What You Need to Know About Puglia
Is Puglia worth a visit? Until very recently, my answer would have been “absolutely”. The heel of The Italian boot was, for a while, one of my favorite parts of the country.
That changed quite dramatically on my last visit there, for reasons that I’ll explain throughout this article. I often pinched myself while driving, and not in a good way. “Could I have imagined how amazing Puglia was? “
To be clear, I won’t go so far as to advise you against visiting Puglia. However, I will share some sincere reasons why I might not stay there again in the future, and I hope you will ponder them.
Why I fell in love with Puglia
For a long time I insisted that Puglia was worth a visit, even when friends and colleagues told me otherwise. The first time I traveled there in 2013 my trip was absolutely wonderful. After starting in Otranto with its paradisiacal beaches, I headed south to Santa Maria di Leuca, bathed in sunshine, returning to the walled seaside town of Gallipoli, where I left at least a few pieces of my heart.
Thinking back to my trip, of course, there were a lot of flaws. I didn’t have a lot of money at the time, which meant I mostly traveled by bus and had to forgo the best hotels and restaurants in Puglia. In addition, my photography skills at the time left a lot to be desired; my memories are more convincing than most of the photos I have taken. My recent return to Puglia suggests that my mind was just as imperfect at capturing images as my old camera, however.
5 reasons why Puglia is overrated
Getting around is a nightmare
When I returned to Puglia in 2021, I assumed having a rental car would make getting around the area easier – how wrong I was! Besides the fact that several places I wanted to visit were inaccessible by car (more on this in a moment), speed limits and other deterrents in most towns and villages negated most of the benefits that driving would have. otherwise brought.
Many amazing places are off-limits
The beaches were most of the reasons I once considered Puglia to be worth a visit. However, many of my favorites in Otranto (meaning almost everywhere outside the city’s main beaches) are now private, either trapped behind resort walls or behind paid parking lots and cabins. ‘Entrance. Guess it’s petty to bemoan this – nothing good stays free for long – but it makes me wonder why I would come back to Puglia again.
I feel like there was a time, maybe around 2015 or 2016, when literally every travel blogger besides me was singing the praises of Matera. Now Matera is great – it’s one of the oldest cities in the world, after all – but it’s not the end of Europe, or even Italy. And while average travelers aren’t as plugged into travel bloggers as I am, the overexposure lessens the impact that a trip to Puglia might otherwise have.
High prices, low value
Low prices have never been a factor I have found Puglia to be worth visiting. The region has always been as expensive as Rome Where Florence, who stung a lot more when I was 28 than at 36. At the same time, given the grievances I have voiced in the previous paragraphs, the relatively high prices you pay to travel to Puglia seem to sting even more, making it seem even lower in value in comparison.
It is not all that
Before I arrived in Alberobello in mid-September 2021, a friend of mine from Italy warned me that the city would overwhelm me – she was not wrong. While the iconic trulli the houses were cute – they were gorgeous at sunset – I saw what she meant. Puglia, taken as part of your trip to Italy, is charming but not incomparable. It is an additional attractive place to see, but not essential for understanding the country.
How many days do you need in Puglia?
Assuming my 2021 travel report didn’t totally dissuade you from visiting Puglia, I would recommend spending at least 3-4 days here. If you take your time you might be able to find your way around some of the inconveniences I encountered on my trip home, admittedly flash. On the other hand, you don’t want to stay too long – if you don’t like Puglia, every extra day you spend will feel like torture.
The point is, if you think Puglia is worth a visit, you can always come back in the future. (However, I wouldn’t recommend waiting eight years, lest you come back jaded and devastated like I did). Spending two days in Salento (i.e. southern Puglia) and then devoting a day each to Alberobello and Matera seems to be the recipe for success, at least as much success as possible here.
Other FAQs on trips to Puglia
Why is Puglia the most famous?
Puglia, as far as it is known, is known for the trulli houses of Alberobello, the ancient town of Matera and to have some of the restaurants and beach hotels. It is home to the best beaches in Italy. While there are relatively good vineyards and wine, I personally find the media to suggest this is dramatic and over-the-top ‘the next Tuscany’.
Which is better, Sicily or Puglia?
This comparison is a bit unfair, given that Sicily is a massive island (and was an independent kingdom, for most of its history) and Puglia is a medium-sized, poorly demarcated peninsula. Indeed, I find Sicily to be much more of an autonomous destination, from its unique towns and villages, to iconic natural landscapes like Mount Etna, to culinary delights like Arancini and caponata.
The bottom line
Is Puglia worth a visit? I’ll let you decide the answer to this question. However, if you’re heading for really high expectations because of something you’re reading online, I suggest adjusting them. The first visits to Puglia certainly impressed me. However, I now wonder if this was due to Puglia’s inherent status as one of the the most beautiful places in Italy, or if my relative inexperience with travel the last few times I was there made me see the region with rose-colored glasses.