Puglia -- Worth it???

Old Mar 9th, 2013, 08:23 AM
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Puglia -- Worth it???

We have planned a trip at the end of May beginning in Venice (4 nights), Bologna (2 nights) then Puglia (6 nights -- staying in Polignano a Mare, Monopoli, and Lecce) From these towns we would do day trips to Alberobello, Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Ostuni, Gallipoli... (By the way, we are driving each route, except for the return which we would fly from Brindisi back to Venice.)
Athough the food and people sound wonderful, after reading various posts and trip reports (esp. jamikins and bikerscott), I began to have a few concerns (in no particular order):
1) Amount of driving (esp. tedious driving)
2) Lack of scenery between locations
3) Very poor condition of roads, especially when travelling to the small towns
4) Confusing directions (everyone speaks of getting lost regularly even with a GPS)
5) People's hesitancy to drive at night (going to town for dinner...) (b/c of #3 & #4)
5) English not commonly spoken
We tremendously enjoy getting off the beaten path, and have already visited all the major cities in Italy, that's why Puglia seemed enticing. I have never changed gears after planning a trip, except years ago when first planning Croatia. (We did go a couple of years later, and it is one of our favorites, along with the coast of Turkey...etc.)

We do not mind a lot of driving, changing hotels, etc. Yet, like most travelers, and coming from the US, I don't want to make a mistake. I cannot help but consider how, possibly, a change of itinerary might be wise.

We are now considering making a change.
Venice, Bologna would remain the same, then contemplating:

Verona, Lake Garda, The Dolomites
Solvenia (Ljublijana, Lake Bled...)

I would appreciate your thoughts, advice, (corrections to my thinking!), recommendations!
Any Fodorites to the rescue?
lkj2 is offline  
Old Mar 9th, 2013, 09:12 AM
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I have driven in Puglia, Molise and south to Taranto and Lecce. I really don't understand the comment about "very poor condition" of the roads.

Yes, there are more back roads and fewer Autostrada-type highways. But I thought the roads were fine.

I wouldn't call the scenery "great," especially not as you head south and away from the hill towns.

It is true that you'll find fewer people who speak English than in some of the major tourist areas in the north and on the west coast. I speak Italian, so it's not an issue for me, but I can see how it might be.

Re GPS: We didn't have one on our last trip -- and that was part of the adventure. Often, rental agencies in Italy will allow you to REQUEST a GPS, but won't guarantee you'll get one. We picked up our rental car at Hertz in Sorrento, and they had run out of GPS units. An alternative is a GPS app for your smartphone, if you have one.

BTW, as with your possible plan, we dropped off the car at the Brindisi Airport, and that can be a little confusing at first. The car drop-off area is a giant parking lot that appears to serve all rental agencies, and sometimes there's no one there. So you pull into the lot and say "huh?" Sooner or later, someone shows up to handle the return. What can I tell you? It's part of the Italian way.
downtownbrown is offline  
Old Mar 9th, 2013, 09:25 AM
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Loved Piuglia. Road conditons were fine. Had no trouble driving during the day or night. Yes, we got lost a couple times but no big deal. We do not use a GPS. Some of the scenery is beautiful and some if it is just okay. It's a lovely area with friendly people and delicious food. Don't recall the lack of people speaking English as an issue at all. We had a great trip. I have a TR if you haven't read it already.

that said, why drive so far south when there is so much to see in the North. Verona is great and the Dolomites are beautiful. also Padua has the Scrovegni Chapel which is spectacular. Mantova is nice, Ravenna has great mosaics. Vicenzo is a nice town, So i would suggest that you save Puglia for another trip and further explore the north.
yestravel is offline  
Old Mar 9th, 2013, 11:38 AM
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My wife and I are heading to Puglia in May for two weeks. We can't wait! Many of the reasons you seem worried about are the same ones that we're really excited about. The area is so undiscovered compared to many parts of Italy - you can look at it as scary or a great adventure!

I say go for it!

chucktown_dobbs is offline  
Old Mar 9th, 2013, 12:49 PM
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Not sure how our trip report made you feel nervous about Puglia - we had a great time and hopefully our photos showed you how lovely the area is!

The roads are fine - the Italian drivers are aggressive. On the highways, no problem, in town centres...challenging haha.

Puglia is not Tuscany. I like to say that it is rewarding if you put in the effort. Tuscany makes it easy to find beauty...puglia you sometimes have to seek things out. They dont have great planning, so there are olive groves next to industrial states. You need to look past that to see the beauty - but its there.

As for driving at night - no different than if we were staying in Tuscany - we like to drink, therefore we dont drive to dinner. Nothing to do with being in Puglia.

English isnt as common in Puglia...there just isnt the tourist infrastructure.

One thing I would question - why are you staying in 3 locations? You dont need to...I would pick one place and do day trips!

Have a fabulous trip!
jamikins is offline  
Old Mar 9th, 2013, 12:50 PM
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WE loved Puglia and while we had some trouble finding places when we got into small towns with one way systems we didn't have trouble negotiating the roads over all. Don't worry about English being less common you will almost always find someone to communicate with.

That having been said i would combine Puglia with the rest of southern Italy rather than the north but it depends maybe you'll enjoy the sun/change in food etc?. What do you like to do/see?

From Venice/Verona you have some very different options including the ones listed by yestravel. We also liked Ravenna (mosaics), Urbino, Vicenza (Palladian architecture), Asolo (stylish hilltown). There are quite a lot of options. If you like hiking the Dolomites or Slovenia would be good too. We really enjoyed our time at a small hotel in Slovenia called Hisa Franko. Have a look at i-escape.co.uk they have some great Slovenian options.

Hope this helps!
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Old Mar 9th, 2013, 01:16 PM
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Just wondering why you were planning two stops in Polignano and Monopoli. Considering that the two places are 9 km distant, I do not understand why spending time packing and unpacking.

The drive from Bologna to Puglia is long and not particularly scenic, at last by Italian standard. Apart from this, roads are not difficult. You get lost if you do not know where you are heading.
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Old Mar 9th, 2013, 01:39 PM
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Roads are great, people friendly, as you approach some towns you may thing "this looks tatty", but inside the first ring of flats you will find a glorious ancient city inside.
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Old Mar 9th, 2013, 02:54 PM
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Just a quick comment on your staying in three different places. No problem doing that - Polignano is beautiful. But maybe think about moving a bit further south for your next destination. As pointed out above Polignano and Monopoli are very close together. Think about staying closer to Ostuni or martina Franco or somewhere in that are. That was one change we would have made in out trip. We wished we were closer to those towns.
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Old Mar 9th, 2013, 02:56 PM
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Oh no, I think I just lost a post to cyberspace....

I only visited a few places in my 3 or 4 days in Puglia -- Trani, Alberobello, Lecce, and Polignano a Mare. I was very glad to see them, as each has some features that make them unique.

I didn't have a car while I was there, relying instead on trains. It was not the most scenic of areas, but it was not without interest. I remember some ancient olive groves with blooming poppies scattered in between the trees and glimpses of trulli or other old stone structures in distant fields.

And the food, oh the food! Makes up for a number of difficulties!
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Old Mar 11th, 2013, 06:40 AM
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Do you really not intend to visit Matera, Castellana Grotte, the Gargano Peninsula and the Tremiti Islands? that would be a pity for sure!
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Old Mar 11th, 2013, 05:54 PM
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I agree with neckervd that a visit to Matera would be well worth considering. I'd recommend at least 1 night/1 very full day there, adding a 2nd day if you have a car and want to visit some of the caves that are most easily reached that way.
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Old Mar 12th, 2013, 08:31 AM
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Agree that you should change your intended bases.

I would spend at least one night in or near Matera (Basilicata) and add a base in the Salento.

We have made three trips to the region in the past 2.5 years, and have driven around quite a bit. All of the roads we encountered were very good, and driving was easy. I have never used a GPS and rely on paper maps.

There is less English spoken there than in other regions, but it made little difference to us, as people were unfailingly kind and patient, even to the point of leading us to a destination in their car or on their bike, and walking out of their way to take us to place we had a hard time finding.

Here are two of my reports; I did not write one after my last trip, a few months ago (spent in Baslicata, the Salento, near Ugento, and in Savelletri) but am happy to respond to any questions on those areas as well.


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