Sharing a guide to our five days in Puglia, Italy spent discovering this gorgeous area of Italy along the Adriatic Sea.
My Guide to 5 Days in Puglia, Italy
Words can’t describe how breathtaking Puglia is. Not only is it rich in history (the oldest city in Italy is in Puglia!), but it’s coastline has the most refreshing blue, aqua colored waters perfect for jumping into.
While I was planning for this trip, I was searching for the best beaches in Puglia. My husband and I are such beach people (and used to the turquoise waters of the Caribbean), that we were so focused on beaches, beaches, beaches. What we immediately realized upon landing in Puglia was that Puglia isn’t about turquoise beaches (although there certainly are some!) It’s about the cliffside waters of the Adriatic Sea, where Puglia is located. It’s magically stunning. Truly breathtaking!
We couldn’t get enough of these cliffside coves and beaches that we searched for them every day and they were everywhere. The Puglian people simply bring an umbrella and a towel and post up along the coastline, jumping in and out of the water when they warm up. And frankly, the actual beaches of Puglia were very, very crowded (with Italians vacationing!), but the coastline coves (called a cala) were not crowded.
Puglia is laid backed, not very crowded, and as we went south of Monopoli, we didn’t hear any English. We felt like we were one of the locals, and I love this part of Puglia. My experiences in other regions of Italy haven’t been like this – there are tons of tourists and you hear more English than Italian. Not in Puglia, it’s still a bit of a “hidden” gem (I think this will start to change, as it’s becoming more and more of a destination!) And personally, I love to feel immersed in a country. If all I hear is English around me, it takes way from the experience for me.
What’s special about Puglia is the deep rooted history and that there is so much to do there, we didn’t even scratch the surface. My husband and I had FOMO the entire time we were there, realizing each day that passed that we weren’t going to have enough time to devour all of Puglia. Most of the hotels are converted masserias, which are fortified farmhouses inhabited by landowners built in the 16th century. They are all so beautiful. We stayed at the Masseria Torre Maizza in Fasano.
I can’t rave enough about this hotel, it was boutique enough that the staff knew us well by day 2, but large enough that it had a gym, a partner beach club (Lido Bambu), a spa, a pool, a golf course, and a sensational restaurant. There was even a piano player that was there every evening that we ended up doing late night karaoke with! It was so elegant, refined, but still laid back and not stuffy at all. Let’s just say that if we ever make it back to Puglia, we’ll stay there again!
Although I researched the trip myself and essentially build the whole itinerary, I did use a travel agent to bounce ideas off of, to book all of our airfare and reservations, and to share her expertise of the region, which I’m very grateful for. If you’re interested in a travel agent, reach out to Patty of Local Foreigner!
I’m going to share our itinerary, HOWEVER we had to change it from our original itinerary, because we slept in one of the days (jet lag) and we also ended up getting exhausted and wanted to just have a lazy day our last day. Thus, I’m going to insert into the itinerary what we didn’t do!
Our 5 Day Puglia Itinerary
Day 1 (Arrival Day): Check-in, lunch at the hotel pool bar, and dinner at Il Cortiletto restaurant
Day 2 (Beach club day): Lunch and hang all day at Lido Bambu Beach Club, dinner at Gaudium restaurant
Day 3 (Exploring the coastline): Loaded Googlemaps and drove to see Faraglioni di Sant’Andrea, Santa Cesarea Terme (hang at Bagno Marino Archi), Lunch in Porto Badisco, Hang/nap on the beach of Baia dei Turchi. Dinner back at hotel restaurant, Carosello. After party at hotel bar.
Day 4 (More exploring the coastline): Loaded Googlemaps and drove to see Roca Vecchia, Grotta della Poesia, and Torre dell’Orso. Drove back towards hotel and stopped at Cala Masciola (a beach club) for lunch and lay out. Afterwards, went out to explore Ostuni – dinner at La Taverna della Gelosia.
Day 5 (Alberobello and Polignano a Mare): Drove to Alberobello to explore. Then, drove to Polignagno a Mare, lunch at Ristorante da Tuccino. Jumped in ocean, then off to visit Lama Monachile Beach (aka Cala Porto). Back home and dinner at Due Camini restaurant.
Day 6 (Locorotondo and beach club): Drove to Locorotondo in the morning to explore, then lunch at Coccaro Beach Club, then went back to Cala Masciola to lounge for the rest of the day. Dinner in town at Ardecuore Restaurant.
Day 7 (Travel back home): Back home to New Jersey! 🙁
More Detailed Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival
We took a 6pm flight out of Newark (EWR) airport that landed us into Brindisi airport (the Puglia airport) at 2pm Italy time. It took us this long, because we had a layover in London Heathrow airport. We ended up checking into the hotel around 3pm, dropped our bags off in our rooms, and headed to the hotel pool bar for a late light lunch, Aperol spritzes, and to relax. We went back to our room, got dressed, and went to a restaurant Il Cortiletto for dinner which was sensational. The baked paccheri! The asparagus flan! The pistachio ice cream!
Day 2: Beach club/relax day
We knew we wanted to build in this day to just chill at the beach. We went to the partner beach club of our hotel called Lido Bambu Beach Club. We got a bed right in front of the ocean and sipped Aperol spritzes all day, went in and out of the water, and had the most unbelievable rosemary foccacia and tuna salads. We ended up spotting Jeremy Strong (from Succcesion!) and went right up to him to tell him what big fans we were! The beach club was nice, comfortable, and looked a bit like Tulum (the aesthetic didn’t look like we were in Italy, which I didn’t love.)
After that, we went home, showered and got dressed to go to Gaudium Restaurant, which was a seafood spot. It was in the town we were staying in. The food was amazing BUT the ambiance wasn’t great. It was a large restaurant on the water, but no music or vibe. Just good food and service! We got an amazing fish soup and a risotto which were both memorable.
Day 3: Exploring Puglian coastline by car
So this day was supposed to look different. We were supposed to do all of our coastline driving in one day, BUT we overslept so we ended up splitting it into two days (doing one the next day.) The only downside of this is that we had to do a longer drive twice AND we missed the opportunity to do a little bit extra exploring on Thursday.
Anyway, we ended up seeing everything over the two days (day 3/4) except Castro Marina, Porto Miggiano, and Cala dell Acquaviva. I was mostly bummed about missing Cala dell Acquaviva, I’ve heard great things. Next time!
Driving the coastline is very easy, everything is labeled well, so we just plugged the sights into Googlemaps and drove! This day, we first drove to Faraglioni di Sant’Andrea (about 90 minutes away) where we officially fell in love with Puglia. The water was gorgeous and the view was beyond scenic. We both jumped in! We wish we had more time here – and there’s a little beach restaurant with an actual beach a 2 minute walk down a hill that would’ve been great to relax at for a couple of hours. After you jump in, I’d just towel off, throw a sarong or cover up on, and get back in the car. So, we were off to explore!
After that, we drove to Bagno Marino Archi which is a beach club in Santa Cesarea Terme. It was a very casual beach club that was packed with Italians. We didn’t hear any English. It was kind of like a no frills beach club, authentically Italian in every way. We loved watching the Italian kids jumping off the floating docks into the water. It was like we were in the Disney movie Lucca. We stayed there for hours. We were planning on having lunch there, but we wanted to keep it moving and explore more, so we stopped in Porto Badisco to jump in the water, but ended up just having a perfect little lunch at a deli in town and then realized we were pressed for time so we drove back home (about 1 hour and 45 minutes.)
We came back to the hotel, lounged at the pool, had an iced americano with some cucumbers and melon (they have the world’s best cucumbers in Puglia – they’re almost sweet!) and then changed and had dinner at the hotel restaurant Carosello. If you’re not staying at this hotel on your visit, I highly recommend adding it to your list! It was probably the best meal we had in Puglia! The eggplant raviolis and the grilled lobster were otherworldly. After dinner, we went to the hotel bar/lounge where the hotel’s Sicilian piano player had us karaoke-ing until midnight!
Day 4: Exploring the coastline by car + Beach Club + Ostuni
Since we overslept and had to spread the exploring over two days, we got back in the car after breakfast and went to Roca Vecchia, Grotta della Poesia, and Torre dell’Orso (in that order.) Roca Vecchia was my favorite place. Another cliffside coastline area to jump in and out of and swim around- this one had a little cala/beach and it was just gorgeous. We stayed for an hour.
Roca Vecchia is right next to Grotta della Poesia (like a few minute drive down the road) which is a grotto that you can jump into and swim around in (they also have a rocky staircase to get in and out.) Lu jumped in, but it was too high for me, so I took the staircase. Again, no Americans, all Italians, and it was magical. The water was so refreshing. You did have to pay to get in (I think it was 6 EUR for both of us.)
After that, we drove to Torre dell’Orso which was a beautiful beach but it was so crowded (all Italians!) and we wanted to get back for lunch at Cala Masciola, a beach club that is affiliated with the Borgo Egnazio, the hotel that Justin Timberlake got married at! The lunch wasn’t great (but the spritzes were!) but we might have ordered wrong? You never know! However, we loved this beach club. Unlike Lido Bambu, it wasn’t on a beach, it was one of the jumping areas/coves. They had a metal staircase to get in and out of the water and float around and the water was stunning. We laid on a bed, drank spritzes, and enjoyed the sun.
After that, we headed back to our hotel, showered, changed, and went to Ostuni to walk around and have dinner. Ostuni is a white washed city (all of the buildings were painted white in hopes the sun would reflect off the buildings and blind the incoming armies/threats to the city.) It’s up in the mountain/on a hill, so it’s elevated and has beautiful views and sunsets. It’s so picturesque and has tons of little shops, bars, and restaurants. We stopped at Bar Perso for a cocktail before dinner to people watch and it was perfect. Afterwards, we had dinner at La Taverna della Gelosia which was a beautiful and romantic location, but the food was heavy on meat and the other menu items were not great. We had some octopus and an eggplant parmesan-style dish that was okay, but the rest wasn’t good. I was disappointed but the spritzes were one of the best I had!
Our Ostuni night was perfect otherwise, and I am so happy we went and visited. It felt like such an Italian night!
Day 5: Alberobello and Polignano a Mare
Wow, wow, wow. We were blown away by Alberobello. This town is known for it’s “trulli”s which are little conical roofed stone “huts” that were made originally to become tax exempt from the high housing costs in the 16th century. They are perfectly preserved, some are still inhabited, but most are filled with the most beautiful little stores and we ended up buying some gifts for the family here. I was taking so many photos, everything was so idyllic. There were little restaurants and bars there, too.
After that, we drove to Polignano a Mare, a main attraction of Puglia. We first stopped for lunch at Ristorante da Tuccino which was a restaurant on the water, away from the hustle and bustle of the main town. We had parking, had a nice slow seafood lunch (it was very simple but well prepared, the seafood felt like it was fresh off the boat!) and afterwards, we changed into our bathing suits in the bathrooms and hopped right into a little cove off the restaurant. Then, we were off to the main town of Polignano a Mare and to see Lama Manochile beach, the main cove you see all over Instagram. It was certainly scenic and moving (the cliffside is so high up and you’re so down low in this little cove), but it was so crowded and the water seemed cloudy compared to the other areas we had visited (probably from all the sunscreen, oil, and people!) I swore I saw a little poop float by, so we were out of there pretty quickly, after sitting on top of one of the cliffside rocks to people watch.
We wanted to jump in something clearer and more for the locals, so we found a little gem called Cala Tre Buchi nearby in Monopoli (on the way back from Polignano) and it might’ve been our favorite little spot! We stayed here swimming and laying on the cove for almost an hour. All Italians!
We ended up walking the town for a little bit, had a spritz with some magnificent views, and then headed back home to get ready for our dinner at Due Camini, the Michelin-star-rated restaurant at the Borgo Egnazio. This was truly a special experience and it was fun to get dressed up (Since the rest of Puglia is casual.) It was an 8-course menu and brought you through Puglian cuisine. However, in the end, I wish I had just gone to a local restaurant and had a meal with Italians, because it was all Americans dining and didn’t feel like we were in Puglia anymore (kind of like we were in New York City or something.) But it was certainly different and fun to see the chef’s creativity (and all the diners got brought into the kitchen to see the behind the scenes and taste a pre-dessert treat)!
Day 6: Locorotondo + beach club
So this day, originally, was planned to be a day we went to a vineyard (called Masseria Li Veli) and then the other side of Puglia (to the west coast) to visit Porto Cesareo and Gallipoli. However, we decided we just wanted to relax, so we ended up driving to visit another little town nearby (20 minutes away) called Locorotondo which was just as picturesque as Ostuni, if not more. After that, we went to Coccaro Beach Club for lunch and had a tasty pizza, grilled veggies, and a mixed seafood grill which was outstanding. It was a little loud and a few screaming kids, but the food was good and it was a great view. We almost stayed, but ended up driving back to Cala Masciola to hang there and jump in that beautiful water again.
In retrospect, I wish we had stuck to our original itinerary or woken up early and visited Matera (the oldest city in Puglia) and then made it back in time to jump into some of the local Monopoli beaches/coves before relaxing by our hotel pool before dinner. If I could do the trip again, I would’ve probably done that! But, it was still a nice relaxing last day in Puglia.
For dinner, we probably had our best meal at Ardecuore, a hip restaurant in Fasano. From the appetizer to the dessert, it was beautiful. Everything was creative but not pretentious, delicious, and fresh. The bruschette to start was like an art piece. It was such the perfect end to the day and the trip, and we had some after dinner drinks to celebrate the end (me a sambuca and Lu a limoncello.)
Day 7: Travel day home
After a final hotel breakfast, we traveled back to New Jersey!
What We Didn’t a Chance to See
Puglia is such a culturally rich region of Italy and there is so much to do. There were a few areas and dozens of little beaches and coves we didn’t get to explore. Here are some areas I wish we had more time to see (we’d probably need another week to do it!):
- Matera: the oldest city in Italy
- More Monopoli area beaches, like Cala Porto Bianco & Russo, Cala Porto Vecchia, Porto Ghiacciolo, Cala Sottile, and Porto Verde
- West coast of Italy’s Puglia: Punta Prosciutto, Porto Cesareo, Gallipoli (Calla dell’Acquaviva)
- Done an olive orchard tour (Puglia is probably most famous for it’s olive oil production)
- Done a boat ride around Polignano a Mare’s little caves/grottos
- The city of Lecce
Restaurants We Ate At in Puglia
- Il Cortiletto: 15 minutes from our hotel, loved this restaurant – if you can score a table outside in the garden/patio area, it’s gorgeous
- Guadium: 10 minutes nearby our hotel, the food was good, but the ambiance was meh. It’s a larger restaurant on the water, but at nighttime, you can’t really tell.
- Carosello: this was our hotel’s restaurant and it might have been our favorite meal. The restaurant is just gorgeous, so the scenery is undeniable and you truly feel like you’re inside an Italian masseria. The eggplant raviolis and the sfogliatella dessert!
- Lido Bambu Beach Club: 10 minutes from our hotel, we had lunch here and the tuna on the salads was so fresh (not like canned tuna in the states!), and a rosemary foccacia that was divine. I wish we had more time to have one more meal there!
- La Taverna della Gelosia: in Ostuni about 30 minutes from our hotel, not a great meal, but the ambiance was wonderful. Perhaps we ordered wrong, because this is highly rated!
- Ristorante da Tuccino: a white tablecloth kind of Italian restaurant, we had our lunch here in Polignano a Mare – simple menu options, all about the fresh seafood. Great meal and beautiful view!
- Due Camini: a Michelin-star rated restaurant at the Borgo Egnazio hotel with an 8 course dinner, certainly an experience, but I think it can be skipped for a more locals-only kind of meal.
- Coccaro Beach Club: we had lunch here, it’s a lively beach club that’s also family friendly right on the water (you can stay and grab a beach chair), great meal of fresh grilled seafood, pizza, and veggies.
- Ardecuore: 10 minutes from our hotel, our last meal and maybe our favorite, it was hip and the food was sensational. Creative but not prentious and full of contemporary Apulian inspiration!
Other restaurants on our list, we wish we could have tried include:
- Locande de Felisiano
- Antica Lama
- Osteria del Tempo Perso
A few tips for Puglia:
After staying here for nearly a week, I have a few tips:
- Rent a car: unless you’re nervous about driving in foreign countries (then get a driver!), renting a car is a must. There is SO much to see in Puglia, it would be a shame not to get in a Fiat and drive. Bonus tip: use CarPlay to play the White Lotus Season 2 soundtrack on your drive – it’s the best!
- Download a translator app: I always find that when you’re in a non-English speaking country and you at least attempt to speak their language, it goes very far. Also, there are many areas (especially down the coastline away from the touristy Polignano a Mare area) where the people speak limited English. Simply knowing the basics and being able to say this one/that one/please/thank you/where/can I.. is invaluable.
- Make your dining reservations late: This is something I wish I had known, but Italians don’t dine until at least 9pm, so if you want ambiance and to feel like you’re in the mix of the Italian crowd, book accordingly. However, service does wane after it gets crowded, so keep that in mind. We pushed all of our reservations.
- Bring water shoes: many of the Italian kids (and some adults) had water shoes for climbing the rocks to get in and out of the water. While not the chicest, our feet aren’t hardened like the Italians who are used to climbing rocks and it was a little slippery/painful/dangerous at times!
And that’s all I have to say about our 5 full days in Puglia, Italy! We can’t wait to visit again with the kids when they’re older, it stole our hearts.
For all of my Puglia outfits and looks, check out this post.