Looking for a great Puglia road trip itinerary that takes in the best of Italy’s boot region? Keep reading for our exact road trip Puglia and how you can plan your own perfect Puglia Italy road trip.
Puglia is Italy’s most southeastern region. Known for its fabulous beaches, crystal clear water, wine, olive oil and the conical roofs of trulli that puncture the Itria Valley, a Puglia road trip is one of the best ways to get to know this still quite undiscovered part of Italy- well, at least for international visitors.
As the region doesn’t have the best public transport links, Puglia is a road trip destination. On just one trip you can combine historic, white towns, grand Baroque cities, unspoiled beaches, undiscovered vineyards, and a plethora of other cultural experiences.
From the sea cliffs of Polignano a Mare to the Baroque churches of Lecce to the trulli of Alberobello, Puglia offers the perfect Italy road trip.
Keep reading to find out more about our exact Puglia road trip route, our top tips for road trips in Puglia, and all the information you need to plan the perfect trip.
*This ‘Puglia road trip’ post contains affiliate links meaning I might make a small profit if you choose to book at no extra cost to you. This helps me to keep providing you with top-quality content for free.
Best Time to Visit Puglia
Puglia is best visited in the shoulder season. The best months to visit Puglia are May and June and then September and maybe the first half of October.
During this time the weather is pleasant but not too hot, days are longer and there aren’t that many people around either.
This is also a cheaper time to travel. For example, we visited at the end of May and we actually scored free parking in many places because meters didn’t start charging until June.
If you don’t mind hot weather, crowds, and higher prices then July and August are also good months to visit.
From October through April things shut down for the winter. Visiting the larger cities like Bari, Brindisi or Lecce is still feasible but many services, restaurants, cafes, and bars in smaller towns close completely for the winter.
Ostuni for example is completely lifeless in the winter months.
While temperatures are far from freezing during the day, because most sights and services shut down during this time I wouldn’t recommend visiting during the winter months.
How to Get to Puglia
Puglia is easily reachable from most places around Europe and beyond.
There are two main airports that serve the area, Bari and Brindisi, Bari being the larger of the two with the most connections to other destinations around Europe.
Alternatively, if you’re already in Italy, you can reach Puglia by plane, train or bus from anywhere else in the country. Trains from Rome take about 5 hours and from Florence, it’s about 7.5 hours to get to Puglia.
You can also reach Puglia, particularly Bari from Dubrovnik, Bar in Montenegro and Durrës in Albania by ferry. Ferries also operate between Corfu in Greece and Brindisi.
Upon arrival in Puglia you’ll want to rent a car and as this is a Puglia road trip itinerary, this travel blog post is based around traveling by car.
Puglia doesn’t have great public transportation links and while this itinerary is possible for the most part by public transport, you’ll need much more time to factor in public transportation schedules.
I always use Auto Europe to rent a car in Italy. They have some of the best rates, especially in the summer high season. Find a rental car with Auto Europe here. Cars can be rented at Bari and Brindisi airports.
Puglia Road Trip Itinerary: Overview
During our 10 days in Puglia, we focused most on the eastern side of the Salento Peninsula from Bari to Otranto, mainly keeping to the Adriatic Coast side. Most of you will know how we’re mostly about slow, conscious travel.
We would have loved to visit Gallipoli, its nearby beaches and the countryside around Taranto but we’ll have to save this for a future trip.
We also didn’t manage to get to northern Puglia, the area surrounding Foggia and the Parco Nazionale del Gargano is also said to be quite spectacular so if you have time going north is a good idea too.
That being said, feel free to extend your trip to compass those areas or cut out some wineries or Itria Valley towns in order to add Gallipoli and the south to your roadtrip Puglia itinerary.
Ultimate road Trip Puglia Itinerary Summary
Day One: Bari > Matera
Day Two: Matera > Locorotondo
Day Three: Alberobello, Martina Franca, Cisternino
Day Four: Ostuni
Day Five: Ostuni > Ceglie Messapica
Day Six: Ostuni > Otranto > Lecce
Day Seven: Lecce > Monopoli
Day Eight: Monopoli > Puglia wineries
Day Nine: Polignano a Mare
Day Ten: Polignano a Mare
This Puglia road trip itinerary takes into account the best of Puglia; the quaint, unique villages of the Itria Valley, Puglia’s majestic Baroque towns and cities, the region’s wine and wine-making traditions as well as the beautiful coastline and best beaches in Puglia.
You can also focus more on wellness in the itinerary by upgrading your stay to some of the best wellness-focused hotels in the area.
You’ll find our Puglia road trip itinerary map below. We started in Bari.
If you decide to start in Brindisi it makes sense to start following this itinerary from Ostuni, Lecce or Otranto and then loop back round to the Itria Valley after visiting the southern parts of the peninsula.
Other variations: Doing this trip again I probably wouldn’t change much apart from just extending the trip and having more time in the region. But here are a few variation ideas that you might want to consider.
Instead of two days in Polignano a Mare, have a day in Gallipoli from Lecce. If you’re not fussed by visiting some wineries, spend the afternoon of day seven visiting Gallipoli and its beaches before heading to Monopoli.
Instead of spending a morning in Bari, head to Matera earlier for a full day and a half there.
My Puglia Road Trip Itinerary: Day by Day
Arrival in Bari
We arrived in Bari late in the evening on a flight from London so I’m not counting this as the first day of the itinerary.
We picked up our rental car there and then to save having to go back to the airport the next day. I highly recommend doing this.
I always use Auto Europe or Rental Cars to rent a car in Italy and Europe.
We ended up finding a car with Leasys- a local Italian rental company through Auto Europe. I couldn’t have been happier with the service and car.
Just a note here about car rental- try to rent the smallest car you’ll be able to fit into. Some of the roads in the Puglian towns are so narrow and the parking spots so tiny, it really, REALLY helps to have a small vehicle.
We rented a Fiat 500 and we were so happy we did but even then I had to do a couple of 2-point turns just to turn right or left in some town centres.
You can park your rental car on the street near the hotel or ask the hotel for the best parking options.
Puglia Road Trip Day One: Bari > Matera
Start the day with an early breakfast and head into the centro storico of Bari for a few hours to look around.
While Bari isn’t the most picturesque point on this itinerary it still deserves a little attention even just for a few hours.
The good thing is that the historic center is very compact meaning that you can easily walk through and see the main points of interest in a few hours.
Here are some of the best highlights in Bari, you’ll want to check out.
- Strada delle Orecchiette- the street where local nonnas make fresh pasta outside their homes
- Bari lungomare- a gorgeous spot of a seaside morning stroll
- Basilica San Nicola – visit the relic of the saint that inspired Santa Claus
- check out contemporary art at Teatro Margherita
- Have a coffee in Piazza Mercantile
For more things to do and to plan your morning in Bari see Top Things to Do in Bari Italy | A Perfect Stay in Puglia’s Capital
At around midday make your way back to the car and drive to Matera. Matera is technically in Basilicata and not Puglia but it’s so close that making the detour is definitely worth it.
It takes about an hour to get to Matera along a highway mostly. The trip is quick and easy.
Before you get to Matera city center I highly recommend ticking off one of the top things to do in Matera, Belvedere Murgia Timone.
Murgia Timone viewpoint is a viewpoint located on top of the other side of the ravine from Matera. From here you’ll get the most beautiful views of Matera.
You can technically walk to the viewpoint from town later in the day but as you’ve got a car, it’s much simpler and it’ll save you time to just drive up. Find the viewpoint on Google Maps here.
From here head into Matera. FYI, most cave hotels are located in the centro storico and in the dreaded ZTL zone so you won’t be able to drive right to your hotel.
Parking in Matera is not easy to find. For this reason, I highly recommend organizing parking through your hotel.
Spend the rest of the day exploring Matera. Some highlights include:
- Explore the Sassi and the cave dwellings of Matera
- Visit the rock cave churches
- Learn about Matera’s history at Casa Noha
- Visit Matera’s Duomo
- Catch the sunrise from the best viewpoints in town.
For the full Matera travel guide read What to Do in Matera: A Complete Guide to Visiting Matera, Italy
Day Two: Matera > Locorotondo
Spend the early morning exploring Matera before having a late breakfast or early lunch and then heading to the Itria Valley. It takes 1 hour 15 minutes to get to Locorotondo.
I highly recommend basing yourself in or around Locorotondo for the next two nights in order to better access the Itria Valley towns over the next couple of days.
Spend the afternoon walking around the beautiful white-washed Locorotondo. Some of the best things to do are:
- Wander around the historic centre
- Have a glass of Locorotondo DOC wine with a view of the lungomare
- Visit Locorotondo’s Duomo and other churches
- Look at the views from Belvedere di Locorotondo
For the full guide don’t miss Locorotondo Puglia: A Short Guide to the Best Things to Do
Where to Stay: We stayed in Pietra Pesara, a beautiful little trullo B&B outside town that also has free onsite parking.
One of the best things to do on a Puglia itinerary is to stay in a trullo or masseria. I highly recommend seeking out this type of accommodation here for a wonderfully unique Puglian experience.
There are many trullo and some masserias around Locorotondo and in the area.
Day Three: Alberobello & Martina Franca & Cisternino
Start the day really early and head to UNESCO World Heritage Site Alberobello for sunrise and to beat the crowds. If there’s one place that’s worth the early wake up it’s here.
From 9 am tour buses already start rolling in so you’ll want to be here early to have the place to yourself. We arrived just after sunrise, scored free parking (you start paying from 9 am) and had the place to ourselves.
In Alberobello, there’s not much to do but walk the quaint trullo-filled streets. You’ll be able to pop your head into the variety of souvenir shops to get a sense of them on the inside.
I also recommend visiting Trullo Sovrano for a sense of what it would have been like to live in a trullo at the turn of the century.
Read A Mini Guide to Alberobello Italy: The Famed Trulli Town for the full travel guide to Alberobello.
Late morning make your way to Martina Franca, just a 20-minute drive away.
Read more: Martina Franca Puglia: The Definitive Guide
If you have time you can also try to squeeze in Cisternino towards the end of the day. It’s a lovely little town with a beautiful but compact historic center and generally a lovely place to be for sunset and in the evening.
In Cisternino I highly recommend going for a stroll around the historic center, checking out the main church and admiring the views from Villa Comunale Guiseppe Garibaldi for sunset.
You can then head for an Aperol and dinner at Vattelappesca Restaurant & Wine on the Ponte Della Madonnina to end the day.
Read Visiting Cisternino Puglia: A Curated Travel Guide for the full guide to Cisternino.
If this day feels a little rushed then just focus on Alberobello and Martina Franca.
Day Four: Ostuni
Indulge in a slow and steady morning at your hotel before driving from the Locorotondo area to Ostuni. The drive takes about 30 minutes.
Once in Ostuni spend the rest of the day, slowly exploring the hilltop, ‘white city’. There are many things to do in Ostuni to keep you busy for the whole day, you’ll find a couple of suggestions for how to make the most of your time in Ostuni.
- Stroll around Ostuni’s historic center.
- Visit Ostuni’s Cathedral
- Visit the Palaces
- Admire the city from the viewpoint
- Shop for Produce at the Saturday Market
- Eat is the great restaurants
Don’t miss Exploring Ostuni Italy: Top Things to do in Puglia’s White City for the full guide to Ostuni.
Where to Stay: I recommend staying in Ostuni’s historic center for the next two nights so you’re close to all the town’s action.
Day Five: Ostuni > Ceglie Messapica
Spend the morning relaxing in Ostuni, perhaps watching the sunrise from the old wall or taking a walk in the early morning before the crowds roll in.
After breakfast, head out for a day trip to Ceglie Messapica, a small, local town 20 minutes drive south of Ostuni.
Ceglie Messapica has a completely different atmosphere. A little more rundown or dated ( in the best way possible), Ceglie Messapica is very much a local Puglian town and that’s what we loved about it.
You won’t find many tourists here, especially not tour groups but instead, you’ll have locals gathering in the main square for a chat or families heading out for a meal together.
Ceglie Messapica is atmospheric, authentic, and an absolute hidden gem. It was one of my favorite towns that we visited in Puglia.
Some of the best things to do are
- Taking a walk around the old town center
- Visiting the Castello Ducale
- Have a morning coffee in Piazza Plebiscito
- Visiting the churches of Sant’Anna and San Rocco
- Having an antipasti lunch at Vino Fritti e Cucina
Having spent the day in Ceglie Messapica, head back to Ostuni for dinner and sunset drinks.
Day Six: Ostuni > Otranto > Lecce
Start the day early and drive to Otranto. Today is pretty full on with quite a bit of driving compared to the last few days so try to leave as early as you can to make the most of the day.
The drive to Otranto takes 1.5 hours. For the rest of the day spend your time exploring Otranto and the beautiful beaches around this part of the Salento Peninsula.
Start your day in Otranto by walking around the historic center to get your bearings. Otranto is small and compact and you don’t really need more than a few hours here. Make sure to:
- Visit the Aragonese Otranto Castle
- Visit Otranto’s Duomo and St Peter’s Church
- Stroll along the Lungomare
- Relax on Spiagga dei Gradoni, Otranto’s main beach
After a slow lunch in Otranto, I highly recommend spending the afternoon beach hopping in the area just north of Otranto. Drive north along the SP366 to Bahia dei Turchi, one of the best beaches in Puglia.
Relax on the white sand and bathe in some of the most turquoise water in the area.
Next, make a quick pit stop at Torre Sant’Andrea for some pretty amazing rock stacks amid the clearest blue water.
Finish the day with sunset overlooking Le Due Sorelle, just south of Torre dell’Orso. You’ll have to climb up to the viewpoint on the cliffs so make sure to arrive here about an hour or so before sunset to give yourself enough time to walk up.
At sunset, this really is one of the most beautiful views in this part of Puglia.
If you do have some extra time you can also head to Grotta della Poesia for sunset, a spectacular grotto perfect for swimming and cliff jumping.
For the full travel guide for Otranto and the surrounding area read Exploring Otranto Puglia: Things to Do in and Around Otranto Italy
At the end of it all, drive to Lecce for the night and grab a late dinner in Lecce.
Where to Stay: Spend the night in Lecce before exploring the city tomorrow. As Lecce is all about Baroque Grandeur, you’ll want to stay in a Baroque Palace in Lecce- many of them have now been turned into luxury and also more affordable B&Bs.
Day Seven: Lecce > Monopoli
Start the day early to explore the historic center of Lecce, the Baroque heart of Puglia. For the next few hours walk around and immerse yourself in the history and culture of one of the prettiest cities in Puglia.
What to do in Lecce is based on historic sights, museums and of course the rich Baroque architecture of the city.
Also known as ‘Florence of the South’, Lecce is brimming with important Baroque monuments such as the Lecce Duomo and the Santa Croce Basilica. Make sure not to miss some of the top things to do.
- Visit the four main Baroque churches in Lecce including Lecce’s Duomo
- Stroll around the historical center
- Wander around the Piazza Sant’oronzo and visit the Roman Amphitheater
- Visit Faggiano Museum and MUST
- Peek inside some of Lecce’s palaces
Read the full Lecce travel guide to plan your itinerary Top Things to Do in Lecce Italy: Exploring Puglia’s Baroque City
After a quick lunch drive from Lecce to Monopoli. The drive takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes. For the rest of the day, you can spend the afternoon wandering around the beautiful little seaside town of Monopoli.
Spend some time walking the lungomare and meandering through the beautifully atmospheric side streets in the centro storico.
Make sure not to miss golden hour at the Porto Antico, Monopoli’s stunning old port before heading to Tuttoapposto Winebar for aperitivos.
Where to Stay: For the night, stay in a lovely B&B in the heart of Monopoli. Without a doubt, Hotel Don Ferrante is the best place to stay in Monopoli for stunning decor, service and sea views.
Alternatively, Orazio 33 B&B is another lovely, more affordable option with pretty and roomy suites and a roof terrace.
Day Eight: Monopoli > Puglia wineries
Spend the morning exploring a little more of Monopoli and what it has to offer. I recommend getting up early and going to watch the sunrise along the lungomare before breakfast- it really is gorgeous.
Some of the top things not to miss in Monopoli are
- Visiting the Cattedrale Maria Santissima dell Madia
- Stroll around the historic center and take in the views of the Porto Antico
- Visit the churches
- Have a coffee in Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi
- Take a walk to Faro Rosso Monopoli
Read A Complete Guide to Monopoli Puglia | A Beautiful Day by the Sea for the full Monopoli travel guide.
After our last strolls through Monopoli, we spent the day at a few wineries in the area. We drove back inland to Locorotondo to visit I Pastini (technically it’s possible to visit this winery on day 2, however, the timing of tours was very tight) and then Amastuola Masseria Wine Resort.
I highly recommend spending the afternoon visiting some local wineries if you are a fan of Italian and Puglian wine, if not you could extend your stay around Otranto and Lecce on day 7 and spend all of day 8 in Monopoli.
When visiting wineries in Puglia you’ll need to book a tour and tasting in advance, so make sure you plan this ahead of time. Tours can be booked by contacting the vineyards directly.
Tour times really vary by season and we were only able to visit two during one afternoon. Wineries are also quite spaced out throughout the region so hopping to a few wineries also involves quite a bit of driving.
If you prefer to slow down a little it is possible to just visit one this afternoon. From Monopoli, the nearest winery is probably I Pastini.
For all the information you need about visiting wineries in Puglia read Unmissable Wineries in Puglia for Your Next Trip
Where to Stay: Whether you decided to visit some wineries in Puglia or spend the day in Monopoli, end your day in Polignano a Mare, just 15 minutes up the coast from Monopoli.
For the next two nights stay in this famous resort town and enjoy the sun, Polignano a Mare beaches and sea views.
Stay at Musae Relais & SPA one of the most swoon-worthy, wellness-focused resorts in the middle of town or Lamare cucina e dimore a simple, more budget option with lovely sea views right above Cala Paura.
Day Nine and Ten: Polignano a Mare
The last two days of your 10 days in Puglia are all about relaxing.
Spend the rest of your Puglia itinerary in Polignano a Mare wandering around the stunning town, visiting the Polignano a Mare beaches, sailing on the gorgeous, clear blue Adriatic, and sampling the finest food in the region.
Polignano a Mare couldn’t be more suited for the final days of your Puglia trip, with its slow atmosphere that encourages you to just be and live slowly.
It’s also really close to Bari and its airport, so you won’t need to go drive far to head back to the airport on day 10.
Polignano a Mare, thanks to that iconic photograph we’ve all seen all over Instagram now brings in quite a crowd, especially in the summer months of July and August.
Tourists from all over flock to see the town, historic, white-washed villas perched precariously on the edge of staggering sea cliffs, everything surrounded by a wave of every shade of blue.
And the beach- the smallest in Italy, surrounded by high limestone cliffs with crystal clear, turquoise water lapping at its shores.
If visiting during the summer months, I really encourage you to get up early to explore the town and its streets before hitting the beaches in the afternoon.
There are so many beaches to explore both in town and just immediately out of town that you’re bound to find a slice of paradise for the rest of the day.
Some top things to do in Polignano a Mare to complete your Puglia road trip itinerary are
- Explore the historic center
- Take in the views from the balconattas– beautiful public balconies overlooking the ocean
- Relax on Cala Porto- Puglia’s smallest beach
- Take photos from Pietra Piatta
- Take a boat trip
- Explore the surrounding beaches.
For the full guide check out A Weekend in Polignano a Mare, Puglia: The Definitive Guide
For the best Polignano a Mare beaches in the area read Polignano a Mare Beaches: Uncovering the Resort Town’s Top Beaches
Top Tips for Your Puglia Itinerary
↠ Take it slow. There’s really no point in trying to cram in a billion different places in Puglia in 10 days. The atmosphere of this part of Italy is so relaxed and slow and you’ll want to soak that all in when you arrive.
It really is the perfect place for embracing slow travel.
Having said that this itinerary can get quite busy some days but other days tend to be quite slow- it’s a nice balance. Also, you are limited with what you can do in the afternoons. See next point.
↠ The afternoon siesta. It’s fully honoured and observed in this part of Italy so you’ll want to consider it when planning your itinerary and your mealtimes.
While exact times vary but most shops, attractions, restaurants, and cafes will shut down from about 2.30 pm until 5.30 pm.
During this time you’ll find little open and if you haven’t managed to have lunch you’ll need to survive until dinner.
It’s not that big of a deal in larger cities but you’ll find that the smaller the town, the more it will shut down during these times.
↠ ZTL Zones – The Zona di Trafico Limitado affects most city centers in Puglia in both the cities and smaller towns. They are designed to limit traffic in the historic center and make the areas more pedestrian friendly.
ZTL Zones mean that you’re only allowed to drive into the area at the designated times (stated on signs at the entrances to the ZTL zones).
The fines for driving in at the wrong time are pretty hefty so I recommend just avoiding them altogether and park further out. This does mean that you’ll need to walk further with your luggage in order to get to your hotel so it helps to pack light or not stay in the city centers.
↠ Rent the smallest car you can fit into for these 10 days in Puglia. As mentioned previously the roads in some towns in Puglia are tiny!
It really helps to have a small car as SUVs or trucks would just get stuck. For two people, the Fiat 500 is small, and fuel-efficient and I had no issues with parking it anywhere.
↠ Where possible base yourself in one place and do day trips. We did move accommodations quite a bit but if you prefer staying in one spot for a while, it’s totally doable to drive out one day in one direction and visit another region the next.
Essential Puglia Road Trip Resources
Apart from this Puglia road trip itinerary guide, here are a few other resources and websites you’ll need during your Puglia itinerary. We found ourselves using these a lot during the trip to help plan and guide us along the way.
↠ Google Maps. Make sure to use the map above and save it to your Google Maps to help guide you along the way. It’s also a good idea to save the map of Puglia on Google Maps for offline use.
We didn’t have issues with the phone signal but, well, you never know.
↠ To do this full Puglia road trip itinerary you’ll need to rent a car. Auto Europe and Rental Cars generally have the best rates on car rentals, especially in summer. You’ll want to rent a car from Bari or Brindisi airports in order to save time.
↠ Use booking.com and Airbnb to find accommodation of choice in the area. I personally preferred using booking.com on this trip- I found it to have more and better options, especially when staying somewhere for just one or two nights.
↠ TripAdvisor. I ended up looking at Tripadvisor quite a bit on this trip, along with Google Maps to find the best restaurants in each place.
I’ve recommended the best places to eat in each of the places we visited in their own guides. Make sure to also check out all the Puglia guides here to plan what to do in each region, town or city you visit on this trip.
So are you ready to plan your Puglia road trip itinerary? Let me know your questions and comments below, I’d love to hear from you.
Planning a trip right now? These are just some of my favourite websites I use to book everything from hotels to rental cars!
Booking.com for great deals on hotels
Agoda also for great deals on hotels
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