One week in Puglia (Apulia) with Kids: A complete itinerary
Updated: Feb 22
Puglia (or Apulia) is a beautiful region in Italy that is popular with Italian families but is still relatively untainted by international tourism efforts, so it feels like a little hidden gem. It's been on our list since seeing pictures of it's beautiful landscapes.
Located in the Southern heel of Italy and bordered by the Adriatic, Ionian seas and Mediterranean seas, the region has a lengthy coastline that hosts stunning beaches with turquoise waters. Because of it's location, the weather here is relatively warm all year round compared to the rest of Italy, which indulges the perfect temperatures for it's widely famed farming efforts. In the area you will find up to 60 million olive trees for olive oil production, ample cheese (burrata originates from here), wine, tomatoes, artichokes, aubergines, lamb and wheat.
We braced ourselves not just for a cultural excursion of its unique fairytale like towns and villages but also a culinary adventure!
I first learnt about Puglia and it's neighbouring region Basilicata from popular movie scenes. 'No time to die' was filmed in Matera and 'Pinnochio' in Polignano a Mare. As such a large diverse region with so many beautiful little towns to visit, it is a perfect retreat for families and couples alike.
Getting to Puglia
There are two international airports in Puglia: Bari and Brindisi. Your choice for arrival will be highly dependent on your itinerary although they are just two hours apart. I definitely advise renting a car in Puglia as there are so many towns you will want to visit and driving is the easiest way to make the region accessible. From London Puglia is just a short 2 hour direct flight away via British Airways.
A 7 Day Itinerary
We chose our towns based on their uniqueness and wanted to intermix our holiday with some downtime.
We arrived in Bari and planned our visit to the towns of Savelletri, Monopoli, Poligano a Mare, Alberobello and Mattera.
Our stay was at two hotels, the first located in Savelletri di Fasano, where we focused on unwinding and relaxing. We used our second base as a base for exploration of the remaining towns on our itinerary.
The famous Borgo Egnazia, a man-made fortified village, was our based for the first part of the stay where we indulged in the resort and explored the delightful area of Savelletri di Fasano.
During the second half of the stay, we moved to the beautiful Masseria Il Meligrano in Monopoli and used this as a base for exploration of different towns.
Savelletri di Fasano
Savelletri is a tiny idyllic village that is part of the town of Fasano and sits on the Adriatic coastline. It is an ideal place for a relaxed family or couples vacation, we totally loved it! With a slow pace, there are plenty of beach and sea activities to indulge in, including diving and snorkelling, and lots of delicious seafood.
Most of the Puglian resorts or farms called Masserias that are now converted into beautiful resorts for seaside holidays, are dotted along this area. So, if you are seeking a more relaxed holiday ocean-centric holiday, but want to absorb what Puglia has to offer, this is the place to be. In Summer the area is packed to the brim with Italian and European tourists striving to get as close to the lidos as they can, and bookings at the masserias go very quickly, talking to the popularity of this area. Many of the beaches are sandy with wonderful beach clubs and are very child-friendly.
As the region is filled with olive groves, there is the opportunity to observe how olive oil is produced and some hotels also run very authentic pasta making courses from Italian nonnas (grandmothers). Kids will also love a visit Fasano Zoo and Safari Park or see the Roman ruins at Scavi D’Egnazia.
Sitting on Puglia's Adriatic coast around 30km south of Bari, Monopoli is a lovely town for a day trip. Monopoli's history has been influenced by its east-facing position and its fortified sea-front walls and castle lay in tribute to its tales. It's a fairly condensed town that is easy to navigate and walk around with kids.
There is much to see in this beautiful little town including the Piazza XX Settembre (the location of a colourful street market), the cathedral and then head down towards the sea front towards the sea-front promenade, complete the immaculate Church of Santa Maria della Zaffira, a cannon-mounted bastion and the impressively robust Charles V Castle, built in 1552. The view from the top of the castle is absolutely wonderful.
Once you pass through the castle archway, you will arrive in the port where you will find fishermen unloading the day's catch. It hosts a beautiful little beach with calm turquoise waters for a quick dip if you fancy and definitely stop for a gelato.
Polignano a Mare
Perched atop a 20 metre-high limestone cliff above the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic, you will find the unique town of Polignano a Mare. It's easy to allow yourself to get lost here with it's charming winding streets, beautiful old churches and a gorgeous blue flag stony beach with crystal clear waters flanked by two white cliffs - postcard perfection! It's such an easy town to navigate with kids, so we spent a day here (and even returned!) as it offers all the right ingredients for a perfect day out.
The origins of this enchanting place date back to the 4th century BC. Polignano is famous for cliff diving and in Summer the little beach is packed to the brim There are panoramic terraces dotted around the town which offer breathtaking views of the Adriatic sea.
The piece de resistance is it's picture perfect Cala Monachile beach with its tall white cliffs and turquoise water. In Summer, it is the draw to this beautiful coastline and is the mascot for Puglia's gorgeous coastline.
Located in the Valle D'Itria, you will find a fairy-tale like town with rows of trulli, the famed conical shaped houses of Puglia, along a steep hills that that then merge with rolling countrysides producing olive oil, white wine and capacollo ham.
We spent a half a day walking this UNESCO World Heritage town and taking in the history. These oldest surviving limescale trulli date back to the 16th century.
There are two areas to primarily see. The first is Monti which is is the larger and more picturesque areas. However, it is very popular with tourists so you will find many organised tours taking place here. Across the main road, on the alternate hill, is Aja Piccola. The area is smaller but it's less busy and commercialised.
It was intriguing to understand how families lives in these little homes so speak to the locals, many of whom own the shops housed in these trulli.
Technically not part of Apulia, Matera, a city in Basilicata, was considered “the shame of Italy” in the 1950s because of the extreme poverty and widespread disease in its ancient districts. The city, assumed to be the third-oldest in the world, had its residents relocated and tt lay empty for the first time in 10,000 years.
Yet today it one of the two 2019 European capitals of culture. Investment began trickling in from the late 1980s, and many of the families descendants came back to open hotels and restaurants. Matera got a boost when it became a world heritage site in 1993, and another when it became the star location in The Passion of the Christ then Daniel's Craig's Bond movie No Time To Die.
The Sassi or stone districts are Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano. These are a must see as theyare built on natural caves that have been excavated and extended. Pale limestone churches, monasteries, palaces and houses rises above the caves, all balanced on the edge of a ravine. By day, it is breathtaking; but lit up at dusk, you will find a romantic Matera that warms your heart.
Spend your time wondering around both Sassis and taking in the architecture, views and beauty of this unique place. Must sees are the Chiesa San Pietro, Chiesa San Madonna, and the Cathedral. It's easy to get lost here for a full day and an overnight stay might also be a conceivable option to truly immerse yourself in this amazing city.
I hope you have an amazing time if you visit Puglia. Its such a special part of the world and a perfect destination to have a balance of exploration and relaxation with a family.
The Kensington Diary