Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Ger’s Puglia Trip Report: 19 days in May 2019

Ger’s Puglia Trip Report: 19 days in May 2019

Jun 1st, 2019, 12:36 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Posts: 345
Ger’s Puglia Trip Report: 19 days in May 2019

On May 1st, I flew from London to Bari for a 19 days vacation in Puglia.

I did the entire trip on public transportation, which is a major achievement in this area of Italy. While challenging, it is not impossible.

I was inspired by Dai’s ‘One month in Puglia’ trip report to think it even possible. Thank you Dai!

One month in Puglia and Matera

I am also grateful to others that have contributed Trip Reports on Fodors over the years (and I went back MANY years). I have read them all, as this was the best resource I found in planning my trip. To all of you that have written trip reports on Puglia – Thank You, I am most grateful.

I rarely finish trip reports, so I will try to start with the important information: Itinerary, Hotels, Restaurants and travel logistics.



Introduction


Itinerary

Believe me, it was not been easy to get this to work using public transportation. Suffice it to say that logistics are more challenging here than my last couple of trips to Spain!



Itinerary and Hotels

My Itinerary was adjusted many times both before and mid-trip Here is how it ended up:


Day 1 – Day 6: Polignano a Mare

http://www.pugliaandculture.com/touristic-places-in-puglia/polignano-a-mare

Hotel:
https://www.covodeisaraceni.com/en/

Day
trips: Martina Franca, Locorotondo, Ostuni, Monopoli, Brindisi


Day 7 – 12: Lecce

https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/lecce-italy-travel-guide/

Hotel:
Bed and Breakfast Lecce centro :: B&B La Casa di Alessio - Lecce

Day trips: Galatina, Gallipoi, Otranto



Day 13 – 14: Matera

https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/sassi-matera-italy/

Hotel:
Albergo del Sedile


Day 15: Altamura

https://www.emiliadelizia.com/walkin...y-bread-video/

Hotel: https://www.hotelsannicola.com/en-us


Day 16 – 19:
Bari

https://www.thecrazytourist.com/15-b...gs-bari-italy/

https://excelsiorbari.it/en/

Day
trips: Foggia, San Severo, Castel del Monte, Trani

************************************************
Day 0:

I had an early flight from Gatwick to Bari, so I decided to stay in the very depressing Hilton at LGW, which reminded me all those lost nights when I travelled on business. The horror is that that ALL Hiltons look the same, so I never knew where I am!. I chose the Hilton, because it is in the same terminal as my BA departure. The Sofitel is far nicer, and I wish I had stayed there instead.
OReilly64 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2019, 01:42 PM
  #2  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Posts: 345
Hotel Evaluation:

Polignano a MareHotel: https://www.covodeisaraceni.com/en/

Recommended.

I stayed in the Annex across the street from the main hotel. Large room and bathroom. Its not luxurious – fairly rustic. Expensive rooms would have wonderful views and terraces.

Massive breakfast buffet – I generally concentrated on the buratta and mozzarella chesses and asked for more tomatoes. There about 6 different cakes each morning (who eats cake for breakfast???). They also served scrambled eggs and bacon, but I wonder if this is because they had a bus load of Americans staying?

If I were to do the trip again, I would probably stay in Monopoli instead of Polignano and chose to stay in one of the B&Bs in the old town.

Both towns are lovely, but Monopoli has better transportation links. I chose Polignano because it had a four-star hotel and I was late in booking accommodation.


Day 7 – 12: Lecce

Hotel: Bed and Breakfast Lecce centro :: B&B La Casa di Alessio - Lecce

Highly recommended – I LOVED this place!


I generally stay in four-star hotels and have never stayed in B&Bs on my travels. This wonderful experience has completely changed my future travels plans re staying at B&Bs!

I consider this one of my best travel accommodations experiences.

There are only three rooms, so you need to book ahead.

My room was huge, cutely decorated and had a view over the roman ruins. Everything was perfect.

There are a couple of extremely expensive five-star hotels in Lecce, but I would prefer to stay here rather than anywhere else in this beautiful town, because of the very personal and attentive service provided by the owners.

On the first morning, I told D that I was just dying for a proper cup of tea. Next morning, he had stolen a teapot from his mother, and every morning I had a pot of tea!. Breakfast was an array of cereals, cheeses, hams and cakes (baked by his wife and mother). I can’t eat cake in the morning but suggested I might eat one in the evening. Every evening when I got back to the room, there were three slices of the most delicious home-made cakes in my room.

I loved chatting to the host over breakfast and finding out more abut the region and his family – he had spent a Summer in Dublin to learn English!

Another bonus was that on Saturday evening, Lecce was promoted to the First division ( will be playing Milan, Juventus, Roma etc.) so there was a massive party outside my room with fireworks.

This was such a personal experience, so far removed from the typical four-star hotel. It felt like staying with family.


Next: More Hotels

Regards … Ger
OReilly64 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2019, 01:49 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 8,946
Looking so forward to this TR.

maitaitom is offline  
Jun 1st, 2019, 02:06 PM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Posts: 345
Hey Tom:

I visited a LOT of baroque churches on this trip !
OReilly64 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2019, 02:21 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 1,518
“I rarely finish trip reports”....
begging you to finish this one, for purely selfish reasons - collecting TR’s for ideas and you are one of the few that have opted for public transport.
That bnb sounds wonderful.
Adelaidean is offline  
Jun 1st, 2019, 03:03 PM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Posts: 345
Day 13 – 14: MateraHotel: Albergo del Sedile

Recommended.Its in the ‘high-town’ , as I chickened out of staying in the caves, and it was half the price of those hotels and other hotels in the Sassi. I thought about staying in the caves but decided against as I can’t sleep in a room with the curtains closed (I feel like I am in a coffin – maybe in a past life I was buried alive!) so unlikely to be comfortable in a chamber with NO window. Also, there was the financial issue. I was happy with my decision. Very nice large room looking onto one of the squares. I got a good price. Continental breakfast included. No complaints.

Day 15: AltamuraHotel: https://www.hotelsannicola.com/en-us Bog standard business hotel in the historic centre of Altamura. If I were to do it again, I wold not bother staying in Altamura. It is a pretty little town, with a couple of interesting churches, but not worth a whole day visit or staying overnight. I would spend an extra night in ether Matera or Bari.



Day 16 – 19: Bari https://excelsiorbari.it/en/

Recommend to use as a base to do day trips from Bari. This is NOT the hotel I booked. I booked another hotel on Hotels.com, a site that I have successfully used for the past four years and never had a problem, booking maybe a hundred hotel rooms. The evening I tried to check in, the hotel had no record of my booking, despite the fact I had a confirmation from Hotels.com. They were fully booked for these days. They called the Excelsior and got me a room for the three nights, but 50% more expensive! I was just glad I did not have to sleep in the train station that night. Bog slandered four-star business hotel at the rear entrance to Bari Centrale station. Convenient to do the day trips I planned. Extensive breakfast, if you can elbow your way past the Italians – it is like a shark feeding frenzy!

No complaints.

Next : The restaurants

Regards … Ger
OReilly64 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2019, 03:07 PM
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Posts: 345
Originally Posted by Adelaidean View Post
“I rarely finish trip reports”....
begging you to finish this one, for purely selfish reasons - collecting TR’s for ideas and you are one of the few that have opted for public transport.
That bnb sounds wonderful.
I promise I will try very hard to finish the report . It IS possible by public transportation.

Best regards … Ger
OReilly64 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2019, 03:21 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 1,287
Reading with great interest - I'd love to visit Puglia but would never consider driving on my own so keen to hear more.
dreamon is offline  
Jun 1st, 2019, 04:09 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 2,943
I was in Puglia for about 2 weeks in late April and early May.

Got some sun here and there but was cold and windy when not raining. Not suppose to be typical weather in spring.

The south of Italy is suppose to be poorer but the roads, particularly in Salentino, were great -- yes I drove. Lecce has gone through a lot of recent renovation. There were a couple of churches still undergoing renovation -- they're usually not listed among the attractions there so I kind of came across them by accident, going out past the ports where I had parked. They look immaculate.

So anyone who thought about going, I guess they're trying to expand tourism in the region.
scrb11 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2019, 07:01 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,349
Another hope that you do a full report! Always interested in trips without driving!
SusanP is offline  
Jun 1st, 2019, 09:20 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 17,234
On for ride
bilboburgler is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2019, 08:50 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,349
Ger, can you please include prices for the hotels?
SusanP is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2019, 02:58 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jun 2019
Posts: 1
Finish it please!!!

Hi! I’m thinking of traveling to Puglia from Toronto and I don’t know where to start when I get there. So looking forward to your feedback. Have a blast!!
JenRod is offline  
Jun 4th, 2019, 08:30 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 466
Yeah! Waiting on report as we're going in October. Booked in Matera and currently looking for a Trulli B&B near Martina Franca. Driving and staying for a week or a bit longer.
gailscout is offline  
Jun 6th, 2019, 12:46 PM
  #15  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Posts: 345
I have decide to change the format and do a day-by-day experience. I am going to tell this tale, warts and all, as it happened on a daily basis.

Day 1: Wednesday 1st May:

Polignano a Mare

Polignano a mare, Puglia. What to see in Polignano a mare and Tourist Info Office address - Puglia and Culture

I took an early morning flight from LGW with BA, and all that was on the agenda was lunch and initial exploration of the town.

I booked a car service, and the drive was 35 minutes and cost 60 Euros. Recommended service.

Here is the car service.https://www.lentinigiampieroautonoleggio.com/en/

Alternatively, you could take the train from Bari airport to Bari Centrale and then a train to Polignano for a fraction of the cost. Trains are frequent and cheap and easy to navigate. Bari Centrale has elevators between some, but not all of the platforms. If you have large luggage, be aware that besides Bari, almost none of the stations in Puglia have elevators, so you will have to drag the luggage up and down the stairs.

I’ll provide more details later on train bookings and the effing challenges!

Deposited at the hotel, I checked in and headed to the restaurant.

The hotel, which I have already reviewed:

Hotel: https://www.covodeisaraceni.com/en/

May 1st is an important holiday, which I failed to recognise. The town was mobbed with day-trippers seeking sun and sand. I would have preferred to arrive on a quiet day.

I had booked the restaurant a few days before on Fork and arrived at 1400.

Grotta Ardito

Grotta Ardito- Restaurant sul mare a Polignano

I booked the restaurant because of the view from the rooftop over the bay, which was as wonderful as described.

However, I arrived at 1400, when service was in full flight serving big tables of families eating the entire menu. It took 20 minutes to get a menu and a glass of wine, 30 minutes to order and an hour to actually eat, and they got my order wrong!

They eventually delivered a huge plate of fried fish – enough for a family or four. I picked around it, very fresh fish but too much to eat. The Pasta alla Vongole was delicious!

Bill was 40 Euros with two glasses of wine. Good value, but not particularly great food.

I wandered around the town for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

Initial impressions of Polignano a Mare: Beautiful holiday town.

Here are some photos. https://link.shutterfly.com/FFLKVDJ8iX

Next: Day 2: Thursday 2nd May: Martina Franca, Locorotondo
OReilly64 is offline  
Jun 6th, 2019, 01:19 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 1,518
So pleased you are doing a day to day report!

Am heading to Switzerland tomorrow, but have been seriously considering Puglia for next year.

(All the reports I’ve read describe public transport as requiring a ‘flexible’ attitude and a lot of patience, ha. And in Switzerland, commuters get anxious if train is a few minutes late...)
Adelaidean is offline  
Jun 6th, 2019, 01:49 PM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Posts: 345
Traveling by public transportation in Puglia.

There are assumptions one makes regarding traveling by bus and train. I have done several trips on public transportation recently, mostly in Spain (such a civilized and well run train and bus network!) and once in Northern Italy, so I made certain assumptions.

On this trip, I learned that one should NOT make assumptions about any transportation in Puglia and several times, I longed to be in Spain!


Here are Assumptions that you should NOT take for granted in Puglia:

Assumption 1: Train stations are close to the town centre, and within walking distance

Assumption 2: Buses leave from bus stations, or at least some agreed and known point

Assumption 3: There is a Tourist Office somewhere in the town that can tell you how to get to the effing bus or train station

Assumption 4: If all else fails, there are taxis to bring you home, regardless of cost

Assumption 5: In the Salento, they just make it up and you have to go with it.
OReilly64 is offline  
Jun 7th, 2019, 10:19 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 35,267
The whole "there are taxis" is an assumption that should not be made in ANY country, IMO, regardless of the civilization level and I can recount instances of being rain-soaked as a result in places like Munich, Germany and San Francisco. Loving your very detailed report and than you for those details. It is so much better than the food was "yummy" and the "staff was rude."
Dukey1 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2019, 11:06 AM
  #19  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Posts: 345
Day 2: Thursday 2nd May: Martina Franca and Locorotondo, a great lunch, and me being completely stupid, several times.


There was no easy way to get to Martina Franca by public transportation, so I rented a limo to pick me up at the hotel at 0900 for the 40 minute drive (45 Euro).

It is a wonderful drive through the countryside, predominantly on small roads, and I got to enjoy lots of transitional Trulli buildings along the way. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trullo

Martina Franca

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martina_Franca

The taxi dropped me off in the Piazza XX Septrembre.

Tourist office is close by and was due to open at 10am., according to the office web-site and various other sources. However, the amateurish printed sign on the door said ‘Tough luck, we have changed our mind and we won’t open until Saturday – GOTCHA!’.

This proved to be fairly normal throughout the trip. Tourist season does not really start until mid-June, so the tourist offices that DO exist appear to take a very casual attitude to opening hours. Also, because the area still mostly caters for Italian tourists, many appear to no longer exist.

SO, I had no map, just a list of things that I longed to see. On the plus side, there are maps throughout the town and sign posts to the major sites. Puglia is not a region for those that expect things to work as prescribed.

It was a perfect day for exploring, sunny and temperatures in the mid 70s, and I spent the next 3.5 hours exploring the cathedrals, churches and backstreets of this lovely Baroque town.

I should mention that Baroque is most certainly not my favourite mode of architecture – I am very much a devotee of the Romanesque and the northern Gothic. So many beautiful ancient churches were ruined by overlay of Baroque decoration.

That having been said, I adored this town, and there is barely a door or window that does not have some intricate piece of decoration.

My photos:

I have shown the site name either before or after the site.

https://link.shutterfly.com/AWEZzKeWxX

Evaluation of Martina Franca

I absolutely loved it. Like most towns in Puglia, it is worth a half-day visit and a good lunch. Get there as early as possible, as most churches, main reason for a visit, are open at 0700/0800 and close as early as 1200, maybe 1300. Expect everything to close by 1300 and not re-open until 1700.

Lunch at Mehta

https://www.mehta.it/?lang=en

I had booked by email before I left home, based on reviews from various sources. Unusually, this was one of the few restaurants that confirmed a booking made on their website. Be aware, that you generally need to call the restaurants to make a booking.

The restaurant is about 10 minutes’ walk from Piazza XX Septembre, outside of the old town. I would never ever have thought that a good restaurant resided inside the building, as on the outside the building looks very run down. Inside, it is minimalist chic.

This is by far the best food I had in Puglia.

Unfortunately, I was one of only three diners that day. The young chef/owner, Fabiano, greeted me and he has perfect English, which is always quite a relief, and stayed with me for the whole lunch.

I started with a complimentary glass of French Champagne (thank the Gods, not Prosecco!).

Then I was brought Courgette Flower stuffed with whipped potato and squid with Dijon mustard, accompanied by local artisan breads, foccacio with pesto and local whipped butter.

I love Courgette Flowers in Rome, but sometimes find the stuffing too heavy. Not this one – stuffing was light as air and the flower was lightly battered, and not greasy. A winner.

The breads – I could have sat all day in the restaurants eating the breads.

I chose the pasta alla vongole for the pasta course and the Pork Belly as the main.

To go with the pasta, Fabiano suggested a local white wine, (because I screamed NO efffing Chardonnay!) – Taersia Negroamaro (more about Negroamaro later in Lecce). This is a white wine, made in small batches from the local Negroamaro red grape, and apparently quite unique to the area. Delicious notes of toffee – sorry, I love my wine, but not willing to embarrass myself in trying to describe wine tasting 😊.

The pasta alla Vongole was really wonderful, and a little different from the norm, in a good way. Lovely lemon bite to sauce, clams were incredibly fresh.

As we were deciding on the red wine for the main, Fabiano and I chatted. Originally from Bologna, he worked in London for 9 years and some good restaurants and his goal is to have his won Michelin stared restaurant before he is 30. He is currently on some ‘watch list’ re best chefs in Italy under 30.

We decided on a local Primitivo for the pork. What else would you have in Puglia? Again, from a local small producer.

The pork belly came with white and green asparagus, potato mash, beetroot mash and a reduction. I had failed to mention to him that I have an aversion to beetroot – hate it (tastes like what I assume a dead body would taste), but easy enough to push to the side.

I have to admit that I was already full after the starter and the pasta course, and this was to remain true for the remainder of the trip. I just cannot eat this much food at one sitting. Pork was falling apart and full of flavour. I gave him some advice (very cheeky of me). I told him to carve off the top of the pork belly after cooking, remove the fat and grill it, then serve crispy pork belly on top.

I almost never have dessert, but in this case, I felt it would be churlish to not. He suggested the in-house made Lemon Tart. What a beautiful plate, worthy of any top tier restaurant in London. It tasted every bit as good as it looked.

The bill was about 60 Euros. Not cheap, but really excellent value for the standard of food and wine.

I was delighted with the experience and would highly recommend this restaurant. I think it is worth going to Martina Franca just to have a leisurely lunch or dinner here.


A Public Transportation side-bar

Then things got difficult for my travel adventure, re public transportation.

I promise to tell you this tale of public transportation in Puglia, warts and all, so you will be aware of the challenges, and the assumptions you should NOT make. Believe me, I am not a neophyte in traveling, nor a neophyte recently on using public transportation in Spain and Northern Italy. Puglia is ‘special’. Each day was a new discovery and a new lesson learned NOT to be repeated.

I had intended to take a taxi from Martina Franca to Locorotondo. A taxi is common in London; I think we have more taxis than pigeons, unless its raining of course. Taxis are also something I have taken for granted in many other towns and cities I have visited in Europe over many many travels over many many years. Not so in Puglia!

I had originally assumed that if all else failed, I could walk from the centre of a town to the train station and pick up a taxi.

First lesson I learned was that train stations in Puglia are not always close to the Historic centre. In some cases, this was not a problem for me as I do not consider a 20-35-minute hike a problem, but this would definitely be a problem, or an impossibility, for anyone with mobility problems, given that many sites are on top of a hill, so there is a steep incline.

Second lesson I learned was that my assumption that train stations have taxis was completely and utterly wrong! Again, very different from my previous public transportation experiences in Northern Italy (1) and Spain (4?). Sometimes, there is a bus to bring you from the train station to the Historic town, but even these are not necessarily syncing with the train arrivals/departures. Sometimes there are phone numbers for local taxis, but you better be able to speak Italian, because they do NOT speak English.

Overall, Puglia is not particularly friendly to those that chose to explore by Public Transportation, but I DID manage it. More to come on this topic.

I asked Fabiano to order me a taxi to go to Locorotondo. He looked at me like I had two heads and told me they are few taxis in Martina Franca and, as it was still lunchtime (like not 6pm yet!) they may not be available.

OK, I’ll walk to the station, I said.

Why, he said, there are no taxis there, but I can call a mate who works in a hotel who can call a taxi.

He called his mate in the hotel, she called a taxi that would be there in 10 minutes.

30 minutes later, a girl pulled up in ‘Noddy’s’ car and drove me to Locorotondo historic centre for 15 Euros.


As I got out of the car, I wondered how the next stage of the journey would work?

I had planned on a bus from here back to Monopoli and civilisation, where the train goes all the way to Milan! My backup plan had been that, if I missed the bus, I could take a taxi from Locorotondo to Monopoli, about 35 Euros – less than I pay for a taxi home from London to Blackheath on a Saturday night.

I was now faced with the possibility that the taxi back-up plan was not possible.

Next: Exploring Locorotondo and did I get home to my hotel in Polignano that night?
OReilly64 is offline  
Jun 16th, 2019, 06:44 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 466
Thanks, Ger, we are going in October and I really appreciate the restaurant tip! Sounds like a gem.
gailscout is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:12 PM.