Puglia, Basilicata, and Calabria

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Puglia, Basilicata, and Calabria - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Bari Vecchia and Via Sparano

    By day, you can lose yourself in the maze of white alleyways in Bari Vecchia, the old town stretching along the harbor, now humming with restaurants, cafés, and crafts shops. Residents tend to leave their doors wide open, so you catch a glimpse into the daily routine of southern Italy: matrons hand-rolling orecchiette, their grandchildren home from school for the midday meal, and workers busy patching up centuries-old arches and doorways. Back in the new town, join the evening passeggiata on pedestrian-only Via Sparano, then, when night falls, saunter out among the outdoor bars and restaurants in Piazza Mercantile, past Piazza Ferrarese at the end of Corso Vittorio Emanuele.

    Via Sparano, Bari, Apulia, 70122, Italy
  • 2. Basilica di San Nicola

    The 11th-century Basilica di San Nicola, overlooking the sea in the città vecchia (old city), houses the bones of St. Nicholas, the inspiration for Santa Claus. His relics were stolen from Myra, in present-day Turkey, by a band of sailors from Bari and are now buried in the crypt. Because St. Nicholas is also the patron saint of Russia, the church draws both Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox pilgrims; souvenir shops in the area display miniatures of the Western saint and his Eastern counterpart side by side.

    Largo Abate Elia 13, Bari, Apulia, 70122, Italy
  • 3. Beaches of Gallipoli

    Ample swimming and clean, fine-grained sand make Gallipoli's beaches a good choice for families. The 5-km (3-mile) strand reaches from Punta Pizzo to Lido San Giovanni and is divided among a series of bathing establishments, all of which provide sun beds, umbrellas, showers, changing facilities, and snack bars. Parco Gondar hosts a fun fair and music events. Water-sports equipment can be bought or rented at the waterfront shops in town. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (fee); showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: partiers; snorkeling; sunset; swimming; walking; windsurfing.

    Gallipoli, Apulia, 73014, Italy
  • 4. Capo Rizzuto—Spiagge Rosse

    If practicalities and time allow, make the short trip toward Capo Rizzuto just down the coast for some of the most fabulous bathing and snorkeling in the region. Among its bays and protected marine reserve waters is Spiagge Rosse, whose orange-red sand beach and crystalline waters make it the most alluring on this stretch of coast. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: snorkeling; swimming.

    Contrada Fratte, Crotone, Calabria, 88841, Italy
  • 5. Castel del Monte

    Crowning an isolated hill 1,778 feet above sea level in the heart of the Alta Murgia National Park, this enigmatic octagonal fortress, built by Frederick II in the first half of the 13th century, has puzzled historians and researchers for centuries. Rooms are arranged in a seemingly illogical sequence through eight towers around a central courtyard. Recent interpretations suggest it was an elaborate cultural center conceived by Frederick to study various scientific disciplines of the Western and the Arabic worlds. Umberto Eco used it as his inspiration for riddles in The Name of the Rose.

    On signposted minor road, Andria, Apulia, 76123, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €7, €10 when there\'s an exhibition
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  • 6. Cattedrale

    The stunning pinkish-white 11th-century cathedral, considered one of the finest in Puglia, is built on a spit of land jutting into the sea. Dedicated to St. Nicholas the Pilgrim, it was a favorite place of prayer for crusaders embarking for war in the Holy Land. Its lofty bell tower can be visited, and guided tours arranged by request at the nearby Museo Diocesiano and via the website calendar slots; the views are worth the climb.

    Piazza Duomo, Trani, Apulia, 76125, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, bell tower €5
  • 7. Duomo

    Dominating a vast square concealed by a maze of alleyways, Lecce's magnificent cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta never fails to take visitors by surprise. The goal when building the 17th-century structure was to stun the faithful with a vision of opulence and power. Constructed in rosy local stone, the church is flanked by the ornate Bishops' Palace (1694), the seminary, whose first-floor Museum of Sacred Art (MuDAS) displays papier-mâché sculptures alongside brooding Caravaggio-esque paintings. Adding to this melodious architectural scene is the 236-foot-high bell tower, which dominates the centro storico skyline. 

    Piazza Duomo, Lecce, Apulia, 73100, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Duomo €6; LeccEcclesiae ticket €9.
  • 8. Duomo

    Matera's splendidly restored cathedral, dedicated to the Madonna della Bruna and Sant'Eustachio, was built in the late 13th century and occupies a prominent position between the two Sassi. Lavishly decorated, it has a typical Puglian Romanesque flavor; inside, there's a recovered fresco, probably painted in the 14th century, showing scenes from the Last Judgment. On the Duomo's facade the figures of Sts. Peter and Paul stand on either side of a sculpture of Matera's patron, the Madonna della Bruna.

    Piazza Duomo, Matera, Basilicate, 75100, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €1
  • 9. Marasusa

    The most famous of Calabria's beaches is backed by sheer cliffs topped by Tropea's stacked buildings—seemingly growing out of the rock. Beyond this popular vacation destination stretch sits the gleaming island promontory sanctuary of Santa Maria dell’Isola. For bathers, snorkelers, and frolickers the light-hued sand is quite fine underfoot and the greenish-blue waters are wonderful. Adding to the drama is the smoking cone of island volcano Stromboli on the western horizon. Amenities: lifeguards; parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: snorkeling; surfing; swimming; windsurfing.

    Via Lungomare, Tropea, Calabria, 89861, Italy
  • 10. MArTA -- Museo Archeologico Nazionale Taranto

    Taranto's outstanding National Archaeological Museum (MArTA) occupies the historic premises of the ex-monastery of San Pasquale. The museum dates from 1887, and its collection of Greek and Roman antiquities is considered to be one of the most important in Italy. Admire the rich cache of tomb goods, including magnificent gold jewelry, objects in ivory and bone, and rare colored glass. A display of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim funeral epitaphs, dating from the 4th century, demonstrate the peaceful coexistence of the three religions in this multicultural Mediterranean hub from the Byzantine era to the Middle Ages.

    Via Cavour 10, Taranto, Apulia, 74100, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €8, Mon. group visits only (minimum 8)
  • 11. Museo e Parco Archeologico Nazionale di Capo Colonna

    Il Santuario di Hera Lacinia (Sanctuary of Hera Lacinia) was once one of the most important shrines of Magna Graecia. Only one column remains standing, but the site (known as Capo Colonna because of that single pillar) occupies a stunning position on a promontory 11 km (7 miles) south of the town of Crotone. The ruins are part of a vast park, which also contains a well-appointed museum documenting finds from prehistory to the Roman era. The sanctuary itself, which dates from the 7th century BC, is fenced off for safety reasons, but a walkway allows viewing.

    Via Michele Di Donato, Crotone, Calabria, 88900, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed Mon.
  • 12. Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia

    Reggio Calabria is home to one of southern Italy's most important archaeological museums. Its prize exhibit, of course, is the two ancient Greek statues known as the Bronzi di Riace, which were discovered by an amateur deep-sea diver off Calabria's Ionian Coast in 1972. After a lengthy but necessary conservation effort, these 5th-century-BC statues of two Greek warriors, thought to be the work of either Pheidias or Polykleitos, now take pride of place in their special temperature-controlled room, complete with earthquake-resistant bases. 

    Piazza de Nava 26, Reggio Calabria, Calabria, 89123, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €8, Closed Mon.
  • 13. Parco Nazionale della Sila—La Fossiata

    Calabria's granite plateau of Sila National Park is a wonderful place for lovers of the wild outdoors. Rising to nearly 7,000 feet at its highest peak, Botte Donato, the park was inaugurated in 2002, with forests, valleys, and rivers home to 175 species of vertebrates, including the park's now protected symbol, il lupo, the wolf. The forestry commission office in nearby Cupone can provide tourist information, maps, and assistance, such as arranging guides.

    Via Nazionale, Camigliatello, Calabria, 87052, Italy
    0984-537109-Forestry Commission Office

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Office closed weekends
  • 14. Santa Maria dell'Isola

    The sanctuary of Santa Maria dell'Isola is the symbol of Tropea, and it is easy to see why. Perched high on a rocky promontory and accessible only by a winding flight of stone steps cut into the cliff side, it dominates the sea view from Piazza Ercole, the main town square. Believed to date from the 4th century AD, it has been rebuilt many times and took its present form in the 18th century, after it was damaged by an earthquake. The inside of the church is unadorned, but visitors can climb up to the roof to admire the splendid view or wander through the pleasant garden set on the rocks behind the building. The beach below the rock is considered to be among the most beautiful in Italy.

    Largo Marina dell'Isola, Tropea, Calabria, 89861, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Church free, garden €3
  • 15. Sassi di Matera

    Matera's Sassi are piled chaotically atop one another down the sides of a steep ravine. Some date from Paleolithic times, when they were truly just caves. Over time, they were transformed into enclosed houses. In the 1960s, most inhabitants moved into ugly apartment blocks. The 1993 designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site, however, resulted in a cleanup and gentrification, with hotels, bars, and restaurants taking over many structures. From the upper town, the Strada Panoramica walk offers stellar views of the two areas known as Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano.

    Sasso Caveoso, Matera, Basilicate, 75100, Italy
    View Tours and Activities
  • 16. Storica Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario

    Head to this house-museum in the Sasso Caveoso district for moving insights into what peasant life was like in a limestone cave dwelling. The cramped quarters are filled with traditional utensils and furniture, the belongings of its last inhabitants, who left in 1956 as part of a forced relocation of some 15,000 Sassi residents to apartment blocks. With its rainwater cistern, hand loom, storage niches, and tiny kitchen area and other living spaces (for both the family and their animals), the cave also demonstrates the ingenuity that made living here possible.

    Vicinato di vico Solitario 11, Matera, Basilicate, 75100, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €5
  • 17. Torre Guaceto

    The transparent water and chalky sand of this marine reserve extend 12 miles along the coast and 4 miles inland, where the wetlands are a haven for wildlife. Those seeking a spectacular walk in an unspoiled expanse head to the Spiaggia delle Conchiglie, which consists of tiny white shells. Note: it’s protected and off-limits to bathers. A shuttle bus operates from the main car park. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (fee); toilets. Best for: snorkeling; sunrise; sunset; swimming; walking.

    Riserva Naturale di Torre Gauceto, Ostuni, Apulia, 72012, Italy
    0831-989976-for info and guided visits
  • 18. Alberobello–Martina Franca Road

    The trulli in Alberobello itself are impressive, but the most scenic concentration of these unique conical structures is along a 15-km (9-mile) stretch of the SS172 (Alberobello–Martina Franca) through the tranquil Valle d'Itria. Stop to visit some of the area's vineyards and oil mills—many of which have a welcoming open-door policy—surrounded by vast groves of ancient gnarled olive trees.

    Alberobello, Apulia, Italy
  • 19. Basilica di San Martino

    A splendid example of southern Italian Baroque architecture, the basilica contains rows of lavishly decorated altars in polychrome marbles, as well as treasures like the silver statues of the two patron saints, San Martino and Santa Comasia. To the right of the main altar note the illuminated niche with the sculpture of the Madonna Pastorella as a shepherd girl in a gown of cloth-of-gold, defending Christ's flock from demons. 

    Via Vittorio Emanuele 30, Martina Franca, Apulia, 74015, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €3 museum; €2 for guided tour, Museum closed Mon.
  • 20. Cala Jannita

    Maratea's dramatic rock topography is best experienced from this fab little bay and its Spiaggia Nera (Black Beach) with sparkling limpid waters and striking dark, volcanic pebbles. Bring sandals or shoes as it's a tricky approach. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (fee); showers; toilets. Best for: swimming. For a kayak adventure around Maratea's beaches and sea caves visit www.flymaratea.it, which also offers guided treks for all abilities.

    Maratea, Basilicate, 85046, Italy

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