There’s a little southeastern region nestled away from the typical Italian tourist trail called Puglia – or Apulia in English. And it’s quickly becoming a can’t-miss destination for wanderers, jet-setters and backpackers because of its way of life, emphasis on local culture and views that merge the beauty and tradition of Italy with the Greek Islands feel.
You can find Puglia and its well-worn charm at the base of Italy’s southeastern boot. This off-the-beaten-track destination is home to sleepy Italian villages and cities like Bari, Lecce and Ostuni. It’s an Italian treasure that offers shades of crystal-clear water hugging the rocky coastline overlooking the Adriatic Sea.
Here you can fall into the slow rhythm of Italian culture where you will be greeted by smells of homemade orecchiette pasta, sights of pearly-white buildings radiating under the sun and hear the stories of the friendly locals. And in typical Italian-fashion, you will be treated to the region’s rife appreciation for foods like mozzarella, almonds and olive-oil products.
Puglia is a popular summer holiday destination for northern Italians, and for good reason. But as the crowds of summer fade, Puglia’s allure only becomes more enticing and magnetic for travellers. September is by far the best month to explore this region as the crowds clear, but the weather holds on long enough to capture some of the best draws of this idyllic destination. Plus, prices tend to lower throughout the month too.
Although still untouched by the mainstream tourism industry, it won’t be long before the treasure is discovered. Are you ready to pack your bags?
A September spent in Puglia will offer some of the best weather conditions across the entire country. The month’s average temperature is 21°C (70°F), although the beginning and middle of the month can still peak at 27°C (80°F). You should expect warm midday conditions (perfect for swimming), and a gradual cooling down at night and in the morning. Plus, the sea temperature sits at 24°C (76°F) as it maintains the heat from the previous summer.
One of the best parts about spending a September holiday in Puglia is the very little amount of rain that the region experiences. Expected rainfall usually sits around 50 millimetres and eight days of bad weather. And even if a day is ruined by the elements, you can always spend it inside taking a cooking class and learning about the local cuisine that features fresh seafood and pasta!
How to Get There
If it’s a lesser-known Italian hotspot, then how do you get there? Luckily there are two airports in this region. 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.
If you’re continuing your Italian holiday and want to hop over to Puglia, then Brindisi is a great local option! 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 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!
Festivals and Events
The festivals and events that pop-up all-around Puglia in September make this region livelier than most times of the year. If you happen to be in this area during the last month of summer, then be sure to not miss these festivals and events that celebrate art, culture, heritage, and Italy.
Festa te lu Mieru
It wouldn’t be Italy without another wine festival. And Festa te lu Mieru is one of the most popular in this region. In September, Carpignano Salentino hosts an entire festival dedicated to wine tastings, food pairings and, of course, live music. It’s not only a fun event, but it is also located in the old neighbourhood of Carpignano Salentino where you will feel the history of Italy radiating from the sun-kissed buildings and homes.
Fiera del Levante
The Fiera del Levante in Bari has a little bit of everything. For over 80 years, Bari welcomes one of the largest trade fairs in the south of Italy to spill into its streets. If you attend this celebration, be prepared for music, folk dancing, children’s events, street art, local cuisine and various other vendors who celebrate Italian tradition.
Mandorle E Sapori A Corte
The Mandorle E Sapori A Corte event features everything and anything having to do with the almond, one of the most important ingredients in Puglian cuisine.
This international festival of photography and art can be found in Monopoli, a small little town that extends towards the Mediterranean. PhEST celebrates the works of various artists who capture the merging of geography, the elements and cultures across the world. Here you can really experience the ins and outs of Monopoli and Puglia as the festival hosts exhibits, events and various other activities in some of the most beautiful areas and venues of this quaint Italian must-see.
Salento International Film Festival
The Salento International Film Festival has been celebrating the arts in the heart of Tricase since 2004. Every year in early September, you can experience the innovation that showcases international and national films produced by budding filmmakers who value innovation and communication through cinema.
Patronal Feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian
Patronal Feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian is a traditional Italian experience that dates back 380 years. It’s considered a traditional pilgrim festival that offers religious events in celebration of the chapel built in Alberobello and its two saint namesakes. This event closes out the month.
Things to See and Do
Although less popular than other regions of Italy, Puglia is a diverse cluster of cities, towns and tucked-away villages that you have to explore. Here are some things to see and do along your way:
Cool down in Poetry Cave
Poetry Cave in Lecce could be a muse for any poet. Here you will find two caves known as Big Poetry and Small Poetry that are etched into the rocks and welcome the rush of the nearby sea into its embrace. It’s the perfect way to cool down from September’s lasting heat.
Explore the Castellana Caves
If you’re an adventurer or curious traveller, then you have to travel to Bari to experience the Castellana Caves, an underground system that goes well over 65 metres into the ground and run an expanse of three kilometres. You can experience this impressive attraction through guided tours that run during the day and night! Just as Puglia’s history is interwoven into Italy’s foundation, these caves weave their way into the very allure of this holiday destination.
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 in Terra delle Gravine National Park
Are you on the search for some of the best hikes in Italy? Then you have to make a point of visiting Terra delle Gravine National Park located between Brindisi and Taranto. This national park is so breathtaking and stunning because it merges the wild path of vegetation with history and deep slotted canyons that crisscross across the landscape – the views give the Grand Canyon a run for its money.
Island Hop the Tremiti Islands
It is not an Italian getaway without some island hopping. The Tremiti Islands are a small cluster of five islands off the southeastern coast of Italy in the Adriatic Sea. This is a great day trip spent snorkeling, diving, and boating to various caves, including the Violet Cave. The Violet Cave is a natural wonder where you can marvel at the hints of violet dancing through the blue hues of water lapping at the walls of the cave.
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!
Take in the beauty of Pescoluse
Above all else, Puglia is known for its beaches, especially Pescoluse. You can find this beach along the coast in Lecce where the blindingly white sand merges with the vast turquoise waters that float into the horizon. This beach may not be as popular as other beaches that run along the coast of the country, but it is certainly just as beautiful, if not more.
Wander through Old Town of Gallipoli
You will find this seaside town in the province of Lecce. It’s weathered and sun-kissed exterior reflects within the sea’s mirror creating an impossibly charming allure that you can’t miss. This is one of the perfect places to just immerse yourself in Puglia’s relaxed and slow culture. Wind your way through hidden alleys, marvel at the architecture and discover history in the old town of Gallipoli. Plus it has sandy beaches for those who are sick of the quintessential rocky beaches of Italy or who have children!
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:
If you plan to travel to Pegulia in September, then plan to pack lighter than if you were visiting other cooler regions in northern Italy. Puglia’s climate throughout the month continues to wear the warmth of summer until the very last few days of the month. The most important things to pack are your swimming costume, sun cream and any light clothing that can be easily layered if you do happen to visit later in the month. 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.
When visiting Puglia, you should prepare for Lidos. 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 you can find free access points, Lidos are more common in this region. Although not ideal, if you travel to Puglia in September usually the prices will decline from the previous few months where crowds are at their peak.
Another Italian standard that is widespread throughout the entire country 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!
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.