Puglia: a familiar feature to many around the world, perhaps without even knowing it. A region in southern Italy, it forms the heel of the country’s ‘boot’, making it a standout location on a map. It has a population of around four million and borders on the Adriatic Sea, Ionian Sea, the Strait of Otranto and the Gulf of Taranto. Because of this, it has the longest coastline of any region in mainland Italy.
Puglia (Apulia in English) is famous for its production of olive oil, providing around 40% of Italy’s total olive oil. That equates to around 300,000 tonnes a year! More recently, Puglia’s fame has grown for its production of fruity red wines and it is considered one of the largest wine-making regions in the country. As you’d expect of any Italian region, it is proud of its food, and it has in the past been known as the ‘breadbasket of Italy’ due to the huge quantities of bread and pasta that it produces.
One of the richest archaeological regions in Italy, Puglia was first colonised by the Mycenaean Greeks. Today, the influence of many conquerors, rulers and cultures can be seen in remnants left behind by bygone eras. While the main language spoken in the region is Italian, there are still pockets of people and some communities who have a different first language, such as the southern part of Salento where some people speak the Greek dialect, Griko.
The perfect destination for travellers seeking fascinating history and culture, fine food and wine or stunning beaches and characterful towns, Puglia is brimming with famous features and lesser-known gems. It’s deserved reputation as a beautiful summer holiday destination among Italians and foreigners alike speaks for itself; there are few places in the world with quite so special a feel.
August, along with July, is high season in Puglia and the time when tourists flock in in their thousands. Consistently magnificent weather plays a huge part in this.
The average temperature through the month is around 24°C (75°F), with stunning afternoons of up to 28°C (82°F) on average and warm, pleasant evenings of 19°C (66°F). It is the perfect time to take advantage of the sublime coastline and beaches on offer in Puglia as the waters are at their highest temperatures in August (averaging 26°C).
You can expect around nine hours of sunshine each day throughout the month, and only around three days will see any rainfall. If there is any rain, it is likely to be later in the day and can be heavy, but with so few days expecting such conditions, you can plan in the certainty of amazing weather.
How to Get There
Puglia is served by two airports and flights to the region are increasing in frequency. Some major airlines are now providing flights from larger European countries, while budget airlines are still an option too. If you are flying internationally, Bari airport in the north of the region is your best bet with cheaper and more efficient flights. Brindisi, in the south, still hosts international flights too, although they are not as frequent as the larger airport in Bari.
Once you are in the region, travelling is best done by car. Renting a vehicle in Puglia does not need to be overly expensive and will enable you to see the very best of the region at your own pace. Many of the more secluded, yet unmissable attractions are difficult to access by public transport, and in any case, the whole system lacks the efficiency seen in other areas of the country like Rome, Milan and Florence. Using public transport can mean you spend much longer travelling than is really necessary.
Life in Puglia can be fairly slow-paced and laid back, and it is ideal if you can embrace this as part of your trip to avoid frustration. Having a car enables you to take as long in a place as you’d like, or pop in for a short visit. It gives you freedom in your schedule and avoids restraints placed on when and where you can go based on timetables. With so much to offer, the region is best explored on your terms.
Festivals and Events
A simply stunning time of year in Puglia, vibrant and popular festivals only add to the attraction of the region through August. With many people expected in the area during the summer months, and many of them travelling specifically for different festivals, it is vital that you book early to avoid the disappointment of missing out.
Opera Festival in Valle d’Itria
Coming to a close in early August is the Opera Festival in Valle d’Itria. Into its fifth decade of running, the festival always features an impressive line-up and attracts guests from across the world. The main event takes place at Piazza Ducale in Martina Franca, but you can always keep your eyes peeled for smaller, peel-off music events in the area.
La Notte Della Taranta in Salento
Attracting around 100,000 visitors each year, La Notte Della Taranta in Salento is by far the biggest music festival in Puglia and one of the largest in all of Italy. The main event is in Melpignano, but many other piazzas feature concerts in different towns. An unforgettable event, the festival is dedicated to folk and traditional culture music and brings people out dancing on the streets.
Mercatino del Gusto
An open-air food market, sellers and stalls offer local produce of the highest quality and many local specialities. Pasta making lessons add to the fun, and there are always unique and new activities to do, making this a fun place to visit with the whole family as well as individually.
The Historical Parade in Oria
An engaging way to learn about history, the parade features people dressed as ladies, nobles, knights and even jesters. It is held in celebration of Frederick II, a Holy Roman Emperor in the 13th Century. Held over two days, on the second-day characters compete to win the Palio while dressed in medieval costumes.
San Rocco Festival
Brought to the area by immigrants from Patrica, where St. Rocco is the patron saint, this festival has been going for nearly a hundred years and brings together locals and tourists in Locorotondo. Concerts, cattle fairs and processions are all enjoyed, but the real highlight is the pyrotechnics, with some of the best firework launchers competing to be the most spectacular on the day.
Things to See and Do
It can be difficult to know where to start when you are visiting a destination as full and enthralling as Puglia. Fortunately, we have a list of must-see and do attractions. August is high season for an adventure in the region, meaning that it is, without doubt, one of the most ideal months for exploring. From relaxing on some of Italy’s best beaches to delving deep into the history of this engrossing region, Puglia has enough stored up to keep you busy and captivated no matter how long your visit.
Marvel at Castel del Monte
Visible from miles around, the puzzling Castel del Monte is perfectly octagonal and perched on the hilltop. It raises more questions than it answers. Why was it built? How was its near-perfect structure achieved? What is the significance of its location?
While these questions may remain somewhat of a mystery (though there are many suggested reasons for each), what’s certain is that the building is a masterpiece and one of southern Italy’s most-talked-about landmarks. A Unesco World Heritage site, the castle’s eight towers have washrooms that are thought to house Europe’s first flushing toilets.
Explore Grotte di Castellana
The impressive limestone caves are open for tourists and provide an opportunity for a local expert to impart their wisdom about the fascinating structures. Stalagmites and stalactites, some impossibly thin, decorate the landscapes. Grotto Bianca, the White Grotto, is the highlight and is available to view as part of the longer tour. Bats, beetles and crustacea live here, so you may not be alone during your visit, though your attention will well and truly be taken up by the miraculous sights you see.
Stroll Lecce’s Streets
Best in the morning or early evening to avoid the mid-day sun, a stroll around the streets of Lecce is well worth the time. Characterful, baroque buildings swarm the streets and are so distinctive that the city has been given its own moniker, Barocco Leccese (Lecce Baroque). Bike tours and walking tours are available and may include additional, local information, but even alone the streets are well worth a wander for you to gaze in wonder at some staggering architecture.
Hop Over to Isole Tremeti
An archipelago in the Adriatic Sea, the islands are a popular escape among summer tourists, mainly due to their clear waters. Regular ferry services make the islands easily accessible.
More than just stunning scenery, the islands have their own fascinating history, albeit slightly dark. The islands were used for the internment of political prisoners during Benito Mussolini’s regime following a theme started by Augustus, the first Roman Emperor who exiled his own granddaughter to the islands!
Visit Alberobello and Stay in a Trullo
One of the most famous sights of Puglia is a trullo, a traditional dry stone hut with a conical roof. Alberobello’s streets are picturesque and well worth losing yourself in for a few hours. On one side of the town, you will find many shops suitable for tourists and buying souvenirs, while the other side is inhabited by locals still living in traditional homes. Here, you will find fewer tourists and an opportunity to take in the local area in all its authentic glory.
Experience a Street Food Walking Tour
Italy is a country famed for its food and the region of Puglia is certainly no exemption. Particularly in Bari, you can find many great tours that will introduce you to flavours beyond imagination. From delicious bakeries to world-class focaccia, the tour will welcome you and your taste buds to a whole new world. Not only that, but you will also have the chance to pick up tips yourself and get a different perspective on Bari’s old town.
Visit a Basilica
Whether its the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari or Basilica di Santa Croce in Lecce, be sure to make a visit to one. The architecture is stunning and the decorative work inside sublime. Among the most famous sites in the region, both basilicas are rich in history and this is reflected in their designs, with influences from different periods and individuals evident.
Take a Trip to Ostuni
While it isn’t uncommon to find whitewashed walls in Puglia, Ostuni is the city that takes this a little further. Sitting immaculately upon a hill, the town and its buildings stand out against the dazzlingly blue summer skies. Having indulged in the view from the lower regions, you can venture in amongst the buildings and feel lost in a fantasy land of winding, cobbled streets and mood-lifting buildings.
Bask in the Views of the Salento Peninsula
The most southern part of Puglia, the Salento Peninsula provides some of the greatest views and is the ideal place to relax, see ancient ruins of Greek and Roman origins or visit the olive groves and vineyards that Puglia is known for. Many fantastic beaches can be found along the coast here, and much of the architecture is reminiscent of Greece.
Relax on the Beach
It would be criminal to visit a region like Puglia and not give yourself at least some time to relax on the beach. With countless beaches to choose from, some arguably among the best in the world, there is something to suit every taste. With the longest coastline in mainland Italy, great variety and an abundance of stunning waters, you will be certain to find the beach of your dreams here.
Try to Speak Italian
Daunting to many, for sure, but it’s amazing how much appreciation locals will have for you making the effort. It doesn’t have to be fluent or even much, but showing a willingness to try will really make people want to go out of their way to help you. Plus, it’s a fantastic way of communicating with people and stepping into the culture.
Plan Carefully; Prepare to Change
Planning to some degree is essential for any good summer trip to Puglia because the crowds can be huge. There’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve planned a great day, only to find thousands of others have had the same idea and now you’re stuck behind them in a queue. Consider booking activities in advance where possible and check routes and journey times if you are using public transport. Italians often break for lunch and take their time to digest their food, meaning that some attractions may be quieter in the early afternoon than at other times of the day.
But even the best plans in the world can be in need of alterations. Having an open mind and a positive attitude will really help you on your trip, and may open up doors and possibilities you wouldn’t otherwise have found.
Tremendous weather in Puglia during August means that you won’t need heavy clothes or big coats and you can save space for the things that really matter. While rains are very occasionally possible, they are easily avoidable as they are so infrequent and there is such variety in the activities you can do. Sun cream is a must, while beachwear, thin tops and shorts are recommended. Even the evenings remain warm, so loose, thin nightwear is also suggested.
Make sure you leave room for souvenirs if you like to buy little gifts to remember your trip by and a camera to catch that perfect shot is a growing necessity for tourists today.
To discover more about Puglia and the rest of your Italian holiday, check out Italian Breaks for when to go, where to stay and what to do.