For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to travel to the Southern Coast of Italy to see the famous fairytale trulli towns and turquoise waters.
Rather spontaneously a friend and I decided to book a 4 day trip there a few weeks ago, it was a back and forth text of just a few words and before we knew it we were booked on a flight that weekend.
We spent four nights in Puglia and, even if I do say so myself, absolutely smashed the itinerary, so it’s only right for me to share all the details here!
From London, we flew directly into Bari Airport from London Gatwick. There are a number of flights operating daily throughout the summer, we flew with easyJet and it was pleasantly hassle free with carry-on only luggage.
Having read up briefly about the destination before traveling out I knew it would make our lives so much easier if we were to rent a car so I pre-booked one for our arrival. At the airport we upgraded to an electric automatic for the drive, I highly recommend this as some of the roads in the smaller towns are windy and narrow so dealing with gears and hill starts wouldn’t have been fun!
HIRE A CAR – An automatic if I were you 😉
The drive from Bari to Polignano-A-Mare was pleasantly easy so fear-not if you are not used to driving abroad, it was pretty much one motorway and then when you get to the windy roads of the town everyone drives super slow as there are so many pedestrians giving you time to navigate easily 😉
*Note that NO car hire company in Italy will let you pay the deposit on your debit card, make sure you have a credit card on you otherwise you have to pay a premium fee, we learned this the hard way.
Arguably the beach that puts Polignano-a-mare ‘on the map’ as a bucket list destination is the cute slither of sea that laps into the town itself. The crystal clear waters and contagious European atmosphere makes Lama Monochile a firm favourite. The cove is alarmingly busy and yet wonderfully charming. Take a towel and enjoy the freedom and infectious love for the sun and sea!
If you are keener on an easy swim and a little more surface area for bathing then head to Cala Paguro. Here you’ll find two small ‘beaches’ but it’s actually classed as a lido so whilst still very busy there’s more enclosed water to enjoy. It’s a super calm and relaxing way to spend the day.
There is no shade in any of the beaches so taking and umbrella or avoiding the midday heat is definitely advisable!
Polignano-A-Mare Boat Trip
Along with visiting the beaches another great way to be by (or in!) the water is to go on one of the short boat trips that take you around the stunning coastline. There’s a number of different companies that offer tours, ours was 30Euros for the 90 minute ride which included all 3 bays/caves, a short stop for a swim and a glass of prosecco on our return, a really amazing deal if you ask me!
Where to stay
We found a gem of an apartment right in the centre of town called Nisea Lovely Home. The self catered stay offered two bedrooms so was technically suitable for 4 guests, it also had a kitchen and dining area, a rooftop lounge and even a balcony on every floor.
Parking was a 5 minute walk away so not ideal if you have bigger cases BUT just footsteps from all the restaurants, bars and shops of the old town. I would re-book to stay there in a heartbeat!
You can see the full room tour here in my latest YouTube video:
Where to Eat
Our first evening we wondered into town in the hopes of stumbling across a takeaway pizza place but we ended up finding a really gorgeous rustic restaurant called Pontemare. The service was brilliant and the food delicious, we loved how tucked into the town we were, it felt so romantic being surrounded by the town’s stunning architecture.
On the second evening we splashed out on a ‘Once in a lifetime’ dinner at Grotta Palazzese The iconic restaurant is built into a cave above the sea, it’s a visual mirage-like setting and an atmosphere like no where else in the world.
You absolutely pay for the premium dining experience but in my opinion it’s a very worthy splurge. You MUST pre-book on their website (here) and it’s 250 Euros for 3 courses, we had a delicious bottle of wine to accompany our meal, it was 70 euros for full transparency on what to expect. The food was so so if I’m honest, the presentation was pretty and it was nice but it certainly wasn’t the best food I’d ever had, that being said the ambience and magic of the restaurant itself created one of my favourite dining experiences of all time.
Between checking out of one hotel at 10am and checking into another at 3pm we decided to utilize our nomad time by heading to a beach club. After a quick google of the best in the area the highest rated was Bahia Beach Club in Porto Cesareo. It was a 90 minute drive from Polignano-A-Mare but we had time on our hands 😉
The positive reviews were spot on, the club is super swish with eclectic décor, a live DJ and the most insane stretch of beach. It is a pricier option than just taking a towel to the beach (as they are all public) but there were multiple spend options. We went for a minimum spend of 130 euros which included our beds, the umbrella, towels and then food and drink within that budget. They have a number of packages most of which include a bottle of wine but as we were driving we negotiated a minimum instead and had money left over after lunch, snacks, numerous coffees, soft drinks and a couple of bevvies.
When they describe this location as the ‘Maldives of Italy’ exaggerating they are not! It’s a sandy beach with crystal clear water that stays shallow for what feels and looks like miles, it was such an unexpected surprise for me. I had NO idea there were beaches like this in Italy!
From the beach we headed back up into the countryside of Puglia, it was time to visit the famous trulli towns! Our first stop, Alberobello.
The small and beautiful town is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a gorgeous place to visit as there is no where else like it in the entire world BUT it really is just somewhere ‘you have to see’. Other than a couple of restaurants and shops there’s not a lot happening so it’s best to go super early in the morning to a) avoid the heat and b) see it’s beauty without the masses of people!
Where to stay
We found a gem of a place in Trulivacation, it was perfect for a one night stay. It features two bedrooms (again suitable for 4 ppl) a large living space, kitchen, bathroom, a gated driveway and was delightfully traditional in both architecture and interiors.
The property was just 5 minutes walk from the main trulli village and our host was fabulously helpful, punctual and informative, I highly recommend an evening here so you can wake up early the next day and get the UNESCO World Heritage Site all to yourself.
I was most excited to visit Ostuni in the evenings, the white washed buildings remind me so much of my beloved Greece and in the short few days of mentioning to people that I was heading to Puglia so many friends mentioned how amazing the evening atmosphere was in Ostuni.
They were right, there’s a really cool vibe to the winding streets, it has very similar ambience to that of the Amalfi coast, I could have blinked and sworn I was in Sorrento, though when you wander further in the unique muted architecture snaps you back into Southern reality.
Where to Eat
Another wildly instafamous restaurant is the vertical stair-like scene, Borgo Antico.
This gem of an eatery you’ll be pleased to know is also wonderfully affordable. You may have to wait a while to be seated as they don’t accept bookings but believe me it’s worth the wait, the food here was my favourite from the entire trip. The restaurant is an aperitivo heaven serving only sharing boards, Tapas style dishes and drinks.
If you make it to Puglia I’m sure there’s so much more to see and do, I’d love to make it back there one day but at the same time I have ticked off those bucket list scenes I’ve been dreaming about for years, 4 days well spent!
Where to next?