A Solo Traveller’s Guide to Puglia, Italy

Soak up the sunset over the picturesque town of Vieste when you visit Puglia on a solo trip
Soak up the sunset over the picturesque town of Vieste when you visit Puglia on a solo trip | © Peter Adams Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Joel Rabinowitz

Puglia – the southern heel of the boot of Italy – is awash with idyllic scenery, photogenic towns and culinary delights, making it one of Europe’s most enticing regions. For solo travellers seeking a balance between urban exploration, rural adventures, gorgeous weather and heavenly food, it ticks every box.

What’s the vibe?

Expect laid-back days and nights in honey-coloured baroque cities, whitewashed towns and villages dotted with conical-roofed trulli houses – Puglia is an architectural treat. Sun-drenched olive groves, vineyards and golden sand beaches further enhance its appeal, along with food markets and fabulous restaurants.

With a historic old town and sea views, Polignano a Mare in Puglia offers visitors the best of both worlds

A Puglia trip overview for solo travellers

Aim to spend at least four or five days in Puglia to get a true sense of the region’s character. Bari, the capital, is a great starting point, with its rambunctious markets, vibrant nightlife and atmospheric old town. South along the Adriatic Coast, Polignano a Mare is a must-visit for its secluded white pebble beach, enclosed by towering limestone cliffs. From there, the spectacular Castellana Caves are just a half-hour drive inland.

Be sure to check out the Unesco-listed trulli houses of Alberobello and the whitewashed town of Locorotondo. They’re only 9km (5.6mi) apart, so why not rent bikes and cycle from one to the other? Lecce, in the far south, is the perfect final stop, boasting some of Italy’s finest baroque churches and palaces.

Wander the backstreets of Alberobello and see the ‘trulli’ houses for yourself

One night in Polignano a Mare and three nights in Lecce are included as part of Culture Trip’s specially curated 10-day Southern Italy adventure, along with visits to Naples, the Amalfi Coast and Matera.

Where to stay in Puglia

Whether you’re on a tight budget or you’re yearning for luxury, there’s no shortage of excellent accommodation for solo travellers in Puglia. Options range from glamorous five-star hotels to masserias (fortified farmhouse lodgings, distinct to Puglia) and converted trulli houses. Browse our selection of the best hotels in Puglia – all bookable with Culture Trip. If you’re planning to stay in the region’s capital, also check out our favourite places to stay in Bari.

Traditional ‘trulli’ houses offer unique accommodations when visiting Puglia

Eat and drink in Puglia

Puglian cuisine has its own hearty, rustic character. Staples include pane di Altamura (a type of nutty, subtly sweet bread made with durum wheat), orecchiette (small, ear-shaped pasta shells), fava beans, olive oil and burrata cheese.

Among the classic dishes to look out for are linguine ai ricci di mare (linguine with fresh sea urchins), patate e cozze (a layered dish of rice, potatoes and mussels), panzerotti (fried dough pockets stuffed with garlicky tomatoes and mozzarella) and orecchiette con le cime di rapa (pasta shells with succulent broccoli rabe leaves).

Pasticciotto (a custard or ricotta-filled pastry) is an irresistible Lecce speciality, best enjoyed alongside a caffè leccese (iced coffee sweetened with almond syrup). Meanwhile, dark, earthy red wines such as primitivo and negroamaro are ubiquitous. We’ve picked out the best restaurants in Lecce, Polignano a Mare and Alberobello to point you in the right direction.

Sample local cuisine and feast on fresh seafood as you travel around Puglia

What to do in Puglia

Visit an olive farm

Puglia is carpeted in olive groves, which thrive in the warm, sunny climate and calcium-rich soils, and yield around 40 percent of Italy’s olive oil production. Book yourself an olive farm tour to discover how it’s made and to taste it for yourself, direct from the source.

You’ll have the chance to taste Puglian olive oil at Il Frantoio farm on Culture Trip’s exclusive small-group Southern Italy trip.

Take a guided walking tour of Alberobello

The trulli houses of Alberobello, with their whitewashed bases and conical stone roofs, look like something straight out of a fairytale, and visiting them is one of the highlights of a trip to Puglia. Join a guided walking tour to gain an insight into their history – or, for a unique experience, stay overnight in a trulli hotel.

Admire Lecce’s baroque architecture

Lecce, at the bottom of the heel, has earned the nickname Florence of the South due to its beautifully preserved baroque churches and palaces crafted in local sandstone. Head to the Piazza Duomo and you’ll find three of the city’s most impressive structures – Lecce Cathedral, the Episcopal Palace and the Seminary Palace – facing one another. The 17th-century Basilica di Santa Croce and the ancient Roman amphitheatre, a five-minute walk apart, are also worth stopping at.

Stay safe, stay happy in Puglia

If you plan on driving, be prepared that Italian roads require some getting used to – tailgating and overtaking is fairly common. When parking, keep anything valuable out of sight. Pickpockets mostly operate in crowded spots such as markets and on public transport, so ensure your valuables are properly secured. As a rule, it’s best to stick to busy, well-lit areas at night in larger cities such as Bari and Foggia.

Remember to keep a close hand on any valuables when visiting busy markets

Getting around in Puglia

Hiring a car gives you maximum freedom and flexibility to explore different parts of the region. Regular trains and buses run between the main towns and cities – although these aren’t always on time and services are generally more limited in rural, inland areas. If you’re taking the bus, tickets tend to be cheaper in tobacco shops and petrol stations than purchasing them on board.

You’ll have the most flexibility on your trip to Puglia with your own set of wheels

What to do to fit in – and not offend in Puglia

Puglian people are typically warm and welcoming, although English isn’t spoken quite as ubiquitously as it is in more established tourist destinations across the country – so it’s worth learning a few handy Italian phrases before you go. When visiting churches, it’s customary for men to wear trousers rather than shorts, and not to eat or drink inside.

Looking for some like-minded company on your Puglia adventure? Join a small group of culturally curious travellers and a Local Insider on Culture Trip’s 10-day Southern Italy adventure, which includes an e-bike ride through the Puglian countryside, a visit to the Castellana Caves and walking tours of Lecce and Otranto.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

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