We spent a week in Puglia Italy with the whole family and had a wonderful time exploring and enjoying the region’s many pleasures.
Getting to Puglia with Kids:
You can reach the Apulia region through one of two airports: Bari in the North and Brindisi in the South. There are direct flights from major European cities like London, Rome and Munich. If you are in Italy you can drive, or take a boat from nearby countries like Greece.
Getting around Puglia with Kids:
Unless you are planning on staying in one place, I would highly recommend renting a car. The towns are well designated and freeway driving is a breeze. That being said, avoid driving at night if you can because the smaller roads are not very well lit. It’s also useful to have a physical map handy because some remote strips are internet black holes. if you are not up for driving, many tourism companies can arrange a car and driver for you. There is also a train line that connects various parts of Puglia but I am told it is not very reliable.
Things to do in Puglia with Kids:
- Stroll around the squares in Ostuni: Ostuni is a beautiful white-washed town perched on a hill by the coast. Have a spiritual moment in its beautiful Cathedral, grab a gelato in the main square and generally stroll around its quaint streets. Warning: it’s not particularly stroller-friendly because of it’s cobble-stoned streets and varying level. Baby carrier it, if you can.
- Hit the beaches at Torre Canne : A visit to Puglia is incomplete without a day (or two) at the beach. While you will find little beaches scattered through the towns, a beautiful stretch of soft sand and gentle waters is at Torre Canne, bang in the middle of the region. You can rent chairs from a lido (approximately 18 euro for two chairs and an umbrella), so get there early to get the most out of your money and to grab the best spots. Most lidos have parking and outdoor showers.
- Visit the Trulli of Alberobello: A trullo is a traditional dry hut with a conical roof, an architectural style unique to Puglia and mostly concentrated in the town of Alberobello. You will find restaurants, stores, and hotels in trullo houses and it’s definitely worth a look-see. There are apparently over 1500 trulli in the small town of Alberobello.
- Marvel at the wonders of the Grotte di Castellana: Allegedly formed 90 million years ago and discovered in the 1930s, le Grotte di Castellana are a fascinating sight. You can do one of two tours – the short tour, which is about 1km and lasts about an hour or the longer tour which is 3km and lasts about 2 hours. The longer tour has some of the prettier sights including the famed white grotto (we did the shorter one). Entrances are timed so make sure to check the website and plan your visit accordingly. It’s also wet and cool down there (between 16 and 18 degrees celcius), so make sure to wear sneakers and to carry a jacket. Kids under 6 are free.
- Learn how to make orecchiete: “Little-ear” pasta are also a Puglian specialty and our kids really enjoyed learning how to make it from scratch. Your hotel or a company like Personal Puglia can set one up for you. Prices are around 75 euro/head and includes all the ingredients and the teacher!
- Sail on the Adriatic: This was a highlight for me. We rented a beautiful sail boat with plenty of lounging space for the kids and took a ride around the Puglian coastline, admiring the grottos and the changing colors of the Adriatic sea. You can rent a private or a shared boat (depending on the size of your party you may not spend too much more to get a private charter). A four hour journey includes a sail around the coast, some refreshments, time to anchor and swim and of course, a skipper to sail the boat! Ours was organized by Caroline at Personal Puglia and we had a great experience.
- Check out the Zoosafari : Admittedly we missed this, but if you have some time in Puglia, it’s a must-do. Much less rigid than a formal safari and apparently just as rewarding!
We didn’t go to Lecce or Matera (we simply ran out of time but those are towns worth exploring as well).
Where to stay in Puglia with Kids:
Borgo Egnazia: This luxury resort is set in an old fort and is the ultimate family retreat. Stay in a beautiful villa with a private pool or one of their family rooms and enjoy luxury amenities such as the beach club, bikes for the kids to ride around the property, three pools (family and adult), a playground, a teens’ club, and a kids’ club with staff waiting to watch your little ones until 9 pm every evening. I would recommend ending your stay in Puglia with a couple of days here, if you can afford the stiff prices!
A trullo: We stayed in a very charming trullo house in Alberobello, with four bedrooms and a pool. I’d recommend it for a family vacation. The bedrooms and bathrooms were fully refurbished and very nice, and the concierge service was excellent. The only downside is that the living room was quite small. Check the website for availability.
A masseria: Masserie are traditional Puglian farmhouses and are distributed throughout the region, particularly between Bari and Brindisi on the coast. Masserie can be self-catering or a small hotel with a restaurant.
Where to eat in Puglia with Kids:
Porto Rosso (Monopoli): A great pizzeria with a wonderful view in Monopoli. We enjoyed some beautiful salads and pastas as well, along with its impressive Puglian wine list. You can enjoy dessert on the terrace overlooking the sea and even pop down to the little beach between courses (warning: it can get very crowded in the summer).
Taverna dei Amici (Castellana): Given its location just outside the grotto di Castellana, this restaurant should be much more touristy than it is. Sit in one of three areas depending on your mood and enjoy a light sandwich or snack before or after your trip to the caves.
Lido Bizarro (Torre Canne): There are a bunch of lidos on the Torre Canne strip and we picked Lido Bizarro because it seemed to be kid-friendly but also have good food. It was a good choice. We rented chairs in front of the restaurant so were able to go back and forth easily to the beach. There is also a little playground at the back, a kiosk serving coffee and ice creams and an outdoor shower.
Ristorante Fidelio (Alberobello): A charming little restaurant with a beautiful outdoor garden will serve up decent Italian fare and homely, warm service. That’s always a plus for us. Better to go for dinner in the summer months.