Imagine sleepy Italian villages wafting with the simple herbs and spices of Italian cuisine. Or listening to the hypnotic lap of turquoise waters flirting with the perfectly aged exterior of Italy that comes alive under the summer sun. And falling in love with true Italian local culture far away from the typical tourist trail under the guise of the quintessential 16th-century Trullo. That’s Puglia, or Apulia in English.
You can find Puglia and its charm in the corner of Italy’s heel. This off-the-beaten-track destination is home to cities like Bari, Lecce, and Ostuni. It’s an Italian treasure that offers an experience for every kind of traveller from its history and traditions to its pristine outdoor draw from beaches and kite surfing to parks and hiking.
So when is the best time to visit this hidden gem? Although you can’t go wrong visiting Puglia throughout the year, the best time to visit this Italian region is in July when the weather is at its peak and the entire region comes alive with activities and festivals. Plus since it is still widely ignored by international tourists, the typical summer crowds are manageable.
Puglia in July is for drying tomatoes and sunbathing on the picturesque Ugento beaches because it’s typically the hottest month of the year for this Italian region.
Temperatures soar to about 30°C (85°F) by the end of the month, while the nights are generally a bit cooler sitting around 19°C (65°F) with the help of the nearby sea breeze. July 29 is typically the warmest day of the year and the best time to hit the many beaches that Puglia offers!
Since July is the hottest and driest month of the year, you can expect sunny skies and long days with only just around 24mm of rainfall. Although the occasional thunderstorm should be expected.
Plus with such warm weather, the Adriatic and Ionian sea offer perfect temperatures for a refreshing swim after a long day of exploring. July averages about 25°C (77°F), which is only one degree below August’s annual high.
How to Get There
There are two airports in the Puglia region. You will find Bari in the north, while Brindisi Airport is about two and a half hours south. Bari sits in the north, while Brindisi is about a two and a half-hour drive south. If you’re coming from the UK or anywhere else internationally, then the cheapest and most efficient tickets come from Bari, but Brindisi is significantly closer to the Salento subregion.
Are you travelling to Puglia from somewhere else in Italy? Then consider taking a train to Bari or Lecce where you can easily arrive from Rome or other popular Italian cities. From Rome, Bari is about a four-hour trip, while Lecce ranges from five to six hours depending on the time of year and delays. Trenitalia and ItaliaRail are two booking services that you can use to purchase tickets in advance for cheaper tickets.
And while you’re actually in this region, the best way to travel is by renting a car. Puglia does not have as vast of a public transportation system as diverse or as efficient as places like Rome, Florence or Milan. If you opt for public transportation, then there is a good chance you will end up on buses or trains for longer than necessary and miss out on the small intricacies of this region that make Puglia so special. Plus, renting a car from the airport or other vendors can be pretty cost-efficient! If you decide to rent a car, don’t forget about insurance.
Festivals and Events
One of the best reasons to visit Puglia in July is for all of the festivals and events that light up this region’s usually quiet alleys and city centres. If you happen to be in this area during July, then be sure to not miss these festivals and events that celebrate art, culture, heritage, and Italy.
Alberobello Light Festival
You have to go to Alberobello at the end of July to experience the Alberobello Light Festival. Every year the old Trulli town brightens under a twinkling moon with a display of lights that makes this town just as radiant at night as it is during the day. Last year, Alberobello celebrated the life and work of Van Gogh with an ode to Starry Night.
Bari in Jazz Festival
The Bari in Jazz Festival kicks off a season of jazz across the entire region. It lasts over two months from June to August with July having the most amount of concerts. No matter what concert you attend you will be immersed in the lullaby that is jazz’s sweet tune. You can find jazz festivals not only in Bari but also in Polignano a Mare, Alberobello, and Matera too.
La Ghironda is an enchanting festival that takes over Valle d’Itria in July. Here you will find music, art, culture and Italian tradition spilling over into the streets of Ostuni. You will also find other events and activities in Martina Franca and Locorotondo, like music, dance, theatre, puppets, and other hidden gems. Plus you will find some of Italy’s best street food here too!
Fasano Music Festival
Puglia loves to celebrate music, and Fasano Music Festival is the perfect event to immerse yourself in the culture. The Fasano Music Festival spans over three weekends in July that features jazz, tarantella and an orchestra. Plus the concerts are held in archaeologically significant venues all across Fasano.
Festival della Valle d’Itria
This upcoming year will mean 46 years of classical music and opera flowing through the fresh air of the Valle d’Itria. Festival Della Valle d’Itria is a classical music and opera festival that welcomes high profile artists and musicians to perform every year throughout July. This is a really popular event with locals and tourists alike so be sure to buy your tickets online ahead of time!
La Festa di Santa Domenica
La Festa di Santa Domenica awakens the little town of Scorrano every year. At the beginning of the month, the charming village celebrates its Patron Saint, Santa Domenica. You should expect local artists to decorate the town with looming wooden art pieces and arches that pierce the sky with magnificence and intimate detail. Scorrano is then illuminated with colourful lights and fireworks to highlight the work of art dressing this Puglia treasure.
Festival of the Focaccia
What’s Italy without a celebration of food? At the end of July, you will find the Festival of the Focaccia in Bari that offers music and crafts in honour of crushed tomatoes, flour, oil, and olives. These are the main ingredients of the delicious focaccia that is a staple in Puglia.
Things to See and Do
Puglia may be less popular than other regions of Italy, but it offers a can’t-miss cluster of cities, towns and charming villages tucked-away for the curious explorer to find. If that’s you then here are some things you need to see and do along your way:
Celebrate Christmas in July with the Basilica di San Nicola
The Basilica di San Nicola is an understated whitewashed building that looms over Bari. It’s an 11th-century relic that features Puglia’s oldest ciborium, or canopy, over the church’s altar. But the draw of this artefact of history is the remains of St. Nicholas that are enshrined in a vaulted crypt within the church. When you visit Puglia, you can find the very essence of Father Christmas
Explore the Castellana Caves
Are you an adventurer or just simply a curious wanderer? Then you have to stay in Bari to experience the eerie Castellana Caves. The Castellana Caves are an underground system that digs deeper than 65 metres into the ground and runs an expanse of about three kilometres. Sign up for a guided tour through the city to experience this natural wonder day or night!
Get lost in Ostuni
There’s nothing else that represents Pegulia better than Ostuni. Ostuni is a town situated on a throne of pearly white buildings and turquoise accents that reflect from the water below. It’s the perfect place to capture for your Instagram feed, plus it has a bustling city centre, artsy stores, delicious fresh food and can’t-miss views from an ancient cathedral.
Hike through Parco Nazionale del Gargano
Escape the heat of July by hiking through the lush forests and shade of Parco Nazionale del Gargano. Trekking along its trail system will give you glimpses and twinkles of the nearby turquoise waters that Puglia is most known for. You can also feel good about hiking here because this national park and those who work to conserve its beauty are a part of the un Bosco per Kyoto enterprise that aims for social and responsible tourism in the hopes of environmental awareness.
Feel royal at Castel del Monte
Castel del Monte is an impressive structure that stands alone on a hill in Andria overlooking the beautiful landscape below. This is one of Puglia’s most grand and impressive castles and one of the most popular tourist attractions across the region. It’s a 13th-century citadel and castle that was built by Emperor Frederick II in the 1240s.
Island hop the Tremiti Islands
You can’t visit Puglia in July without a refreshing day trip of island hopping. And island-hopping around the Tremiti Islands is the perfect place. The Tremiti Islands are a small cluster of five islands off the southeastern coast of Italy in the Adriatic Sea. When you island-hop the Tremiti Islands you snorkel, dive and boat through the mesmerizing hues of blue. Part of Gargano National Park, Puglia’s giant nature reserve, the five tiny Tremiti islands offer superb off-the-beaten-track scuba diving. The waters here are chock-full of underwater caves and coral reefs and there’s even a Roman shipwreck offshore. Plus you can explore caves, including the Violet Cave. The Violet Cave is a natural wonder where you can marvel at the hints of violet dancing through the mirror of blue water lapping at the walls of the cave.
Lose yourself in Locorotondo
Wandering through Locorotondo is a must. Although it does not have the tourist attractions of Bari or Ostuni, it offers a real feel for quiet Italian living. It’s a labyrinth of pink geraniums, pearly buildings and alleyways that deserve to be painted in history forever. It’s one of the most simply beautiful places across all of Italy, and it deserves to be seen and appreciated by all who wander through its maze.
Lounge on Vieste’s Scialara Beach
Visit Vieste for the medieval accents and the miles and miles of coastline that are perfect for a day of relaxing and refreshing dips in the sea. Scialara is can’t-miss for beachgoers because it offers an unrivalled natural beauty of the pristine beach, cerulean blue water and overlooking cliffs shroud in a cape of white.
Stay in a Trullo
What is a Trullo? A Trullo is a grey dry-stone hut with a cone-shaped roof that is native to Puglia, especially in the town of Alberobello. These structures have been around since ancient times and create a lot of intrigue and mystery for historians because their origins aren’t quite understood. If you visit Alberobello you will be drawn into a maze of these unique and mysterious structures that populate this town. You can even stay in one for the full experience! Although July sees an increase of crowds in Alberobello, if you head to nearby Aia Piccola you can experience Trullis that are actual homes without the traffic for a local experience!
Since Puglia is not the most well-covered travel destination, these travel tricks and tips will help you navigate and experience everything this idyllic destination has to offer like a local:
If you plan to travel to Pegulia in July, then plan to pack light! All you will need is a bathing costume, breathable shoes that are good for walking and exploring and sun protection! Also, if you’re planning to relax on the beach don’t forget a towel or sarong, unless you plan to pay the fee for access to the popular private beaches that offer sunbeds to layout on.
Are you renting a car? If so, then be wary of driving in the city centres of Puglia. They can be hard to navigate if you are not used to Italian driving culture. Plus most areas of Puglia are walkable, so you can park your car outside of the main drag and walk in. Who knows, maybe you will find adventure along the way!
When visiting Puglia, you should prepare for Lidos, especially during the busier season of July. Lidos are essentially beaches that make you pay a fee to enjoy the beautiful sand and sea that wind the expanse of Puglia’s coast. They usually come with sunbeds, food, and more crowds. Although if you’re willing to get even further off the beaten path then you can find free access points. They’re just harder to come by.
Another Italian standard is the Coperto, and you will find this applied throughout Puglia as well, even if it is a lesser-known spot. The Coperto is essentially an additional service fee when you are billed at a restaurant. Each person dining is charged about one to three Euros depending on the time of year, location of the establishment and the overall menu price. Plus, if you dine outside along the cosy streets then expect that price to go up even higher. At least tipping isn’t standard in Italy!