7 adventures to go on in Puglia

Puglia is such a wonderful region of Italy; far enough off the beaten track for it to feel like a real Italian adventure, but yet established enough for it to cater wonderfully for the tourists who do make it there. Located in the south of Italy, you’ll find beautiful weather for most of the year — and a fantastic coastline just begging for afternoon walks.

Go on a bike tour

Most of the major towns and cities across Italy offer bike tours, and Puglia is no different. Grab two wheels in Bari or Lecce and explore the streets you might not normally wander down, and head further out of the city to the neighbourhoods which you might otherwise overlook.

Admire the Tree of Life

In Otranto’s Norman cathedral, you’ll find the 800 year old ‘Tree of Life’ mosaic, embedded into the floor. A sprawling beauty, the design is arranged like a regular family tree — only perched on two elephants. Spread throughout the branches you’ll find an array of images depicting Biblical scenes, as well as mythological stories such as King Arthur and Norse Gods.

Go trulli hunting

Small stone huts with conical roofs, trullo are found along the Itria valley — but you’ll find the most in Alberobello (where they have been a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996). Characterised by their whitewashed stone walls, cone roofs and freestanding construction, many trullo have symbols painted on the roofs, usually with religious or astrological connotations. If you’re travelling with kids, they make a fun treasure map activity.

Explore the Castellana Caves

These spectacular caves have taken shape over the past 90 million years — and you can take a 3km guided tour through them to view the stalactites, stalagmites and fossils all contained within. They’re one of the most awe-inspiring natural wonders of Puglia — if not the whole of Italy. If you’re heading there in July/August, you’ll also find an astronomy observatory located in the same complex.

Taste locally produced olive oil

The region of Puglia produces more olive oil than any other, and accounts for around 40% of Italy’s total olive oil production. Many of the local olive oil farms open their doors to tourists, offering tours, tastings and lunches made from their homegrown olives.

Wander the Old Town of Polignano

Polignano is one of those picture-perfect towns you’ll have definitely seen cropping up on social media or travel guides. From whitewashed buildings to an incredibly picturesque harbour, it’s an area you’ll want to get lost in for half a day or so.

Go dolphin watching

Dolphin watching is a fantastic family-friendly experience, and from Taranto you can head out with a crew of scientific researchers as part of the Jonian Dolphin Conservation. You’ll get to experience what its like to be a marine researcher, and help the team monitor the dolphins and sea conditions as part of their incredible research programme.

Jo Mackay is Owner of Bookings For You. Bookings For You is a company offering apartment and villa rentals in Italy and France.

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Comments (11)

  1. Carolyn says:

    The Tree of Life in Otranto looks utterly fascinating. How do you get to decipher all the mythogy and biblical significance? Does the Cathedral offer tours (in English)? Are there tour guides for the whole of Otranto who would drop into the cathedral as part of the overall tour?

    • James says:

      I totally agree with paying for a good guide. I used to think that there was no need, I could use the Travel Guides. You get so much more from a place when you have an expert showing you round and bringing a bit of local colour to his words. It used to be embarrassing to get home and have someone ask me, “Did you see X” and then I had to admit that I had totally missed it.

    • Jo Mackay says:

      Hi. Yes, there are certainly tour guides who can provide you with a tour of Otranto to include a visit to the cathedral. Having a tour guide really will add so much to your visit.

  2. Kev says:

    I’d love to do the Dolphin spotting. When’s the best time of year? When’s your best chance of seeing them?

  3. Julia says:

    I’m a big fan of Puglia. We’ve had a couple of touring holidays there some time ago and loved it. We’ve never made it to Polignano. It looks beautiful. An apartment in the centre would be perfect. Easy access to the restaurants in the evenings. I’m always up early so I like to find a cafe, have a coffee and watch a town wake-up.

    • Jo Mackay says:

      I agree. I love finding accommodation within walking distance of shops and restaurants. Having a base in the centre of a town or village can also work really well to soak up the local culture and experience how to live as a ‘local’. The Red Bull cliff diving championships have been held in Polignano for the last few years. It’s definitely worth timing a trip to coincide with this event.

  4. Caroline Bartlett says:

    Is it too early to be thinking of Summer Holidsys in Europe? Is dreaming of a villa in Puglia in November a crime – like putting up your Christmas tree up too early?

    When I was a child I remember that Boxing Day on ITV was full of holiday adverts and I used to get more excited about those than all the adverts for perfumes, Babycham and chocolates. Where have all the TV holiday adverts gone?

    • Jo Mackay says:

      It is never too early to be thinking of Summer holidays! Plus those that plan early get the best choice of accommodation! Do let us know if we can tempt you with any of our villas and apartments in the region!

  5. Shierly F. says:

    Oh, I’ve seen the Tree of Life mosaic. It’s a beautiful piece of 12th century art. And I’ve never seen an entire floor done in this way. It’s really amazing. From what I’ve heard the mosaic alludes to Christian salvation in the depiction of Samson and the lion, as well as Jonah and the whale.

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