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donutsfordays Jun 20th, 2015 08:04 AM

5 nights in Puglia - would love your help!
Hi everyone,

Seeing quite a few Italy experts in the forum I wanted to ask for recommendations on an itinerary. My husband and I will be visiting Puglia for 5 nights in early October before we head off to see family and spend a week in the Alps. Just wanted a little sea time to balance off the mountains even though it may not be swimming weather. And of course, the food!

We plan on flying into Bari and renting a car from there. We'd like to maybe spend a night in Matera before heading South to see Lecce and visit some seaside towns. After doing some research it seems like we should definitely try and stop by Galipolli, Otranto, Polignano a Mare... are there other towns should we absolutely visit? Where's a good central location to use as home base? I found a masseria I love in Manduria, but it seems a bit farther away from the places we'd like to go.

We're in our early thirties and have done our fair share of "touristy" Italy -- Florence, Rome, Milan, Amalfi Coast, etc. -- we are really excited to see this part of the country.


kja Jun 20th, 2015 08:35 AM

Matera easily merits a full day, if not more, so depending on when you would get there and whether you will be jet-lagged or not, you might want an extra night there.

I thought Trani well worth seeing.

IMO, Puglia is too large to be easily seen from a single base. YMMV.


bilboburgler Jun 20th, 2015 08:39 AM

Good idea of looking for a Masseria, there are a fair bunch of good ones though in October they may be a bit quiet. If you just go to google maps to the area you want and put Masseria in the seach engine you'll find the page lights up in red buttons.

You'll find a fair few towns are a bit scrubby on the outside but the old centres are often gems, so don't get put off by the outside.

Martina Franca, Alberobello, Gioia are all ok. You might also look over the edge of the Murge towards the sea from say Ostuni, you can imagine the terrible pirates coming ashore to lay waste the land and why so many towns are up on the Murge.

Manduria is pretty nice with a fine wine coop which is easily visit though the area to the south and the coast is a little dull (mainly small hotels and seaside resorts.

I'd either look at places closer to Lecce or closer to Martina Franca/Gioia.

We stayed here down towards Lecce, some friends used over near Brindisi,

My advice is
1) You don't need a pool as it probably will be too cold
2) Make sure it offers the meals you want, there is nothing worse than finding that there is no supper when the nearest restaurant is an hour away.

So, there is not really one base that rally hits the spot in this zone, I'd try and be near (but not on) a major road so you can go north or south. I'd probably base around Lecce

isabel Jun 20th, 2015 09:06 AM

Five days is not much to see Matera and Puglia. You'll have to pick and choose. We had 8 nights for that region and didn't get to see everything. But the towns you originally mentioned are probably highlights.

We based two nights in Lecce and were able to see Otranto and Gallopoli on a day trip. Then we moved to Polginano for 4 nights. You could maybe do two Lecce and two Polignano. And depending what time you arrive one night in Matera. It would be a pretty fast paced trip but you'd hit the highlights of the area.

With such a short amount of time and given the time of year I would opt for staying in the town centers rather than on a masseria. Consider it will be getting dark early (well earlier than in summer). If you are in a town you have something to do in the evening, you have restaurants to choose from, you can walk around and see the towns in the evening lights. Lecce especially is beautifully lit after dark. But Polignano was too, and for that matter so was Matera.

Here's my trip report with link to photos -

annhig Jun 20th, 2015 09:11 AM

So, there is not really one base that rally hits the spot in this zone, I'd try and be near (but not on) a major road so you can go north or south. I'd probably base around Lecce>>

bilbo - just out of interest I had a look at the links you provided and am still in the dark about whether the first one, the Provenzani, offers meals or not. First of all I read the italian just for some practice, and saw that the website talks about meals, but not about a restaurant as such, so for further elucidation I tried the english, and found myself just as in the dark as I was before. Can you shed some light on this?

I couldn't find any prices either.

donutsfordays Jun 20th, 2015 10:16 AM

Thank you so much for the quick responses! We don't mind a bit of scruff, We should be in Matera around the early afternoon if everything goes well. I would have loved to stay an extra night or two in Italy but you know, family obligations...

I will check on all the suggestions and let you know what we end up deciding. Also, what are your thoughts on Porto Tricase? I have seen beautiful photos near there (though on Google Maps there seems to be both a Porto Tricase and Tricase Porto?)

bilboburgler Jun 20th, 2015 11:47 AM

Ann, me too when I first met them on line. A fair few of these Masseria are organised like a hotel. Others, you drop them an email saying what you want to do and they quote you. I found a few of this more "laid back" style.

annhig Jun 21st, 2015 01:51 AM

thanks Bilbo, that's a good trick.

ekscrunchy Jun 21st, 2015 03:01 AM

Two nights in Matera.

Forget the beach as it can be windy and cool even in late September. Things will be shut down along the beach in October.

The other three nights you have to choose....maybe try the area around Trani or inland near Montegrosso. Or else choose Lecce for three nights and you can explore the Salento during day trips by car: Gallipoli, Otranto, etc.

bilboburgler Jun 21st, 2015 03:33 AM

Ann I think they have to mix with a whole load of

1) People who want the whole place
2) People who want to book just a large room for say a party
3) as 2 but with food
4) as 1 but with added security, I know this one was used for a major politician's meeting
5) low demand in the shoulder season
6) the owner's family wanting full access

etc, etc, so on the day we turned up they had just hosted the local orienteering group and yet they probably only have 3 full time staff and are used to pulling in staff as required. Very flexible.

donutsfordays Jun 21st, 2015 06:16 AM

Thanks eks. We actually have 6 nights to spend... I think we are leaning towards 2 nights in Matera and the rest in Lecce, doing mostly day trips. That way we can minimize on all the checking in/checking out. Unless anyone thinks we absolutely should stay further up north for 2 nights?

raincitygirl Jun 21st, 2015 08:13 AM

donutsfordays, that sounds like a good plan, you can see quite a lot from Lecce. We were there last year at the end of September and had 4 nights Lecce and five nights at Masseria Cervarola near Ostuni. From the masseria we did a day trip to Matera. That masseria by the way, was fabulous, they did dinners that were delicious and had a lovely pool which we used one day.

We had beautiful weather and while staying in Lecce, went swimming in the sea one day.

I can really recommend Five Rooms B&B in Lecce, free parking, lovely accommodations, good breakfast and easy 10 minute walk into the historic centre.

bilboburgler Jun 21st, 2015 09:01 AM

fiverooms looks nice, just outside the inner ring road (which is busy but not murderous) I might prefer to be inside in one of the older converted ones, but, to fair we never found such a pretty one in the old centre.

You do need to explore away in the old town, so many great little squares

I looked at Masseria Cervarola as a possible wedding spot but their prices climbed as the "w" word :-) but it looks very good.

Donuts I think Lecce might satisfy you. Just watch out for those big Puglian reds.

raincitygirl Jun 21st, 2015 11:25 AM

bilbo, five rooms was really very nice, and the price for the quality of the place was extremely good. We didn't mind the walk in to the centre at all, it was interesting and took us past two very yummy gelato places. :)
We did a lot of poking around the whole centre, definitely recommend that to Donuts.

Too bad about the prices climbing at Cervarola for your wedding, it was really lovely and I loved the whole Valle d'Itria area, would go back again for sure.

And yes, the Puglian reds…yum. And the whites weren't too bad either. ;)

Stargatesg30 Jun 22nd, 2015 02:26 AM

Hi. I travel to Puglia quite a few times a year as my daughter lives there. It is a beautiful part of Italy and for the most part untouched by commercial tourism.
I would agree with lots of the suggestions on here however I also think you need to consider your time of arrival in Bari. If its a late arrival flight then you may want to spend your first night somewhere easy to get to and with a shorter drive from the airport.
One word of note re car rental,take out a seperate excess insurance policy before you travel has the car hire companies in italy charge extortionate rates to take the insurance through them and the excess if you don't have insurance can be as much as €2000. I have an annual policy which covers everything including tyres and it only costs me £40 a year for however many times I rent a car in europe. I have found most of the car rental companies to be ok in Bari airport but would avoid Sicily by car if you are wanting a quick service as they are very slow and do a hard sell on upgrades.
Also avoid firefly if you want to collect the car from the airport rather than off airport.
With regards to your first night if you are arriving late, then Trani is a good place to stay and easy to get to from the airport. You can then drive to Matera for your 2nd night via castel del monte (worth a look).
Matera is lovely but can be done in 1 day allowing you to see many of the other beautiful places.
If you are wanting a more central base for your remaining nights and are happy with driving then I would suggest the area around Fasano. Its about 30 mins from Alberobello, 60 mins from Lecce, 30 mins from Polignano, 30 mins from Ostuni and 90 mins from Otranto.
These places are all 'must sees' and you can combine a few together in the same day out such as Lecce and Otranto. Monopoli is also worth a visit if you have the time.
Please feel free to ask any further questions and I hope you have a brilliant trip.

yorkshire Jun 22nd, 2015 07:55 AM

I have not written up a trip report yet, but in May I spent 9 days in Puglia. Here are a few tidbits. Hope this helps!

We spent a night in Bari because we do not drive with no sleep/ jet lag (this was our first time driving in Italy). This proved to be a smart decision because picking up a car in Bari city is infinitely more convenient than doing so at the airport, where there were nightmare-inducing lines. The drive out of town was much easier as well, and we enjoyed our night in Bari. Because it was just one night of sleeping off the flight, we went with a basic b&b, but the service was very friendly, the location excellent, and the room comfortable.

We spent two nights in Matera at the excellent, recommended by a fodorite (thank you!). I cannot imagine a better view or better service (great breakfast, too). We only spent two nights in Matera, but I easily could have spent a week. We had a tour with the charming, funny and intelligent Antonio of We are not typically the type to do a tour, but I felt it was important here and it added to our enjoyment of the town. The next day, we drove to the park on the other side of the gorge (rupestrian churches). We just wanted to walk around in nature and enjoy the views, but we did manage to peek into one church with a tour group. The visitor center, CEA, serves excellent food--get the bean soup, really!

On our way to Lecce, we stopped to see the temple to Hera near Metaponto (having heard it was more impressive than the other Metaponto site). I would have liked to stop at Taranto to see the museum and Grottaglie for ceramics shopping, but there is only so much time, and I wanted to drive into the ZTL in Lecce during the afternoon. We stayed at and I cannot recommend it enough! I cannot imagine staying anywhere else (oh my god, y'all--the terraces, the breakfasts!!!). They provide a parking permit, and I had a lot of angst about the driving, but it was a snap. We did day trips and enjoyed beautiful Lecce at night. One day we drove to the Adriatic and the other the Ionian. We pretty much skipped the towns because we are nature nuts, and we can never make ourselves work around the pausa/siesta. I can recommend some hikes and parks if you are interested.

We visited the Itria valley from our last stop, in Monopoli (close to Bari for our outbound flight), but I'll stop here since you only have 6 days--and I think Matera and Lecce are the perfect places. My main advice is to prioritize, because although it is a small area, there really is a lot to see and do, with time constraints of the pausa unless you are an early riser.

bilboburgler Jun 22nd, 2015 08:21 AM

"Pausa", 12 or 2 till 4, most things shut up

annhig Jun 22nd, 2015 11:22 AM

yorkshire - thanks for chiming in with those lovely places.

Puglia is another place on my "must do" list - if only there were more months in a year.

donutsfordays Jun 22nd, 2015 06:20 PM

Thanks guys! At this point we're pretty much settled on 2 nights in Matera, 4 nights in Lecce. Our departing flight is at 6pm, so maybe we'll spend that last night further north in Ostuni or near Fasano and have an easier trip to the airport. Haven't decided yet.

I arrive around 3pm on a Saturday (JFK - DUB - LIN - BRI; I know this makes me sound batshit insane, but I always prefer a bargain over convenience) and my husband is arriving around 3:30pm the same day from Rome. He will have been in Italy for a couple of days and will be the one driving so I feel fairly confident in this decision! Stargates, definitely appreciate all the tips on car rentals, this will be very interesting - the last time we did this was in Portugal and it was a bit of a nightmare ;)

You are definitely right about picking and choosing, we have to be OK with the fact that we won't be able to see everything in one trip. The nice thing about having family in Europe at least is that we will always have a reason to go back...

Any recommendations on where to stay in Matera? Yorkshire, that B&B you linked to looks amazing, sadly it is already fully booked! Guess that's easy to do when there's 3 rooms. I can search just as easily but you have really spoiled me with all of these amazing responses! Thanks again.

kja Jun 22nd, 2015 07:01 PM

"Any recommendations on where to stay in Matera?"

I stayed in, and was extremely pleased with, the Locanda di San Martino, which still seems to get some excellent reviews.

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