Budget Trip to Puglia, Italy – Part 3
We had the little cute Italian beast a.k.a Fiat 500 for one more day and we had scheduled 3 towns to visit. After Bari and Matera in the first and second part, this one is focused on Ostuni, Alberobello, Monopoli, and a little surprise that we found later during the day.
Ostuni – the Whitewalls of Puglia
A relatively small town with a population a bit over 30 000, Ostuni has been inhabited ever since the Stone Age. Its main characteristics are the white buildings, constructed on the top of a hill. Those types of structures are common in the southern parts of Europe. People painted their houses in white to protect themselves from the bright sun centuries ago. The sides that are most exposed to the sun are usually without windows.
Today, the narrow streets on the hill of Ostuni are an amazing tourist attraction. We spend several hours wandering about after having a great (and unhealthy) breakfast in a local pasticceria. It doesn’t take long to fall in love with the different architecture. So few tourists, empty small streets, natives doing their laundry and smiling back to you – priceless. We walked through each street, spending hours just taking great pictures and admiring the view that opens to the east.
We also bought the traditional pasta for the region of Puglia – orecchiette from a cute little shop. It was made by the family of the owner. He also gave us their homemade taralli which were delicious.
Ostuni is a one-day trip, you can easily park and walk through the medieval historic greatness. We had to be fast as next came the most different architecture of them all.
Alberobello – the Beautiful Tree
Even though the literal translation from Italian means “the beautiful tree”, the small town, with a population of 10 000 people, is known mostly for its Trulli buildings. Small houses very close to each other, roundly shaped with self-supported domed roofs. Back in the 15th century, peasants were sent in this area to work. They had to build their own houses without using mortar so that they can be easily destroyed if necessary. However, their architectural genius led to extremely solid houses by using only stones and making the structures in overlapping circles.
It’s a small miracle that these buildings are preserved until this day. Nowadays, it’s easier to protect them with modern technology and also this part of the town is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage.
By walking down the main street, you can see the Trulli on both sides with their cute rounded roofs. We started from the north side which is the bigger one. While the buildings do look the same from afar, when you are close to them you see the small differences and the personal touch each one of them has. This truly is an astonishing place to be in. As there weren’t many tourists again, we took pictures easily and we admired the sheer brilliance of the Trulli.
There are quite a few gift shops, restaurants, sleeping accommodations, an amazing cathedral, and lovely streets with flowers on both sides.
The south side is smaller and a bit more crowded. When you first enter it, there is a designated spot with signs where you can take great pictures with a view of the other part. We recommend spending a few hours going through both sides. The area is small and after a while, the similar buildings can get you confused and we decided that it’s time to move on to…
Monopoli – a Downturn
Don’t get me wrong – Monopoli has a lot to offer, especially during the summer. Here is where we found one of the very few sandy beaches in Puglia. There are some sights to be seen like the two castles, Palazzo Palmieri, and of course – another cathedral. A great viewpoint opens when you walk south. You reach the sports grounds near the beach where kids were playing football and riding skateboards. There you can admire the whole old town from afar.
It might have been because of all the other great towns that we visited. Monopoli appeared as somehow regular when unconsciously compared to Ostuni, Alberobello, and especially Matera. We had a great lunch that included an octopus salad with celery and fennel and the traditional Puglia pasta – squid ink orecchiette with tuna for my girlfriend. I had tagliolini pasta with mashed fava beans, dried tomatoes, and clams. Another piece of Italian dish magic and the highlight of our Monopoli visit.
Polignano a Mare – the Best View
As Monopoli didn’t really impress us and we had the car for several more hours, we wondered what we can see next. The sun was going down and a quick Google search showed Polignano a Mare which was on our way back to Bari. I like when a coincidence makes a logical sense. It was rush hour, which is weird for a small town with a population of 18 000 people.
However, the narrow streets made movement a bit slower and parking was a hassle. Still, it gave us a chance to walk through the town until we reached the seaside.
As the sun was setting down and the full moon was rising, the view kept getting better. There was a huge parking which serves also as a walking area. It was right next to the water. It had a panoramic view of the sea and since we were lucky enough to be there at sunset, the view to the west took our breaths.
The town itself is pretty cute as well. It has been built high above the sea level and when walking west there are small streets that lead to the water again. This way we managed to get different views of THE view. We recommend seeing this town but it should be included in the program with other towns. Sunrise and sunset is the time during the day that you want to be there.
Final Thoughts on Puglia and Recommendations
4 days of experiencing something different while on the road in Italy – how much better can it get? By buying tickets earlier, using Airbnb and planning ahead, we managed to get this excursion for less than 500 euros for the both of us. Italy is always a good idea.
We do have a few recommendations, some of which we mentioned in the articles.
- Spend a night in Matera – we didn’t and we regret it now.
- If possible, rent a car (especially if you visit with some friends).
- If possible, avoid the motorways and travel on the roads that go through small towns – priceless.
P.S. the roads around Alberobello were incredible and the sights as well.
- You can skip Monopoli.
- Do not skip Matera, Ostuni, and Alberobello.
- You might want to learn a bit of Italian before going. Not just because English is not that common but also – speaking to the natives must be a hell of an experience.
Oh, I almost forgot. If you want to get a discount when registering and booking with Airbnb, you can use our link.
Until next time, Italy!