Puglia in May – Where to Go and What to Do

Puglia, also known as the ‘Heel of the Italian boot’, is one of the country’s best-kept secrets. Located in the southeast part of Italy, the region has more than 800 km of coastline and is famous for its stunning beaches, centuries-old farmland, and charming whitewashed hill towns. Also referred to as ‘Apulia’, Puglia has a […]

Puglia, also known as the ‘Heel of the Italian boot’, is one of the country's best-kept secrets. Located in the southeast part of Italy, the region has more than 800 km of coastline and is famous for its stunning beaches, centuries-old farmland, and charming whitewashed hill towns.

Also referred to as ‘Apulia’, Puglia has a unique charm that is totally different from the other famous regions in Italy, such as Lake Como or Tuscany. As one of Italy's most diverse and beautiful regions, Puglia offers plenty of interesting places to explore and fun activities to do, especially if you come here in May.

Although Puglia is an excellent destination to visit any time of the year, when you visit Puglia in May, you will enjoy warm weather and a quieter atmosphere, allowing you to fully immerse in the region's vibrant culture. It’s a much quieter time of year to visit compared to the peak season, plus, the weather is great, allowing you to explore the stunning beaches and quaint towns in comfort.

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Weather

The temperature in Puglia in May is comfortable, ranging between 15°C and 21°C. 

During the afternoons, the temperature could go as high as 22°C, whereas evenings and nights will be much cooler, with an average low temperature of 13°C. 

Generally, the region is warm and mostly dry, although there will be quite a few days of rain during the month. You can expect an average of 17 days of rain if you visit during this time of the year, so consider bringing along a coat so you can stay dry as you explore the outdoors.

The average temperature of the sea is 18°C, although it can get significantly warmer at the end of the month. Swimming is possible, but it will feel relatively chilly.

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How to Get There

There are many ways you can get to Puglia since the region is served by two main airports and well connected by the rail service in Italy, as well as being home to two main ports.

If you are flying to Puglia, there are two main airports that you can fly into – Bari International Airport-Karol Wojtyla and Salento Airport in Brindisi. These are the most efficient airports in the region and have regular international flights.

If you are coming from any of the main cities of Italy, the best way to get to Puglia is by train. You can easily travel to the region from anywhere in the country, thanks to the high-speed trains operated by Trenitalia.

Puglia's railway network covers the region's six provinces, including train connections between the capital city of Bari and the other cities in the region. There are also high-speed services connecting Rome and Turin to Bari, Foggia, and Barletta.

It's also possible to travel to Puglia by boat. The region has two main ports used for tourism located in Bari and Brindisi. The port in Bari has daily connections to Antivari in Montenegro, Durazzo in Albania, and Corfu, Igoumenitsa, and Patrasso in Greece. Meanwhile, the port of Brindisi has daily ferry services to Corfu, Greece, Valona in Albania, and other nearby European cities.

Festivals and Events

One of the best things about visiting Puglia in May is you will have the opportunity to witness some of the region’s best local events and festivals. 

  • La Festa di San Nicola

One of Bari's most popular religious festivals celebrated on the 9th of May every year is the arrival of St. Nicholas' bones, also known as the “Relics from Myra to Bari.” Thousands of people from all over the region gather to attend the festival, which usually starts on the morning of the 7th of May.

To begin, priests carry an icon-type painting of St. Nicholas onto a boat to spend a day at the sea. When the boat carrying the painting returns, the Corteo Storico will occur. This involves a procession of local people donning costumes from the 11th century, following the painting from the port of San Giorgi, and passing along the roads to the square in Basilica di San Nicola. The procession also features floats, parades, and dramatic enactment, effectively retelling the entire story of St. Nicholas.

  • La Festa di San Cataldo

Each year, from the 8th to the 10th of May, the city of Taranto celebrates La Festa di San Cataldo in honour of San Cataldo, a 6th Century Irish Monk. He moved to Italy and was elected the bishop of Taranto after coming from the Holy Land. Legend has it that the saint went to the city through divine will and that during his time in the Holy Land, Jesus appeared and asked him to re-evangelize the city from paganism.

San Cataldo then embarked on a long journey that took him to Marina di San Cataldo, a town about 11 km away from the city of Lecce, which now bears the name of the saint. According to legend, it was here that he performed a miracle by throwing his ring out into the sea to calm a storm. The Festa di San Cataldo features a typical procession of a boat carrying the statue of San Cataldo.

Things to See and Do

  • Visit Alberobello

Puglia is home to many charming towns and villages, but one of the most famous is Alberobello, best-known for the whitewashed stone huts with conical roofs called ‘trulli’. These huts are an exceptional example of building construction from prehistoric times and have remained intact and functioning even to this day.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Alberobello is one of the most popular attractions in the region and can get quite busy with tourists during the day. But the attraction will be quieter in May, allowing you to explore the village without the crowds of other visitors.

Aside from strolling through the village's narrow pedestrian streets, check out the little shops selling local produce around Alberobello. Its streets are also lined with nice cafes offering al fresco dining, and you can learn more about the history of the iconic architecture here as you explore alleyways and visit some of the buildings open to visitors.

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  • Spend Time at the Beach

If you ask a local what to do in Puglia, they will likely tell you to go to the beach. In fact, the region is a treasure trove of stunning beaches, secluded rocky coves, and wild, sandy shores.

The weather in May isn’t scorching hot and chances of rain are relatively high, but if you happen across a dry and sunny day then you should definitely head to the coast. The average sea temperature in Puglia in May is only 18°C so swimming will probably be off the cards, but you can still enjoy a picnic at the beach and soak up some late spring sunshine.

When exploring the region's best beaches, the seaside towns of Polignano a Mare and Gallipoli are the best places to start.

Perched on top of different layers of grey-black cliffs along Italy's southern Adriatic coast, Polignano a Mare is a beautiful seaside town famous for its beautiful beaches, such as Cala Porto, bordered by a Roman bridge. Gallipoli, a stunning coastal town, is another excellent destination if you plan on exploring the beaches of the region.

  • Go Walking in the Countryside

The weather in Puglia in May is mild and relatively dry, which is a great time to explore the countryside. During your walk, you’ll come across spectacular landscapes of lush green fields and stunning vineyards contrasting the shimmering blue seas.

Head across the vineyards and orchards of Valle d’Itria, where you will find some of Puglia’s most iconic landscapes. The olive orchards stretch as far as the eye can see and are dotted with trullis; whitewashed conical roofed houses the region is famous for.

Explore Otranto, a Greek port that the Byzantines later on ruled. Stroll through the town and hike past Punta Palascia lighthouse as you head towards the charming Santa Maria di Leuca, where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet.

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  • Cycle Between Villages and Towns

Puglia is dotted with gorgeous small towns in shades of white and gold and features plenty of unique architecture such as the elegant baroque buildings of Lecce and the conical huts of Alberobello. One of the best ways to discover the region's beautiful towns and villages is by bike. 

As you cycle through the region's winding countryside roads, you'll come across beautiful churches and palaces, hidden piazzas, winding alleyways, and busy markets. In some towns, you can even combine your visit to castles and cathedrals with a stop along the coast to see the sea.

Start your cycling adventure at the pretty seaside town of Polignano a Mare and pedal through stunning vineyards and fruit orchards on a circular route from Monopoli. Pass through Conversano to admire its spectacular castle. After climbing to Conversano, the road is mostly downhill when going back to Monopoli, passing along scenic agricultural land covered with fruit trees.

  • Take a Trip to Matera

Matera is one of the places that you must visit in Puglia in May. Since being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, it’s been an incredibly popular tourist attraction that won’t be too busy with other travellers in May, making this month the ideal time to visit.

Matera is famous for its cave dwellings, which were once the homes of an ancient community. The city is very walkable, and you can explore all its famous attractions within the day. 

If you do choose to spend the night here, stay in a cave hotel. You will find several cave hotels around the city, featuring atmospheric rooms that open to gorgeous views.

Other Tips

  • Consider Renting a Car

It's highly recommended that you explore Puglia in a car. Sure, there are public buses and some trains, but using them to explore this varied region can take more time.

If your time in Puglia is limited, it's especially recommended to rent a car. Otherwise, you could miss exploring many of the quaint little towns and villages that make the region so wonderful to explore.

  • Discover the Region’s Local Wine

While Puglia is famous for its beautiful beaches and scenic towns and villages, it is also renowned for red and white wines. Puglia's hot and dry climate produces some of Italy's most delectable wines, and when you’re visiting in May you should try and sample as many varieties as you can during your trip.

When you visit Puglia in May, you will have the opportunity to attend the Cantine Aperte (open cellars) and other wine events, which usually take place on the last weekend of the month. This event offers a closer look at the region's wine industry, where wineries open their doors to visitors and offer tours of their facilities and guided tasting sessions.

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Summary

Puglia is an ideal region of Italy to visit if you've seen many of the popular tourist destinations already and are looking for something a little different. In May, you’ll get to enjoy mild Italian weather without all the crowds of travellers that the country sees in the summer, making it the perfect time to visit and explore at your own pace.

When To Visit Puglia By Month

Puglia in April

Puglia In August

Puglia In September

Puglia in October

For other information on holidays in this beautiful part of the country, explore the rest of the Italian Breaks website and find out more.

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