Explore Puglia: Be In It

Viewpoint of Matera and the Sassi cave dwellings | Ross Baker
Viewpoint of Matera and the Sassi cave dwellings | Ross Baker

Explore Puglia: Be In It

Take an Active Travel Holiday in one of Italy's Lesser Known Regions

This is our second in depth review in our Travel: Be In It series, following our Prague to Dresden Cycle: Be In It feature, and this time we’re featuring a region instead of a single trip.

Puglia is a region in southern Italy that forms the heel of Italy’s famous boot shape. Like many other regions in Italy, Puglia has a distinct look and feel. There are the iconic whitewashed hill towns and the long stretches of tranquil blue Mediterranean coastline (features which may remind you of the Greek islands).
Cyclist on waterfront in Otranto |  <i>Kate Baker</i> Rock formations on the Puglian coastline |  <i>Kate Baker</i> The old town citadel , Ostuni, Puglia, Italy. |  <i>Lesley Treloar</i>

There are five ways to explore Puglia your way with UTracks. You can walk or cycle, befriend like-minded travellers in a small group trip, or self guide your way around Puglia. 
At UTracks, recommending Puglia as an off the beaten track holiday is often at the top of our list because of the incredible traveller feedback. Many travellers describe a trip to Puglia as a variety of experiences and landscapes within a few days and often visit with no expectations of how enriching their holiday will be.

Four Reasons Why You Should Explore Puglia On An Active Holiday

Cyclist viewing the historic cave dwellings in the Sassi di Matera |  <i>Kate Baker</i>

1. Discover a part of Italy you’ve (probably) never heard of

On a trip to Italy it’s typical to go to Rome for the Colosseum and Roman ruins, Florence for Tuscany and everything Renaissance, Venice for incredible floating architecture, the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre for spectacular coastal views, and Pisa for a semi-sinking tower. 

But these are just a few of Italy’s 20 regions, and each of these has its own unique culture and highlights.

Take Puglia. It has some four million inhabitants and sits at the heel of Italy, bordering other Italian regions of Molise, Campania and Basilicata. The capital is Bari, while the most popular place for tourism is Lecce, nicknamed the ‘Florence of the South’, because of its remarkable beauty.

Top sights are the Grotte di Castellana, the most important cave system in Italy. Enjoy a guided visit of the site before reaching the "White cave", known as the "Wonder One". Then check into neighbouring Matera, which is in the Basilicata region, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1993 renowned for its historical centre.

Also, it’s pronounced Pool-lee-ah, not pug-lee-ah. Just saved you from some friendly laughs from the locals.

2. Puglia’s generally flat terrain makes it widely accessible for walkers and cyclists

Puglia’s coastline is longer than any other mainland Italian region. Given this, you’re never far from a refreshing dip in the cool turquoise waters of the Mediterranean.

Of the 5 trips UTracks operates in Puglia, we use our honest trip grading system to grade them between gentle to moderate levels of difficulty. Fortunately, the terrain is generally quite flat, although there are some slight hills. 

On the most physical cycle days, you can expect to pedal distances of 50-55km (31-34 miles) and this is almost always on asphalt roads. Traffic is almost non-existent in Puglia, except during the high holiday season. To comfortably explore Puglia on bike it requires a reasonable level of fitness to fully participate. You need only carry your camera and water bottle because your luggage is transported for you between hotels.
Matera 65 |  <i>Ross Baker</i>

For the walkers, exploring Puglia is classed as introductory to moderate with daily walks between 2-5 hours. You will walk 70km/43.5mi over 6 days (an average of 11.5km/7mi per day). The walks mostly follow rocky coastal footpaths, sometimes through low vegetation/bushes, mule tracks and footpaths and a few sections of secondary surfaced roads as you enter the villages/towns. Though the distances and elevation are generally short, some of the terrain can be rocky and the trail not always obviously visible. The emphasis is on keeping a steady pace with time to stop and take photos. You will need a reasonable level of fitness to participate fully in this holiday.

3. In Puglia, do as the Puglians do 

A trullo is a traditional house to the Itria Valley of Puglia. It’s a dry stone hut with a conical roof and looks a cross between a mud house and a haystack. These were historically used by labourers in need of some temporary housing. 
Cyclist passing a trulli house in Puglia |  <i>Kate Baker</i>

On the trips Cycle Puglia, Walking in Puglia and Puglia Guided Walk, the itinerary actually takes you to these iconic houses and hands you the key – it’s your accommodation for a couple of nights. This is often a traveller highlight because it’s an experience you can get nowhere else. And if you’re worried about your creature comforts, fear not; the trulli have been renovated to be comfortable for a modern traveller.
Trulli in the UNESCO town of Alberobello |  <i>Lesley Treloar</i>

4.  Discover the local food and wine

Food and wine is first class in Italy, and Puglia is no exception. 

In Puglia you can feast on locally produced ingredients such as mushrooms, eggplant, asparagus, artichokes and tomatoes. 

It’s known for its simple dishes and you’ll find plenty of tasty focaccia to drizzle with olive oil; round orechiette pasta to devour; and for dessert, a torta pasticciotto pie filled with almonds and figs.
Typical pastry from Puglia |  <i>Kate Baker</i>

Plus there’s a multitude of local cheeses that are marked by the EU as a protected designation of origin in Puglia.

For those active travellers who are partial to a vino at the end of a day’s exploring, you’ll be pleased to hear that in 2017 Puglia overtook Veneto as the largest wine producing region in Italy. The most well known wine they produce is the Primitivo di Manduria, so put that on your must try list when in Puglia.
Cyclist on the Puglian Coast |  <i>Kate Baker</i>

Have you been to Puglia and can attest to it deserving to be one of the premier destinations in Italy? Let us know in the comments.
Italy, Puglia, Cycling, Walking, Lecce, Travel Be In It, Active Travel

Comments (2)

Bernardo Bruno

There is a great mistake!! Matera is in Basilicata country NOT IN PUGLIA.

3 years ago

Thanks for your correction Bernardo! I've updated the article to reflect this detail. It's very important to visit Matera on a trip to Puglia - it's certainly a destination not to be missed.

3 years ago
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