Have you ever been stuck with the desire to ‘test’ a holiday before committing? Here in the office we have had an ongoing discussion: can Puglia be done in a weekend? Is 36 hours in Puglia enough time to get under the skin of the place? What can you see with only a few days in this gorgeous Southern Italian region? And is it possible to get to see the best of the best plus have the best villa?
Well, yes, you can have it all! Delve into our quick tips on how to get the best out of your 36 hours in Puglia.
the decisive 36 hour / long-weekend in Puglia
Hours 0-12 in puglia
Warm up with some culture and shopping. First up, let’s head to the small, picture perfect Galatina, a tiny town just a short drive south of Lecce. In the small town centre take advantage of a quick (sweet) pick-me-up at the delectable Pasticceria Andrea Ascalone. Galatina oozes affluence from a former time, with art nouveau touches still visible in architectural details of store fronts and palazzo finishes. Wander down the cobbled streets as far as the Basilicata di Santa Caterina, a medieval church both sublime and awe inspiring. It’s worth noting that photos are not allowed inside, so we have no photographic evidence of its majesty. Believe us when we say it is worth it!.
Afterwards, mull over everything you’ve just seen in your morning, and stay in Galatina for lunch at Anima & Cuore, a Michelin rated restaurant with sublime food. The dishes are rich in flavour with strong, local, traditional Pugliese roots.
After lunch, make the short trip into the centre of Lecce. This grand city, rich in architecture and carved cream limestone buildings, is always vibrant thanks to the presence of the university. Walk off your first big lunch (they will all be big – this is Puglia!) by taking a passeggiata around the impressive historic archaeological and architectural buildings. The Roman amphitheatre stands just 30 seconds’ walk from the baroque frills and stone masonry work at the Basilicata di Santa Croce.
After the big dose of culture, you’ll be pleased to hear that Lecce is also blessed with some fantastically good shopping opportunities. Small, independent boutique stores are everywhere you look; from traditional leather goods to avant-garde fashion and lifestyle shops. It’s such a pleasure to be able to walk around this small city, naturally stopping for snacks along the way. If you work up an appetite shopping, you’re also in the perfect place for some local tasty treats local to Lecce.
Hours 12-24 in Puglia
Today is all about the Itria Valley (also known as Valle d’Itria). There are four best-known towns that are all small, yet totally unique. Although they may not all border the Valle d’Itria exactly, they’re all absolutely worth a visit!
Ostuni (la città bianca) is a lovely white-washed town overlooking olive trees stretching out all the way to the Adriatic coast. As you walk through the town make sure you head to the prettiest panorama spot. Beyond the entrance to the cathedral you pass under an arched ‘bridge’ and take the next right down the little alleyway. You can thank us later!! 😉
If you can hold out until Cisternino for a mid-morning snack your reward will be scrumptious. Almond biscuits, cafés, gelaterie (ice-cream bars), and pasticcerie (pastry shops) are littered around this old medieval town. Be sure to head to the panorama along Via Manzoni to be rewarded with a landscape of trulli houses, Martina Franca and Locorotondo on one horizon, and Ceglie Messapica to the other.
Your next stop should be for lunch, so head to Ceglie Messapica, the capital of Southern Italian gastronomy. The choice is varied, from a local trattoria with nonna’s cooking to Michelin status restaurants.
On your way around the Itria Valley, make the most of your 36 hour time limit and get lost! Get on a road and then turn off it…. be a daredevil and do it without following a satnav or maps on your phone. Why you ask? Well, your surroundings are as pretty as the towns themselves. Try taking some deliberate diversions down small roads, as this is stunning countryside. You are almost certainly bound to find the most idyllic spot that no tourist has found before! It’s a real treat and some of the scenery is breathtaking in its charm.
If you are feeling adventurous enough to spend a little more time in a vehicle, head further north towards Bari and to Alberobello, a UNESCO heritage site. More trulli in the town than you could possibly imagine! Go knock yourself out counting them all and exploring.
Il Cielo, the Michelin Star restaurant at La Sommità is on the menu tonight. A tasting menu will have you doing orgasmic foodie cartwheels as Puglia’s version of Heston Blumenthal cuisine will be plated up for you. After dinner, head to the intimate subterranean cave of the Monna Lisa Caffè, where owner Leonardo will pull out all the stops to create some sumptuous cocktails. Not to be missed.
Hours 24-36 in Puglia
So strictly speaking, this last one isn’t in Puglia, but Basilicata! (We don’t like a border to get in the way of a good idea!) Matera is Capital of Culture for 2019 and to be so close geographically, it would be a shame to miss it. Matera is stark, beautiful, strange and unbelievable. Caves in the ravine were used as homes as late as the 1950s, and the levels of poverty that they lived with are quite unimaginable. It is hard to find a place completely untouched by modernization, so be prepared to see Matera clean, modern, and looking especially tarted up for 2019. However, the program of events is large and diverse so there will likely be something going on when you are there.
Now try your 36 hours in Puglia!
A large selection of our best villas in Puglia are rentable for 3 days during low and mid-season. Up until the first week of July, and after mid September, most of our rental villas in Puglia will accept a short booking. You’ll be left stress free, and able to make the most of your 36 hours in Puglia. Just drop us a line with what you are looking for and we will do the rest.
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