Charming fishing towns, glamorous sandy beaches and a lively capital city with a youthful atmosphere make this Italian region one of the Mediterranean’s most underrated destinations.
On the southeastern coast of Italy is Puglia, a culturally rich region where miles of beaches meet dense forests and vine-covered hills. Enjoy the sunny climate while indulging in hearty feasts cooked up by the locals, who are known for their culinary prowess and hospitality.
If you are looking for fresh-air adventure, head to the Gargano promontory and amble through the Gargano National Park or ride a bike through Foresta Umbra. After, stop by the clifftop fishing town of Peschici and enjoy a lunch with sea views. For culturally inclined travelers, the Sanctuary of San Michele in Monte Sant’Angelo is a prime spot to study Lombard art.
Shop in boutique stores along the coast in Bari, Puglia’s capital, which is known for its historic old town and vibrant nightlife scene. Hidden inlets in Taranto, nicknamed the “city of two seas” for its location between the Mar Grande and Mar Piccolo, offer places to relax and sunbathe.
Further south, there is lots more to explore including the oceanfront town of Gallipoli, whose historic core sits on a small island and comprises a warren of narrow winding streets. Also worth a visit is the 15th-century Castello Aragonese fortress in the seaside town of Otranto. Venture just outside Otranto to reach Bauxite Lake, a sparkling green lake surrounded by deep orange rocks and Mediterranean scrub. Nearby Lecce is known as the “Florence of the South” for its stunning Baroque architecture, while the town of Arnesano has quaint streets and delightful local cuisine.
Anyone with an interest in history should make a beeline for Foggia, a city built over the ashes of the ancient Italian city of Arpi. Visit the Civic Museum in Palazzo Arpi and marvel at the beautiful architecture of Palazzo Belvedere.
July and August are popular times for Italians to visit Puglia. Come during these months and the coast will be very busy. Travel in May and things will be quieter, though temperatures will still be pleasantly warm. Buses and trains serve the major towns in Puglia; renting a car gives travelers extra freedom.