Woweeeee! That’s how I’m going to begin this post! Southern Italy will forever hold a special place in my heart after exploring the region for ten days with my bestie @grepard. The Adriatic coast is dotted by towns rich in churches, hidden piazzas, winding alleyways, markets and bars. We began our trip from the airport of Bari, about a two and a half hour flight from London. Most research we had done suggested that we hire a car, yet, we decided to take a chance and avoid the stress of navigating, driving and parking. In the end, it was a great decision. The trains and buses were fairly carefree and the towns were easy to travel between. Each spot we visited was unique, with something different to offer. From busier towns to peaceful beachside communities, the region is just gorgeous and needs to be put high on your European bucket list. In my opinion, it is the more chilled version of Amalfi – still with the Italian charm but without the mass of foreign tourists.
MONOPOLI / We decided to stay in the small town of Monopoli for three nights. We arrived during siesta time so decided to head straight to the local swimming beach, to be greeted by still, crystal clear waters. We picked up some fresh produce, cherries, cherry tomatoes and stone fruit; little did we know that this was to be our lunch ritual for the remainder of our trip. We sat on the rocks, watching the sun set over the old town, grateful to be sharing the carefree Italian lifestyle. We used Monopoli as a bit of a base for visiting the nearby Alberobello and Polignano a Mare. For eats, we can recommend Ai Portici – a local Italian restaurant out of the old town with amazing pizza! For gelato, because let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be an Italian summer without it, we couldn’t go past Cafe Roma. Also with sorbet options for the dairy free folk. The Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi (main square in the old town) is also filled with great food and drinking spots and has a real buzz after 8pm.
You’re also spoilt for swimming spots around Monopoli and if you’re not afraid to go for an explore you can find some quieter beaches, with just locals. For sunsets in Monopoli we couldn’t go past the promenade of the port, just near the idyllic lighthouse. Both Georgie and I agreed that we would go and stay again in Monopoli; quieter, friendly locals, beautiful swimming spots, fresh produce and a gorgeous old town.
ALBEROBELLO / The principal activity in Alberobello is wandering around looking at trulli – dry stone buildings made from local limestone. It was in the 1500s that the first of these trulli were built. The little streets and cone shaped roofs made for a nice town to wander aimlessly and appreciate the different architecture. It made for a nice day trip from Monopoli, we chose a day where the weather wasn’t that great and headed out by local bus, less than an hour to get there too.
POLIGNANO a MARE / A small town of white and golden buildings perched on a rock overlooking the sea. The historic centre is a lovely place for a wander or an aperitivo in one of the small piazzas. We day tripped on the train here from Monopoli, a super short 20 minute journey. Polignono’s picturesque beach, Cala Porto (also known as Lama Monachile) is probably one of the most instagrammed spots on the Puglia coastline and it sure did not disappoint. Gaining a birds eye view of the cliffs, umbrellas and sparking water from above was just as the photos depicted, a must see! However, we would totally recommend some kind of water shoes for the rocky pebbles if you want to swim here. As you would predict, the beach was crowded with Italian and foreign tourists and both G and I preferred the tranquil Monopoli in comparison to the busier Polignano a Mare. We did love La Casa del Mojito (House of Mojito), off one of the little side streets and perched ourselves in the shade to watch the visitors whilst sipping on one of the best mojitos to date.
OSTUNI / We absolutely loved this ‘White City!” Feeling like we were in a Greek town, with the whitewashed walls, it is a must visit for the Puglia region. We had just one day in Ostuni but if you wanted to stay for longer or had a car to explore the smaller villages nearby you could stay and really immerse yourself in the local experience. We caught the train from Monopoli to Ostuni and then a local bus up the hill. Once we arrived, we sat in the main square sipping on coffee and soaking up the peaceful charm. After a siesta, we spent the afternoon wandering the streets, overwhelmed with photo opportunities – stunning buildings, entrances and bougainvillea cascading from balconies. Our evening began with some €2.50 aperols whilst sitting in the main square. We ventured down to a hidden gem, Borgo Antico Bistro, probably the best views of sunset with great cocktails and share plates with a very relaxed vibe. We just loved our evening here. Walking back through the ‘centro historico’ around 11pm, children were walking the streets, locals were dancing and the small town was buzzing.
ROCA VECCHIA & TORRE DELL’ORSO / JUST BREATHTAKING – I think for me, this was my favourite place of our adventure. Specifically, Roca Vecchia, the easy going locals and their appreciation of the simple things in life. We caught a bus from Lecce to our hotel that was about halfway between the two towns. It felt quite secluded and our hosts only spoke Italian which made for a memorable few days. Our room was great and the scenery even better. We were isolated away from the two towns that we could only hear cicadas and see olive trees, bliss. Of course, our first port of call was the ‘Cave of Poetry’. I think the pictures only really do it justice. We found a quieter swimming spot not too far from the cave and immersed ourselves in the crystal, crystal, crystal clear water. As Georgie described it, the water was so clear that you could see every ripple of the ocean floor, the sand with no disruption. After siesta time we walked about 15 minutes to the town of Roca Vecchia and perched ourselves not far from two Nonnas observing their children frolick in the water below. It was here that we watched one of the best sunsets, a real GOLDEN HOUR. We popped into Poesia, one of the only restaurants in Roca, not knowing what to expect. We were totally blown away by the quality of our meals and would head back in a heartbeat. For our second evening, we watched the sunset again, this time we perched with local families, swimming at dusk, trying to listen to their conversations, observing the art of their lifestyle and the value of ‘doing nothing’. The third day we ventured down to Torre Dell’Orso and followed the track to the ‘Two Sisters’ where beachgoers were in abundance, again overwhelmingly stunning scenery. We stayed for a quick dip at the beach but decided to head back to the quieter caves closer to Roca. Heading back to Roca for our final evening, we walked the streets, passing locals sitting in their fold out chairs on their patios, peering into living rooms where groups of friends were gathered, observing men engaged in card games, watching children ride bikes, smiling at nonnas gossiping and chatting with friendly business owners intrigued with the purpose for our visit. It’s places like this that leave a special memory – for the people, the scenery and the ‘vibe’ as we would say. As we sat at Thuria with an aperol spritz in hand, it was a ‘see you soon Roca’ kind of night.
OTRANTO / Probably the best place to bring us back to some sort of reality after many lazy days of salt, sea and sun. Otranto really surprised us, the old town was just stunning and the al fresco dining areas overlooking the gorgeous azul water made us feel like we could have been at Bondi Icebergs (but it was even better!). The beaches on either side of the harbour area were great to escape the heat. Strolling around the old town after siesta time proved the best part of the day to do so. Then, we appreciated the sunset while sipping on an aperol, overlooking the Otranto port – for our final night in the Puglia region, an ultimate delight.
I am so grateful to have had the best ten days with Georgie – exploring her ten year dream, so thankful to have been a part of it and have these memories. Until next vacay! ITALY – I’ll most definitely be back to see you very soon.
Much love, Laura xx