A 1-Week Southern Italy Itinerary-Puglia
Thinking of going on a Puglia road trip? Never heard of it? You may not have heard of it but you’ll love it.
The itinerary below highlights the top beaches, towns, and grottos in Southern Italy.
Do you know about Puglia? Most people associate Southern Italy with the flamboyant Amalfi Coast or sun-kissed Sicily.
Puglia sits on the “heel” of Italy, and is now a relatively obscure region that is slowly making the rounds as a tourist destination.
The coast of Puglia, which stretches over 800 km in length between the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea, is filled with beautiful beaches. And once you travel away from the coast, you’ll have the opportunity to explore rich cave networks, historic villages and unique architecture.
Southern Italy Itinerary & Guide
With 1 week in Southern Italy, you’ll probably never see all that this region has to offer. There is just so much to see and experience in Italy, from the quaint villages and historical towns to the stunning coastline.
In this itinerary to Southern Italy, we will be concentrating on Puglia. A 7-day vacation in Puglia allows you to explore at a leisurely pace and see the best of this region. If there is more time, it would be worthwhile to take a trip to the Amalfi Coast and Sicily, which are located just a few hours south of Puglia by car.
How to reach Puglia
The itinerary for this Southern Italy itinerary begins and ends in Bari, the capital of Puglia. There are no COVID19 tests for passengers at this airport, since it is so small.
There are many budget flights to Bari from major European cities like London and Paris. Transavia flew us from Munich to Bari for just 150 euros round trip.
How to Get Around Puglia
Puglia’s winding coastal roads and extensive infrastructure make it ideal for road trips. The roads in Puglia are generally easy to drive, but you should be aware of crazy drivers in the cities. I’ve been driving in Italy for a few years and never had a problem.
Prices start at US$30 per day for car rental in Puglia. There are several car rental agencies at the airport.
When is the best time to travel to southern Italy?
Southern Italy has one of the best climates in the world and is a great place to visit year-round.
In general, the best time to visit Puglia is between April and June, and October and November. There are fewer people and lower prices. Additionally, the weather will be warm and sunny.
We traveled to Puglia in October and temperatures were still as high as 73°F during the day. At night the temperature dips to about 55°F (13°C). We just needed a light jacket for chilly mornings and evenings. During the day, we can wear a t-shirt/shorts..
My itinerary for a week in Southern Italy
- Days 1-2: Bari
- Day 3: Poligano a Mare
- Day 4: Ostuni
- Day 5: Alberobello
- Day 6-7: Matera
Map of Puglia
To follow this itinerary, open the map below in Google Maps app to get a full scale interactive view.
Itinerary for Southern Italy, Day 1-2: Bari
Most people generally skip Bari and head directly to nearby coastal towns. That is a pity as Bari is just as interesting as its famous neighbors. We recommend spending at least two days in Bari before beginning your journey through Puglia.
Explore the Old Town.
The historic center is constructed between the two port areas of Bari and is known as Bari Vecchia. A maze of narrow alleys lined with historic buildings and ornate shrines, it is ideal for walking.
A visit to the Basilica di San Nicola, a pleasant chat with the ladies along Orecchiette Street by the Cathedral, and a visit to the Mercantile Market Market are three useful activities you can do while in Bari.
At Largo Albicocca you can enjoy street food.
Largo Albicocca is the best place in Bari to eat authentic Puglian street food. Try some panzerotto (pizza dough deep-fried with tomato and mozzarella) or sgagliozze (polenta).
The formerly neglected open space in the historic centre has been transformed into an urban garden in recent years which comes alive every evening.
Discover Bari Castle.
Castello Normanno Svevo was built around 1132 and is surrounded by a moat. The castle serves as an exhibition center and events venue and it is one of the best attractions in Bari. The entrance fee to the castle is 9 euros for adults.
Accommodation options in Bari
Airbnb: Casa Ranieri
The beautiful centrally located loft is a great base for families and couples who need some space. Experience what it’s like to live like a local in a beautiful home.
Mid Range: B&B Murex
The B&B Murex is located in the City Center, just a short distance from the Cathedral. The elegant rooms have clean lines and slick finishes. We had a wonderful time and highly recommend this place.
Luxury: Palazzo Calò
The hotel is located within the old town and consists of a former palace converted into a more modern hotel. The rooms have wood-beamed ceilings and exposed brick walls.
Day 3 of the Southern Italy itinerary: Polignano a Mare and Monopoli
Let’s get this Puglia road trip started! Your first stop is just 30 minutes away. You may have seen photos of Polignano a Mare on Instagram: Polignano a Mare is a stunning beach town unlike anywhere else in Italy.
Swim in the sea at Polignano a Mare.
With a main beach fringed by rugged cliffs that resemble a fjord, Polignano a Mare is the main attraction. It was formerly a Roman harbor but now it is a seafront piazza that’s particularly busy in summer.
During our visit in October, we saw some locals swimming on the beach. However, we found the water too chilly. If you’re visiting in the summer, consider taking a boat trip to explore the coastline.
Discover the Centro Storico.
Above the craggy coastline, Polignano a Mare was founded by a seafaring Roman commander. The old town perched on the cliffs is a charming maze of narrow streets, churches, cafes and terraces with stunning views of the sea.
Enjoy fresh seafood with a breathtaking view
Donna Gina offers some of the best views in town, as well as the best atmosphere for romantic dinners. Calaporto is located directly on the beach, and serves fresh seafood with impressive cocktails. Unfortunately, the views aren’t as great as they should be.
Grotta Palazzese, a cliff restaurant that is built into the caves above the sea, is an enticing sight — but you may have to fork out $200 or more for a meal there. Gulp.
Monopoli is another 15 minute drive along the coast, and is a surprisingly large coastal town. Monopoli’s old town is also less touristy than Polignano a Mare.
Visit the 16th century castle of Charles V, situated on a promontory that juts out into the sea. The fortified walls are located adjacent to a popular rocky beach where you can cool off after a long day of sightseeing.
Monopoli: Where to Stay
Airbnb: Casa Chloè
Casa Chloe is a stylish, spacious dome house just 50m from the sea, and fully equipped with a fully equipped kitchen and lounge area.
Mid Range: Albergo Diffuso Monopoli
This midrange hotel provides elegant rooms and suites with beautiful spa baths in underground caves around the historic center.
Luxury: Bellavista Suites
Splurge yourself at this stylish hotel in Monopoli’s historic center, just 50 meters from the beach. A beautiful infinity pool is located on the seaside terrace, and all the suites have a spa bath.
Tour Itinerary: Southern Italy, Day 4: Ostuni
After spending the night in Monopoli, travel south along the coast. The small coastal road will bring you past picturesque fishing villages.
Make a quick stop at Capitolo to visit Torre Cintola, a Spanish fort built in the 1500s. Then proceed to Savalletri where you will come across numerous rocky beaches and natural, shallow pools.
Enjoy a seafood lunch on the waterfront in one of the Savalletri restaurants. We recommend M.M. Pescato e Cucinato, which offers a spectacular setting and superb seafood dishes, including fritturas, sashimi, and sea urchins.
Explore the White-Washed Town
When you approach Ostuni, it is easy to see how it earned the nickname “Citta Bianca”, meaning white city. Built on a hilltop for protection from invading armies, Ostuni is a scattering of white-washed houses surrounded by olive trees.
Take your time to meander along the cobblestone pathways and explore the maze of houses lined with gardens. We enjoyed discovering hidden restaurants and artisan shops at every turn.
Visit the Saturday Market while you’re in town.
Ostuni, located in the fertile Valle d’Itria, is world-renowned for its fresh local food and culinary culture. If you visit the city on a Saturday, make sure to visit the open-air weekly market held between 8 am and 1 pm along Via Gabbriele D’Annunzio.
Dining in a Cave
Ostuni is known for having some of the best Puglian cuisine in the region. The best meal we had while staying here was dinner at the cave restaurant, Ristorante Caffe Cavour just outside the old town. The atmosphere is fantastic, and it is very affordable.
What are the best places to stay in Ostuni?
Airbnb: Dolce Vita
This quaint townhouse lies 300 meters from the center of Ostuni and boasts an elegant interior as well as a truly magnificent rooftop view of olive groves and the Adriatic Sea.
Mid Range: Vico Bianco
The hotel is in the center of the old city, in a converted old building with original stone walls that is immaculately preserved. The rooftop terrace and pool are the best features of the hotel.
Luxury: Paragon 700 Boutique Hotel & SPA
The elegant opulent boutique hotel in a 18th-century building boasts a tastefully assembled design and décor, an outdoor pool, and elegant suites.
Itinerary for Day 5, Alberobello.
Next morning, head inland for a scenic drive in the Valle d’Itria. The Itria Valley is situated at the center of Puglia along a high fertile plain stretching from Ostuni to Putignano.
Its wooded slopes, vineyards, and endless olive groves are punctuated by cone-shaped corrugated roofs of the trullo, a cut stone hut of a unique architectural design.
The trullo house was originally built as a means to avoid paying taxes. Local peasants built their dwellings without mortar in order to remove them quickly and easily when inspectors arrived. Many of them still stand today, but most have been converted into hotels and restaurants.
Explore the historic Trullo Village of AlberoBello
Alberobello has the largest concentration of trulli (trullo in singular form) in Puglia, with more than 1,500 of them packed into one small town. Alberobello is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracting thousands of tourists and daytrippers.
During the summer, avoid coming here or visit early in the morning.
Enjoy the Belvedere View
Once you have reached the town centre, travel upward to Rione Monti, a hilltop quarter within the ‘trulli zone’. The best place to view all of the trulli rooftops in Alberobello is the Belvedere Santa Lucia along the Via Contessa (by the steep steps with writings on them).
Visit churches and museums
Rione Monti is extremely touristy, with many of the trulli converted to souvenir shops or produce stores. If you can look past them, you’ll find photogenic corners and quiet backstreets.
Visit the Museo del Territorio Casa Pezzolla to experience what it was like living in the trulli centuries ago. Admission is only 3 euros and an iPad guide is included.
Above the hill is the Parrocchia Sant’Antonio di Padova, which is the only trullo church in the world. Aberobello town church has a distinctive architectural style and is worth seeing merely for its exterior.
Staying in Alberobello
Staying in a traditional trullo was an unexpected highlight of our Puglia road trip. Here are some of my recommendations:
Airbnb: Trullo Vito
A trulli hotel outside of Alberobello, this hotel has a gorgeous pool carved into a dry stone wall. Renovated in 2016, the hotel is designed in authentic Puglian style with modern comforts.
Mid Range: Tipico Resort
We stayed at a 2-level trullo at Tipico Resort and enjoyed a wonderful rooftop terrace overlooking the surrounding trulli. It is located right in the heart of the old town, adjacent to a great number of restaurants and shops.
Luxury: Le Alcove-Luxury Hotel nei Trulli
The best luxury hotel in Alberobello, this is one of the first luxury hotels in the city. Stay in a traditional trullo and enjoy your own private spa bath.
Itinerary for Days 6 & 7: Matera
I saved the best for last! A 1-hour drive from Alberobello is by far our favorite place in Puglia, the ancient cave city of Matera. It is technically located in the region of Basilicata, and not in the region of Puglia, but it is only an hour’s drive from Bari.
Matera is a beautiful city with houses tumbling down the hillsides, upon one another, lining the edge of a ravine. Matera’s hilltop terrain is steeped in caves and sand-colored alleyways, but what really sets it apart is its history.
Learn more about Matera.
In the 1950s, Matera was called “the shame of Italy”. People lived in caves here with their livestock without electricity, running water or plumbing. But a writer named Carlo Levi changed Matera’s fate with his book.
The Italian authorities finally stopped ignoring the issue and relocated the residents to a nearby rural area. The creatives then moved in, emphasizing the importance of upholding the cultural traditions of Matera. UNESCO recognized Matera as a World Heritage Site in 1999, after the city was transformed from a slum to an important cultural center.
Admire the Sasso Barisano
Matera’s historical center is very large and there are a great deal of things to see and do. The Sassi di Matera consists of Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso. Start in Sasso Barisano and spend the day exploring the narrow, winding alleyways, interconnected loops, and caves.
The square, Piazza Vittorio Veneto, is bustling in the mornings. This is also where you’ll find a panoramic view of the Sassi as well as Palombaro Lungo, an underground cistern with great columns and arches.
See Matera’s best views.
We recommend that you walk all the way down to Via Fiorentini and visit Sassi in Miniatura, a free museum that houses impressive models of the old city. Next, climb to the top of the Cathedral for yet another gorgeous view of Matera.
Back at the Cathedral, continue walking down the steps until you reach a steep ravine before you. Across the ravine lies a hill punctuated with paleolithic caves that date back over 7,000 years! It is actually possible to get there by climbing down the slopes from Porto Pistola and then crossing the bridge.
Visit the Belvedere di Murgia Timone
You can also drive across the ravine to reach the paleolithic caves. Belvedere di Murgia Timone, an excellent place for photography in Matera, is a short drive away. The best time to visit is at sunset. This is where the crucifixion scenes of The Passion of Christ were filmed, and you can easily see why they chose this place, since Matera looks almost biblical in the background.
Sasso Caveoso is a place to discover
The following day, continue to the ancient city of Sasso Caveoso. In contrast to Sasso Barisano, you will find fewer traces of development here, so you will have the opportunity to see caves which are left intact.
The Church of San Pietro Caveoso, located in the main piazza, is a wonderful landmark worth seeing. Above it is the rock church of Santa Maria de Idris that is carved into a huge rock pinnacle that juts from the gorge. Climbing to the top of the rock is a remarkable experience on its own!
In the evening, take a walk to the Piazza G. Pascoli and gaze at the gold-lit cityscape. This is a spectacular sight, one you should not miss!
Eat in a cave once again!
The restaurants in Matera do not lack for ambience, but La Lopa is truly unique with its otherworldly setting. They serve Materan dishes and wines made using only local ingredients. In addition, it also features a cute little movie theatre showing Matera-based movies!
Accommodation options in Matera
We highly recommend staying in the Sassi (historic center) and walking everywhere. There are many stylish boutique hotels that have been converted from cave houses.
Airbnb: La Casa di Giò
This loft-style apartment has one of the best views in Matera, with a panoramic terrace overlooking the historical center. The apartment is decorated in white and has all the amenities you could possibly need.
Mid Range: Cave Rooms Sassi
Set in numerous locations in Sasso Barisano, the cave rooms of this guesthouse are located in excellent locations. We stayed in one near the main square and walked everywhere. The owner was extremely helpful and welcoming.
Luxury: Aquatio Cave Luxury Hotel & Spa
The hotel boasts 35 rooms carved into a cliff that are one of the most popular places to stay in the world. Its main attraction consists of a spa, which contains a heated swimming pool embedded into natural rock.
Itinerary Day 8: Return to Bari
We regret that your Puglia road trip is over. From Matera, it takes 1 hour to return to Bari Airport. Bari Airport is a small airport, so you will not need to arrive more than two hours before your flight departs. Drop off your rented car and fly home.
What is the price of this Southern Italy Itinerary?
Southern Italy is an affordable destination compared to the United States, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Western Europe. The food is exquisite and affordable, a dinner at a fancy restaurant will set you back about $30 per person.
Car rentals are very reasonably priced, with rates as low as $30/day. We rented a car for one week for US $200, including pick-up and drop-off at Bari Airport and that included insurance.
Accommodations in tourist attractions like Alberobello tend to be more expensive. Even so you may be able to find accommodation in a trullo or cave for as low as $80-$100/night.
Southern Italy Add-On
A tour of the Amalfi Coast
The famous Amalfi Coast, one of the most beautiful areas in Europe, is actually only a three-hour drive from Matera, so it serves as an excellent extension of your Puglia road trip. Indulge in the Italian joy of life in Positano, discover the narrow alleyways of Amalfi, and take a trip to Capri island nearby. Then make your way to Sorrento and peruse its coquette streets and balconies with amazing views.
Take a trip to Sicily
Alternatively, Sicily is about a 6-hour drive from Matera. Make a stop in Reggio Calabria, which is a connection between the Italian peninsula and the Sicilian islands. Continue on to Taormina and Syracuse before ending your trip in Palermo. Adventurers will not want to miss the opportunity to climb Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe.
Have fun on your Puglia tour.
I hope this Southern Italy itinerary has been useful to you. The itinerary is suitable for those who only have one week in the country, but if you have more time, I suggest exploring more of Italy. Italy is a popular tourist destination for good reason: It has a lot of culture, history, food, and beaches to offer. Additionally, every region offers a different experience.
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