For our last holiday as a family of three we decided to road trip down to the heel of the boot of Italy – Puglia. From Bologna it’s about an 8 hour drive. We had thought about flying but then decided that with me being 8 months pregnant and having to rent a car and a carseat and bring along all the beach accessories it was probably better to drive and see how our two year old would hold up.
To break up the drive we left after dinner and drove four hours to Vasto, where we stayed in a bed and breakfast. Then first thing in the morning we got back in the car and made the first official stop of our holiday – Altamura. Ever since watching an episode of masterchef where the contestants had to bake the bread recipe from Altamura, Luca had been itching to go and taste it for himself. Altamura in itself has a quaint historical center and when we were there we got to see two weddings taking place in the two different cathedrals near the main piazza which added to the charm of this city.
However, we were in search of this famous bread. Not really sure where to go we saw a sign that advertised the Antico Forno Santa Caterina and so we followed it. Apparently this bakery has been in business since 1724 and walking inside is like walking back in time. There is a giant wood oven in the wall and the freshly baked breads and focaccia are placed on a wooden shelf along the wall. We ordered half a loaf of the typical bread and two focaccia. The bread didn’t really seem to live up to its reputation, but it would be worth going back just for the focaccia!After chowing down on carbs we got continued on, passing out of the region of Puglia and into Basilicata to visit the city of Matera. Matera is famous for the ancient town known as Sassi which in Italian translates to stones, which while walking around the city you can immediately see how it got that name. These homes carved out of stone are believed to be some of the very first settlements in Italy. We spent the night here in another bed and breakfast. We enjoyed walking around such a beautiful unique city and there was some festival going on that weekend and so the city was lit with lights in the evening.
We crossed back over into Puglia to visit, Alberobello, which is where we find the famous trulli homes. It was incredibly hot and very crowded so we didn’t stay long. The drive over to Alberobello was beautiful and seeing the trulli in the fields was just as cool as seeing them in the small touristy corner of the city.
Afterwards we headed a further bit south to the white city of Ostuni. Walking around Ostuni felt like being in Greece. It’s a very quaint picturesque town where almost all of the buildings in the historical center are white. There are also many chic looking bars and restaurants that sprawl out onto the streets.
On our fourth day of traveling we finally made it to our destination at the very very southern tip of the heel where we stayed for a week and made our home base while visiting different beaches. We stayed in an airbnb that had a terrace with a view of the sea and a kitchen so we could come back for lunch and afternoons naps.We visited beaches along the western coast towards Gallipoli. We drove further up to Punto Prosciutto one day but unfortunately despite the beautiful location, the sea was rough and the rocky terrain not ideal for toddlers. Another day we also took the drive to Torre Lapillo which had crystal clear water but was also extremely packed with people. Near the end of our stay we discovered that the beach we liked best was the one actually closest to our airbnb – Spiagge Felloniche. The water was clean, it wasn’t crowded, and it was close.
After feeling a little worn out of beaching it every day we decided to take one more stop in another city and drove east across the heel to Otranto. It’s a port city and was a beautiful small town that also had a very greek feel to it.
On the drive back, we divided it up into just 2 days. We made a stop in Polignano a Mare for lunch and to walk around a bit. This is a city built on top of caves right on the edge of the Adriatic Sea. If you like to browse pinterest then I’m sure you’ve probably seen the photos of the restaurant in a cave right by the sea, well that’s where Ristorante Grotta Palazzese is located.
Polignano a Mare has a similar to feel to Ostuni and Otranto- a very quaint town with white buildings and lots of small fun looking restaurants, bars, and shops. After enjoying the afternoon there we continued on driving finally up out of Puglia, through the regions of Molise and Abruzzo finally up to the Marche where we got a hotel in Grottammare. This was the last stop before driving back to Bologna the following day. Puglia has a lot to offer. There are many beautiful beaches to visit, we just barely scratched the surface, and there are many historical quaint towns as well as cities to explore. We also enjoyed our fair share of orrechiete pasta which is typical from this region and tasted local burrata mozzarella, yogurt, and fresh eggs from a local dairy farm near Patù. We still have a lot more to discover for the next time return to deep south of Italy!