A Puglia Road Trip Itinerary: Our 10 Day Puglia Guide
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 the road trip destination, where 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.
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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 travelling 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.
Here’s a quick overview of our ultimate road trip Puglia itinerary.
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. They have some of the best rates, especially in the summer high season. Find a rental car with Auto Europe here. And check Rental Cars here. 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.
Where to Stay: Stay the night in Bari, we chose B&B Murex but Al Pescatore – B&B is also a fantastic option. As you’re just staying one night a B&B is a great option. 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 organising 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
Where to Stay: We stayed at Corte San Pietro for a divine cave hotel experience. To really splurge though, make sure to check out Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita.
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 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