From glamping near the battlefields of Gallipoli to waking up in a medieval castle, you’ll find plenty of unusual accommodations in this magical region at the heel of Italy’s boot.
In Puglia, southern sun drenches whitewashed buildings and a maze of cobblestone streets and alleys lead to the Adriatic Sea. While journeying in the footsteps of Roman emperors through one of Italy’s most atmospheric regions, forgo a run-of-the-mill hotel for one of these unique accommodations that celebrate Puglia’s rich traditions.
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A Historic Apartment in Old Town
Skip the hotels and stay like a local in an adorable apartment above all the action in Bari’s old town! The forward-thinking capital city of the Puglia region has retained many traditional apartments scattered amongst the modern. These typically lie in the city’s oldest section, once an important port for the Roman Empire, and have their own private courtyards. Once you get to your new home away from home, explore the shops and restaurants of Bari’s old town on foot.
An Iconic Trulli
You can actually spend the night in one of the strangely beautiful, ancient cone-shaped structures that the entire Puglia region is known for. The construction of trulli dates all the way back to the prehistoric age, and the oldest standing structures in Italy were built in the 14th century and are a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are many trulli options in Alberobello, but Le Alcove stands out. You may be surprised to find luxurious details like chandeliers and modern art inside the limestone walls of these small, stark structures.
INSIDER TIPTraditional trulli are quite small and may only have small (or no) windows, so keep in mind that they are most comfortable and cozy for a single traveler or couple.
A Masseria in the Countryside
Agriturismo is extremely popular in Italy, and it refers to the practice of staying in renovated farmhouses where one can enjoy the slower pace of life. The Puglian countryside is scattered with old farm estates or masserias that have been in the same families for generations, and many of these families use agriturismo as a way to supplement their income from farming. At Posta Santa Croce, you can help out a family farm while picking your daily snack from fruit trees and learning to make orecchiette, the region’s traditional pasta, with farm-fresh ingredients.
INSIDER TIPMany farm stays provide food and/or have small restaurants, but you will probably want a car to be able to dine in and explore surrounding areas since these farm stays are in rural areas.
A Medieval Castle
Who doesn’t dream of living in a castle, if even for a night? Dimora Storica Torre Del Parco was a medieval stronghold built-in 1419 with fortified walls, a huge tower, a chapel, a courthouse, and even a prison. Today, the castle still has original frescoes in some rooms, plenty of antique furniture, and sprawling fairytale gardens. Also, you can still read some engravings from prisoners on the walls, which is creepy yet cool.
A Glamping Tent
Glamping has its roots in African safaris, but the coastline near the island city of Gallipoli does it pretty well, too. Imagine basking in the Southern Italian sunshine and enjoying the natural wonders of the Mediterranean, and then coming back to a flush toilet, too! Fish, swim, and bird-watch right out the front “door” of luxury canvas tents at Torre Sabea that have real beds, pendant lights, and even dressers. Who says you can’t have the best of both worlds? This unusual way to spend a night is perfect for families or for anyone who yearns for the summer camp days.
A Former Convent
Converted convents that now function as apartments or hotels can be found all throughout Italy, and they make sense: rooms that once housed nuns or monks are usually on the smaller side but sometimes include rich, authentic details like original wood beam ceilings that are hundreds of years old. San Paolo Al Convento is a converted 15th-century monastery that looks out on Trani’s harbor, where you can catch up on your reading and sip an apertitivo from the small balconies with views of the nearby cathedral.
Although lesser-known than some other Italian wine regions like Chianti or Barolo, Puglia boasts some of the best bang-for-your-buck wines in Italy. The sunny, dry weather produces excellent full-bodied reds made from local varietals such as Negroamaro, Primitivo, and Bombino Nero. Wake up to vineyard views and taste wines made in the traditional Puglian style at Vinilia, a “wine resort,” but don’t be scared off by the word “resort”—this is actually more like luxurious farm stay with unlimited wine tastings.
A Seagull’s Perch
WHERE: Polignano a Mare
A Mare means “at sea,” and Polignano a Mare couldn’t get any closer to being on the water. The whole tiny seaside town is perched on the edge of limestone cliffs, and it’s impossible not to get a bird’s eye view from just about every angle. The Grotta Palazzese features unique, original dwellings cut into the cliff’s stone and a restaurant that is entirely inside a cave. Nearby, you can watch brave locals show off impressive cliff diving acrobatics—the area has recently become world-famous for extreme cliff diving.
An Olive Farm
Taste native Ogliarola, Leccino, and Frantoio olive varietals and learn about southern Italy’s “liquid gold” at a traditional olive farm. Puglia produces 40% of Italy’s olive oil, and the family farms along its “olive road” often open their doors for tours, tastings, and sometimes even to stay the night. Olive groves at Masseria Nuova are centuries old, and their shade makes an excellent place to shelter from the Puglian sunshine while dipping homemade bread in olive oil made from the same original varietals that were once enjoyed by Romans.
A Whitewashed Lazaretto
Ostuni is famous for both white buildings that contrast the stark blue of the Adriatic Sea, and for its particularly confusing maze of cobbled streets, alleyways, arches, and dead-ends. During a plague outbreak in the 17th century, infected houses in this walled village were marked by white paint, and, miraculously, fewer plague outbreaks occurred near those marked. Locals attributed this to a miracle, and the town’s buildings have been monochromatic ever since! While you’re here, you can stay in one of those original marked buildings, punctuated by turquoise doors and fuchsia flowers that will hardly remind you of the Black Plague.