When I sat down to write this post, I immediately regretted that I’m supposed to mention only 5 towns instead of 10, as there are so many cool places to recommend. However, I will try to stick to my plan and recommend only those cities that in my opinion are really worth visiting.
Those who know me, know that I’m crazy about Ostuni and it’s my absolute number one when it comes to Puglia. It’s where I live and where all my love for Puglia has started. I wouldn’t be myself if I hadn’t put this place at the very beginning of my recommendation list.:)
Ok, so what’s Ostuni like? It’s amazing, magical, and full of good energy that really resonates here. Ostuni is situated up on a hill, about 260m above sea level, and 7 km from the coastline. Thanks to its location, it becomes visible on the horizon as a fortress and it’s noticeable even from a distance. It owes its majestic and unique character to the massive white walls that surround the old town which is built on a circular plan. The area around Ostuni was settled already in the Stone Age, but the city was founded by the Messapians and rebuilt later by Greeks (the very meaning of the word Ostuni is “new city”).
A detailed guide to Ostuni is a topic for a separate post, but I will mention a few of my favorite and must-see spots in this town:
1). Piazza della Liberta’ is the main square in Ostuni, where you can grab a coffee or an aperitivo. I can recommend you the Garibaldi Bar & Restaurant which is best for getting coffee, ice cream, dinner, or evening a drink.
2). Porta Blu – a characteristic blue door located at the very top of the old town, from where you can appreciate a spectacular view over the valley full of olive groves, and the coastline. Especially worth coming to for the sunset or early in the morning.
3). Borgo Antico Bistrot – one of the coolest open-air restaurants, located on the characteristic wide stairs that connect two parts of the old town. The little tables, characteristic lamps, and an amazing view are something that makes this place very unique! Recommended especially for an evening drink and food that can be easily shared (everything is served on huge boards). The price-quality ratio is great here, I mean it’s quite cheap for such a place. Definitely one of my favorites.
4). Walk along the walls of the old town with a panoramic view over the sea (Viale Oronzo Quaranta). Great in the morning or at sunset. The views are just breathtaking.
5). Walk down Corso Mazzini or Vittorio Emanuele, which are the two main streets in Ostuni, leading to Piazza della Liberta. You can admire the most beautiful old buildings and tenement houses that can be found in this town. Totally amazing. There are 2 panoramic terraces along the Vittorio Emanuele that are worth visiting, and blooming oleanders among Corso Mazzini which makes this street one of my favorites.
I could go on and on with the list, but I promise I will get back to it in a separate post dedicated to Ostuni only.
Oh Bari, why didn’t I discover you earlier? Probably because someone advised me not to go there as “there was nothing interesting to see there”. Well, the reality is slightly different. It is unbelievable that what may seem interesting to foreigners is nothing special to Italians.
When I finally got there (during my second stay in Puglia) I fell in love with this place at first sight.
If you appreciate the atmosphere of the seaside promenade in Barcelona or beautiful old tenement houses in Paris, then Bari is definitely a place for you. Lungomare di Bari (the road leading along the coast) is the longest seafront promenade in the world! Yes, in the world. Bari is a beautiful colorful city with some amazing buildings in it. Located right next to the sea, with lots of stunning streets, cafes, shops and everything that’s needed to call it a cool European city. People love to do all kinds of sports here, from jogging along the coast to stand up paddling to sailing. The old town of Bari, the so-called Bari Vecchia remains very authentic and reminds me of Palermo in Sicily. The old town is still inhabited by the local community, people who speak their own dialect and make fresh pasta in the street (take a chance to learn how to make homemade pasta straight from the local housewives). Bari is so diverse, has so many great places to recommend, but a few of my favorites are definitely:
1). Foccacia from Panificio Santa Rita (Bari Vecchia) – The focaccia from Bari is considered the best in Italy. It is crispy and full of cherry tomatoes, which gives it a slightly sweet flavor. I recommend taking a piece of focaccia in one hand, a cold bottle of Peroni beer in another, and eating it at the port or over the lungomare, or even at the wall under the Basilica of San Nicola.
2). Basilica of San Nicola – beautiful, shiny white, monumental basilica in the center of the old town.
3). Take a walk to the port or along the lungomare – you will love these views
4). Grab some ice cream at Gelateria Gentile, which is known even in Brooklyn in NYC where they’ve opened their second restaurant.
5). If you are up for a coffee, go to Jérôme Chocolate or Jérôme Cafe – two different places, but both known for outstanding interiors.
6). La Biglietteria – a great place for lunch, a drink, or just a coffee, if you want to stay close to the center and enjoy the sea view.
3). Polignano a mare
Definitely the most famous town in Apulia, mainly due to the unusual rocky coast, numerous sea caves located under the town, and probably the most photographed beach in Italy. On one hand, I really like this place for its unique character, for beautiful sunsets, for the views of waves crashing against the buildings located right at the shore. On the other hand, I’m not the biggest fan of this place during high season, as it becomes too crowded.
Polignano is exactly halfway between Bari and Ostuni, so it’s a great spot to hang around for half a day or the whole evening. Personally, I do not recommend Polignano as a holiday base, unless for a day or two. The large number of tourists, difficulty in finding a parking place and moving around the city in general (especially in July or August) are definitely disadvantages. Secondly, the whole town is situated on a huge rock, which makes getting to the beach difficult. There are no beaches in Polignano, except one public beach which is stony and rocky. But the evenings and nighttime in Polignano are the things! Admiring the sunsets from the rocks next to a monument of Dominico Modugno or from the panoramic terrace overlooking the bay are unbeatable. What you can’t miss, when in Polignano, is:
1). Sandwich in Pescaria – This place, already known throughout Italy, makes the best seafood sandwiches in the world! You have to be patient, because the line to get in is always massive (it moves relatively quickly), but it’s totally worth it (especially for a raw prawn sandwich or a raw tuna and some fresh cheese called stracciatella one – omg!)
2). Cafe Speciale at Gelaterii Supermago del Gelo – in the very center, right in front of the main gate to the old town, there is an old cafe and ice cream bar serving very unusual coffee. Give it a try!
3). Best ice cream at Bar Turismo. If you still remember the old recipes for ice cream which were amazingly good and homemade, this is where you’re going to find the taste of your childhood. Highly recommended, also for its vintage interior.
4). Best Mojitos at Casa del Mojito (if you’re indecisive when it comes to drinks, go for a classic mojito or a passion fruit one. You won’t regret it.)
5). Boat trip to the Polignano caves is a must. Seeing this town from the sea, seeing its rocky coast, and getting to several sea caves by a small motorboat is something you will remember for a long time. Here is a link to our boat trip experience we organize: pugliaclassics.com/
If someone asked me which city I do like more: Lecce or Bari, I would get confused, as I can’t decide. Even though they are completely different from each other, I like both of them comparably.
First of all, Lecce is located in Salento which is to the very south of the „boot heel” (for those who don’t know, Salento is the part of Puglia which is strictly a peninsula – from the height of Taranto and Brindisi to the very bottom, like Santa Maria del Leuca). Lecce is not situated by the sea, but inland, so it does not have a lungomare, unlike Bari. Lecce is delightful as it’s a baroque city with outstanding monuments, churches, and old buildings. The old town itself is quite large and, basically, is still the very center of the city. Here is where most bars, restaurants, and shops are situated. Various events also take place here (the famous Dior show, that for the first time wasn’t organized in Paris, took place in front of the cathedral in Lecce, in August 2020). Lecce has some good energy and it’s best to just get lost among its streets. My top 5 spots, when in Lecce, are:
1). Basilica di Santa Croce and its unbelievably beautiful facade. Just wow! My favorite church of all in Puglia.
2). Piazza del Duomo – it is in this square, right in front of the cathedral, that the famous Dior show took place.
3). Bijondo– my favorite dress shop and a must visit place every time I’m in Lecce. Recommended especially for girls.
4). Osteria il Poeta Contadino – great food, drinks, and comfort food
5). Coctail Bar Saloon Keeper 1933 – an amazing bar with amazing interior and amazing drinks.
This choice won’t be obvious for everyone, but for me there were no doubts which place I would add to this recommendation list. Taranto – the discovery of my 2020 season. Same story as with Bari, the locals advised me against this place, saying it has nothing to offer. Personally, I think it offers more than any other place in Puglia – its unspoiled authenticity. Taranto is a total non-touristic place and hardly anyone ever goes there as it’s not listed in any tourist guides. Therefore, its stunning location is unbeatable. Situated directly by the Ionian Sea, and more precisely at Taranto Bay which additionally divides the city into two parts, creating a little sea inside the city, called „mare piccolo” (a small sea). It’s hard to describe, but definitely worth seeing for yourself. Taranto is a famous industrial city thanks to its port which might not be most encouraging for tourists. Nevertheless, there are many places there that are completely undiscovered. I highly recommend visiting this place and just get lost in its tiny, scratched streets. If I had to list 5 places worth visiting there, these would be my favorites:
1). Arrogan Castle (Castello Aragonese) – a beautiful castle situated on the seashore with a wonderful view over the bay.
2). Lungomare – a road leading along the sea and the Taranto Bay (you can go down the stairs and walk almost along the sea down a pedestrian path).
3). Old Town – by far the most interesting part of the city.
4). Girevole Ponte – overhanging bridge – a drawbridge that connects the small sea with the Taren Bay.
5). Palazzo del Governo – a huge building along the lungomare, which can impress you with its size.