Are you planning a trip to the heel of Italy’s boot? While the region remained largely off the tourist map until the last couple of decades, it has become increasingly popular for international tourist travel and within Italy.

With 600 miles of coastline, several historic towns and UNESCO heritage sites, and indulgent cuisine and wine, there’s a lot to explore in Puglia – meaning a Puglian vacation is going to require copious hours of planning and foresight, especially if you’re not familiar with the geography and culture of this region. 

Let us be your local guides – we’re sharing the essential travel tips you need to know before embarking on your Puglian adventure of a lifetime! 

travel tips for puglia italy

Book Your Trip as Far in Advance as Possible

While Puglia still has many hidden gems, travel to the region has consistently risen over the past few decades. With social media, travelers continue to learn about and travel to the region. 

Puglia is also a popular summer destination for Italians and Europeans, not just North Americans. While this bodes well for local tourism, you don’t want to get put out of your dream vacation because you waited too long to book your accommodations or activities. 

We recommend booking at least several months in advance to ensure you have the best chance at your preferred accommodations, especially if you are traveling in peak season and even up to a year or more if you have specific hotels in mind. For flights, plan to book three to six months in advance for the best deals. Even if you are not traveling during peak season, booking as early as possible is still a good rule of thumb. 

Remember this when visiting popular restaurants in the region, as many are reservation-only. The same is true for tours and activities like wine tasting or cheesemaking. Sooner you can book the better so that you can avoid any disappointment and nip your FOMO in the bud.

If this sounds like a lot of stress you don’t want during your vacation, why not book a tour with a local guide where you only have to worry about getting there? When you arrive, we will take care of the accommodations, transportation, personally vet all the experiences and means so you’ll have the Puglia trip of a lifetime. Ready to experience the real Puglia? Get on the waitlist for Passport to Puglia 2025!

top puglia travel tips

Opt to Rent a Car Instead of Relying on Trains

Puglia is best explored by car! While it is not difficult to travel the coast of Italy’s longest region by train, the interior is a different story. Many travelers don’t realize just how long Puglia is – at nearly 300 miles long, there’s a lot of ground to cover. 

If you want to visit local winemakers and cheese producers, experience cities like Lecce or Alberobello, or take in the beautiful rolling hills of vineyards and olive groves, you must rent a car. Otherwise, you will be limited to the cookie-cutter, touristy experiences and missing out on seeing the real Italy

Learn the 13 essential tips for driving in Italy.

Driving in another country can feel intimidating, stressful, and even dangerous if you don’t know the rules of the road in the region you’re driving in. Unfortunately, relying on public transportation will limit the experiences you can seek out, and heading to the interior with bad reception for Google maps can be a logistical nightmare waiting to happen. Especially in a country where you don’t speak the lingo.

The perfect solution is a local host who can translate the Puglian experience! If you’re ready to ditch the tourist traps and see the real Italy, opt for a food and wine tour with Italian travel and food and wine experts. We’ll do all the heavy lifting for you by planning the logistics and curating one of a kind experiences in the region where Giovanni’s parents are from and where he spent his summer holidays. 

Want to know more about us? Click here!

Ready to travel with what Forbes says “Giovanni and Chantelle are the perfect guides to translate the Italian experience”

Then  book your Italian adventure today! Choose from our 2024 Tour Collection (limited spots left!) or get on the waitlist for our upcoming tour of Puglia.  

puglia italy travel tips

Skip the Summers

Italian summers sound dreamy on paper, but with Puglia’s popularity among locals and foreigners alike you’d be better off skipping June to September. If you want the best experience in Puglia, we recommend skipping the summers and opting for the “shoulder seasons” – April, May, or October. 

Not only is Puglia excruciatingly hot in the summer, the seaside becomes packed with tourists. Many beaches are private and require you to book a chair in advance, meaning you’ll be shelling out a lot of money for a simple day at the beach. Remember that Public beaches in Italy lack facilities such as bathrooms, change rooms, and showers, so if you don’t want to play hide and seek to go use the washroom then it’s essential you reserve yourself an umbrella at the local stabilimento.

But don’t fret – just because you’re visiting in the spring or fall doesn’t mean you have to miss out on a warm, beachy day admiring the cliffside and blue waters. We recently traveled to Lecce, and it was 25° C (77°F) in mid-November! And most hotel swimming pools open up the 3rd week of May and stay open all the way into October. 

Southern Italy is pretty mild even during the winters, so while you may not get the full experience of an Italian summer you see on social media, you will thank yourself when you don’t have to push past crowds of people just to put your feet in the water. 

Better yet when you join us on the  Puglian tour you’ll enjoy a boat ride to soak up the dreamiest parts of Puglia’s famous coastline line near Polignano a Mare.

puglia travel tips food

Embrace Authentic Cuisine

Not every city in Puglia is created equal in terms of cuisine. While fresh seafood is popular on the coast, meats are much more common in the interior. 

When traveling anywhere, it’s essential to be aware of the area’s local cuisine for the highest quality and freshest ingredients. 

Puglia is famously home to the orecchiette pasta, an ear-shaped pasta often made fresh and served by local Nonnas on city streets! 

Other local cuisine you must try includes taralli, a crunchy and delicious bread knot, and caciocavallo, a decadent semi-aged cheese. 

Read more on Puglia’s most famous food and wine!

top tips for puglia italy

Savor Local Wines

Every cheese deserves the perfect wine pairing, which you are sure to find in Puglia. Puglia’s culinary delights are the perfect complement to its wines. The grapes of Puglia thrive in the region’s heat and pounding sunlight, creating internationally renowned wines such as Primitivo (known as Zinfandel in California). 

Beyond Primitivo, explore the flavors of Negroamaro, Aglianico, Malvasia Nera, and Fiano. Each grape tells a unique story, reflecting the terroir and generational craftsmanship of Puglia’s winemakers. 

Immerse yourself in the winemaking process by visiting local wineries and vineyards. Many estates welcome visitors for guided tours, where you can stroll through the vineyards, learn about winemaking techniques, and indulge in tastings. Take advantage of the opportunity to converse with passionate winemakers eager to share their knowledge and stories!

Pro-Tip: Want to bring a taste of Puglia home? First, check your country’s rules and regulations around flying with alcohol. If you cannot bring back a bottle in your suitcase, ship cases of wine directly to your home. The more you buy, the cheaper the shipping cost per bottle. 

matera is not puglia travel tips-min

Know Your Regions: Matera is Not in Puglia!

Are you planning on visiting Italy’s oldest city, Matera, on your Italian vacation? While there is a common misconception that Matera is in Puglia, it is situated West of Puglia in the neighboring region of Basilicata.

Matera is particularly famous for its ancient cave dwellings, known as Sassi di Matera, which are carved into the limestone rocks of the region. The city’s historical center, characterized by these cave dwellings, has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Matera is renowned for its well-preserved ancient architecture and has gained international recognition for its cultural and historical significance.

It’s certainly possible to visit Matera while you are based in Puglia. Still, it’s important to note that while both Puglia and Basilicata are in Southern Italy, each region has its own unique landscapes, culture, and history. 

This is especially important to note if you drive in this region, as some rules may change. 

puglia travel tips one week in puglia trip-min

Slow Down and Be Present

Life in Puglia goes a bit slower than in many North American or other European countries! You may wait longer for food at a restaurant or service in a shop. 

When you can take the time to breathe in the countryside or the coastal air, explore the hidden corners of the villages, and enjoy a long, leisurely meal with loved ones or travel companions, you will get much more out of the experience. 

Puglia invites you to adopt the Italian philosophy of “dolce far niente,” the sweetness of doing nothing – part of the charm of Southern Italy!

puglia travel tips one week in puglia trip

Plan to Spend at Least a Week!

Puglia’s warmth extends beyond its climate; it’s reflected in the welcoming nature of the locals. Spending at least a week provides the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local Pugliese culture and give you a chance to forge genuine connections that create lasting memories. Not being rushed, being open to new adventures and soaking it all in is essential to getting a feel for the local way of life in Puglia.

Making time for serendipitous moments, spontaneous adventures and unplanned encounters like stumbling upon a local artisan’s workshop or discovering a hidden trattoria, sounds simple enough, right?

The truth is, traveling like a local is appealing but actually immersing yourself in the local culture isn’t always straight-forward. Just taking some extra time in Puglia won’t guarantee you this type of experience, even if you know the lingo and are comfortable driving a car. This type of experience requires that there is someone on the inside who can guide you on your trip – that’s precisely where The Italian On Tour® steps in!

Founded by Giovanni, an Italian native who spent his summers in his parents hometown in Puglia, and a Canadian Expat, who understands both sides so you get the best of both worlds. Speaking Italian and understanding the local nuances, when you join The Italian On Tour® in Puglia you’ll get to go beneath the surface and really connect the people and the country, something you wouldn’t be able to do on your own.

That’s why in 2025 we’re excited to take you off-the-beaten path and by dedicating a full week sharing the essence of Puglia—its landscapes, culture, and the genuine hospitality of the locals. Ready to escape the crowds and experience Puglia like a local?  Get on the waitlist now to be the first to get access to the Passport to Puglia tour and be the first to hear about the exclusive bonuses! 

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