Visiting Puglia with kids may or may not be a good idea depending on the places you want to see and the age of the children. Puglia Italy is a suprising region. I gathered below some tips and tricks that would have helped me plan better a holiday there.
Puglia has never been on my map with places to visit in this lifetime. But after seeing some pictures from Bari and others from Polignano a Mare, I did not have much to decide but to get there as soon as possible.
We wanted to travel with our 1 year old child. Considering the flight from Bucharest took only one hour and a half, I believed this is the perfect destination for our first Italy holiday with baby.
But visiting Puglia with kids was a real challenge and I didn’t expect that. Once I decided to visit this region in Italy, I immediately bought Bucharest-Bari airplane tickets and started to plan my holiday in Puglia Italy.
Puglia is the region that covers Italy’s heel. It’s not very popular and well-known for tourists because when you compete with Rome, Sicily or Tuscany it’s hard to stand out.
But precisely because it is not as popular as the others, I have met here the true essence of Italy: crazy traffic, people gesticulating and some amazing meals prepared in family restaurants.
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Where to stay in Puglia Italy
We did not have much time to look at the best accommodation in Puglia Italy. Because we landed in Bari, we also booked an apartment here.
When we got there, we realized that we could have looked for accommodation south from Bari because we had a car to drive around (and perhaps that would have been wiser).
We spent three days in the region 50 km south from Bari so we would have saved the time driving if we have booked something in Polignano de Mare or even in some isolated village. But Bari was also a great base to explore the area.
So if you are wondering what is the best city to stay in Puglia that allows you to explore the whole region, you should choose Bari.
Hotels and B&Bs in Bari
- Zodiacus residence 3* – a hotel in the old town of Bari with parking – check prices and availability
Because we booked something in the city I chose a place with a parking lot (a very rare thing here). If you want to stay in the largest city of the region, you can look for hotels in Bari Italy here *.
Driving in Puglia Italy
We rented a car for the whole trip in Puglia Italy. I read there are buses and trains that can be used to move between cities, but their schedule was not convenient.
And since this was our first holiday in Italy with our toddler we needed flexibility, mobility and, most importantly, a way of transport to carry a lot of stuff (and not in the back).
So the option to ride a bus with stroller, backpack, a few toys and the little one walking but mostly asking to hold him was not actually an option.
The rented car was the solution. We’ve weighted some choices because the baby’s car seat was about a third of the total rental cost, but we paid the comfort in the end.
When you have lots of luggage, of course you are thinking to rent a bigger car. The price difference was not significant, but by luck I found a travel guide for Puglia Italy saying you need to take the smallest car you find.
We did that and it was very good that we’ve listened him! We drove that car on such narrow streets that we did not think you are allowed to drive there! And this choice also helped us in traffic, the “dream” traffic of Puglia Italy.
We were used with the madness in Romania and we believed nothing can surprise us. But the Italians have their own style.
It seems like there is no speed limit and no clear lines of the parking places. They go on the idea “Let’s both squeeze in somehow…”. Yes, driving in Puglia Italy is an experience itself!
If you do not want to complicate your life driving in Puglia, an excellent idea is to stay in Bari and take day trips from Bari* to the main attractions in the area.
Parking in Puglia Italy
The streets in the cities are narrow, so finding a parking spot is a real adventure! And after you find one, you must know to read the colors:
–blue lines mean paid parking (at the dispenser machine or a blue disc from banks, tourist offices, tobacconists and post offices)
–white lines mean free parking (and there are some streets with white lines not very far from the center)
–green lines mean parking is not permitted on working days between 08.00-09.30 and 14.30-16.00 hours
–yellow lines indicate parking for disabled persons only
These colors have the same significance all over Italy, but every city has different parking fees depending on the area. Before arriving, I had a list with some streets with free parking in Puglia. But in some places we preferred to pay to walk less.
Things to do in Puglia Italy
The pictures of Bari and Polignano a Mare made me decide to visit the region, but as I was looking information for our holiday in Puglia with baby, I was wondering how I had not taken it into account so far.
My list of things to do in Puglia Italy was growing from day to day and the days planned there were insufficient.
So I reduced the list even though I would have loved to enlarge the vacation. We had a 7-day itinerary in Puglia and it was enough time for us to see:
Bari, the capital of Puglia region
In Bari, I think we spent the most time and we were able to enjoy it leisurely at various hours of the day. I wrote here more about what you can visit in Bari. I really liked the city, with its Italian spirit, the narrow streets and the sea that surrounds it from several places. It easily reminded me of Naples, but it’s much quieter.
In Bari, you can have some unique experiences: a tour of the city at sunset, a bike ride through the old town or even a cooking pasta lesson in the traditional Italian style. You can book them here:
Matera, the stone city
Just an hour away from Bari, Matera seems to be one of the most spectacular places to visit in southern Italy. Built since the Paleolithic in the canyon of the river Gravina, the cave dwellings known as Sassi di Matera seem to be some of the oldest continuously used dwellings in the world.
They were abandoned in the last century for a while due to the unsanitary conditions in which people lived there, but were restored to become a UNESCO cultural heritage site.
In Sassi di Matera you can walk randomly on the streets for a whole day without getting bored. If you are curious about how people lived in this caves-dwelling, you can stop at the Casa grotta di Vico Solitario, a house where the furniture and tools used in the past are exhibited.
You will have a beautiful view of the city in front of the church Chiesa di San Pietro Caveoso.
It seems that this location has been inhabited for so long because it allowed water storage, in the city, there are several underground cisterns in stone. The largest of them is Palombaro lungo which can be visited.
Of all the cities and towns visited in Puglia, Matera was impossible to be explored with a stroller. If you want to visit Matera with a baby it is better to leave the stroller at the hotel and use the baby carrier.
Accommodation in Matera Italy:
- Il Belvedere 3* – a 3* hotel with a complete view of the stone city – check prices and availability
If you stay in Bari and do not have a car to visit Matera, you can try a day trip to Matera. If you have a car and you can get there, I recommend you visit Matera on a walking tour or even in a tuk-tuk. All these activities can be booked here:
Polignano a Mare
A beautiful seaside town is Polignano a Mare. If you haven’t heard of him before, you’ve probably heard the song “Volare, oo, Cantare, oooo” whose composer was born here.
In the old town of Polignano a Mare you can wander on its narrow streets until you reach the beautiful balconies overlooking the sea or you can stay on its famous beach: Lama Monachile.
Accommodation in Polignano a Mare:
- Covo dei Saraceni 4* – a stylish hotel with a sea view – check prices and availability
- Hotel Grotta Palazzese 5* – the only 5* hotel in Polignano a Mare, located above the famous cave restaurant Grotta Palazzese – check prices and availability
To enjoy Polignano a Mare you can book a day trip from Bari or, once there, you can try a tour of the city:
To the south of Polignano a Mare, also on the seafront, is the beautiful town of Monopoli. Once here, you can park your car outside the city walls and then you can go exploring it, on the narrow streets overlooking the sea.
As beautiful places in Monopoli, you can visit Charles V Castle, located right on the shore, the cathedral built in the 18th century and visible from outside the walls and the port, with its fishing boats.
Monopoly is not as popular as Polignano a Mare, so not so visited by tourists. You can enjoy it at will and even in the tourist season, you can wake up alone on certain streets.
Accommodation in Monopoli Italy:
Near Monopoli, but isolated enough to enjoy the rural landscape you can find Il Sole 4*, a hotel with a pool and green yard for those who want to relax or for families with children – check prices and availability.
Ostuni, the white city of Puglia
One of the most beautiful cities to visit in Puglia is Ostuni. Further south of Monopoli, Ostuni is known as the “White City” due to its whitewashed and bright buildings.
In Ostuni, you can enjoy a rich lunch in Piazza della Liberta and then you can climb to the old centre, among the white houses and rockets with red geraniums on the window.
On the way, you can opt for the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo or you can simply deviate from the main street on the side alleys. If you have a full day in Ostuni, you will certainly not get bored, but you can visit it only in half a day.
A must see in Puglia: Alberobello
One of the most famous tourist attractions in Puglia is Alberobello, the village with dwarf houses called Trulli and included in the UNESCO heritage.
They were built in the 19th century as temporary shelters and warehouses and are specific to the entire area around the village. Today, white stone houses with tugged roofs house shops, restaurants and some even hotel rooms.
If you walk quietly among them you will even discover a church built in this style. You can have the most beautiful view of the houses from Balcone Santa Lucia.
Accommodation in Alberobelo:
- Trulli e Puglia – if you want to spend a night in a trulo house, in the centre of the trulli area – check prices and availability
- Il trullo della selva – another accommodation in a trulo house with pool – check prices and availability
In Alberobello there are some interesting activities to do that you can book here:
Things to do for children in Puglia: Zoosafari Fasano
One of the most visited tourist attractions in Puglia, especially by families with children, is Zoosafari Fasano, a different kind of zoo. If you are wondering where you can go on safari in Europe, find out that in Puglia there is such a place.
The park is divided into two: one part is called Zoosafari which is driven by your own car and the other is called Fasanolandia, a kind of zoo combined with an amusement park.
Half of the huge park that shelters wild animals is travelled by car, the animals being free in areas dedicated to each species (in some of them) or common areas for others. It’s a weird feeling to look out the car window and see free lions near you.
Read also: How to spend one day in Venice
The other half of the park includes the aquarium, a few smaller animals, an area dedicated to baboons and a lake of large mammals. The baboon area of Zoosafari is visited on a train with bars. People are locked inside and baboons jump on the train, curious to see what or who is inside.
The lake of large mammals can be seen only from a kind of funicular that rides above them and has a station on a platform where you can see the polar bear.
For a holiday in Puglia with children, Zoosafari is a must-see place.
Saline di Margherita di Savoia
If the beaches south of Bari are quite rocky and mostly gravel, those who want to spend a beach holiday in Puglia can go north of Bari. Here they will find resorts with wide, sandy beaches.
One of these resorts is Margherita de Savoia. We arrived here not necessarily for the beach, but rather for the salt lakes of Margherita di Savoia, known as hosts for flamingo birds, especially in the cold months.
Once here, you can walk among the salt lakes by bike; there are several trails.
Accommodation at the beach in Puglia, in Margherita di Savoia:
- Hotel Ristorante Rinelli 3* – an accessible hotel located near the beach – check prices and availability
- Salapia salis resort 4* – a resort with a pool situated between the beach and the salt lakes – check prices and availability
And if you arrive in Margherita di Savoia, it is a pity to return to Bari not to stop to admire the cathedral of Trani, another seaside town in the style of the region.
Trani is quite unpopular compared to other cities in Puglia but is known for its cathedral built right on the seafront.
Tips & tricks for a holiday in Puglia with kids
As soon as I arrived, I realized that a road trip in Puglia with kids my baby’s age (1-2 years old) is not an inspiring choice. No matter how beautiful the cities in the region are, all of them have the city centre paved with a bigger or smaller cubic stone and some even have slopes. To push the stroller on those streets is a mess both for parents and for the shaken child. I did not think about it when I made the choice, but we tried not to limit ourselves for this reason. We visited every place on our list with the baby in my arms or with him in the wearing system and the luggage in the stroller. But for older kids is a great experience.
Lunch was another challenge. We were used to active holidays, with visiting a lot and eating 2 meals a day (in the morning and at 5-6 in the afternoon). But the baby needs 3 meals a day and snacks. And when we found all the restaurants, shops and pharmacies closed for siesta on the first day at a normal lunch hour in Romania (1-2 p.m.), we gave him fruits and biscuits instead of lunch. And from the next day, we started to take supplies with us.
Apart from these small shortcomings, Puglia has surprised us pleasantly many times. We also got used to their infernal traffic, to pay mostly cash (because most of the shops and restaurants don’t have card readers) and to communicating with hands because we rarely found someone to speak English. I discovered here an Italy still unchanged by tourism, an Italy like the one in the old movies that I yearn to meet on every trip!