Pretty white-washed streets, miles of olive groves and upheld Italian traditions are what awaits visitors to Puglia in Southern Italy. A Puglia road trip is a must to see the best of what the region has to offer!
This post gives insight into places to visit in Puglia, exploring towns Ostuni, Locorotondo and popular Alberobello; with scenic pictures, unusual traditions and typical tourist spots.
Driving in Puglia
If you are wondering, where is Puglia..? Puglia is located on the heel of the boot on Italy’s map.
Away from the hustle and bustle of big cities such as Rome, Florence and, Venice, Puglia is an example of untouched Italy. Puglia has rural charm, great food, as well as, the longest coastline of mainland Italy. Woohoo!
Airports Brindisi and Bari are within an easy distance and, both offer car hire from the airport. I had never driven abroad prior to my trip to Puglia and the thought of crazy Italian drivers scared the hell out of me! But, if I can do it, anyone can! An Italy road trip really isn’t that bad, especially with scenery as pretty as in Puglia. Plus, driving in Puglia is the best way to explore pretty towns Ostuni, Locorotondo and Alberobello.
Puglia Itinerary: Places to visit in Puglia
Whilst the region of Puglia, without doubt, gives tourists an insight into true Italian culture, there is still much to discover amongst the labyrinth of white-washed streets found in many of Puglia’s picturesque towns.
A city in the heart of Puglia is Ostuni, otherwise known as the “white city”, where you will find age-old buildings, cobbled streets and a signature pasta to the region nicknamed ‘little ears.’
The white city of Ostuni is beautifully set on the cliffs of the Adriatic coast, visible by road for some miles before the city is actually reached.
*Tip* A small hire car is a must to navigate the intricate one-way streets in the centre of Ostuni, where it’s best to park up on the outskirts. Whilst, there are free spaces to parallel park, I would recommend parking in this spacious car park, located within a couple of minutes walk from central Ostuni:
Why not park up and visit Ostuni Cathedral or the Saturday morning market, where you can purchase locally sourced vegetables, homeware and clothing.
One of the larger towns we visited on our trip, Ostuni is home to a number of Puglia’s luxury hotels, including five-star Borgo Egnazia Hotel, recently named one of the best hotels in the world.
Though away from these five-star establishments, you will find villas tucked away in the Italian countryside, such as the Corte dei Massapi villa I stayed at hosted by Raro Villas & Bookings For You. Without a doubt, the best place to stay in Puglia, if you ask me!
As you drive to Locorotondo, you can’t help but be intrigued by the somewhat ancient looking town built into the cliff side. Locorotondo is an enchanting town, located around 30 mins from Ostuni and named ‘Borgi i piu belli d’Italia’ (one of the prettiest villages in Italy.)
Visiting out of season like we did in March can mean the town can appear to seem somewhat deserted. And, a little eerie after seeing various ladies dressed in black and hanging from rope throughout the streets…
Puglia Quarandone puppets
These eerie puppets are suspended high above the streets of Locorotondo on Ash Wednesday where they hang for 40 days until Easter. Representing the sins of mankind and often referred to as witches, these dolls are burned after mass on Easter Sunday. The burning of these dolls is said to symbolise joy over hardship, washing away sins and commemorate Spring over Winter.
This is a unique tradition to the area and one that attracts big crowds on Easter Sunday as the puppets are burned.
Pretty little Locorotondo
Being fairly quiet during our visit meant we had ample opportunity to explore some of the hidden labyrinths of streets in Locorotondo, many of which lead on to courtyards adorned with flowers and pretty little walkways where homes are proudly festooned with an assortment of trinkets.
Not content with exploring the streets overground, we had intended on visiting nearby caves of Grotte di Castellana. Though, unfortunately, the caves were not open during our visit. It’s worth checking the opening hours on the following link to plan your visit:
A very short drive away from Locorotondo is Alberobello, one of the most popular locations for tourists visiting Puglia. The reason for the town’s notoriety is due to the large number of Trulli (circular houses with cone-shaped roofs) dotting its landscape.
Reminiscent of the hobbit houses found in The Shire of Hobbiton (I must visit New Zealand one day) these Trulli houses form a UNESCO World Heritage site, preserving the tradition in this area.
There are many theories surrounding why these houses were built, including tax evasion but I was more intrigued by the meaning behind the symbols decorating the roofs.
Many of the Trulli houses have a painted symbol on their roofs, with some even having individual pinnacles. It’s said that these symbols have religious and astrological meanings.
To my delight, Antonia who has the shop Ars Creandi spoke to me about the meanings behind the symbols, some of which have Pagan heritage.
The spires generally have family meaning, with the symbols divided into three categories: Primitive, Christian and Zodiac.
I’ve always been fascinated by astrology, having always believed myself to be a typical Virgo. Learning about the meaning behind the symbols adorning the trulli houses really was mesmerising.
It was intriguing to find out more about the meaning behind the Trulli symbols as well as view the inside, now converted to house Antonia’s beautiful handmade jewellery.
It’s definitely worthwhile to find out more if you’re visiting Alberobello.
Whilst Alberobello is one of the busier tourist spots in Puglia, don’t let that put you off as it is a must see if you’re visiting the area and there are a few pretty lanes to explore.
I even managed to make a few feline friends!
*Tip* Typically, Italians take a ‘pausa’ for a few hours in the afternoon, therefore it is worthwhile acclimatising to Italian life sussing out the best times to eat. I was hoping to sample some local dishes in one of the many Trulli restaurants but to my dismay, they were closed.*
These pretty towns are within easy driving distance, whether you fly into Brindisi or Bari Airport as we did.
Full of Italian charm and tradition, it’s well worth enjoying a Puglia road trip to explore some of these hidden towns, which will really give you insight into real Italian life.
We stayed at Corte dei Massapi villa in Ostuni, which was the perfect haven for our time in Italy as well as a great hub to explore some of the prettiest towns. You can read about my stay by clicking here.
Have you visited Southern Italy? Let me know below.
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