Puglia was once an unexplored part of Italy that only a few clued-up travelers knew about. Today though, it stands as one of Italy’s most famous regions with visitor numbers continuing to rise year after year. It offers everything Italophiles crave – ancient towns that transport you back in time, rolling hills in the countryside dotted with olive groves, and coastal treasures like beaches and caves that compete with the world’s very best.
Yet, with an increased profile comes an increased tourism footprint – and at a few spots in Puglia (such as Alberobello and Matera) the crowds have become rather large. This is no reason to despair because luckily Puglia is blessed with many untouched hidden gems that are just waiting to be discovered. But where to go and what to see? With the help of a local tour guide you will be able to travel deeper in the “heel” of Italy’s boot.
Fabrizio is one such guide who can help you immerse yourself in the most authentic destinations. He runs Apulia Private Tours which offers a wide range of quality tours – from city and town walks, to hiking and cycling adventures, to boat trips and diving excursions, to food and wine tastings. Fabrizio hails from the port city of Bari and is a true local who loves sharing the secrets, stories and traditions of his homeland with others.
Alongside his credentials as a guide, Fabrizio is also a scuba dive master and hiking and cycling enthusiast – making him the perfect all-rounder to link up with on your vacation. His passion for Puglia is infectious and after being led on a journey with him, you will come away with a newfound appreciation of this area. Below we dive into the experiences that Fabrizio offers and provide recommendations on the top hidden gems to visit.
Magical Towns in Puglia with Very Few Tourists
No trip to Puglia is complete without heading to its most charming towns, where you can witness the Apulian lifestyle unfold in a natural way. While many tourists flock to popular places like Lecce, there are many smaller towns that remain undiscovered. Locorotondo, for example, is a hilltop village boasting white-washed houses and a seductive vibe. Spending a day or two here might be the highlight of your entire Puglia holiday.
The best thing about Locorotondo (apart from its cool name) is the lack of obvious tourist attractions. This town appeals to those who love getting lost down mazes of alleyways, sitting in the sun with a couple of aperol spritz in hand and just soaking up the scene. Locorotondo is nestled in the Valle d’Itria – a fertile green plain stretching from Putignano in the north to Ostuni in the south – with several tranquil countryside towns in the vicinity.
Seeing these Valle d’Itria gems is easily done with Fabrizio on his Itria Valley Towns Tour as it includes hotel pick-up, guided tour and free time. Not only can you check out Locorotondo but you can also request to stop at other fairytale communes such as Ceglie Messapica, Cisternino and Martina Franca. The old town squares and baroque architecture on display in all of them will make you feel as though time has stopped.
Puglia’s Most Secret Hiking Opportunities
Whether you gravitate towards the gorgeous countryside or the epic coastline – there are endless trails to choose from in Apulia. Some are gentle walks while others are full-on treks. Many of the hikes can be combined with visits to nearby towns, picnics in picturesque settings or food and wine tastings. Better yet, many of these nature paths can be explored in less than five hours – making them ideal for the casual hiker.
Gargano National Park is the go-to place in the region for hiking. The Umbra Forest within the park is considered to be the “green lungs” of Puglia, with over 100 kilometers of marked trails to take on. But for people who are searching for something more relaxed, the walk from Polignano a Mare to Monopoli should definitely be considered. The distance is less than nine kilometers and the terrain is easy and comfortable.
It won’t take longer than five hours, even for the slowest walker who stops for breaks. With Fabrizio, you can enjoy this leisurely coastal stroll in full or in a part of your own choosing. Both Polignano a Mare and Monopoli are pearls of Apulia and hiking between them opens up a world of secrets. Torre Incina is on the route and it features limestone cliffs, a lovely beach and a small historic tower that dates back to the 16th century.
Unique Boating, Diving & Snorkeling Experiences
Forget about the Gulf of Naples or Sardinia for a second and consider the fact that Puglia has some of the most crystal-clear waters in all of Italy. With two coasts (the Adriatic and Ionian) on offer, travelers are never far from a hidden bay or interesting rock formation. But instead of taking a typical boat trip, why not try something unique? For instance, Fabrizio’s boat tours in Taranto range from dolphin watching to sailing to the Cheradi Islands.
Both of these tours are very different to the standard boat experiences that tourists do in Puglia – the most popular one is a standard trip out on the waters of Polignano a Mare. The Polignano tour is fantastic but just imagine seeing dolphins? No one back home will be able to believe your photos. And these majestic creatures aren’t the only marine life that can be spotted. Colorful fish can be seen on a snorkeling tour of Puglia as well.
The real unique water adventure, though, is the Diving Baptism Tour with Fabrizio. Perfect for beginners, this tour enables you to learn the basics of scuba diving under the guidance of a professional diver. Guests are trained to go from depths of 20 centimeters to three meters, usually performed in calm areas so it’s easier – like small inlets and bays. If you have never tried diving before then this is your chance in a safe and slow manner.
Fun Cycling & Horseback Riding Adventures
Puglia is a phenomenal destination for cycling, with marvelous coastal and countryside roads to pedal along. For this activity, most tourists would hire a bike and explore the outskirts of the town they are in but the total package comes in the form of a cycling tour with Fabrizio. He can take you on a route that includes the most breathtaking scenery in the region, in combination with villages and food and wine tastings from local artisans.
Ostuni to the Coast is a great option in this regard. It winds through olive groves in rural Puglia before reaching the sea. The cycling can be as slow as you like because there is never any reason to rush when traveling through the ‘breadbasket of Italy’. Another slow-paced adventure to be had in the south is horse riding. If you are comfortable with horses and like the idea of spending a day in contact with nature, then give it a shot.
Fabrizio offers horseback riding tours that can be tailored from beginners to experts, and the whole family is encouraged to join in no matter their skill level. Strutting along the scenic coast might sound the most appealing but don’t underestimate the sense of peace you will feel being in the wild tracks and local farms of the countryside too. These landscapes are just as spellbinding and oftentimes there is less noise to contend with.
Local Product Tastings and Laboratories
Food will play a big role on your Puglia trip. You won’t get sick of the rustic cuisine – does one ever tire of dipping focaccia bread in olive oil, and eating sweet tomatoes and fresh seafood everyday? Probably not but to take your gastronomy experience to the next level, you should book a tour with Fabrizio who can introduce you to the best regional wine and local product laboratories – where you can make your own pasta and cheese.
In sum, it’s hard to beat Puglia. The “heel” of Italy’s boot takes all the things you love about the country and shakes them up in unique ways. No matter the duration of your visit – be it two days or two months – contacting Fabrizio for your adventure and culture tours is a no-brainer. His in-depth knowledge of Apulia will leave you speechless and you will be so glad you meet him. Take the time to view his tours and see what tickles your fancy.