Apulia - Things To Do
Apulia is considered to be the queen of the Italian regions. Its territory is characterized by a unique diversity, and for this reason, the region is able to offer something for everyone, regardless of their interests, making it the perfect destination for a trip to Italy.
Without a doubt, one of the main attractions of Apulia is the crystal-clear sea and its unspoiled beaches. From Gargano to Salento, Apulia boasts an infinite expanse of beaches, from those lined with limestone rocks to those featuring fine white sand.
But Apulia doesn’t have only unspoiled beaches. It also has natural parks and reserves that offer spectacular panoramas and landscapes. From the vast expanses of olive groves to the fertile reddish ground of Salento, the rural areas of the region are simply amazing.
Moreover, Apulia is famous all over the world for its food and wine. The region has a rich culinary tradition based on Mediterranean cuisine, although each area of Apulia re-elaborates the ancient recipes to create their own unique dishes.
Customs and traditions also have deep roots in Apulia. Throughout the year, there are numerous folkloristic events, sagre, and festivals that gather locals and tourists alike.
As such, when it comes to things to do in Apulia, the options are seemingly limitless.
Festivals & Events
Apulia is a region where people maintain strong bonds with their ancient roots. For this reason, throughout the year it is possible to attend numerous religious festivals, ceremonies, and processions held in honor of the spiritual patrons of each village or city.
Like all the other regions of the country, Apulia is also famous for its food festivals, called sagre by the locals. At these events, it is possible to taste the culinary delicacies of the territory, ranging from exquisite dishes based on fish and seafood in the coastal areas to delicious salami and cheeses inland.
Among all the events, one to attend during winter is the Festa di San Valentino celebrated on February 14, in Vico del Gargano. Although Valentine’s Day is celebrated on that date all over the world, the celebration in Vico has the flavor of the ancient times. Here, a statue of the saint is decorated with oranges and exhibited to the public. According to tradition, those offering juice from the oranges on the statue (reportedly an "elixir of love") to their better half will enjoy a special type of love for the rest of their lives. Apart from the celebration of the saint, the municipality organizes numerous events that represent a true attraction for both adults and children.
Other events to attend in many places throughout the region are the carnivals. Among them, two that stand out are the Carnival of Putignano, one of the oldest and longest carnivals in Europe (spanning from December 26 to Fat Tuesday), and the Carnival of Manfredonia, which dates back to the 1950s. Both carnivals are characterized by the presence of colorful floats and costumes, masks, and puppets.
In Taranto, an important folkloristic and religious event is the Riti della Settimana Santa, a celebration held each year during the week before Easter. During this time, series of events are held including two processions that are particularly recognized for their rituality and symbolism.
Each year between April 23 and April 24, a beautiful event to attend in Vieste, is the Festa di San Giorgio, held in honor of the patron saint of the city. Apart from the spiritual importance, the festival attracts people from all over the world thanks to two other folkloristic events linked to the celebration. These events are the Sagra della Frittata, celebrating the delicious Italian dish, and Palio a cavallo, a famous horse race held on the beach.
In May, the city of Bari comes to life to celebrate its patron saint, Saint Nicholas, during a succession of events called Festa di San Nicola. This is one of the most important religious events in the region, attracting faithful from all over the world.
Another interesting event to attend in August is the Cavalcata di Sant’Oronzo, in Ostuni. The festival includes many events, including a procession with knights on horseback who escort the holy statue during the celebration.
The outdoor activities in Apulia vary from strolling along the streets of historical cities to laying on a beach, diving, or any number of other recreational activities.
Without a doubt, diving and sunbathing are the main outdoor activities in the region. There are dozens of beaches stretching along the coastline from Gargano to Salento. Many of these beaches boast splendid caves, crystalline seas, and wonderful diving or snorkeling spots.
Some of the most scenic beaches are Vignanotica in Gargano and Acquaviva di Marittima in Salento, but all beaches in the region are ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and diving.
Discovering the amazing cities of the region is another great way to spend quality time outdoors in Apulia. One of the most beautiful cities to explore is Lecce, famous for its original Baroque buildings. In fact, the Baroque of Lecce is one of the most renowned artistic and architectural styles of the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries.
This distinctive style, however, is not present in Lecce alone. Many other towns across Salento boast Baroque edifices characterized by rich decorations and elaborate carvings and sculptures that stimulate the fantasy of admirers.
Hiking and cycling are other great outdoor activities to enjoy in Apulia. There are many routes that pass through characteristic coastal villages and exceptional landscapes, showing the best of the three main areas, Capitanata, Murge, and Salento.
The coastal villages and towns offer a unique perspective into Apulia’s history, showing the strong bond this region has with the East. One of the best places to see is the Cathedral of Trani, linked to the story of Saint Nicholas the Pilgrim.
Other places, such as the Castle of Gallipoli, are linked to stories of past invaders. The coast is also sprinkled with numerous watchtowers and other defensive structures.
The Cathedral of Otranto, renowned for its well-preserved mosaic floor from the 12th century, and the Duomo Tonti Cerignola, one of the largest churches in southern Italy, are two other beautiful structures to discover in the region.
There are a few ideal spots to visit in Apulia, especially for those who love bird watching and long walks in nature. Two of the most representative are the Umbra Forest, in Gargano, and Oasi Lago Salso near Manfredonia. The first is an amazing natural reserve offering the chance to observe many forms of wildlife, while the second is a protected World Wildlife Fund oasis, chosen by many exotic species of birds as a nesting place.
Moreover, the area between Manfredonia and Margherita di Savoia is rich in many species of birds, among which is a beautiful colony of pink flamingos.
Throughout the region, a favorite thing to do indoors includes visits to the many museums. The archaeological museums are probably the most representative of Apulia. One of the best is the Archaeological Museum of Bari that preserves numerous prehistoric artifacts. There is also a special collection of Greek pottery and other objects in the museum.
The National Archaeological Museum of Taranto exhibits another part of the prehistoric heritage of Apulia. The findings are dated in the Paleolithic and Iron Age, while a part of the museum is dedicated to the reconstruction of an ancient Spartan colony.
The Provincial Archaeological Museum Francesco Ribezzo in Brindisi is one of the best in Apulia. The museum features numerous exhibits, including a collection of numismatics and underwater artifacts.
Lecce is famous not only for its Baroque buildings, but also for the Provincial Archaeological Museum Sigismondo Castromediano. This is one of the oldest museums in Apulia, and it hosts numerous testimonies belonging to the Messapian and Roman civilizations. The upper floor of the museum houses a gallery where a series of Byzantine and Venetian paintings are on display.
Important from an archaeological and artistic point of view is the Civic Museum of Foggia, featuring numerous prehistoric artifacts, pottery pieces and picture galleries.
The Diocesan Museum of the Cathedral of Bari is another museum to visit in Apulia. This is an ideal museum for viewing several interesting paintings, sacred furnishings and other liturgical objects. In addition, it is also possible to admire a collection of stunning statues and a few of the apartments of the church.
The Museo del Confetto in Andria, dedicated to the sugar coated almonds that are ubiquitous at Italian celebrations, is perfect to visit with children. The museum celebrates the art of making Italian confetti and it has several interesting sections. This museum also houses an impressive collection of documents, along with a few stamps and tools used to make candies.
The Museum of Zoology and the Museum of Earth Sciences in Bari are two other interesting museums to visit. The first houses a collection of archaeological findings and fossils, as well as models of the local and migratory animals and fauna. The second one exhibits some of the findings of the University of Bari, and it also houses a number of important documents related to the appearance of man.
Lastly, a splendid museum to visit in Apulia is the African Ethnographic Museum in Bari, which contains several findings from Ethiopia and Mozambique. One of the most interesting exhibits features a collection of musical instruments and masks.
Another popular indoor activity includes visiting the region's famous thermal baths and spas. The waters at Margherita di Savoia are salty and originate from the nearby salt flats, while Santa Cesarea Terme boasts thermal waters that are rich in minerals.
The town of Lucera is also worth visiting for a few days of relaxation and features hotels as well as traditional farms, called masserie, that offer spa services to their guests.
Shopping in Apulia
Whether looking for high-end fashion, designer bargains or traditional handicrafts and souvenirs, Apulia is the perfect destination for those who love to shop.
Bari is the place to go for fashionable designer clothing and accessories. The historic center of the city is full of many international designer shops and local designers that create clothing of a unique Italian style. The preferred shopping place of the locals is Puglia Outlet Village in Molfetta. The outlet mall gathers some of the most popular brands of fashion and sports clothing.
Apulia is famous for its splendid ceramics and terracotta jars and pots. Some of the most beautiful are crafted in Rutigliano, a lovely town where time seems to have stopped and where people are profoundly linked to the local folklore. The best time to shop for terracotta objects is during the Fiera del Fischietto di Terracotta, a fair where master artisans craft amazing whistles made of terracotta.
Other traditional objects to buy in Apulia are the wicker baskets. These splendid objects are typically crafted in Alberobello, San Severo, and Trani. The baskets are made in different shapes and sizes and they are considered by many to be the perfect representation of mastery and simplicity.
Apulia With the Kids
Apulia has what it takes to make all children happy. From numerous amusement parks to amazing natural areas, kids will love to discover the marvels of this territory.
Probably the most attractive place to visit with kids is the Drive-Through Zoo Safari and Theme Park called Fasanolandia, which is located in the Itria Valley, more precisely in the city of Fasano. The Zoo Safari is a one-of-a-kind safari route nestled in the middle of an olive grove. Wild animals including tigers, lions, and bears are kept free, and the route is traversed exclusively by car. The kids will have a chance to feed giraffes, donkeys, and zebras that will literally poke their heads into the vehicle if the window is open. Fasanolandia amusement park is attached to the Zoo Safari and it is divided into different areas that include a traditional Zoo, an area with different rides including roller coasters, and also a few indoor attractions.
For some summer fun, a great place to take the kids is Acquapark Egnazia in Monopoli. This is the largest water park in Southern Italy and it has numerous pools as well as several sports areas and other attractions for both children and adults.
For active kids, Indiana Adventure Park is one of the best places to go. The park is located in the province of Bari, near the Castellana Caves, and it attracts kids with various obstacle courses that feature activities such as climbing and ziplining.
Two natural places to visit with the kids are the Grotte di Castellana (Castellana Caves) and the Umbra Forest. The Castellana Caves are an incredible network of caves that feature stunning stalactites and stalagmites, underground ponds, and polished stone pinnacles. The caves are one of the most important speleological complexes in Italy and are open all year round. The Umbra Forest, on the other hand, is the perfect place to go even with very young children. In the heart of the forest, there is a museum exhibiting local fauna, a park decorated with wooden sculptures, and a deer reserve.
Unique Experiences in Apulia
In such a marvelous land, living unique experiences is easy. For instance, consider visiting the three main UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the region: Castel del Monte, the Trulli of Alberobello, and the Sanctuary of San Michele Arcangelo in Monte Sant’Angelo. All these sights are unique, and offer some insight into Apulia’s soul.
Another unique experience is that of discovering the peculiarities of the different towns, such as the so-called "white city" of Ostuni.
Lastly, having dinner in a trabucco is certainly an experience to remember. A trabucco is a large fishing machine made of wood that is designed to catch many fish at once, and in Italy, these ancient structures are still present along the coast of Gargano. Some are still functional, while others have been transformed into unique restaurants serving some of the freshest fish of the region while offering views of mesmerizing sunsets over the Adriatic.