Skip to Content

This article contains affiliate links. We may receive compensation if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

How To Visit Puglia In A Day

Even with limited time, you can visit Puglia for 24 hours and experience Italy away from the more touristy cities up north.

Trulli - Visit Puglia in a Day
Image: ©2foodtrippers

Puglia. How could a tourist visit the neighboring Basilicata region and not spend some spend time in this area rich with food but not American tourists? With limited time, you can take a day trip to visit Puglia and experience to make you want to come back again.

Like Basilicata, many Americans skip Puglia in their quest to experience Italy via the Italian cities of Rome, Florence and Venice. For a vast majority of American leisure travelers, a trip to Italy is a once in a lifetime experience. Let’s face it, there is only so much Italy that one can explore in a typical two-week vacation, not to mention Neapolitan pizza to eat.

Ironically, Puglia is a part of Italy that feels non-touristy, where pasta like ear-shaped orecchiette are lovingly made by hand and markets are filled with the colorful bounty of the mostly flat, fertile Apulian plains. If you’re wondering what to do in Puglia, the answer is a lot – with southern Italian cuisine at the top of the list.

Market Bounty in Puglia Italy
The local produce of a Puglia market can be described as colorful, fresh and delicious. Here we have spicy olives, figs and peppers. | Images: ©2foodtrippers

Many years ago, before the Food Network became a cavalcade of competition and reality shows and when Mario Batali had a dedicated cooking show, the chef predicted that the region of Puglia would be Italy’s next great food destination rivaling the culinary epicenters of Rome, Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna. Well, time has passed since those halcyon Food Network days, but, still, the masses have yet to explore this burgeoning gastronomic cornucopia at the heel of Italy’s boot.

Puglia, with its vast flat plains of olive groves, vineyards and conical houses, is abundant with a rich, sophisticated food culture that goes beyond the simple rustic food that most associate with southern Italy. Popular Puglia destinations include resorts like Bari and more rural towns like Margherita di Savoia.

At the same time, there’s still a piece of amusing provinciality that can be found in the towns we visited – Alberobello, Cisternino and Martina-Franca. Driving a rental car gave us a perfect opportunity to explore Puglia’s varying charms including its hospitable people and its awesome gastronomic culture.

Although we couldn’t see all of Puglia in a day, visiting three unique towns gave a taste that left us happily hungry for more.

Day Trip To Visit Puglia

Our Puglia day trip from Matera began on a road that weaves through jagged Lucanian cliffs and exits into vast Puglian fields dotted by the province’s signature residences: the round, conically-topped trulli, drywall constructed homes that date back centuries.

Trulli in Alberobello Italy
The Puglian town of Alberobello is filled with trulli, dry stone huts with conical roofs. These simple structures give the city a fairytale-like feeling. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

The initial purpose of this unique construction is debatable. Some believe the construction was a convenient way to assemble and disassemble houses in order to avoid tax assessors. Others note that the structures provide perfect insulation from the harsh southern Italian sun in the summer months.

Whatever the reason, the oddity of the fairytale structures defines the Puglian landscape. In the town of Alberobello, trulli are ubiquitous, clustered by the hundreds.

Alberobello City Center in Puglia Italy
Locals stroll through Alberobello on a Sunday morning enjoying music as they shop for produce, meats and other necessities. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

But in ways that go beyond the trulli, we found other captivating attractions on our Sunday morning in Alberobello – open air markets, an outdoor church mass and a festive bandstand where older residents of the town gather to hear traditional music in the southern Italian sun.

Bounties Of A Puglia Market

Puglia Market - Visit Puglia in a Day
Markets in Puglia offer colorful, affordable produce prepared by local farms. Locals queue up to buy bags of the freshest olives, figs and peppers that we have ever seen. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

We adored the Sunday markets and olive vendors that are prevalent on the city streets.

Puglia Market Vegetables
Aside from the legendary olives, Puglian markets feature other vegetables like local mushrooms and bright red, sundrenched peppers. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

It’s fair to say that eating olives in Puglia is akin to eating baguettes in Paris.

Puglian olives with their delicate nutty, salty flavor and thick meaty texture are incomparable to the olives in American cities like our home city of Philadelphia.

Puglia Olives
Grown on the many olive groves throughout the region, Puglian olives can be counted among the best in the world. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Pro Tip
Olives make wonderful snacks to enjoy during a Puglian day trip. They also travel well and taste better than olives sold in the U.S.

Beverage Break In Cisternino

The southern Italian lifestyle is easy, and there are small towns like Cisternino atop hilltops where one can breeze in and enjoy a panini for lunch.

Cocktails with a View in Cisternino Italy
Since shops close for hours, mid-afternoon is a perfect time for lunch and drinks with a view. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Such a break is even better when accompanied by an inordinately large Negroni cocktail and an expansive view of Puglia’s Itria Valley.

Negroni with a View in Puglia Italy
Drinking a Negroni while admiring the Puglian landscape is an experience that we will long remember. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Pro Tip
Most businesses close for several hours each afternoon. Many cafes, where you can relax, eat lunch and enjoy a tasty libation, are open throughout the day.

Evening In Martina-Franca

As the evening breaks in Martina-Franca, the nightly passageata begins. The stately yet compact town’s grand center affords an excellent opportunity to view the nightly stroll while hanging at a local cafe.

Passageata in Martina-Franca Italy
The evening passageata in Martina-Franca is enjoyed by locals of all ages. It’s a perfect way to build the appetite before eating a hearty Puglian meal with pasta and wine. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

The passageata is serious business, as even the town’s oldest citizens proudly struggle to walk through the medieval town center using rails and walls if necessary to keep their balance.

Prosecco Glasses in Puglia Italy
Sipping prosecco at an outdoor cafe is a perfect way to start the evening in Martina-Franca. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

This is the Italy we’ve always read and heard about through Italian-American immigrant stories. You can literally feel the heritage of the country behind every rustic door.

Pro Tip
Most businesses close for several hours each afternoon. Many cafes, where you can relax, eat lunch and enjoy a tasty libation, are open throughout the day.

Dinner At The Southern Edge Of Martina-Franca

There aren’t a ton of resources on ‘where to eat’ in Martina-Franca. We found a number of nondescript reviews in difficult to understand, Google translated Italian, but there were a couple of good reviews that pointed us toward the southern border of the town’s center. It was there that we found Osteria Coco Pazzo.

Since Italians eat late, many restaurants open for dinner as late as 8 p.m. Such was the case with this white-walled cantina which we found after a maze-like walk that left us along a two-way main drag.

We approached the restaurant, located in a bi-level Italian strip mall and were quickly greeted by a food runner who treated us like long lost guests. It was just then that we heard a familiar refrain.

Chef Stefano Colucci at Osteria del Coco Pazzo in Puglia Italy
Chef Stefano Colucci, a fourth-generation chef, runs Osteria del Coco Pazzo both in the kitchen and in the dining room. He brings his experience cooking around the world back home to Martina-Franca, where he has access to some of the freshest ingredients in the world. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

“How did you find my restaurant?”

Chef Stefano Colucci, who had just emerged from the kitchen door dressed in street clothes, repeated the same humble greeting that we’ve received during pizza experiences in Naples.

We explained that our selection was purely by chance. Literally: the restaurant looked good, so we went in. He was fascinated by our serendipitous arrival and proceeded to shower us with a stream of well-crafted yet traditional Puglian dishes.

The osteria’s menu offers a selection that embraces local ingredients that are abundantly available in Puglia. We began the meal with a melange of antipasti and enjoyed treats like squash blossoms, shrimp, fava bean dip and a red snapper carpaccio.

Antipasti in Puglia Italy
Antipasti in Puglia could be a meal on its own. Our favorite starter of the meal featured locally made meats and cheeses. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Although the fava bean dip is a Puglian staple, our favorite starter was a plate of local meats and cheeses including bresaola, tender cured pancetta and vaccherino – a local, intensely funky cow’s milk cheese. All this was served aside rich, soft, creamy burrata.

Orecchiette al Sugo in Puglia Italy
Osteria Coco Pazzo’s version of Orecchiette al Sugo features tomato, basil, peppers and mushrooms with large handmade orecchiette. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Other standouts included a pasta dish made with handmade orecchiette pasta and a flavorful tomato sugo. Another was the house special marretto, a lamb roll made with organ meat and served with roasted potatoes and bay leaves.

Marretto in Puglia Italy
A meal highlight was the Marretto dish, a lamb roll made with organ meat served over a plate of potatoes and bay leaves. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

To full for most Italian desserts, we ended the meal with after-dinner liqueurs and cookies. The combination provided a sweet but not too sweet conclusion to the satisfying meal.

Susumaniello Wine in Puglia Italy
Unknown beyond Puglia, wine made from susumaniello grapes, generally a blending grape in Primitivo based wines, is rich and peppery with a medium-bodied finish. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

During the meal, we enjoyed a bottle of wine made from indigenous susumaniello grapes. Rich and peppery, the medium-bodied wine is one that we want to drink again, but, alas, it is not easy to find outside of Puglia.

Osteria del Coco Pazzo is located at Arco Mastrovito 18-19 74015 Martina Franca (TA), Italy.

Final Thoughts

Our day trip to Puglia ended much like it started, with us driving through winding roads. As we approached the ancient city of Matera, we already missed Puglia but took comfort in the plastic bags of olives just waiting for us to enjoy for days to follow.

Although we only got a small taste, we tasted enough to know that we want to return for a proper trip to Puglia. Next time we visit Puglia, perhaps we will make time to explore the seaside towns near the Adriatic and Ionian seas.

Without a doubt, we will eat and drink lots of local food and wine among olive tree-dotted fields and quaint towns. To us, that is the ultimate way to live like a local Puglia, even if just for a day.

Planning Checklist

Check out our guide to eating in Italy as well as our picks for the best Italian foods and the best Italian desserts before your trip.

Hungry For More In Italy?

Naples Pizza - Social IMG
Rome Food Favorites - Social IMG
Venice Restaurants - Social IMG
About The Authors

About The Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers their unique taste of the world.


Article Updates
We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

We self-funded our trip to Puglia.

Original Publication Date: April 26, 2015


Friday 8th of July 2016

Thank you so much for sharing your adventures! We're planning a trip to Puglia in May! Can't wait to visit some of the places you've mentioned! :-)

Dannielle Lily

Thursday 2nd of July 2015

Such beautiful, vibrant colours! Looks like I need to put Puglia on my list

Subscribe to our newsletter and get a free guide to eating like a local when you travel.

2foodtrippers Headshot

Don't Miss A Bite!

Subscribe to our newsletter and get our free guide to eating like a local when you travel. 

Get our free guide to eating like a local when you travel.