I cannot think of a more family-friendly region in Italy than Apulia, Puglia in Italian. The heel of Italy’s boot has a little bit of everything for every age and interest. Here are my picks for where to stay and what to do in Puglia for families.
How to Get Around in Puglia with Kids
Shall we start with fabulous weather and 500 miles of spectacular coastline on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas? Yes, that means beaches and beautiful beach towns. And then there is the landscape of olive trees and its charming and uncrowded small towns with easily navigated historical centers. Since Puglia is relatively flat, getting around by car isn’t so daunting but public and private transportation is also very easy to arrange.
Due to its very compact size it’s easy enough to stay in one central city (such as Lecce) and take day trips. In addition to two major airports in Bari and Brindisi and several major ports, there are many stunning towns, both seaside and inland, worth visiting (Otranto, Gallipoli, Polignano a Mare, Ostuni, Alberobello and Martina Franca, to name a few). For nature lovers, there are natural parks and islands as well as camping, hiking, biking, swimming, sailing, and just plain relaxing.
Family-Friendly Activities in Puglia
The people of Puglia are warm and welcoming. You will find most locals speak a little English (depending on the size of the town) but learning some Italian together can also be fun. Take a guided walk to learn more about the local traditions and to enjoy local specialties (such as pasticciotto, a pastry stuffed with ricotta cheese or egg custard). Make pizza together, enjoy local festivals, go to local markets, visit and watch local craftsmen (such as cartapesta or papier-mâché or ceramics artisans), and don’t forget the gelato!
Puglia has a diverse and rich heritage. With castles, caves, caverns, medieval fortresses, Roman ruins, and the iconic trulli “hobbit” houses, visitors of every age will be enthralled. Of course, there are also many beautiful and interesting museums and churches.
Remember that, especially in smaller cities, everything shuts down in the afternoons, so plan accordingly. Many small trattorie and ristorante stay open so that you can enjoy the traditional regional cuisine and specialties. Or, perhaps, do some food shopping at local markets in the morning and have a little picnic on the beach or at a local park.
Late afternoon and early evening as shops and eateries re-open, you will find locals taking the traditional passegiatta, the evening stroll. This is always very social and, especially on Sunday afternoons, a big family time. Typically there are children playing and perhaps music playing in the main piazza. Enjoying this lovely pastime is a perfect way to really experience and appreciate the local way of life.
Where to Stay for a Family Holiday in Puglia
Including a stay in a masseria (a restored farmhouse similar to an agriturismo like Masseria de Torri) can be especially rewarding and perfect for families. These are usually family-owned and managed restored working farms outside the cities. They usually have a swimming pool, bikes, a grove of olive and/or lemon trees, a vineyard, and probably some friendly animals. Some can arrange cooking classes or other activities together or kid-stuff for the children while the parents enjoy some wine tasting. (Be sure to find accommodations that are kid-friendly.) Another accommodation option is small B & B’s. They are typically well-located, also owned and managed by families, and very reasonably priced.
Another big reason Puglia is not only family-friendly but becoming the next place to go in Italy is that it is budget friendly; a truly excellent value and much less expensive than other popular regions. If you can, allow at least 10 days for your visit (not including travel days). Better yet, a few weeks…trust me you won’t regret it!
A Few More Words of Advice for a Family Trip in Puglia
I have always found that the best recommendations for where to eat or find local activities is to ask the locals. Contact local tourism offices, ask the owner of your accommodation or the barista at the local caffè. Go where the locals go. I found my favorite gelateria by asking a local and NOT relying on Trip Advisor or a guidebook. Check out blogs, ask people who have traveled there extensively (yes, you can ask me!).
As with every region of Italy, Puglia is unique. Preparing yourself and your family members for the cultural differences of being in Italy as well as this or any other region Italy is, in my opinion, a must.
This exposure to a different way of life can be not only a wonderful and enriching time in Puglia for families, but also shared memories to last a lifetime.
About the Author
“La dolce vita for me” sums up author Victoria DeMaio’s passion and love for all things Italian. An American (with deep Italian roots), her heart is always in Italy. As a travel advisor, blogger, writer, and published author, Victoria loves sharing practical no-nonsense travel tips and insights as well as her own experiences from a personal and light-hearted point-of-view. Victoria offers boutique tours to Italy, great Italy travel tips on her blog PostcardZfromVictoria.com and in her book Victoria’s Travel TipZ Italian Style.
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