A defining quality of Puglia is its intimate engagement with the sea. The coastal region’s abundance of underwater caves, natural swimming holes and sun-saturated beaches invites year-round exploration. Much of the area’s best architecture exists in direct communication with the land, whether it’s the local limestone sourced for historic cathedrals or the cave settlements burrowed into the rocky landscape of Matera. But the respect for traditions from centuries past doesn’t mean there isn’t the occasional modern touch – just look to the thriving beach clubs, which promise sun and sea by day and dance parties by night.
Beach and natural pool, Marina Serra
Lecce is famous for its natural ocean pools, and the stunning azure scene at Marina Serra ranks among the best. As photogenic as it is refreshing, this is also a safe spot for visitors of all ages to immerse themselves in a corner of the Adriatic Sea. When you’ve swum yourself content, sun yourself off on the soaring cliffs looming all around you. While this organically carved pool remains a steady draw for tourists, there’s more than enough room for everyone.
Grotta Zinzulusa, Castro
Serene snorkelling and leisurely swims await at this famous Adriatic grotto, just a short boat ride from the mellow town of Castro. Bring your goggles, as between the oceanic life and vivid rock formations there’s plenty to peer at here beneath the sea’s surface. The sprawling cliff-set cave (complete with an above-water chamber dubbed “the cathedral”) is also home to distinctive stalactites and stalagmites, as well as a host of fascinating living fossils unique to the region.
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The Trani Cathedral
Built using white and pink limestone from nearby caves, this stunning example of Apulian Romanesque architecture was consecrated in 1143. It’s dedicated to Saint Nicholas the Pilgrim, who died nearby while journeying on foot to Rome. To this day, it remains one of the most popular attractions in the seaport city of Trani, thanks in part to its lavish ornamentation and prime location – just a stone’s throw from the coast.
Samsara Beach Club, Gallipoli
Seaside DJs and drinks await in Gallipoli. Samsara Beach is the very ideal of an Italian beach club, but with a contemporary bent. Renowned for its themed parties and blockbuster DJ sets, this thrumming destination is so part of the entertainment fabric of Puglia it’s even branched out with an in-house magazine and live touring arm. And you don’t have to be up for a big night to enjoy the simple indulgence of lounging here under the Italian sun.
Trulli houses of Alberobello
Nestled in the town of Bari in southern Puglia, Alberobello is exalted for its limestone huts, known as trulli. These slab-based, mortarless dwellings are a well-preserved example of a prehistoric construction technique still employed in the Itria Valley today. Initially designed to be quickly dismantled if required, some of these structures in Alberobello date as far back as the 14th century; the town lays claim to more than 1500 in total. If a tour of these quirky icons isn’t enough, some are also available to book for a truly traditional stay.
Observe the enduring tradition of local pottery
One of Puglia’s most popular cultural draws, Grottaglie has been called the region’s pottery capital. But only one local ceramicist has been profiled by Vogue: Franco Fasano. His family has been devoted to the painstaking earthenware art for a stunning 18 generations, and today their work is exported all over the world, including Australia. Visit the family shop, Ceramiche Nicola Fasano, in Grottaglie’s ceramics district for a closer look at this enduring tradition and the chance to purchase a piece. Tip: be very careful with transporting home in luggage.
Explore the UNESCO cave town of Matera
Going from extreme poverty to tourism hotspot in the space of 70 years, this storied destination in the southern region of Basilicata remains a quirky wonder. The canyon-set cave town of Matera is the Mediterranean’s most intact example of a Palaeolithic settlement, with evidence of continuous human occupation from about 10,000 BC through to the present day. Built in harmony with the craggy rocks and ravines, these ancient structures include early churches, wells and farmhouses. Once the sun starts to dip below the horizon, you’ll see this one-of-a-kind settlement in a whole new natural light.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Luxury Escapes. See more of Broadsheet's guide to Puglia.
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