Puglia – the heel of the Italian boot. It is mostly known for its whitewashed limestone architecture and the Trulli village of Alberobello – you know the ‘Hobbitown’ looking funny houses.
So, the way I see it, Apulia has got everything that Italophile craves the most. It has ancient towns, extravagant churches, sandy beaches and delicious local foods! But it’s outside of its cities that Puglia shines brightest. From the ancient Forest of Umbra in the north to the green Valle d’Itria, Puglia’s countryside has always been its foundation – the source of its food, its wealth and its culture.
In my personal survey, Puglia has just beat my ‘forever favourite’ Tuscany. There is something mysterious, magical, undiscovered and fascinating about this region.
Puglia is simply ideal for a family retreat, large party with friends staying all together, honeymooners, couple holidays, friends on the go and a fabulous road trip vacation.
Today, I come with a shortlist of oh-sooo-fabulous stays I found and would recommend but before I do that, let me also tell you a few words about Apulian gems that I managed to discover.
First things first : Alberobello, Puglia’s most popular sight! I haven’t seen anything like it before! This place looks like a white-washed hobbit village!
Did you know the Trulli houses were built… in order to avoid taxes? According to the most popular theory, due to the high taxation, people of Puglia built Trulli because… they were easy to demolish when tax inspectors were around, and such ‘unfinished’ houses were not taxed! There are a lot of great coffee shops and little cute restaurants in Alberobello, and they are run by the lovely locals!
Another Apulian gem I managed to explore is the charming city, Martina Franca. The town got its name after ‘tax reasons’ (funny, how taxes seem to create Apulia!). It means ‘a city for the people who skipped paying taxes‘. The way I see it, this place makes a great highlight of Puglia and its region. Martina Franca is also a city of art and music, and a capital of Valle d’Itria, the valley of the ‘trulli‘ and the farms, olive trees and vineyards. The majority of buildings were built in the 15/16th century, and are kept in great condition.
Locorotondo, a little town set on the hill, looks really similar to Martina Franca but I would definitely recommend stopping there as well – at least for its amazing viewpoint!
Monopoli reminds me of Greece. Really. Maybe it’s architecture or maybe it is quite an international vibe but it does look like a Cycladic island mixed with Italy. A perfect combination! Narrow whitewashed alleyways, turquoise water, white cliffs, amazing restaurants (you need to try octopus sandwich!!) and lively squares.
Moneywise, Puglia presents itself much more affordable than the rest of Italy. For example, the price of a medium-sized aperitivo for two, including two large glasses of wine is €8, while this is what you would pay for a coffee in Positano ( €7 to be precise). I am aware these two destinations should never be compared to one another but I could not resist. It is the same country and only 300 km difference.
The parking place in Alberobello is the cost of €2 while it was €8 for the cheapest garage in Portofino! Quite a difference – is it not? It got a little bit more pricey in comparison to last year but it is still the most affordable region I have been to in Italy.
What I would recommend doing is renting a car as it can get quite tricky with public transport, especially in times of corona. A road trip is the best idea for this region but well – it is manageable with the train. We previously explored with a car and it went much smoother and stress-free. As for the length of a stay, I would recommend one day for Alberobello, one for Martina Franca + Locorotondo but Monopoli requires at least two days – you will understand why once you get there. My future Puglia plans also include Ostuni, Lecce, Salento and Cilento. I hope to be back for the fall – if corona allows…
But anyway, let me get straight to the point and introduce you to some of the coolest places to stay in Apulia.
Bellavista B&B Suite, Monopoli
Bellavista Suite is a boutique B&B place located in the heart of Monopoli, set in a white tenement building facing the Adriatic Sea. The villa is owned by an amazing Swedish/Italian couple whose passion is to travel the world. The interior clearly reflects their wanderlust as it is a mix of Tulum, Bali, Mykonos and Italia 🙂 We loved our tiny-but-cosy room with a spacious bathroom ad a lovely balcony overlooking Monopoli’s turquoise bay! The views are really astonishing and breathtaking, especially for the sunrise. There is an amazing infinity pool and a lovely dining area on the rooftop where you could just chill with a glass of wine and a fruit bowl. We also couldn’t ask for a better location as the villa is located outside the old town’s square, Piazza Palmieri, local restaurants and bars. Porto Vecchio is also located 5 minutes walking from the place (and it is quite of a stunning walk!). This place is a TOP and you should definitely check it out!
La Linea dell’Orizzonte, Alberobello
La Linea is a B&B resort located in Alberobello – about 10 minutes driving from the historical quarter. Ahh, what a place! It is an agritourism gem offering a one of a kind experience. We had a pleasure to meet the owners, Manuela and Peppe, who are really passionate about the Apulian culture – they would talk you through the history of a Trulli village for sure!
La Linea actually belonged to Manuela’s ancestors – it was her father’s life goal to make this place as it is now. Manuela and Pepe did a great job renovating their tiny Trulli village and turning it into a boutique agri resort! La Linea dell’Orizzonte would surely deliver the best possible experience – from their delicious homemade marmalade for breakfast to a cold Spritz for a lovely aperitivo by the pool.
The most amazing feature of this place? You would stay in… one of the TRULLI! Yes – you would have your very own Trullo, just for yourself. Just look at the lovely interior on the pictures below. Must-do experience while in Puglia!
Relais Villa San Martino, Martina Franca
The villa is actually a 5**** star resort, located only around 10 minutes away from Martina Franca city centre. This elegant mansion is surrounded by Apulian countryside and a park with a retro-looking outdoor pool area. The villa itself is a previously Italian family-owned Masseria from the 18th century, and it is now recognized as one of the most spectacular resorts in the Itria Valley – if not in Apulia. I featured this hotel number of times, including in my recent TOP 10 Italy Stays. I was really impressed by the overall experience, this is totally my vibe and I would recommend this place to everyone loving great architecture and nature.
Grand Hotel Olimpo, Alberobello
Are you looking for a place where you could just spend the night after the long day of sightseeing without having to worry about bad conditions? Value for Money is the most important? I would recommend Grand Hotel Olimpo, the 4 star hotel in Alberobello, for the busy travellers wanting to stay close to the sights (which is the Trulli village in that case) and perhaps do some work in the evening – just like we did. The hotel is located a stone’s throw (5 minutes walking) from the historical quarter and there is nothing we disliked about it. The only shame is that there is no pool but you would probably be busy sightseeing and the local restaurants would surely sound more attractive than ‘chilling by the pool’ time. The hotel is super peaceful and quiet and the price is adjustable to the standards.
*this article is partly sponsored but all the opinions are my own