by Frances Reid

I’m willing to bet that any mention of Italy immediately conjures images of Tuscany’s rolling green hills, dotted with wineries. Am I right? 

If you stop there though, you’re missing out on one of southern Italy’s best-kept secrets: Puglia. 

Yes, it takes a bit more effort to get there (Puglia is tucked into Italy’s boot heel), but where’s the fun in taking the path others have traveled? No. You, my friend, need an authentic encounter with another of Italy’s daughters. She’s quiet, but her charms are never-ending. I promise you won’t be sorry.  

Here are 8 reasons you should start packing your bags, and head to Puglia.

Polignano a Mare

This ancient city, sitting dramatically on top of rugged cliffs, is not just beautiful but filled with reminders of its Roman past. You can take in views of the city from the Ponte Lama Monachile, a remnant of a former Roman road, or take a dip in the cove at the base of the cliffs while watching locals dive into the Adriatic.

White Buildings on a cliff overlooking turquoise waters, sun bathers on a beach and a person on a yellow paddle board.
Image by: David Yaugo

Trullo’s

Trullo, Trullo, Trulli (plural of Trullo, FYI) is just fun to say! You’ll feel a little like you’ve landed in a magical fairy village, but these conical structures played an important role in rural life in Italy, operating either as storehouses or housing farm laborers. Today, these UNESCO World Heritage structures are homes and residences.

White conical houses surrounded by deep green trees and grass on an overcast day.

You can stay in one overnight, but if you have less time, locals are glad to welcome you into the Trullo lifestyle with workshops, including cooking classes. Learn more about Trulli in this post about the unique history of Puglia.

Smiling white haired Italian woman mid instruction, in a rustic kitchen.

The FOOD

Puglia is located in an agriculturally-rich part of Italy. From olive oil (they were the first olive oil producers in Italy), to wine, and durum wheat (for delicious pasta). With the sea as its backyard, expect some of the best seafood you’ve EVER had, which you can enjoy in any number of beautiful and authentic restaurants.

Male and female diners eating and talking in a white stone and brick restaurant.

I’m just going to leave this here…

Pasta covered in grated white cheese, red sauce, and basil on a white plate, and on a table with Italian cold meats and wine in the background.

You can read more about the many traditional dishes of Puglia here.

Monte Sant’Angelo

Monte Sant’Angelo is another gorgeous village even further off the beaten path in Puglia. With its white-washed houses clinging to the hillside, it offers a slower pace of life where you can just be one of the locals. This town is a must-see for its Sanctuary to the Archangel Michael which has been built into a Grotto. Whether you’re spiritual or not, there is something truly extraordinary about the Shrine.

Worshipers attentive to a priest conducting a Catholic service in an ancient church built into deep in a stone cave.

Sea Caves and Endless Beaches

Puglia is snuggled between the Adriatic and Ionian Sea, and has over 400 miles of coastline. You can charter a boat to explore a quiet cove, with a picnic of course…

A man and a woman enjoying a picnic on a red checked blanket on an isolated pebble beach, looking out on blue water and a white sail boat.

or discover a nearly deserted beach and spend a few hours soaking up the “la dolce far niente”, the sweetness of doing nothing.

A man reading and woman sunbathing on an isolated white stone beach overlooking blue water and tree covered cliffs.

Gargano’s Umbra Forest 

You’re going to need to make space for more pasta, wine, and gelato (trust me on this). The best way to do that is to lose yourself in Gargano’s lush Umbra Forest. Hiking on paths shaded by canopies of ancient trees, it won’t be hard to believe that eons ago, Gargano was an island covered by dense forest. Rich in biodiversity, you can listen to bird calls or just let the green stillness quiet your soul.

A woman dressed in hiking clothes stares up at a tall, old, moss covered tree in a grassy meadow surrounded by other trees.
Image by Matteo Falcone

Trabucco’s

These ancient fishing machines have stood watch over Puglia’s sea ports for centuries, and are now national monuments.

A metal house on wooden stilts at the oceans edge with wires and beams sticking out in all directions supporting fishing nets.

You can experience the ways the sea has provided for the region by learning the traditions of fishermen, and then enjoy the catch in restaurants housed in or close by the Trabucco.

I’ve already said it, but It’s worth repeating…Best.Seafood.EVER!

A white plate of fried calamari and shrimp with a fresh lemon on the side. With the twinkling lights of a coastal city reflecting off the ocean at twilight.

The People

The truest treasure of Puglia is its residents. There is no better way to experience a culture than through the eyes of the people who are tied to the land (and the sea). Strike up a conversation with a fisherman…

An older Italian man in a weathered blue hooded coat, stands with his back turned on fishing nets handing on a wooden boat, against the light blue sea.

Or take a workshop with a local to embrace their traditions. They’ll welcome your curiosity, and invite you to get swept away by their little slice of paradise.


Experience all that Puglia has to offer without the hassle of planning it yourself, in our Secrets of Southern Italy small group trip! This unique and immersive adventure will take you off-the-beaten-path in an exclusive group of just 7 travelers. Check out the details here!

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