This guide will help you not to miss the most striking places to visit in Apulia…but first of all, let’s dispel a myth: the famous “city of stones,” Matera, made famous by the movie The Passion of Christ of Mel Gibson, and European Capital of Culture 2019, is not located in Apulia! It is the capital of Basilicata, a region bordering Puglia.
It is actually well connected with Bari, the Apulian capital (if you want to know what not to miss in a one day visit to Bari, read this article ) and the most convenient solution to reach it, in my opinion, is the bus.
Compared to traveling by train it is a little more expensive, but faster: you can check all the solutions available to you at the link on the Trainline page or directly on the FlixBus website (which normally offers cheaper rates)
If you prefer to arrive by train, the connections are operated by the company FAL ( Ferrovie Appulo Lucane ) but the journey times are longer, and you may run into several delays.
Let’s set off to explore Alberobello, Polignano a Mare and Ostuni, three of the most beautiful towns in Apulia.
Table of Contents
Alberobello: what to see
Alberobello, the city of the “Trulli”, is a unique village that you absolutely cannot miss. By leaving early in the morning (also to avoid the sweltering summer heat, in case you decide to make a trip to Apulia between May and August) you will be able to see all the major attractions in Alberobello and visit Polignano in the afternoon.
You can easily travel by train to visit both cities. The train station in both cases is central and well connected to major attractions (and you will save time looking for parking!)
A tip : avoid Sundays! Especially in the case of Polignano a Mare, you would risk finding too many people and not enjoying the beauty of the city.
Characteristic of this city is the typical conical construction in dry stone , widespread in central-southern Apulia.
Actually, you don’t have to fix to any specific itinerary. Alberobello is like an open-air museum (the whole site is registered as a World Heritage Site).
Simply wonder among the colors of the flowers that stain the white alleys with bright spots, the sounds of this unique village in Southern Italy and the scents that attract you to the various taverns located within the Trulli themselves. Get ready to live a unique experience, treating yourself with a lunch based on typical Apulian cuisine.
Anyway, I leave you below a list of the the most important spots within the site:
- Rione Monti : it is the oldest part and where most of the ” Trulli ” housesare concentrated;
2. Mother Church Basilica Sanctuary Parish of Saints Medici Cosma and Damiano patrons;
3. The Sovereign Trullo ;
4. The Belvedere – Santa Lucia Balcony Terrace;
5. The Siamese Trulli ;
6. Stairway of Love .
And, as always, an indicative map of the route to take:
Save your itinerary in Alberobello!
Where to eat in Alberobello
There are so many taverns, takeaways and restaurants… that it would be a really difficult task to suggest where to stop and eat!
Explore and let yourself be guided by your inspiration.
I will list below what I consider to be three of the best restaurants in Alberobello…but always remember: the important thing when traveling (in my opinion) is to try the local cuisine, letting our tastes guide us…without being influenced too much by reviews!
Everyone has his or her own parameters of evaluation and can have a different experience in the same place, conditioned by a thousand factors… so explore and choose the restaurant where to eat in Alberobello without any kind of conditioning.
That said…my favorites are:
Polignano a Mare: what to see
In recent years, Polignano a Mare has become one of the most famous and visited towns in Puglia: could it be for its crystal clear waters, breathtaking views or delicious food?
The fact is (data updated to 2021), tourists visiting Polignano annually is close to 300,000!
Another very important factor that has contributed to its fame is definitely the event that gathers thousands of sportsmen and curious people in Domenico Modugno’s hometown every year: the Red Bull Cliff Diving, World Series – Italy, which is normally held in September.
That said, let’s go find out what to see in Polignano!
Taking the train station as your starting point, if you arrive in Polignano in the early afternoon, after your visit to Alberobello, I would recommend as your first stop, a food one.
Where? Obviously in the very famous and renowned ” Pescaria “. Founded in 2015, it immediately became a successful phenomenon and symbol of entrepreneurship in Southern Italy, thanks to its innovative cuisine. In fact, what immediately characterised this place, now a “must” in the Apulian culinary scenario (and not only) was the revolutionary idea on how to serve fish-based dishes: alternative and quality recipes that mix traditional Apulian cuisine to the more modern concept of Sushi and Sashimi… culminating in the first, true “seafood fast food“.
To date, you can find other Pescaria restaurants in Turin, Milan, Bologna, Rome, Naples and, of course, Polignano a Mare (with home delivery service or take away).
A tip! Avoid rush hours (12:30-2:30 p.m.) because you may have to wait for more than an hour!
Now, you can start with the exploration of this pearl in the Adriatic coast. Second stop is the hold town where, as always, I recommend you get lost in the narrow streets paved with the typical Apulian limestone.
Look for your magical corner, let yourself be guided by the scents of the various restaurants and cafes that brighten the days of inhabitants and tourists, and always point towards the sea!
Indeed, there are several points that offer breathtaking views of the crystal clear and deep waters of this bay. To name a couple, the Panoramic Point Largo Ardito and the Bastione di Santo Stefano , which offers a privileged point of view on the famous Lama Monachile, the small pebble beach between two cliffs, where the Red Bull Cliff Diving contest takes place, and following stop on your tour.
Leaving the old town, go back to the main street and cross the Ponte Borbonico di Lama Monachile , from which you will have a further perspective on the most famous beach of Polignano (and you could take the opportunity to take sensational photos).
From here, head towards the monument to Domenico Modugno (His name may not ring a bell, but you certainly know his most famous song: Volare – Nel blu dipinto di blu!), and go down to another of the strategic points from which to admire all the beauty of this city overlooking the sea: “Pietra Piatta” and the “Blue Cave”..
Below, as always, I leave you the map of the proposed itinerary.
Save your itinerary in Polignano!
Where to eat in Polignano
1. As I have already mentioned, I absolutely recommend Pescaria (if you are in the mood for seafood dishes).
2. On the other hand, if you prefer to eat something typical but more “street food” style, I suggest eating a “panzerotto” or “focaccia” from “La Rotellina“: takeaway, cheap and super tasty!
3. Do you fancy a sweet treat? Here you can try my favorite ice cream: “ Gusto Caruso ”!
4. And finally, if you are looking for the most romantic and exclusive place to celebrate a special occasion, or simply treat yourself to a unique evening … I could only recommend the famous Grotta Palazzese !
Ostuni, the White City: what to see
If you get to Ostuni by train, you should take a cab to get to the city center, as the train station is located somewhat on the outskirts. Alternatively, at this link you can find the updated schedules of the shuttle service that takes you from Ostuni Central Station to the historic center, at a cost of €0.90 one way (or €2.00 for a ticket made on board).
From here you can begin your exploration of the historic center of the “White City”, getting lost in the narrow stone-paved streets and being guided by the scents of the various Osterias that carpet the village or doing some shopping in one of the many small stores selling local crafts.
I would advise you not to miss the Bishop’s Palace with the characteristic Arco Scoppa , the Co- Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo and a visit to the L’Ulivo che Canta Art Gallery, where you can admire unique sculptures and artifacts in olive wood!
At the end of your exploration of the historic center, you’ll arrive in Corso Giuseppe Mazzini where you can admire and visit the Church of San Francesco d’Assisi , make a sweet stop at Caffè Garibaldi and take a photo of yourself in the most iconic point of the city, the Colonna Sant ‘ Oronzo .
Here too I leave you the map of the proposed itinerary.
Save your itinerary in Ostuni!
Where to eat in Ostuni
- Borgo Antico Bistrot : undoubtedly one of the most suggestive locations in the city to enjoy an excellent view and a characteristic atmosphere.
- Riccardo caffè : a gem in the historic center. Ideal for relaxing with an aperitif and delicious cocktails.
- Osteria del Tempo Perso : if you want to taste the excellent typical Apulian cuisine, with an average cost of € 30.00 – € 50.00 per person.
Some tips for you...
- If you plan to visit Apulia during the summer season: always wear sunscreen, hat, sunglasses…and always have a water bottle handy…temperatures in summer can reach and exceed 40°!
- If you can, avoid visiting Alberobello and Polignano on Sunday, they are usually extremely crowded and you would risk not enjoying the beauty of these two pearls of the Adriatic.
- Always carry cash with you (not in excessive amounts, watch out for pickpockets) as there are businesses that still require a minimum spending limit to be able to pay by card, or that are not yet equipped with POS.