The heel of Italy’s boot, Puglia is a favorite summer destination for Italians and savvy travelers who flock to its pristine beaches. But there’s much more to this region than just the seaside—there are charming whitewashed villages, a rustic landscape dotted by olive trees and vineyards, and culinary specialties worth digging into. Here’s our curated guide to six places not to miss.
The coastal town of Savelletri is a great base for exploring the picturesque Itria Valley. Rent a car and drive around the countryside, stopping in Alberobello (known for the trulli, whitewashed ancient dwellings with conical roofs), Cisternino (one of the borghi più belli d’Italia, i.e. most beautiful villages in Italy), Monopoli (a charming whitewashed village), and Polignano a Mare (known for its picturesque beach surrounded by cliffs). There are beautiful beaches with swanky beach clubs along the coast.
Made to resemble a traditional Pugliese village, this sprawling resort has 63 chic neutral-tone rooms and 29 villas. There are plenty of dining options, ranging from a casual beach club to a Michelin-starred restaurant, plus four pools and a luxurious spa. The property is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World.
Known as la città bianca (i.e. the white city), Ostuni is a maze of narrow lanes built onto a hill. Naturally, the views from the top are incredible, but part of the fun is just wandering around the historic center, popping into the cute boutiques, and enjoying a meal of local specialties like orecchiette and burrata at a great little restaurant like ABC Apulian Bistrot.
Housed in Ostuni’s 18th-century Palazzo Rosso (Red Palace), this 11-room boutique hotel stands out from the city’s whitewashed center with its Pompeii-red walls. Inside, the design is chic and quirky, with an eclectic mix of décor the owners picked up during their travels.
Sometimes called the Florence of the South because of its architectural and artistic treasures, Lecce is certainly worth exploring. The city has a soft golden hue thanks to the kind of limestone used to construct its buildings, many of which are Baroque masterpieces. Lecce also has a strong artistic heritage, with lots of artists and artisans selling handmade jewelry, artwork, and much more.
Housed in a historic palazzo in the center of Lecce, this seven-room boutique hotel has an impressive collection of 20th-century furniture by the likes of Gio Ponti and contemporary art by William Kentridge, Marina Abromovic, Vanessa Beecroft, and other artists.
Italy’s easternmost town, Otranto has a rich history dating back to the Roman Empire when it was an important port. An imposing castle, thick walls, and towers dominate the town’s perimeter and offer great views of the turquoise sea. Nearby, you can visit beautiful sandy beaches and wineries like Duca Carlo Guarini, run by a duke whose family has been making wine here for 900 years.
Where to Stay: Il Tabacchificio
While not technically a hotel, this luxurious villa by the Thinking Traveller has a show-stopping design and hotel-like services, including daily housekeeping and breakfast, bathroom amenities, and concierge services, plus the option to hire a private chef. With six bedrooms, ample living space, an outdoor pool, and a tennis court, it’s great for groups.
Santa Maria di Leuca
This little town on the southernmost tip of Puglia is where the Adriatic and Ionian Seas meet. It’s part of the Salento area south of the Itria Valley, which is known for having the most incredible beaches with miles of golden sand and crystalline waters. In fact, Pescoluse Beach—a 15-minute drive from Santa Maria di Leuca—has been called the Maldives of Italy.
Where to Stay: Palazzo Daniele
Palazzo Daniele is in the town of Gagliano del Capo, a 10-minute drive from Santa Maria di Leuca, but it’s definitely worth the trip. This super sleek member of Design Hotels is an aesthete’s dream. The aristocratic palazzo has been transformed into a boutique hotel where weather-worn walls and original ceiling frescoes juxtapose against minimalist furnishings and contemporary art to stunning effect.
This dream-like town is known for its trulli, whitewashed stone huts with conical roofs. If you love architecture, this area offers a type of design not found in many other places.
Astra is an upmarket bed & breakfast situated in a Trullo hut. The garden and exposed stone walls make the stay feel exceedingly authentic.
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