Puglia doesn’t enjoy much fame or crowds of tourists and is therefore (unfairly!) one of Italy’s most underrated destinations. And it’s true that Puglia doesn’t have the cypress-lined roads of Tuscany or the magnificent buildings of Rome, but it does have white villages surrounded by golden fields, towns that look like straight out of a fairy tale, trulli cottages and 800km of coastline. We’ve really wanted to visit this part of Italy for a long time, which looks more like Greece than Italy from the pictures, and this year we made sure to spend four days of our super vacation in southern Italy, in Puglia.
Although four days is too short to visit the entire region, I think it is more than enough to explore Bari – the capital of the region – and its surroundings. So, in this article I will present you the itinerary we had, which you can easily put into practice if you are planning a city break in Bari.
A 4-day itinerary in Puglia / Italy
Bari, the capital of Puglia, is extremely accessible from almost anywhere in Europe. Once you’ve arrived in Bari, you can choose to spend the whole weekend in the city (which would be a waste of time) or explore the most beautiful places in Puglia. Normally, I would recommend renting a car, but for 4 days and my itinerary plan you don’t need a car (if you’re travelling solo or as a couple). The public transportation is not only efficient but also cheap.
As for accommodation, we chose to be based in Bari, at the Hotel Cristal***, as we didn’t want to have to carry a backpack every day. The hotel we stayed at wasn’t perfect, but it was clean – the linen was changed every day, it was cheap (we paid €35/night in peak season) and it was relatively ok as a location (10 minute walk to the central train station and another 15 minute walk to Bari Vecchia).
A great idea, which we’ll put into practice if we ever get to Puglia again, would be to rent a trulli cottage. Tourism in Alberobello has blossomed, and those who want to experience living in a trulli house can easily do so by booking a trulli cottage on Booking or Airbnb.
Stay in a trullo house!
Trulli Holiday Albergo Diffuso – from 140 euros ( including breakfast)
Bed and Breakfast Trulli San Leonardo – from 70 euros ( including breakfast)
That being said, let me tell you about the things we did and saw in Puglia!
Day 1 – Bari
We arrived in Bari after a 3-hour bus ride from Naples, and as soon as we arrived at the station, we headed to our hotel, dropped off our luggage and headed to Bari Vecchia, the city’s old town. Bari doesn’t have much to offer, but it’s a place you can stroll around in an afternoon. To give you an idea, from the central train station – Bari Centrale – to Lungomare Imperatore Augusto, the most beautiful part of the city promenade, you will have to walk roughly 2 km, a journey that passes through the most important attractions of the city: the Murat district – a very quiet neighbourhood, Via Sparano da Bari (a pedestrian street full of shops and cafes), Bari Vecchia – the old part of the city, and the basilica of San Nicola.
Bari Vecchia is perhaps the most beautiful part of the city. Like every other old town in Italy, Bari Vechia is a maze of narrow stone cobbled streets. On the ground floor of the buildings you’ll find a bunch of little bakeries and pastry shops, which every morning prepare fresh focaccia barese, along with other delicious treats. If you arrive in the old centre in the morning, the smell of freshly baked dough, tomatoes and oregano will get you drunk. That’s why a stop at Panificio Santa Rita, the bakery that makes the best focaccia, is a must! I’m not crazy about focaccia or heated tomatoes, but Santa Rita’s foccacia blew me away. The dough was warm and fluffy, and the tomatoes baked on the fields soaked in the region’s sunshine tasted divine…they tasted like sunshine. 😀 One thing’s for sure: you have to get to Panificio Santa Rita before noon! And don’t limit yourself to one half of a focaccia, get a whole portion.
If you can’t have enough of focaccia, you can make a stop at La Salumeria le delizie di Andrea for some sensational panini. We discovered it by coincidence, and if it weren’t for the panini posters, we might not have even gone into that shop…which would have been a shame! The sandwiches, prepared right in front of you by Andrea (I’m assuming), were so good that we returned every day to try another sandwich. My recommendation is to go there before or around lunch and get a panini with stracciatela (no, not ice cream!) and proscciuto. It’s so good you’ll lick your fingers! Plus, Andrea keeps the preferences of his customers in mind, and if you ask nicely he’ll add something better or take out ingredients you hate. I would even say that La Salumeria le delizie di Andrea is a must stop if you come to Bari.
And once you’ve had your bellyful, you can take each little street at a walk, you can even interact with the locals who on summer evenings sit in front of the house, chatting, playing backgammon or hanging clothes out to dry :)). Walking around the alleys left and right, you’ll reach the basilica of San Nicola. Once the sun has set, you can head towards LungoMare Imperatore Augusto, passing through Piazza Mercantile and Piazza del Ferrarese. Our evenings in Bari usually ended on Corso Vittorio Emanuele, a bustling street with many restaurants, shops and palm trees, which runs from the Museo Teatro Margherita to the Giardino Garibaldi.
What to see and do in Bari: Bari Vechia, Basilica San Nicoa, Murat district, Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Lungomare promenade, Piazza Mercantile, Teatro Petruzzelli, Piazza del Ferrarese.
Visiting time: one day maximum
Day 2 – Alberobello
If I told you we only wanted to go to Bari for any other reason than Alberobello, I’d be lying! Alberobello was the one that put Bari on our list (everyone’s list?), which is why on the 2nd trip day we showed up again at the train station to get our bus tickets to Italy’s fairytale village. We were so excited to see the wonderful little cottages – the turlli cottages – that we’d read about being built nowadays (how cool would it be to have one of our own!), that we forgot to take a look at the weather forecast. We jumped on the bus, let our eyes be captivated by the sights on the road, and as we got off the bus, a wave of heat took our breath away. But we were ambitious, and we walked for a few minutes until we reached the commercial part of the village, called Rione dei Monti. We were exhausted from the heat and already starting to see everything in a haze. It was 42°C outside, and the wind was blowing so hot I actually felt my skin burning. We gathered our courage, however, and continued walking through the white little streets of the tiny village.
Although I would have loved to get to the areas less visited by tourists – the Aia Piccola neighbourhood – and have a slightly more authentic experience (which seems impossible when you’re in one of the most touristy places in Italy), for our own sake we limited ourselves only to visiting Rione dei Monti, a more commercial district of the village, made up of approx. 1000 trulli houses.
Alberobello is a place that looks like straight out of a fairy tale, the houses are so beautiful and somehow adorable that you feel like you’re walking through the pages of an illustrated storybook. Alberobello is definitely a place not to be missed if you’re planning a holiday in Puglia or a short city break in Bari.
Read more about travelling by public transport in Italy (how you can travel between regions + tips & tricks) and how we organised our trip to Alberobello.
Visiting time: one day maximum
Day 3 – Polignano a Mare
I’m sure you’ve heard of Polignano a Mare, that you’ve seen at least one picture of its famous beach, Lama Monachile, and that you’ve heard the song Volare ( Volaré, oh-oh/Cantaré, oh-oh-oh-oh/Nel blu dipinto di blu/Felice di stare lassù) on the radio a million times, whose author was actually born in the small town on the Adriatic Sea. Polignano a Mare is the place that, in my opinion, has placed Puglia on the top of the list of tourist destinations in the last few years. Between the two of us, Bari didn’t really impress us, but Polignano a Mare is a whole different story, one with white villas, colorful window blinds and flower-filled balconies and views that immediately take your breath away.
In Polignano you go for a bit of unplugging, for a lunch on Piettra Piata – the place where you can take some incredible photos, for cliff diving in the blue waters of the sea, or for a bit of chilling on the beach. In Poligano always go for il dolce far niente!
How to get to Polignano a Mare? – Polignano is a short drive from Bari, about 20-30 minutes travelling by train. There are dozens of trains linking Bari to all the small towns on the coast – Monopoli, Polignano a Mare, at extremely low fares. A trip from Bari to Polignano a Mare costs 2.6 euros.
- sunbathing on Lama Monachile beach
- Take a selfie with Domenico Modugno’s statue while singing the song Volare
- stroll through the old town
- Have lunch at Piettra Piata
- cliff diving in the Adriatic Sea
- stroll through the old town centre
- exploring the caves, with a stop at the Grotta Palazzese restaurant
- enjoying a spectacular view from Terrazza Santo Stefan
Visiting time: one day maximum
Day 4 – Bari / Another day trip to Ostuni, Monopoli or Martina Franca villages
If you have enough time and energy, you can also explore other towns and villages in Puglia – Ostuni, Monopli or Maritna Franca. For the fourth day we chose to stay in Bari, to give ourselves more time to visit the town and enjoy its laid-back atmosphere. If you are going to visit Bari during the summer, you can enjoy a lazy time on the beaches located north and south of the city: Il Trampolino, Lido San Francesco, Pane e Pomodoro, etc. We didn’t make it to any of these beaches, so I couldn’t really speak from personal experience.
Puglia is a slightly more unusual italian region, with landscapes that remind us of Greece. The towns have a nice laid-back atmosphere and Bari, while not exactly the most beautiful city in Italy, can offer a more authentic experience. In Bari, unlike Alberobello, tourists don’t step on each other’s toes, and in the evenings you’ll find the terraces packed with locals, and il dolce far niente floating in the air. We had a great time in Puglia and I hope this article will inspire you to consider Puglia for your next Italian vacation.
I hope you find my article helpful, and if you have any more questions, suggestions or experiences to share, please leave them below in the comments section!