Discover an off-the-beaten-track taste of southern Italy on Puglia and Basilicata holidays, celebrating a land of wine, oil and medieval caves
There’s your first view of those unique hobbit-sized cone-roofed Trulli houses that look like they’ve come straight out of a fairytale book. Then there’s the sizzling arid landscape enveloped by ancient olive trees and yellow camomile fields, and mile upon mile of staggering coastline lapped by Adriatic and Ionian Seas. This is the road less travelled - a ‘diamond in the rough’ of fishing, farming and siestas amongst endless vineyards, rolling waves and rural towns where you’ll taste some of the best pastas and oils in Italy and those famed super-charged Apulian wines.
Ask us what makes holidays to Puglia and Basilicata special and we’ll tell you about the whitewashed village of Ostuni and its majestic 15th central cathedral, the early morning golden glow of ancient Sassi limestone cave dwellings and the secret salt-pan spots inside Saline Margherita di Savoia’s nature reserve where, each year, a huge colony of flamingos migrate. We’ll make sure you don’t miss the ornate Baroque architecture and medieval frescoes in Lecce, the glittering crown of stalactites inside Castellana Grotte and the hot springs and beach bars of Torre Canne.
An adventure through bewitching mountain, forest and beaches in the ‘heel’ and ‘instep’ of Italy’s boot and perfectly suited to a self-drive itinerary, Puglia and Basilicata holidays are delightfully peaceful and relatively tourist-free. Come here to see a maze of medieval footprints left by the Byzantines, Greeks and Normans, to hike Basilicata’s Ionian coast and for the luxury of having this virtually untouched region almost to yourself.
Whether you want a Baroque city stay or to be a walk away from the famous Trulli, give one of our Italy experts a call and we’ll create your perfect Puglia and Basilicata holiday.
Best time to visit Puglia & Basilicata
Puglia has a mild year-round climate. If you want to combine beachside relaxation with city exploration then May and September are ideal. Spring is perfect for hiking while autumn is pleasantly warm and a great time to explore the region by bicycle. Mid-June to late August is very hot and a popular time for Italian tourists to visit so it can get busy. If the beach isn't a priority then winter is a fantastic time to visit. With less tourists around you can fully immerse yourself in Puglia’s culture, mingle with the locals, and see how olives are harvested.
In Basilicata, Matera is best visited in the spring or autumn when it’s warm but not too hot for exploring the city’s steep streets. It's worth visiting during Matera’s annual Madonna Della Bruna festival on the 2nd of July to experience a taste of the local culture, with colourful processions, live music, street markets and a fireworks display.
Puglia & Basilicata holiday highlights
The farming region of Puglia is blessed with stunning coastal views, deserted beaches, unspoilt villages and Greek and Roman ruins.
Lecce is known as ‘Florence of the South’ due to the magnificent Baroque architecture complementing a maze of narrow streets lined with boutiques, antique shops and charming restaurants. It also has a rich history and the central square, Piazza Sant’Oronzo, lies on a Roman amphitheatre. Stroll to the Basilica di Santa Croce, one of the most beautiful examples of southern Baroque buildings and head to Piazza del Duomo for the stunning 12th-Century cathedral with its ornate facade and 68 metre-tall bell tower.
Perfect for history and culture lovers, the beautiful ‘White City’ surrounded by olive groves and a network of medieval streets, alleys and arches has an historic centre with an impressive 15th-Century cathedral. From here you can easily reach the Puglia coast and countryside by bicycle or car.
This former Venetian trading port is a popular coastal resort of ancient ruins, tranquil sandy coves, sea caves and charming hilltop villages. The historic quarter surrounds a 16th-Century castle and Roman and Bronze Age settlements. Visit the fortified abbey of Santo Stefano and explore the eight-mile stretch of coast sprinkled with picturesque beaches.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Alberobello is home to over 1500 whitewashed Trulli - extraordinary dry stone buildings with conical, white-tipped roofs. These 14th-Century limestone dwellings were originally built to avoid the high taxes applied to stable buildings but nowadays serve as homes, restaurants and shops. Wander the lanes of Rione Monti, browse the little souvenir shops and enjoy a glass of local wine at one of the Trulli bars.
The instep of Italy’s ‘boot’ and one of the most mountainous regions in Italy, Basilicata is popular with hikers and naturalists as well as history buffs drawn to the striking architecture and ancient cave dwellings. Forests and mountains are dotted with traditional villages and tiny churches while the coast is home to stylish seaside resorts.
This pre-historic UNESCO World Heritage listed city is famous for its 8th- century cave-dwellings- carved into the cliff face of a river gorge. This extraordinary city transports visitors to another century and the underground labyrinth of streets and churches are fascinating to explore. Please note that this resort is not suitable for those with walking difficulties. This unique destination is just over an hour's drive from Alberobello and can easily be visited on a day trip.
Where is Puglia & Basilicata
In southern Italy, bordered by the Adriatic Sea to the east and the Ionian Sea to the southeast, Puglia is covered by woods, forests and mountains on one side and miles of coastline on the other. Its southern most city is Salento, which makes up the ‘heel’ in the boot of Italy, and the region borders Campania, Molise and Basilicata. The mountainous region of Basilicata borders the Gulf of Taranto and the Tyrrhenian Sea and is divided into two provinces, Matera and Potenza.
Ideal for a self-drive holiday, Puglia and Basilicata’s roads connect you to all the main towns. Buses and trains will also take you to the majority of towns and sights. City buses travel throughout downtown areas and tickets need to be purchased in advance from tobacco shops. The old towns have lots of narrow alleyways and steep inclines, so are not advisable for those with walking difficulties.
Food & drink
Thanks to its fertile land and proximity to the sea, expect an abundance of fresh seafood, rustic cuisine and farm-to-table delights. Lemon soda with a sprig of mint is a local speciality and the renowned Apulian wines are not to be missed. You’ll find local producers offering crops of tomatoes, figs and fennel and vineyards producing deep red wines from the primitivo grape. Due to the heat, lunch is usually a light affair – a fresh salad on a shady terrace or fresh fish on a beach – but come late afternoon as the temperature cools, things really start to pick up. Expect home-style hearty cuisine, artisanal treats and lots of gelato. Puglia is also famous for its freshly made pasta, oils and cheeses – look out for orecchiette, troccoli and cavatelli pastas and canestrato pugliese and burrata di Andria cheeses.
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