Imagine looking up at an adorable little town made up of white buildings perched on a hill, with olive groves beneath it. Or standing by an old fort gazing out at the blue ocean at dusk when the sky is lit up with the warmest of colours. Yes folks, this is a small taste of what Puglia, a region in the heel of Italy’s boot has in store for its lucky visitors.
Tiny stone houses they call Trulli nestled together in a charming fairytale town called Alberobello. And I’ll never forget setting foot in medieval Matera, feeling like I’d either a) stepped back in time or b) stumbled upon a movie set worthy of Game of Thrones. Woah, Puglia was all I’d hoped it would be and more.
Perhaps one of the most appealing things about this region is how different each and every town and city is.
We’ve been to Tuscany, and we adored it, but many of the towns are all a similar style. In Puglia, you go from rugged destinations perched on the side of a cliff, to Insta-worthy hilltop towns and ohh so pretty seaside towns.
We’ve just got back from our honeymoon in Puglia, Italy. And I’m 100% satisfied with our choice. We picked Italy because we love the food and wine, and to me, this is a huge part of a trip. And the last place you want to have crap food is on your honeymoon. Plus, I think, when you sit down together and enjoy a genuinely exquisite bottle of wine, you can celebrate a shared passion in a romantic setting.
I’d say the wine in Puglia surpassed all expectations. We even fell in love with a white wine and a sparkling white.
And the hubby doesn’t even usually like sparkling wine. I’ll never, ever enjoy a glass of prosecco like I have in the past after tasting how good this sparkling wine was.
On the whole I think we had some bad luck with restaurants, and had a few disappointing meals. But when we found decent places, they were excellent. The seafood on the coast is delicious and fresh, and generally, you can’t go wrong with a pasta.
There are so many different places to see in Puglia, and it’s quite easy to hop from one place to the next via car. The roads were easy to drive on (aside from the Italian way of driving, which was a bit of a free for all) and most of the places clearly signposted.
Here is the route we took – Bari Airport —> Fasano —> Alberobello —> Matera —> Trani —-> Monopoli (we also drove to Ostuni from Monopoli which was only about 40 mins). Of all these towns, our top faves were definitely Matera and Trani, I’ll explain the reasons why below.
So, here is the lowdown on the places we stayed and the best parts of our Italian honeymoon. Check it our if you’re looking for some inspo, or are planning to visit Puglia.
Masseria San Francesco – Fasano
Probably one of the most beautiful hotels we’ve stayed in. The grounds were manicured to perfection and the whole Masseria was beautifully decorated with flowers, hanging lanterns and stylish decor.
We had an amazing spa bath room with soothing lighting, and the beds were oh so comfy. It was our first night away and I slept like a baby. I think what I loved most about this place was the gorgeous natural looking pool surrounded by pretty rocks.
It was so refreshing and relaxing taking a dip in this awesome pool. I treated myself to an Aperol spritz and some fresh pasta by the pool. And don’t even get me started on the breakfast, it was epic.
We only spent a night here so we didn’t really get to explore Fasano much. But from what we could tell it’s the perfect location to get some downtime in the countryside.
Il Gaboletta – Alberobello
Alberobello is an adorable town made up of lots of little white stone Trulli houses. It’s very magical and fascinating, and definitely worth a visit. But you only really need to spend an afternoon or a day here at most.
Head into the main Trulli streets, but try to spend some time in the UNESCO site which is less touristy. Here you’ll find authentic local houses and it’s a lot quieter. There’s also a pretty spectacular viewing spot near the heritage site where you can snap a photo of the Trulli dotted across the horizon. It’s particularly mesmerising at sunset.
We found an amazing ice cream shop at the top of one of the main Trulli streets called Martinucci Pasticceria. I think it’s the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted. I had white chocolate pistachio flavour and it was like a sweet flavour explosion in my mouth. Yummm. We ended up going here both nights for dessert.
Our hotel, Il Gaboletta was very pleasant. If you stay in the centre of Alberobello, the chances are you’ll be squashed into a teeny tiny Trulli house. But because Il Gaboletta was a fifteen-minute walk outside the town, we had loads of outdoor space. There’s a huge pool and the grounds are packed with character. Our room was still quite small, but quaint and the service was good.
About twenty minutes from Alberobello you’ll find an adorable town called Locorotondo. It’s very authentic and fairly untouched by tourism. Here you can watch the locals go about their daily routine and wander the streets of this white town. It sits on a hilltop and as you can see below, looks pretty charming from afar. Defintiely worth a visit if only for the photo opp.
La Finestra sul campanile – Matera
Oh Matera, what an absolute gem. I think this place is going to grow in popularity, especially seeing as it has been named as the European Capital of Culture 2019. It was quite peaceful when we went, but I could see the beginnings of big groups of tourists starting to appear.
I think it’s honestly one of the most impressive towns I’ve ever seen. Tucked into the side of hilltops with caves built into the landscape, it feels like you’ve gone back to a completely different era. As soon as you set foot in the old town the place transforms into a medieval maze.
We were lucky enough to stay in a fabulous apartment with what appeared to be the best view in the entire town. Seriously. We walked around and I don’t think we found a better view of the centre of town. We were blown away when we first arrived and couldn’t quite take it all in.
And to top things off, we were treated to our very own firework display. Well, a display that was happening in the distance that we could watch from our balcony. It was an epic display, with loud bangs and mesmerising lights whizzing around the sky.
Plus, another magical thing about this location is we could sit outside and listen to the bell tower chiming away, which added to the town’s authenticity and charm.
Whilst in Matera, we had a private chef come and do a pasta making class and cook a meal for us. I’m so glad we did it here, we could not have picked a better location. Domenico from Puglia Kitchen was an absolute delight – I highly recommend booking this experience if you’re in Puglia. I’ll be writing all about our experience in a separate blog post so watch this space.
If you want to be able to appreciate Matera from afar, in all its glory, there’s a panoramic viewpoint outside of the city. Here you can see how it’s sculpted into the hillside and take some fab shots. We drove there on the way to our next location but you can book tours to see it.
La Bella Trani – Trani
Next, we made our way to a little coastal fishing port called Trani. I picked it because it seemed like a less commercialised and more authentic version of towns like Monopoli. And I was right. It’s absolutely charming.
There’s a small marina and the little town/village is full of restaurants and bars. It’s certainly a lot more upbeat than I expected it to be. The buildings around the older part of the town are absolutely beautiful. Trani cathedral is breathtaking. When we passed it they were prepping for a wedding. And boy did it look incredible.
We had an amazing four-course meal for around 30 euros each at Diavoletto Epicureo restaurant. Giulia Ristorante & Bottega was in a lovely romantic setting, and the food was pretty good too. If you just want a cheap but great local pizza, try Lievito 72.
We stayed at La Bella Trani, and the service was brilliant. They took care of our every need and made us feel right at home. Their small hotel is located right on the beach front, and it’s got a roof terrace where we enjoyed several colourful sunsets whilst sipping on a glass of vino. I loved the waterfall shower and mood lighting in our room. I really enjoyed cycling along the coastal path into town each evening. Overall a wonderful place to stay.
Polignano a Mere
On our way to Monopoli, we stopped off at the infamous Polignano a Mare. You’ll see this place pop up on postcards and in magazines whenever Puglia is mentioned. I decided not to stay there as I thought it was too much of an obvious place to go. I always like to find the little gems like Trani and Matera.
Polignano was pretty cool, and the main cove area where they recently hosted the Red Bull cliff diving championships is rather impressive. Though it’s a cobbled beach and it’s quite hard to find a spot. The sea is very clear and it’s fun swimming out to the caves. I’d say it’s definitely worth spending an afternoon here.
Il Sole – Monopoli
To round up our trip, we spent a few days in Monopoli. We stayed at Il Sole, a luxury b & b with a soothing, icy pool. It’s very peaceful here and we enjoyed our spa bath. Monopoli itself is lovely, it’s a town tucked inside medieval walls located right on the coast. There are plenty of restaurants and streets to wander around, and it’s particularly pretty at night time. Though personally, we preferred Trani.
We went on a trip to the nearby caves in Castellana Grotte. You can go on a 50 minute or 90-minute tour of the lengthy cave system and learn all about the rock formations. These caves were only discovered fairly recently, and they’re rather fascinating. After visiting the caves, because it was a cloudy day we decided to go exploring elsewhere and ended up in Ostuni. It’s about a 40-minute drive from Monopoli.
Ostuni is a majestic hilltop town in the countryside, not too far from the coast. This is the place to buy olive oil, there’s an olive oil shop on practically every corner. We’d quite like to have stayed here for a night to get to know it a little better. I’d definitely put Ostuni on your Puglia to do list, it looks quite magical from afar.