While there’s no shortage of picturesque places to visit in Italy’s heel, you’re probably eager to add some non touristy spots to your itinerary.
From lesser-known towns a stone’s throw from Bari to undiscovered villages in the Gargano and Salento peninsulas, here are some of the most postcard-perfect hidden gems in Puglia.
*I try to keep the information on this blog as updated as possible, but I still recommend consulting the latest prices, opening hours, and other details on the official website of each site, hotel, and tour, as well as checking the updated public transport routes and timetables.
*This post may contain affiliate links from which I earn a commission (for more info, read mydisclosure). As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
If you’re basing yourself in Bari, stay in one of these highly-rated accommodations:
1. TRESCA CHARME luxury Rooms (in Bari Vecchia, the old town)
2. Palazzo Le Travi (in Bari Vecchia)
3. B&B Alighieri 97 (where I stayed in Murat – the newer district, closer to the train station)
4. BARI 102 (in Murat)
You can also book yourself a free walking tour of Bari or a street food tour!
Table of Contents
HIDDEN GEMS IN PUGLIA
By Maria & Katerina from It’s All Trip To Me
Puglia is one of the most authentic and fascinating regions to visit in Italy. One of the best off-the-beaten-path places to explore there isGrecia Salentina or Greece of Salento.
Throughout their history, the Greeks have founded many towns in Southern Italy.
All these settlements are collectively known as Magna Graecia, and they are found across several regions, such as Calabria, Basilicata, Sicily, and, of course, Puglia.
Grecia Salentina is situated at the southern tip of Puglia, and it comprises eleven towns: Sternatia, Melpignano, Martignano, Calimera, Carpignano Salentino, Corigliano d’Otranto, Castrignano dei Greci, Martano, Soleto, Zollino, and Cutrofiano.
In most – if not all – of these towns, locals still speak Griko, a dialect that borrows elements from both Modern Greek and Italian.
Although Grecia Salentina isn’t classified as one of Puglia’s must-sees, a trip across its picturesque towns and villages is a journey back in time and a study of how two seemingly different cultures have co-existed throughout the centuries.
By Ilaria from Sognatricerrante
If you’re a lover of unusual and off-the-beaten-path places, visit Casamassima, a small village located in the province of Bari that is part of the Authentic Villages of Italy.
This charming medieval village developed around an 8th-century Norman tower that later expanded into a private residence called a “castle.” The peculiarity of Casamassima is linked to the color of the houses in the historic center, which are painted blue.
Legend has it that in the 17th century, the duke who purchased the feudal lands of Casamassima, Michele Vaaz, made a vow to the Madonna of Constantinople to protect the village from the plague epidemic that had spread throughout the territory.
As a sign of gratitude and recognition, the duke had the houses painted with lime and added the blue color of the Madonna’s cloak.
Casamassima is also known as the “Blue Village,” a name given to it by the Milanese painter Vittorio Viviani, who was enchanted by the chromaticity of the buildings and decided to portray it in one of his paintings, calling it “The Blue Village.”
Furthermore, Casamassima is also compared to Chefchaouen, in Morocco, because of the blue tones of the colors used.
For those who choose to visit the town, the main attraction of Casamassima is its historic center, a labyrinth of narrow alleys with blue-painted houses, small courtyards, and flowered balconies.
By Sanne from Spend Life Traveling
Puglia’s warm climate and long growing season provide ideal conditions for grape growing, particularly for the region’s signature grape varieties, such as Primitivo, Negroamaro, and Nero di Troia.
Planning a trip to a winery is a great thing to do whenvisiting Puglia. And if you are looking for an authentic experience, the small family-run vineyard Cantine Polvanera is a hidden gem.
Cantine Polvanera is located just outside of the small town of Gioia del Colle. They focus on producing high-quality wines from indigenous grape varieties, and they are happy to show you around their cellars and let you taste their wines.
They produce white, red, rose, and orange wine. Don’t know what orange wine is? Then you’ll definitely have to go to this winery to find out!
In addition to learning about and trying their wines, you can also book a light lunch here. Or book a wine tasting paired with local products, and enjoy an afternoon in their lovely garden, soaking up the traditional Puglian vibes.
By Ausra from The Road Reel
Want to explore Puglia off the beaten track? Head to the atmospheric Cisternino, a small historic town in Itria Valley.
Cisternino proudly holds a title as one of the most beautiful towns in Italy (Borghi più Belli d’Italia). Surprisingly, it remains one of the best-kept secrets of the Puglia region, where you can observe the local lifestyle of South Italy.
Cisternino’s historic center is characterized by whitewashed architecture (typical for the region) interconnected by a maze of alleyways and archways, as well as colorful flowers adding life to many balconies and windows.
Hence, exploring without a particular route while discovering the pretty corners is a wonderful pastime in Cisternino.
Meanwhile, the hotspot and a highlight of the town is Ponte della Madonnina – a small picture-perfect promenade beloved by locals for eveningpasseggiata.
Since Cisternino is located on the hill, expect also to find wonderful viewpoints over the Itria Valley.
For the best belvedere, go to Villa Communale – Cisternino’s main park, where you can look over the sea of olive groves with small trulli houses dotting the landscape.
The best time to visit Cisternino is the late afternoon from 4 PM when the town comes to life.
If you aredriving in South Italy, it is very easy to reach Cisternino from any other town in Itria Valley (and even Bari). Public buses are available but not as frequent, while the train is a 15-minute drive from Cisternino.
By Hannah from Art Distance
If you’re looking for a cultural shopping destination in Puglia, Grottaglie has one of the best collections ofartisan shops in Italy. This small town is known for its long-standing tradition of producing exquisite ceramics.
Grottaglie’s history can be traced back to antiquity when the Greeks and Romans created beautiful pottery out of the local clay. Many of the town’s landmarks feature ceramic displays, including the Church of San Francesco d’Assisi.
For an in-depth understanding of the town’s history of ceramic production, visit the Museo della Ceramica, which houses some of the most impressive pieces of art.
But the best part is shopping for yourself. The town is crammed with beautiful ceramics shops run by the artisans themselves, with each shop containing differing styles. Some even allow you to watch the process and get a glimpse into the workshops.
Shop owners are happy to ship abroad if you fall in love with a set, and it’s so satisfying to have met the makers of your tableware.
Grottaglie is the perfect hidden gem in Puglia for finding works of art that will no doubt become family heirlooms.
By Samantha from Undiscovered Path Home
If you’re looking for secret places in Puglia, Italy, look no further than Porto Cesareo. This charming seaside town is located in the Salento Peninsula and is known for its crystal-clear waters, pristine beaches, and rich history.
The number one reason most people visit Porto Cesareo is the beaches. The town boasts several ofPuglia’s most beautiful beaches, including Spiaggia Grande and Torre Lapillo.
The water is warm and inviting, making it perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and other water activities. To this day, Torre Lapillo remains a must-visit for anyone stopping through the area.
Porto Cesareo also has a rich history to explore for tourists looking for more substance. The town was founded by the Greeks in the 8th century BC and has since been ruled by various empires and kingdoms.
Today, visitors can explore the town’s historic center, which features ancient ruins, museums, and churches.
If you’re looking for more things to do in Porto Cesareo, there’s no shortage of activities. You can take a boat tour of the coast, visit the local fish market, or enjoy a meal at one of the town’s many seafood restaurants.
For a unique experience, head to the nearby island of Isola dei Conigli, which is home to a nature reserve and a colony of wild rabbits.
When planning your trip to Porto Cesareo, keep in mind that the peak season is during the summer months, so it’s best to book your accommodations and activities in advance.
Additionally, it’s helpful to know some basic Italian phrases, as English is not widely spoken in the town.
From its beautiful beaches to its rich history and culture, there’s something for everyone in this charming town on the Salento Peninsula.
By Trisha from P.S. I’m on My Way
Noci is one of the hidden gems in Puglia that you probably never heard of.
If you like the countryside and want to avoid highly touristic areas in Italy, Noci is a retreat with unique Italian cuisines and beautiful landscapes. It’s also an easy destination forEurope solo travelbecause the locals are friendly.
Noci was founded during the middle ages. It is characterized by its narrow, winding streets, whitewashed buildings, and picturesque piazzas.
The history of Noci is visible through its architecture, such as the Church of San Domenico and the Church of Maria della Nativita.
Aside from churches, Noci’s ancient roots are also evident in its megalithic structures known as dolmens – remnants of the region’s prehistoric inhabitants.
One of the best things to do in Noci (and probably the main attraction) is to try the local food. This small town is famous for its orecchiette, a traditional handmade pasta shaped like little ears, often served with tomato sauce and veggies.
Wine lovers, you will find exquisite local wines in Noci, such as Primitivo and Negroamaro. Make sure to book a winery tasting, but you can also do it on your own if you don’t want a guided tour.
Noci is also big on wine festivals in Italy, so if you like celebrations in small towns, this is the place to go!
Tip: There is another small town near Noci called Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for itstrulli. Trulli are unique dry stone huts with conical roofs, which is definitely not the image you’ll often see when you search for traveling to Italy!
By Cris from LooknWalk
Famous for its seaside resorts, Peschici is a charming small town perched on Italy’s Garganic Coast. Offering stunning views of the Adriatic Sea, it’s more than just a place to soak up the sun.
Founded in 970, Peshici had quite a tumultuous history. The reminders of it dot the entire coast, home to a lot of Saracen Towers, many of which have been restored.
Without a doubt, the city’s historic center is a great reason to plan a trip here. A labyrinth of alleys, it is home to craft shops, tavernas, white houses, and spectacular sea views. Oh, did you know that in Peschici, you can admire both the sunrise and sunset?
Make sure to visit the Castle and the Torture Museum, hosted in the dungeon. It won’t take too long to explore them, and the experience is quite unique.
Hungry? Follow your nose! It will most likely lead to some seafood dishes. The area is known for theTrabucchi, which have been used for a long time to fish. Some of them have been restored and are still operating. So, you’ll be sure to taste the freshest catch!
Fresh pasta, various kinds of cheese, and local olive oil are also part of the local cuisine.
Want to discover more of the area? Put on your hiking shoes and enjoy the coastal trails. Or take a day trip to Vieste, just 20 km away. It’s also home to many resorts, and it’s another small town on the coast, offering stunning views and a lovely Old Town.
By Corina from Packed Again
Specchia in Salento, located in the province ofLecce, is a good choice if you are seeking an authentic Italian village for your holiday base when exploring the ‘heel’ of Italy.
Specchia is perfectly located at a slight elevation of 130m above sea level and surrounded by some of the oldest olive trees you may have come across in Italy.
The village is only 20 minutes’ drive from the beautiful beaches along the southern coast of Lecce and other tourist attractions in the area.
A further plus to this charming village is its beauty. Specchia was named among the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy by the National Tourism Association. And when you are walking through the quirky old town, you soon understand why.
The beautiful medieval main square, Piazza del Popolo, with its church “Chiesa Matrice”, is the place to hang around in the evening, watch the locals play one of their board games, and soak up the Italian flare.La bella vitais right in front of you.
Oh, and you may have heard that Italy has the best ice cream in the world. Well, I would narrow this down to La Specchia has the best ice cream in the world!
By Michaela & Phil from The Hungry Travellers
Resting quietly against the constantly deep blue of the sea, the delightful little town ofGiovinazzois the hidden gem of this beautiful coastline.
Its proud buildings are nestled around cobbled streets, keeping the secrets of centuries behind their stone walls.
Much quieter than its slightly more brash neighbors, Giovinazzo oozes charm and tranquility, with enticing restaurants clustered around the quaint piazza where the duomo watches over all.
Colorful flower displays drip from the balconies, and boats bob in the gentle waters of the classic-shaped harbor in this small town.
Along a stretch of coast that delivers delight after delight, Giovinazzo still manages to be something even more special.
This is a small town full of character, full of history, steeped in the characteristics of quintessential Italy.
Easily accessible by both road and rail – the coastal trains all stop here – this is a must-see for anyone discovering Puglia, most likely when peace, quiet and sumptuous surroundings are the order of the day.
If Italian charm is on the agenda, then the lovely little town of Giovinazzo will definitely deliver.
While it’s not as lesser-known as other places on this list, the seaside town of Trani, dating back to Roman times, is still an underrated gem. Easily reachable by train, it’s one of the best day trips from Bari.
Like its coastal neighbors (such as Giovinazzo and Molfetta), it’s dominated by a medieval cathedral overlooking a beautiful harbor and the Adriatic Sea.
Near the Trani Cathedral, you can also see the town’s Swabian Castle and wander through its lovely historic center. Another unmissable spot is the stunning Villa Comunale public park on the other side of the port.
What makes Trani extra special is the fact that it was home to one of the most significant Jewish communities in Puglia, so don’t miss visiting the Synagogue Museum of Sant’Anna and Scolanova Synagogue (consult opening hours in advance as they are limited).
The area is also known for the production of Moscato di Trani wine, so don’t forget to try it at one of the local wine bars.
PUGLIA HIDDEN GEMS: MAP
Click here to access the MyMaps map.
OTHER PUGLIA AND ITALY TRAVEL GUIDES
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