Where to Stay in Puglia First Time: Best areas

The best areas to stay in Puglia for first-timers are Bari, Polignano, Monopoli, Alberobello, Ostuni, Lecce, and Vieste. These are the main and beautiful towns to explore Puglia. In this post, I will help you to decide where to stay in Puglia for the first time, without a car, with families, and couples.

Bari is the best place to stay in Puglia for first-timers because it is one of the gateways to the Puglia region along with Brindisi. With its well connections on both Trenitalia trains and Regionale trains, you can easily visit popular towns by trains such as Alberobello, Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Lecce without a car.

Apart from Bari, Monopoli and Lecce are great bases to stay in Puglia. From Monopoli, you can take a train trip to Polignano a Mare and Ostuni. From Lecce, you can explore southern Puglia such as Gallipoli, Galatina, and Otranto.

Puglia has plenty of accommodation options from typical hotels to trullo and a traditional farmstay called masseria. Trullo, plural trulli, in Puglia traditional houses with conical limestone-tiled roofs in the Itria Valley. Masseria, plural masserie, is a fortified farmhouse that is surrounded by land, olive groves and vineyards.

7 Best areas to stay in Puglia for tourists

1. Bari, where to stay in Puglia for first-timers

Bari is the best area to stay in Puglia for first time travelers because it is the transport hub of the city, with an airport and a port. Many travelers first arrive in the Puglia region by air at Bari International Airport or by boats at Porto di Bari. 

As the capital city of the Apulia region, located on the Adriatic Sea, it is a good idea to stay in Bari for a couple of nights before exploring other towns of Puglia.

There are so many things to do in Bari from modern Bari Murat, to historic Barri Vecchia and beautiful Lungomare Nazario Sauro, Bari has it all.

Murat is the downtown area, located close to Bari Central Station. Downtown Bari is packed with restaurants, bars, shops, and accommodations. You can shop along Via Sparano, which is the main artery Bari, connecting the Piazza Aldo Moro and Old Town. 

Barri Vecchia is the old town of the city, bounded by the sea on two sides, and the Murat neighborhood on another side. Old Bari is a great place to visit cultural attractions and learn more about the history of Bari. 

Stroll around Old Town and its picturesque narrow streets, you will feel like stepping back in time with 18th and 19th century residential buildings. The Cathedral of San Sabino is the 13th century Romanesque cathedral and is an important landmark of the city. 

Other places of interest in Bari Old Town are the 12th-century Basilica of St. Nicholas, Norman-Swabian Castle, and the Fort Of Sant’Antonio Abate. 

There are also numerous museums to learn history. Civic Museum of Bari was founded in 1913, while Nicolaiano Museum was founded in 2010 and has an exhibition of Bari’s patron saint called St. Nicholas.

Piazza Mercantile in the center of Old Town is a great place to eat and drink. It is packed with  restaurants, bars, and cafes. You can try many seafood, gelato, as well as traditional Pugliese regional specialties such as olives, burrata, focaccia Barese, panzerotti, and Italian wine.

One of the must-see in Bari is the 1km long seafront promenade called Lungomare Nazario Sauro. Spanning from Piazza del Ferrarese to Pane e Pomodoro Beach, there are numerous attractions near the promenade like Museo Teatro Margherita, Teatro Petruzzelli, and Pinacoteca metropolitana di Bari.

Bari is a great base to explore the Puglia region. Monopoli and Polignano a Mare are only 30 minutes away by train. You can also easily reach Trani, Alberobello, and the towns around the Valle d’Itria.

Being the capital city of Puglia, as well as well-connected public transportation, Bari is one of the best places to stay in Puglia without a car.

There are plenty of accommodation options in Bari for all budget travelers, ranging from budget guest houses and B&B to luxury five star hotels.

Best places to stay in Bari:

2. Polignano a Mare, the most photographed place in Puglia

Polignano a Mare is located 30 minutes by train from Bari. While Bari has the best public transport links, Polignano a Mare is one of the most iconic destinations in Puglia.

Polignano is an ancient seaside town, located above the rocky cliffs that plunge down into the Adriatic sea. With white houses, narrow streets, stunning cliffs and beaches, this picturesque town is one of the most photographed places in Puglia.

Stroll around the quaint medieval streets of Centro Storico, starting from its old Roman gate called Arco Marchesale, or Porta Grande. You will see poems on the whitewashed walls and doors, as well as Arabian, Spanish, Byzantine, Norman architecture houses along the way. 

Continue walking from the ancient arch, you will reach Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, where you can find the 19th century Medieval Clock Palace and 13 century Church of Santa Maria Assunta. You can sit in the cafes nearby and enjoy people watching. 

Within a short walk from Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II stands Terraza Santo Stefano, one of the most beautiful viewpoints in town. It offers breathtaking views of the sea and houses on top of the cliffs. 

The main public beach of the town is Lama Monachile Beach, officially called Cala Porto. It is a small pebbled beach with beautiful turquoise blue water, surrounded by limestone cliffs. You can reach the beach by walking down a stone staircase from Ponte Borbonico.

Ponte Borbonico su Lama Monachile is a remnant of Via Traiana ancient Roman road, which was built by Emperor Trajan. Polignano a Mare was founded by Greeks in the 4th century and later under the Romans’ rule. 

Polignano a Mare is a popular spot for cliff diving, especially since 2014, the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Championships has been held here. 

Apart from Lama Monachile Beach, you can swim at nearby Lido Cala Paura, Spiaggia di San Vito, and Cala Incine. The beach of San Vito offers stunning views of the 10 century Benedictine Abbey of San Vito, and the red and green fishermen’s boats.

Cave Boat Tour is a popular activity to explore sea caves. The tour also stops for swimming.

Polignano a Mare is also famous for its ice cream. Bar Turismo is a popular shop to grab gelateria in Via Pompeo Sarnelli. It is only a short walk from Lama Monachile.

Polignano is known for being the birthplace of Domenico Modugno, who created the international hit song, called Volare, or Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu in Italian. The huge bronze statue of Domenico Modugno can be found near Pietra Piatta.

Pietra Piatta is another scenic viewpoint in Polignano along with Terraza Santo Stefano. Pietra Piatta  is accessible through the Volare Staircase from the Domenico Modugno statue. You can buy pizza from Malidea restaurant, enjoy a sunset and a little picnic here.

If you have a generous budget, you can have dinner, enjoy sunset with wine, at Grotta Palazzese, one of the most famous restaurants in Puglia. Located inside a cave, it is a romantic restaurant that offers stunning views of the ocean.

Polignano is a good base to explore the Adriatic Coast and Valle d’Itria area of Puglia like Alberobello, Monopoli, and Martica Franca. The Old Town is the best place to stay in Polignano a Mare. There are plenty of hotels for all budget travelers.

Best places to stay in Polignano a Mare:

3. Monopoli, beautiful Adriatic coast town

Monopoli is located only 5 minutes on Trenitalia line train ride from Polignano a Mare, and around 50 minutes from Bari. Monopoli is less touristy and has a more local vibe than Polignano a Mare.

Monopoli is also a better stay in a high season because Polignano a Mare will be more crowded around that time. If you want a relaxing, slow pace, and local experience, Monopoli is a place to book a hotel.

Whether you choose to stay, Monopoli or Polignano a Mare, they are both good bases to take day trips to other cities in Puglia such as Bari, Ostuni, Brindisi and Lecce by train.

Similar to Polignano a Mare, the historic center of Monopoli is only a 10 minute walk from the train station. Centro Storico is home to many narrow streets, colorful Italian-style balconies, beautiful churches, and squares.

If you head to the seafront, you will find Porto Antico di Monopoli, a scenic old harbor of Monopoli. There are colorful, blue and red boats of fishermen here.

Take a stroll along its lungomare, enjoy the ocean views, and visit famous attractions along the way such as Carlo V Castle and Bastione di Santa Maria.

Bastione di Santa Maria is located in front of Santa Maria Della Zaffara Church, offering a charming view from its top. Castello Carlo V was built in the 16th century, as a part of fortifications, located on the Punta Pinna peninsula.

Another cultural attraction is the Chiesa di San Salvatore, Cattedrale Maria Santissima della Madia, and Museo Della Cattedrale which is a museum located on Piazza Cattedrale.

You can also visit Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, a popular place for people watching and observing daily Italian life. From the square, you will see the Palazzo della Dogan and Cacace Palace. Grab a drink at one of the bars, restaurants, cafes in the surroundings and rest.

The Palmieri Palace is also well worth a visit. Located in Piazza Palmieri square, this Baroque palace has beautiful Lecce architecture.

If you are visiting Monopoli in summer months, you can not miss the beaches. Cala Porta Vecchia is the main beach, ideal for families with its shallow water and nice sand.

Other beaches nearby are Cala Cozze, Cala Porto Rosso, Cala Porto Nero, Spiaggia Di Santo Stefano, and Cala Paradiso.

Being well-connected on the Trenitalia train line, Monopoli is one of the most convenient places to stay in Puglia without a car. If you make Monopoli as your base, you can easily take day trips to Polignano a Mar, Bari, and Ostuni.

Monopoli has plenty of restaurants, bars, shops, and accommodations. You are sure to find something that suits your budget.

Best places to stay in Monopoli:

4. Alberobello, where to stay in Puglia for trulli experience

Alberobello is famous for its trulli buildings that have been awarded as a World Heritage site since 1996. Trulli are traditional Apulian conical-roofed whitewashed stone houses

Alberobello can easily be explored in a day, but if you want to experience a trulli stay, Alberobello is the best choice. From Bari, you can take the Ferrovie del Sud Est train, change at Putignano, to get to Alberobello.

Trulli can be found in central Puglia, not only in Alberobello, but also areas around Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Ceglie Messapica, Fasano, and Ostuni.

Trulli was designed in the 14th century because the local rulers, Count Acquaviva, wanted to avoid paying property taxes to the King of Naples.They used dry stone instead of mortar to fiddle tax.

Alberobello is divided into two main trulli areas by a main street called Largo Martellotta. Rione Monti is more touristy, with more than 1000 trulli and souvenirs shops,cafes, small museums, and accommodations.

Rione Monti is a pedestrian and hilly area. You can pay attention to Trulli gemelli, and St Anthony’s Church when visiting the area.

If you want less commercialisation and more authentic vibe, you should check Rione Aia Piccola. It is a residential, less touristy district with more than 500 trulli. 

You can find the Casa Pezzolla, which is home to 15 trulli, and the Museum of the Territory, as well as the church of Santi Cosma e Damiano and Trullo Sovrano. 

Trullo Sovrano is the only one  with two floors in the village, now working as House-Museum, a heritage museum, exhibiting Alberobello’s history. 

You can take guided walking tours, where you can learn more about the history of Alberobello and trulli. There are lots of reasonable walking tours.

To get the best photo of the Trulli, check out the Santa Lucia viewpoint at Piazza Gian Girolamo D’Acquaviva D’Aragona, which offers stunning views over the trulli.

You can find little bars, restaurants, souvenir & craft shops, and pizzerias in the tourist area, and Italian bars and food shops in the main street. The fruit and vegetable market is held here every Thursday. Largo Martellotta is a great place for a romantic dinner.

The Alberobello area is also home to the 40 hectares Bosco Selva city park. The park is equipped with a small kid playground, tables & benches for picnics, and a walking path. 

Alberobello is located around 30 minutes drive from Monopoli, 15 minutes from Locorotondo. You can easily take a day trip by car and train to coastal towns such as Monopoli and Polignano a Mare, as well as Itria Valley areas such as Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Castellana Caves, and Cisternino.

If you travel with a car, parking in Alberobello can be hard, especially in the tourist seasons. For free parking, check Via Viterbo. There is a fee if you park closer to the historic center.

If you decide to stay in Alberobello, I recommend staying in a trullo. Many ancient trulli have been restored to become hotels.

Best places to stay in Alberobello:

5. Ostuni, best place to stay in Puglia

Ostuni is also an ideal base to stay in Puglia due to its close proximity to beautiful towns such as Locorotondo, Alberobello, and Martina Franca.

Ostuni is also known as the White City, or La Città Bianca in Italian due to its white painted old town located on the top of the city. In addition to beautiful whitewashed buildings, Ostuni is also famous for its olive groves and olive oil production.

Stroll along the ancient centro storico of Ostuni, get lost in its maze of cobbled streets and narrow staircases. Make sure you bring comfortable walking shoes.

Visit the Ostuni Cathedral, also known as Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. It was originally built in Romanesque style in the 13th century, and after the earthquake, it was rebuilt in Gothic style in the 15th century.

Take a look at Arco di Scoppa, connecting Bishop’s Palace to the Seminary. Originally built in wood but this bridge was replaced by a stone structure due to its safety.

Head to the  largest public square of Ostuni, Piazza della Liberta. The square is home to the column of Sant’Oronzo, and Church of San Francesco d’Assisi.

Another must see is the defensive walls and ramparts surrounding the Old Town. Built to defend Middle Ages invaders but nowadays it offers charming views of the olive groves and the ocean.

You can experience local life at the Ostuni weekend market. Locals sell their fresh vegetables and fruits such as olive and artichokes. Ostuni Christmas Market is also worth noting if you are visiting in the festive season.

The trip to this Italy’s town is not complete without trying an ice cream. Cremeria La Scala in Vito Tamborrino is a great place to grab a gelato. 

It is also great to eat traditional Italian cuisines such as panzerotti and pucce. Piazza della Liberta has a high concentration of restaurants, including Taverna della Gelosia with their Apulian cuisine.

Ostuni is served by buses and trains, but take note that the train station is quite far from the Historic Center, about more than 2 km. Without a car, Ostuni can be reached by trains from popular areas in the Puglia region like Bari and Brindisi.

There are numerous beaches near Ostuni. Costa Merlata is only 20 minutes drive away, Torre Pozzelle is great for sunset, as well as Torre Guachetto and Cala di Rosa Marina.

The best place to stay in Ostuni is in the Old Town due to its central location. If you stay here, you will be located in the middle of the action, within walking distance to many restaurants, bars, shops, and tourist attractions. 

Best places to stay in Ostuni:

6. Lecce, great base to explore Salento region, southern Puglia

Lecce is the best place to stay in Puglia to explore Southern Puglia due to its close proximity to picturesque towns of Salento like Gallipoli, Galatina, Corigliano, Otranto, and Leuca. You can easily explore the highlights of the Salento region without a car.

Public transport in the Lecce area includes both Ferrovie del Sud Est train and Trenitalia east coast train, making it a great base for visiting the southern region of Puglia.

Similar to Ostuni, Lecce is located close to popular Brindisi with its airport. Lecce has a beautiful historic center. Located in the Salento region of Puglia, Lecce is often referred to as Florence of the South, famous for its food, and Baroque architecture. 

You will feel like stepping back to the 17th century when wandering around the squares and narrow streets in Lecce’s stunning Baroque historic center to explore churches, monuments, and spires.

The main square of Lecce is the Piazza Sant’Oronzo. In its surroundings are cafes and restaurants, as well as the column of Sant’Oronzo and the 2rd century Roman Amphitheatre.

You’ll also see the Orologi Delle Meraviglie clock on the Banco di Napoli building, and Caffe Alvino for coffee and pastry.

If you head to Piazza del Duomo, you will see its Cathedral and bell tower. Also take a look at the  Palazzo dei Celestini, Basilica di Santa Croce, and the Villa Comunale Park.

Lecce has three remaining gates. Porta Napoli is the main city gate, as well as Porta San Biagio and Porta Rudiae, the oldest gate.

The university district can be found near Lecce train station.The Convitto Palmieri, formerly convent, is home to a library. The courtyard of Salento University offers views of the Church of Carmine nearby.

Other places of interest are the Abbey of Santa Maria di Cerrate, Mura Urbiche of Lecce, Museum of Sigismondo Castromediano, and Castle of Charles V. 

There are many restaurants and wine bars that serve Puglia cuisine and shops on Via Vittorio Emanuele and Via Palmieri. You can try tasty horse meat stew, Fave e Cicoria, burrata cheese, and Orecchiette pasta.

Best places to stay in Lecce:

7. Vieste, great base to explore Gargano peninsula, northern Puglia

Vieste is a beautiful seaside town in the Gargano region, in northern Puglia. Vieste is a great base to explore Gargano area like the ancient forest Foresta Umbra, Peschici, Vico del Gargano, Tremiti Islands, and Trani.

Vieste has a wide range of accommodation options including guest houses, B&Bs, campsites, and self-catering apartments. The town center is the best place to stay in Vieste, due to its central location, within walking distance to shops, restaurants, beaches, and pine hills.

The old town is packed with alleyways, steep staircases, and white houses. It is also home to the Romanesque style, Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, and the historic Chianca Amara.

Head to the sea front, you can take a stroll along its promade. Along the way, you can find Norman castle military installation, and a couple of viewpoints like Belvedere Piazza Seggio and Belvedere Ripa, offering views of whitewashed houses sit on the rocky promontory.

If you follow Via Ripe, you will see Punta San Francesco and the 1438 Church of San Francesco. The wooden fishing Trabucco can be accessed via the stairs from the church.

There are several seafront restaurants and bars along Via Pola. In the same street stands the shell museum called Museo Malacologico.

Vieste is known for its beaches, which are crowded in summer by Italians. Spiaggia del Castello, or Castle Beach, is in the south and San Lorenzo Beach is in the north of Vieste town. Popular water sports here are windsurfing, kitesurfing, scuba diving, and kayaking.

The Old Town is packed with restaurants and farmhouses to try Puglian food such as appetizer which is tomato bruschetta with Apulian oil. You can buy extra virgin olive oil as a souvenir.

Best places to stay in Vieste:

Where should I base myself in Puglia?

Stay in Bari for a couple of days, then move to Monopoli, and make it as a base to explore Polignano a Mar, and Ostuni. Lecce is a great base to explore Salento towns such as Gallipoli, Galatina, and Otranto. 

What are the best areas to stay in Puglia?

Bari, Polignano, Monopoli, Alberobello, Ostuni, Lecce, and Vieste are the best towns to stay in Puglia for tourists because they are the most popular towns with plenty of things to do and see.

Where to stay in Puglia without a car?

Bari, Lecce, and Monopoli are the best areas to stay in Puglia without a car due to its well-connected public transportation to the surrounding area. 

How many days do you need in Puglia?

If you’re planning to visit Puglia, we recommend staying for at least 4-5 days to experience the stunning coastline, rich history, and delicious cuisine the region has to offer.

Is it better to stay in Monopoli or Polignano a Mare?

It ultimately depends on what you’re looking for. Monopoli is a charming and laid-back seaside town, perfect for a relaxing vacation. On the other hand, Polignano a Mare is famous for its picturesque cliffside views and vibrant nightlife.

Which is better Ostuni or Lecce?

Both Ostuni and Lecce offer unique charm and beauty, making it difficult to choose. It ultimately depends on personal preference and what you are looking for in a destination.

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Overall, Bari, Monopoli, and Lecce are great bases to stay in Puglia. With its well connections on both Trenitalia trains and Regionale trains, as well as buses, you can easily visit popular towns by public transport.

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