Untouched by tourism, the beautiful region of Puglia, Italy is a wealth of beaches, little towns and the friendliest locals you’ll meet anywhere. Here’s where to go and where to find the best photo locations in Puglia, southeast Italy.
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Italy is an incredibly photogenic country – there’s no denying it. Every town you come to seems to be the place where Pinterest draws its inspiration.
But hidden at the most south-easterly point of Italy’s boot is the region of Puglia. The moment we arrived in the region, Mrs Romance and I knew we’d found a place to leave our hearts.
From the shimmering waters of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas that lap against its shores to the bustling little whitewashed towns that owe their history – in some part – to the Ancient Greeks, Puglia is like stepping into a dream.
It’s amazing that more tourists don’t know about this part of Italy. But very few people come here apart from other Italians.
It makes Puglia so different to a lot of European travel destinations. There’s a level of local identity you don’t often find in Western Europe.
At one point, we wondered if the nonnas making orecchiette pasta in the street outside their homes were doing it for the tourists, but they really weren’t. It’s just what their families have been doing for generations.
Of course, the ladies love the attention, and they play up to the tourists that do come here. They’ve become a kind of local celebrity, which adds to the charm.
We love exploring different parts of Italy, but our time in Puglia has definitely shown us that there are always new places to discover in this beautiful country.
Here are our favourite parts of Puglia (pronounced ‘pooliya’ by the way) and where to get the best photos.
Why you must visit Puglia, Italy – and where to take the best photos
As we travelled through this fascinating part of Italy, we were lucky to have two of Olympus’s OM-D E-M cameras with us. We love travelling with these cameras. They’re light and compact, but still provide the power, tech and quality you get from DSLR cameras.
Plus things like the connectivity of the Olympus app means you can transfer and share photos from your phone really easily.
Here are our most favourite places to take photos and get the best from Puglia, Italy:
We couldn’t believe the sparkling turquoise water surrounding Otranto in the south of Puglia. Locals and visitors alike flock to the small swimming spots on the edge of the old town and its ancient battlements.
There are sweeping views from the top of the citadel’s walls and you’ll find sandy beaches to the north of Otranto as well.
Grotta della Poesia
Along the rocky coastline, near a Bronze Age archaeological site, you’ll find the large sinkhole at the edge of the Adriatic. We found it with directions from our AirBnB host, who sent us in search of the Grotta della Poesia, the “Cave of Poetry”.
You’ll want to practise your cliff diving here before heading down the coast to Ciolo
Canale del Ciolo
This narrow canal is a mecca for cliff divers and thrill seekers. The water is crystal clear and glittering aquamarine below the narrow bridge that arches over this incredible gorge.
There’s not much here apart from a small taverna but you could spend all day watching people climbing higher and higher and listen to the booming crash that echoes under the bridge as they land in the water far below.
We left our hearts in Monopoli and can’t wait to go back. There has been a settlement here since 500BC and it has a real, thriving local culture that travellers can fit right into.
The town beach sits at the foot of the fortified walls on the Adriatic Sea and is the place to be for a morning swim with the locals.
Polignano a Mare
Famous for cliff diving (it’s one of the Red Bull world venues), you’ll find the tiny town of Polignano a Mare – a few minutes north of Monopoli by train.
Wander under the Porto Vecchio and into a maze of alleys and suddenly you’ll be find yourself on a terrace, rewarded with stunning views down to the caves and beaches below.
One of the most stunning of the “white towns” of Puglia, this medieval hilltop citadel is whitewashed every single year and seems to glow from afar.
With sweeping views to the coast, about 9km away, you’ll get lost inside the narrow streets of the old town as you circle to the top.
Not as well known as Ostuni, Martina Franca is a beautiful walled town with baroque gates and churches at each corner.
This is another white town that you’ll love to get lost in as you wander amongst the locals who live in this charming place.
Known as the “Florence of the South”, Lecce actually predates Florence by 500 years or so.
The unique Baroque buildings blend with the remains of a Roman amphitheatre and within the streets of the centro storico, you’ll find a sophisticated mix of bars and restaurants.
Tip: The best gelato we tried was the pistachio pesto at Crem Bar Gelateria on Via G. Marconi.
The distinctive conical roofs of the trulli are an iconic sight in Alberobello. Trulli are dry stone houses that date back to the 14th century and this tiny town is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its trulli.
Our tip is to come early, as the tour buses come in for lunch. The main area, Rione Aia Piccola is pretty but head to Rione Monti to find locals still living in the trulli for a more authentic visit.
On the edge of the Ionian Sea, Gallipoli is a small fishing village where the churches face the sea. The old town sits atop a limestone island, connected to the mainland by a 16th Century bridge.
Drive south from Gallipoli and you’ll reach the area they call “the Maldives of Italy” thanks to its white sandy beaches.
Wherever you wander in Puglia, you’ll want to keep your camera handy. Down every little alleyway you’re sure to find something beautiful – an old door, a flower-covered balcony, a lane opening to a piazza or an ancient church.
The simple beauty of this seemingly overlooked region of Italy brings out the best the country has to offer. From the people you meet to the food that you eat, Puglia is a destination that will capture your heart.
Have you visited Puglia? Do you have a destination that you fell instantly in love with? Tell us about it in the comments.