What to see in Puglia – Roadtrip in Italy

matera vue d'en haut pouilles

This summer, we took the car to explore Italy. After the Umbria region , we headed towards Puglia. I waited impatiently to discover the heel of the boot. And I was not disappointed with this stay! If you are exploring Southern Italy and wondering what to see in Puglia and which cities to visit in Puglia , stay here, this article is for you.

Here you will find the itinerary of our road trip, in order to know what to see in Puglia in Italy.

Where to stay in Puglia?

Puglia in summer is a popular tourist destination. In 2020, obviously, Miss Covid being part of it, so there were far fewer tourists than in other years. And yet…!

We had great difficulty finding accommodation there. We had made the choice to leave by improvising and to book our hotels from day to day: but it is very complicated! All hotels were full so we often drove long drives just to find accommodation.

I therefore advise you to choose well in advance a fairly central accommodation (or several), which will allow you to travel around Puglia. For example, book a few days in Bari to visit the upper part of Puglia, then a few days in Lecce for the lower part. 

What to see in Puglia – Itinerary

Here we are at the part that probably interests you the most: what to see in Puglia ? Here are the steps we took. 

# 1  Monte Sant’Angelo | Authentic Puglia 

Monte Sant’Angelo was our first stop in Puglia. White houses and narrow streets, no doubt, here we are in Puglia as we imagine them. We really liked the authenticity of this sublime village. Forget your car, the historic center, perched on the hill, can be visited on foot. Take the time to stroll in the pretty alleys in the middle of the drying clothes, and discover underground the astonishing Sanctuary of the Archangel Saint Michael, dug in a cave. 

Do you want to be guided so as not to miss anything? Civitatis offers you a tour of Monte Sant’angelo to discover this little Apulian gem. Discover the program here.

# 2  The Umbra and Vieste forest | On the cliff side 

We are now heading to the end of the spur of Italy, discovering the small town of Vieste. 

To do so, we cross the Umbra forest, a huge beech forest that covers a large part of the Gargano region. A surprise to see such a large forest in an area where the temperatures are so hot. Many families gather there around large picnics, in search of a little shade.

Coming back to Vieste , this is a very attractive little town. Built on a white cliff, this charming seaside resort still offers many narrow streets to walk. There were no crowds when we got there at midday, which (despite the stifling heat) makes the visit very enjoyable. 

# 3  San Giovanni Rotondo | Padre Pio and the best pizza in the world

San Giovanni Rotondo is a step that was essential for us because it is the only city where there were still hotels. 

A little surprised, we arrive in a visibly Catholic hotel and we notice that the shops in the neighborhood are exclusively devoted to prayer objects, albs, statuettes and other church objects… But where are we ?! 

Some information later, we learn that it is in fact the city of Padre Pio, a man who would have done miracles, and that his body rests in a sanctuary right next to our hotel. It would even have been visited by all the Vatican popes. Everything is explained !

So we left our neighborhood (which lacked a bit of atmosphere, let’s face it) and walked 20 minutes to reach the city center. And there, a good surprise! The city center is very small, but the main street is bustling with life. 

Good address alert! 

We ate at Pizzeria Regina Margherita and I couldn’t have done this article without talking about it. This is quite simply the best pizza I have ever eaten! The ingredients are simple, raw, and yet unbelievably high quality: so tasty you might just shed a tear. The waiter went out of his way to find us a table when the restaurant was full, he put on a hell of a show to aerate the wine and he came to grate the truffles directly at the table on the pizza coming out of the oven. We wondered if he took us for the investigators of the Michelin Guide. An unforgettable meal! I could not have told you about San Giovanni Rotondo without it, but for a pizza like this, I even want to tell you to take the first plane, even if it means making a return trip, just to taste it in this restaurant! 

Pizzeria Regina Margherita – Corso Regina Margherita, 5/7, 71013 San Giovanni Rotondo FG, Italy

The next day we went to Lady Mary Our Lady of Grace Shrine. Even if it means being around here, we also wanted to visit the famous Padre Pio. The sanctuary, very recent, it dates from 2004, is covered with incredible gilding, it is worth a look. Apparently, it would have been entirely built only thanks to the offerings of the faithful. 

If you want a guided tour of the city, don’t hesitate to book a tour. You will find the program of the visit here and you can register directly online. 

 # 4 Bari | Capital of the region

New day, we go to discover the capital of Puglia: Bari. 

Bari is a charming city, with a more medieval feel than its neighbors. It is worth a look although we found it a bit distorted with the world and the many stalls for tourists.

What to see in Bari: 

The main points of interest are in the historic heart, Bari Vecchia , the old town made up of alleys surrounded by ramparts. 

In Via Alto Basso , you can admire the work of the women sitting in front of their homes, who make orecchiettes, small traditional pasta. Moreover, there are courses to learn how to make your own pasta. 

You can also admire the architecture of the c hâteau Norman-Swabian ( which you can visit by registering ), the Basilica of San Nicola and the Cathedral of San Sabino 

Also, a stroll by the sea along the ramparts can be very pleasant if the heat is not as overwhelming as it was during our passage. Bari can be visited very well on foot, the historic center can be crossed from one side to the other in about ten minutes, so do not hesitate to take the time to stroll through the alleys. A good plan ! Civitatis offers free city tours (this works at tip, you give if you want). You can register here to participate and thus fully enjoy Bari. And if you prefer to visit the city by bike, tours are also possible upon registration . 

bari vegetables

# 5  Altamura | The city of bread

Before heading to Matera, we made a short stop in Altamura, known for its ball-shaped bread that is eaten all over Puglia. It seems that you can see artisans working in some bakeries. Unfortunately, that Tuesday everything was closed. We were therefore a little disappointed, the city was completely deserted. She’s pretty all the same, but it’s not a step that I would absolutely recommend. 


# 6 Matera | Incredible cave city

A must-see in Puglia, Matera, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since the 90s. 

A former shame of Italy, it was in the cave houses of Matera, called the Sassis, that the poor lived, crowded with their animals until the 1950s. Following numerous epidemics, the government forced the inhabitants of Matera to leave the premises, and later, rehabilitation work was carried out. 

Matera is today a sumptuous white city, carved into the rock and endowed with several rock churches. I advise you to spend at least a good half-day to lose yourself in its alleys and to survey the sassis, then to go up to the belvedere in order to enjoy the point of view on this incredible panorama. 

Fancy an original walk? You can book a ride in Ape, this famous Italian vehicle that looks like a tuk tuk, so you don’t miss anything from Matera. Here is the link to register .

matera apulia 2

# 7 Alberobello | The village of the Trulli

Another must-see in Puglia: Alberobello. 

The village of Alberobello is made up of trullis, adorable little lime houses with pointed roofs on which they all have a symbol. It is said that the peasants created these houses because there was a tax on the number of houses in the village. Thus, with this type of construction, they could easily dismantle the houses to make them disappear in the event of an inspection, and thus avoid taxes. Smart!  

My opinion is however very mixed on this village: it is incredibly beautiful, it is unusual, but unfortunately there are so many people that the visit becomes an ordeal. It’s the kind of spot on a trip that you feel bad to skip because it’s so unusual, so I can’t tell you not to go. But be prepared for the crowd! 

On the practical side, you will find a parking lot at the entrance of the village, where you can leave the car for € 6 a day. 

Guided tours of Alberobello allow you to learn the history of the village. You can book a guide here so you don’t miss a thing. 

belvedere alberobello

# 8 Locorotondo | Step not to be missed

Very close to Alberobello is Locorotondo, a very nice surprise! Perched on a small cliff, with its pretty white houses, the village is one of the most beautiful in Italy. I advise you to take the time to stroll through its adorable alleys and enjoy its calm after the crowds of Alberobello. 



# 9  Monopoli | Treasure from the forgotten side

Monopoli had been recommended to us by our host the day before. We had never heard of it before, and besides, it is a city that many tourists skip, simply because there is nothing special to see in Monopoli. And yet it was a very nice discovery: this seaside town is authentic and the atmosphere is sweet (like in Puglia). I really enjoyed walking the streets of Monopoli, taking the time to take a short break on the low walls along the sea, contemplate the photographs exhibited along the port … I recommend a passage for a relaxing day, in order to take advantage of its many cafes and restaurants.


# 10 Cava di Bauxite 

Before reaching Lecce, we made a short stop at Cava di Bauxite, an old extraction mine in which a small lake was formed. It’s a rather quick stop, you can go around the lake and enjoy these pretty colors in about ten minutes. Plan to wear shoes that you don’t really care about, because the red sand is very messy. 

# 11 Lecce | Sumptuous Florence of the South

Our last stop in Puglia – last but not least – was Lecce. Lecce is a must see in Puglia, it is nicknamed the Florence of the South. It is a beautiful and lively city that we really liked. 

Its architecture is the fruit of many influences: The Romans, the Normans, the Aragonese and the Byzantines passed there.

Thus, you will discover magnificent monuments such as its cathedral in Piazza del Duomo, its Roman amphitheater in Piazza Sant’Oronzo, where again the sublime facade of the Basilica Santa Croce. 

lecce - palazzo
Lecce - Piazza Duomo
lecce - amphitheater

Good addresses in Lecce

Have a drink in Lecce

For a drink, I advise you to go to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, very pleasant and lively at the end of the day. Stop by the Alibi Creative Club for a good cocktail in a perfectly decorated setting. 

Alibi Creative Club – Via degli Ammirati, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, 15, 73100 Lecce LE, Italy

lecce apulia

Dining in Lecce

If you like meat, we have discovered a nugget: one of the best restaurants we have done in Italy: Tabisca “il Vico dei Tagliati”. There, you will taste delicious meats carefully selected (Black Angus, Ocean Beef, Kobé…) and cooked to perfection. 300 gr of happiness for the taste buds and adorable service: an address we will not forget! 

Tabisca “il Vico dei Tagliati” Via Dietro Ospedale dei Pellegrini 29 In un vicolo presso Piazzatta Santa Chiara, 73100 Lecce LE, Italy

lecce tabisca

Thus ends our week discovering Puglia in Italy. These were great discoveries, you feel out of place and you can find in the same region landscapes and architectures that are totally different from one spot to another. Prefer to avoid the high season in order to better enjoy what Puglia has to offer. Hope you enjoy this trip! 

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