Italy has to be one of the best places in the world to visit with kids; amazing weather, a fascinating culture, beautiful places to visit and the most kid-friendly food on the planet. And one of the best places in Italy to visit is Puglia.
Puglia, located in the heel of southern Italy, is a brilliant destination for families with plenty of activities on land and in the water to keep both parents and kids happy. I spent a lovely holiday exploring the region with my daughter and together we discovered plenty to do in Puglia with kids.
Updated for 2020
There are lots of places to visit in Puglia for kids. We started at Ostuni and managed to visit some of the region’s most famous towns while we were there. If you’re wondering what the best age is to visit the region, my daughter was eight-years-old when we visited but Puglia with toddlers is completely possible (as well as teens!).
[author] [author_info]If you’re combing a trip to Puglia with a bigger Italian adventure then make sure to take a look at this post on visiting Rome with kids or this one on taking a family-friendly tour in Florence. I’ve also got a great guest post on a treasure hunt tour of Venice.[/author_info] [/author]
Things to do in Puglia
Our home for the weekend was Corte dei Messapi, a luxury villa positioned on the outskirts of the ‘White City’ of Ostuni. This is one of the newer villas in the Bookings For You Puglia collection and is managed by the company’s local partner agent, Raro Villas.
If you’re visiting Puglia on a family holiday then Corte dei Messapi is an excellent base. It’s perfectly positioned for exploring the area and a lovely place to relax with a glass of wine in hand at the end of a day’s sightseeing. During our trip we only scratched the surface of what Puglia has to offer but we saw enough to make me want to return soon. The following are some Puglia highlights.
To eat Gelato
Let’s start with the obvious, gelato.
If there’s one reason why you should visit Puglia with children, it’s for the food. After all, who wouldn’t be happy eating pizza, pasta and ice cream every day?
Puglia, like the rest of Italy, is bursting with regional dishes created with the freshest of ingredients. We stumbled across dozens of welcoming cafes, delicious restaurants and, of course, plenty of gelaterias during our stay in Ostuni.
Unfortunately, I only found out about this place after we had left, which just means that I will have to go back!
To explore the best towns in Puglia
Even the most culture-wary kids will be charmed by Puglia’s towns and villages.
We only had the chance to visit a handful of the region’s old cittadinas but there are literally dozens that are worth exploring. Each town has its own star attraction but what they all share in common are photo-worthy Baroque or mediaeval town centres and charming narrow lanes that are a delight to explore.
Some of the best towns to visit with kids include the fortified island town of Gallipoli and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Alberobello, famous for its trulli. Children, particularly younger ones, tend to fall head over heels for these fairytale-like circular homes with conical roofs. Exploring these unique homes and searching for the ‘magic’ symbols painted on the rooftops, hoping that Bilbo Baggins will emerge from one of the low wooden doorways, is a really fun thing to do in Alberobello with kids.
We also visited Cisternino. The old town centre is an enchanting place to wander, where each narrow lane reveals a new surprise; a welcoming café, a balcony festooned with flowers, or another picture-worthy door. Cisternino is also famous for its barbecuing butchers. Apparently, all you have to do is choose your meat and take a seat outside the restaurant; the butcher gets to work on the barbecue and brings your meat out to you when it’s ready.
Ostuni, also called La Città Blanca (the White City) because of its whitewashed buildings, is another one of the best towns in Puglia to visit. The historic town is built on a hill and the streets wind their way to the top where views stretch out over the green fields and to the sea beyond.
Originally the town buildings were lime-washed as a means of illuminating the dark medieval streets. Later, however, in the 17th century, the practice was used to limit the devastations of the plague.
To visit Puglia beaches
Puglia boasts over 800km of coastline, the longest stretch of any region in Italy.
Bordered by both the Ionian and the Adriatic Sea, spending time on one of the many family-friendly beaches is really one of the best things to do in Puglia.
Sadly, it was still too chilly for an ocean dip when we visited in March but, having caught glimpses of the sea throughout our trip, I am definitely planning to go back.
There are no shortage of beaches that kids will love but some of the best ones are Torre Guaceto near Alberobello, home to vivid coral reefs and sea grass for snorkelling fun. Pescoluse near Leuca, is referred to as the “Maldives of Italy” and Baia delle Zagare, is a 1km stretch of soft white sand surrounded by national park.
I also love the look of Polignano a Mare, a picturesque town perched atop a 20 metre-high limestone cliff overlooking the sparkling waters of the Adriatic.
To visit the farms
One of the best things to do when holidaying in Puglia is to visit some of the local masseria.
We spent a morning at Masseria Lamapecora, a historic farmhouse dating back to the late 19th century. This family-run farm is home to some 700 ancient olive trees and is famous for both its olive oil and its cheese.
The farm produces 600 litres of milk daily and between 100-120kg of mozzarella every day! That’s in addition to the bocconcini, burrata, stracciatella, ricotta and more that they produce with ease. You can watch cheese being made on site.
My kids have only every lived in big cities so I always love giving them the opportunity to learn where things come from and how they are actually made (rather than, you know, ordering it online!).
Our second farmhouse visit was to Messaria Macarone, a historic farm that has been in the Colucci family since 1754. The farm covers 61 hectares and is home to 20,000 olive trees, 6,000 of which are protected (and 900 of which are more than 1,000-years-old!).
We were given a tour by Alessandro who gave us a brief history of the farm and an introduction to the production of olive oil. Granted, the process of making olive oil might be a little dry for kids but learning how to tell the difference between good olive oil and bad olive oil will keep most children amused.
To go underground
Budding speleologists will be right at home in Puglia, which is home to some fascinating underworld attractions.
The little town of Castro, south of Lecce on the Adriatic coast, is where you’ll find Grotta Zinzulusa, otherwise known as the ‘raggedy cave’ owing to its rag-like stalactites and stalagmites (zinzulo means rags in Italian). The cave is accessed by boat and once the captain drops you off, you can explore the maze of caves or go swimming off the boat.
North of Alberobello is Grotte di Castellana, a spellbinding series of caves that measure 3km in length and at a depth of 60metres.
To enjoy the countryside
From exploring towns or walking among olive trees to enjoying the coastline or just swimming in your villa’s swimming pool, you’ll be pressed to find something to do that doesn’t make the most of the region’s beautiful scenery and sublime climate.
One area that I would love to visit when I return is Torre Guaceto, a nature reserve and protected marine area located just north of Brindisi.
The park is home to more than 6km of pristine coastline, characterful coves and woodland, and family-friendly beaches, some of which have lido facilities. There’s even a small train that winds its way through the grounds, perfect for little kids. Older kids can hire a bicycle and cycle through the olive groves instead. Torre Guaceto is also a great spot for snorkelling and scuba diving.
Where to stay in Puglia with kids
We stayed at this really lovely family-friendly villa just outside the ‘White City’ of Ostuni that i would highly recommend.
If you’re looking to stay in a different area of Puglia then take a look at these alternative options from bookingsforyou.
If you would rather a hotel then take a look at this selection of family-friendly hotels in Puglia on TripAdvisor