Bari is the capital of the Italian south-western district of Puglia, and hosting the Bari Half Marathon in October. Although Bari itself is a city full of beauty, and easy to reach with its modern airport, it would be limiting to focus only on this city.
Being born and raised in Puglia, for me is very easy to give recommendations about the region. The problem is the opposite: there is so much to say! For in depth info, I recommend this Email address (and the website www.pugliadreams.com), or the official tourism portal.
Puglia is reachable mainly from abroad, through the two main airports of Bari palese (BRI) and Brindisi (BDS). A car rental provides better freedom and flexibility.
Other possibilities are to land in main airports (Rome, or Naples). From there, it is easy to reach the cities of Bari, Taranto or Lecce through the railway, or buses (Flixbus provides several low cost options).
I will try to describe area per area, the beauty of this region:
Imperial Puglia and Matera
The northern part of Puglia is the land of Frederik II, emperor who influenced the development of the area with his innovative spirit. A landmark of the area is the Castel del Monte, depicted on the Italian 1 € cent coin.
The area is also famous for several natural beauties: the National park of Gargano and its Foresta Umbra, natural woods with high elements of biodiversity. Notable also the salt ponds with their scenic color show.
Matera, right outside Puglia, is famous for its “sassi” ancient urban environments arrived to us almost unchanged, often used as set for Hollywood blockbusters. For its cultural richness Matera has been nominated European capital of culture 2019.
Bari and the Trulli area
Bari with its beautiful Lungomare (seaside) on the Adriatic sea coast, is not the only beautiful city in the area. Despite walking into its city center, eating an octopus sandwich, can be a rewarding experience, as well as visiting the San Nicola dome, there is much more.
The coast is full of beautiful cities I strongly recommend to visit. I will recommend three: Monopoli, and its remarkable harbor with fish restaurants; Polignano a Mare, magnificent coastal town that gave the birth to Domenico Modugno. He is the author of the famous song “Volare”, and Trani, with its famous landmark: the Cathedral.
In the inner part of Bari province, the area of Alberobello is famous for the presence of a large number of trulli (traditional apulian building). For this reason, its historical center has become part of UNESCO world heritage since 1996. Notable is the city of Altamura for its cathedral, and the famous bread and focaccia, and the beautiful Locorotondo (literally, rounded place, taking the name from its shape).
Taranto and the ionian coast
The Ionian gulf is named after Taranto, the main city of the area. Called the city of the two seas, Taranto is the former capital of the Greek colonies in Italy. Taranto celebrates its Spartan heritage with the Spartan Race, occurring every year in October.
Taranto is a city with an industrial soul, and a touristic one. It hosts an important historic museum, and its province hosts beaches of incredible beauty, alongside the whole ionic coast. I wouldn’t be a surprise if even in October the conditions would be suitable for bathing. The speciality of the area? Seafood, in particular mussels. Try pasta with mussels sauce, you won’t regret it.
Martina Franca is another notable town in Taranto province, famous also for its meats and cold cuts, served by agriturismi or butcher-restaurants… a paradise for lovers of proteins 😉
Manduria is famous for its wines, in particular the Primitivo di Manduria. The grape is the same of the zinfandel, giving a very full bodied wine, perfect with cheese, cold cuts and grilled meats (as the great ones you will find in the Martina Franca area).
Lecce, Brindisi and Salento
Lecce is called the Florence of South, thanks to its baroque churches, and its beauty. Very beautiful cities Ostuni, called the white city for its white stone constructions, and on the sea Gallipoli and Porto Cesareo. The colors of their beaches and the white sands are really remarkable.