Puglia was the first official stop of our Italian road trip. We flew into Rome and rented a car, then drove directly to Puglia, about 5 1/2 hours away. It wasn’t the smartest move since we landed in the evening and would arrive quite late/early in the morning (1:30am ETA), but it made sense for affordable round trip flights, since we planned to explore Rome at the end of our trip, then depart home. That ETA became 4am as there was a huge accident on the Autostrada. It was not the end of the world, but we did feel bad that our B&B host Anna had to meet us at that hour when she had work the next day.
The best of Puglia, where to stay
I sette coni (between Ostuni & Cisternino)
In 2019, my mom and I stayed in one of the most wishlisted properties on Airbnb, a TRULLO! Anna and her family, who are from Puglia, are the hosts of the property! I caught up with Anna recently to ask her a few questions about how her family got into hosting people at their properties, the history of their trulli (she now has 3 properties), and her tips on what to do & eat in Puglia. Read that here!
FONTEblu b&b (Polignano a Mare)
On my birthday we had planned to go on a boat ride in Polignano a Mare, another Puglian town, but the weather didn’t cooperate. We ended up meeting with our potential boat captain, Francesco, who showed us around his B&B and offered us a spritz! I actually ended up staying in one of the properties when I was back in Polignano later in the year.
The best of Puglia, where to get provisions near Ostuni & Cisternino
All of these places are in the nearby town of Cisternino!
Butcher: Macelleria Longo, Via Regina Margherita, 83/85
La Bottega Dello Sfuso (sadly it looks like this place is permanently closed) –– We picked up cheese, meat, jam, honey,
Bread: Panificio Cisternino, Via Cappuccini, 6
Produce: Blonda Francesco, Via Regina Margherita, 2
The best of Puglia, where to eat & drink
The winery consists of 2 different estates, one in Castel del Monte & the other in Salento. We visited the Bocca Di Lupo (Good Luck) Estate in Castel del Monte.
Our wonderful guide throughout the tour and tasting was Maria Teresa.
Tormaresca’s mission has always been “rediscovering and enhancing the ancient, precious native Apulian varietals, guiding the Renaissance of the wine movement in the region“. Most of the vineyards grow traditional grapes, some of which date back to the ancient Greek civilization, strongly rooted in the territory: Primitivo, Negroamaro, Fiano Pugliese, Aglianico, Nero di Troia and Moscato Reale. Today there are 25 DOC wines in the region.
We enjoyed a wonderful tasting of traditional Puglian dishes paired with the lineup of Tormaresca wines. You can book your visit here.
Pescaria (Polignano a Mare)
We were grateful for Maria Teresa of Tormaresca who called ahead and booked us a table at this gem! I highly recommend booking ahead of time or going right when they open as the line was crazy the whole time we were there.
Fun fact: Since 2019 they have given up on single-use plastic, becoming one of the first plastic free fast food restaurants in Italy!
I also just discovered they have 10 locations throughout Italy!
Masseria il Frantoio (Ostuni)
Masserie – or farmstays – date back to the 16th century when the spanish empire gave the inhabitants of the region the license necessary to repopulate abandoned areas of Puglia.
Masserie were typically mini villages where families, nobles and animals lived together. Daily life and hard work were mixed together, producing products like cheese, ham, meat and olive oil.
Masseria il Frantoio was built in the 1500s by the Tanzarellas and had all the typical features of a masserie, but they began adding new elements over time. During the 70s the Tanzarellas left the masseria and the Balestrazzis became the new owners. They converted it into the charming place it is today! There are 6 different rooms where they host guests today, but you can also just come to the property for a meal like we did!
We enjoyed a wonderful dinner and tour for my birthday! Their menu is seasonal, but you can find sample menus here, where you can also book your meal ahead of time. I wrote captions on our 2 favorite dishes from the evening below!
“From our citrus grove, which dates back to 1800, we take pears, oranges and tangerines to make jam. With durum wheat we prepare the typical Puglia bread, crispy crust and moist in the inside, and even different types of pasta. Along the paths of the estate, among the ancient olive trees and dry stone walls we collect asparagus, pumpkin, artichokes, beans and wild chicory. Perfumed with wild herbs grown in the kitchen garden. It won’t happen to eat the same things twice, not even if your stay lasts two weeks.”
The best of Puglia, what to do
Explore Polignano a Mare (Bari)
This is the boat tour that got canceled because of the weather. It has rave reviews, if you’d like to explore the area from the water!
Polignano a Mare dates back to the 4th century “when Greek settlers founded the city of Neapolis. It flourished under the Romans and was important enough for Emperor Trajan to direct his Via Traiana, built between 108-110 AD, through the town. Remains of this road include a bridge at Lama Monachile.” from The Thinking Traveler
The best of Puglia beaches, Lama Monachile
is a gorgeous cove with clear water, a pebble beach, lined with dramatic, rugged cliffs and beautiful stark white-beige buildings on either side. A MUST visit! There is a very easily accessible walkway that leads under a bridge, down to the beach.
Bonus: it is only a 3 minute walk away from Pescaria!
Honestly, this was my favorite town that we visited in Puglia. I highly recommend getting “lost” in the beautiful winding streets and alleyways, but be sure to find your way to one of the panoramic views of the Adriatic.
Explore Alberobello (Bari)
I met a very friendly guy from the area who showed me around a handful of the towns in Puglia. Our first stop was Alberobello, which is very well known for it’s trulli (the cone-shaped buildings). Here is a super helpful guide: What to see in Alberobello in a day
Explore Locorotondo (Bari)
Locorotondo (from the Latin locus rotondus, meaning round place) is one of Puglia’s most beautiful towns. The houses on the outside of the town were arranged in a round shape when they were built back in the 12th century, consisting of cummerse, narrow rectangular houses with very steeply pointed roofs. You may wonder why they went with this style of house! They helped collect rainwater for the town. The center of the town very easily-walkable centre!
Fun fact: look out for Locorotondo’s wines. They produce whites in a region dominated by reds. They us mostly Verdeca and Bianco d’Alessano grapes.
Explore Martina Franca
Marina Franca is the largest town and commercial center in the area. You will notice that the baroque style is the most prominent.
We enjoyed a selection of typical Puglian meat dishes, such as zampina and capocollo, at Ristorante Ricci which is located in the piazza in front of the Basilica di San Martino.
(not in Puglia, but worth a trip)
I don’t have specific tips for Matera since we weren’t able to explore it on our trip, but here’s a bit of information since it’s a gem. It is actually a city in the region of Basilicata. The original settlement was made up of a complex of cave dwellings carved into the ancient river canyon. It was occupied by many different peoples over history. In 1952, the inhabitants of the cave dwellings relocated to modern housing, leaving the Sassi (“stones”) abandoned until the 1980s. Nowadays, many of the cave dwellings have been renovated into tourist destinations and are now considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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