. We were lucky enough to be given one right on the highest ledge (next to the resident saxophonist) with views across the entire restaurant. The menu is pricey but as it was our first wedding anniversary we opted for the luxe tasting menu with dishes including delicate fish tartar, Scorpion fish drenched in basil and olive oil and a succulent beef fillet with truffle potato.
We spent the day at Le Cinque Vele – a glamorous beach club with white cabanas billowing in the breeze.
Day 4: Discover the ‘Maldives of Puglia’ in Salento
Explore the Salento peninsula.
‘Maldives of Puglia’
After exploring the east coast of Puglia, drive down to the south and discover the Salento peninsula – known by locals and tourists as the ‘Maldives of Puglia’. I’d recommend going in search of Pescoluse Beach, as it’s a real beauty. The glorious stretch of white sand and clear waters really does feel like a beach in the Caribbean.
We spent the day at Le Cinque Vele – a glamorous beach club with white cabanas billowing in the breeze. It also has a restaurant that serves amazing clam pasta and raw fish open sandwiches, and it even has a natural sea spa just steps from the shore. Head 40 minutes back up the coast to Punta Pizzo and a little further to Porto Selvaggio where the beaches are even more wild, remote and beautiful.
Wander lazily around the charming old town centre, that has remained virtually untouched for centuries.
Day 5: Chill out in Cicerstino
Back to Cicerstino before the final stop on your Puglia itinerary.
It’s worth heading back up to Cicerstino before your final stop. Here, you can wander lazily around the charming old town centre, that has remained virtually untouched for centuries. From the central piazza, there are many little panoramic viewpoints where you can take in the surrounding countryside. I had some of the best pizza of my life at Osteria Del Tempo Perso, but parking up at any of the restaurants, gelateries or bars around the piazza for the evening will almost certainly be blissful.
Nothing will prepare you for how stunning this city is.
Day 6: Make the journey to mesmerising Matera
Head to Matera, a spectacular destination to finish your Puglia itinerary.
For the final few days, I’d suggest heading to the northern edge of Puglia, to the province of Matera – a must-visit on any Puglia itinerary. Nothing will prepare you for how stunning this city is, with its atmospheric grottos and sweeping ancient ravines. Matera is the third-oldest city in the world (founded over 9,000 years ago) and has been the backdrop to many a film, including No Time to Die and The Passion of Christ.
Now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the oldest part of the city, or the ‘Sassi’ is now buzzing with amazing restaurants, museums and artisan shops. On your first day, check into one of Italy’s most mind-blowing hotels, Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita. The rooms are literally built into the caves and our suite was aglow with hundreds of candles when we arrived.
For dinner, it has to be the Michelin-starred, Vitantonio Lombardo Ristorante, with an impressive tasting menu and Italian wine list. It’s no surprise that it was recently featured on Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy series.
Book your stay at Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita
Stay at the unique Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita hotel in Matera. Check dates, prices, hotel details and book your stay on Expedia by clicking on the buttons below.
Take a stroll along the city’s walls to get your bearings and take in all its charm.
Day 7: Explore one of the world’s oldest cities
Exploring Matera’s historied streets is the perfect way to spend the last day of your trip. Enjoy a scenic breakfast at Sextantio Le Grotte with tables overlooking the ravine, known locally as ‘La Gravina’. Take Ape Calessino (like a more charming tuk-tuk) to see the city’s most famous landmarks including the Piazza Vittorio Veneto and the Maddone delle Virtù church. Or, just take a stroll along the city’s walls to get your bearings and take in all its charm.
Then, check out the city’s Museum of Modern Art, MUSMA or visit the many boutiques – our favourite was Geppettos, selling hand-made ceramics, including the region’s traditional ‘cuccú’ (or rooster) ornaments. We ended the day with dinner at La Lopa, which served the best orecchiette and boasts a cosy cinema in one of its underground caves.
Keep driving up towards the luxurious Amalfi Coast.
Have more time?
Extend your Italian road trip.
Extend your Italian road trip and keep driving up towards the luxurious Amalfi Coast. The picture-perfect towns of Ravello, Positano and Sorrento are all reachable within 3-3.5 hours of Matera and make for the ultimate dolce vita ending.
And if you fancy planning your next trip you can browse our full collection of travel guides.
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