Spend a relaxing 8-day road trip enjoying nature in Puglia and exploring wonderful must-see sites.  Start your trip in Trani, a wonderful seaside city, almost a "stone's throw" from Bisceglie. This is also the perfect starting point to explore the surroundings, such as the marvelous Castel del Monte, archeological sites like Canne, or the ancient  Dolmens and Menhir. Your stay in the Gargano promontory will make your trip, between wild lush forested areas and peaceful fine beaches. 

Highlights

  • Explore Trani and the coastal villages between Mattinata and Rodi Garganico
  • Visit Castel del Monte, one of the symbols of the Apulia region
  • Hike the National Park of Gargano or the Umbra forest
  • Relax on one of the numerous beaches or head for the gorgeous Tremiti islands
  • Enjoy a guided tour of Castel del Monte

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Bari - Drive to Trani Trani
Day 2 Free Day in Trani Trani
Day 3 Alta Murgia National Park & Castel del Monte Trani
Day 4 Alberobello & Castellana Grotte Trani
Day 5 Free Day in Vieste Vieste
Day 6 Gargano National Park & the Umbra Forest Vieste
Day 7 Explore the Gargano Coast & Tremiti Islands Vieste
Day 8 Goodbye Apulia!  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Bari - Drive to Trani

Trani - Cathedral of San Nicola Pellegrino
Trani - Cathedral of San Nicola Pellegrino

Welcome to Puglia!

On arrival at Bari airport, you will be welcomed by your Personal Concierge who will accompany you to the rental car office. After 40 minutes drive, you'll reach Trani, a lovely seaside city, the perfect starting point for any type of excursion you're into.

Your concierge will ensure your holiday is running smoothly and to your complete gratification. Your local representative is available on the ground to make sure your travel arrangements run flawlessly. He/she is there to assist you and is available on the phone for any questions you may have.

Day 2: Free Day in Trani

Trani's Cathedral
Trani's Cathedral

According to legend, Trani was founded by the son of Diomedes. It became important under the Normans who gave Trani several privileges. The town flourished under Frederick II, who built the castle. The glorious past is confirmed by the churches and residences of its old historic center, including the XVIII century Palazzo Caccetta, Palazzo Quercia, and Palazzo Bianchi.

The ancient town of Trani extends along with the port into a small peninsula where the Cathedral of S. Nicola Pellegrino stands in a imposing position directly beside the sea.

Suggestions include: 

  • The Cathedral of S. Nicola Pellegrino: one of the finest examples of Apulian-Romanesque architecture and one of the most magnificent churches in the whole of Italy. The façade in pink-white stone is soberly decorated with a monofora and an eye, positioned above three windows, arranged in a line.   
  • The Castle: built by Frederick II between 1233 and 1249. Later alterations were carried out in the times of Charles I and Charles II of Anjou by Pierre d'Angicourt. Well preserved it deserves a visit.
  • Castel del Monte: one of the symbols of Puglia and one of the most famous monuments from the times of the Swabian Emperor Frederick II. Built in the first half of the XIII century on an unusual octagonal plan, with eight equally octagonal towers marking the vertices of a polygon. 
  • Explore Barletta and Canne: the origins of Barletta are uncertain, although tombs from the III and the II century have been found within its territory. It was an important trading center during the Normans and it flourished during the Angevin period thanks to the trades with the East. The town of Barletta is famous for the Disfida of Barletta. A challenge between Italian and French knights and their commander Ettore Fieramosca on the 13th of February 1503, during the Franco-Spanish war.
  • South of Barletta lie the remains of the ancient town of Canne, which gave its name to the famous battle between Carthaginians and Romans in 216 B.C. This city was renowned from ancient to Roman and medieval times. The Normans eventually destroyed Canne, and its inhabitants fled to Barletta and Canosa. It is one of the largest archaeological sites in the region.
  • Dolmens and Menhirs: a Dolmen is an ancient megalithic monument, a central feature of the funeral architecture of the pre-classical era. They are megalithic constructions with an entrance or dromos, and a cell made of large blocks of stones. So far the purpose of the dolmen is not entirely understood, although they are generally considered places of some worship. 

Day 3: Alta Murgia National Park & Castel del Monte

Castel del Monte
Castel del Monte

In the morning make your way to Alta Murgia National Park, a limestone plateau scoured by deep ravines and steep sinkholes. The park's dramatic landscapes are the perfect setting for Castel del Monte, an awe-inspiring octagonal castle commissioned by Frederick II in the 13th century. The medieval castle, which sits on top of a hilltop overlooking the park, is modeled after the Golden Ratio. This allows the sun to mark a perfect rectangle on the Castle's perimeter on certain days of the year. 

Meet your English-speaking guide and discover all the secrets of this castle. The portal in corallite stone, recalling the triumphal arches of Roman times, leads into the first room which like all the other rooms in the castle are trapezoidal and surmounted by a crossed vault. A second room opens out into an octagonal courtyard with three finely decorated doorways.

In the upper rooms, all the same shape and size, the colored marble columns, the doorways and windows openings, decorated with corallite stone, the fireplace and keystones, also carved with anthropomorphic figures, are all admirable in their workmanship.

Afterward, you can self-explore Altamura, a small medieval town located on a hill in the Murge plateau. Stop in a historic bakery to see where the famous Pane di Altamura is made (and buy some for a picnic later). The bread is made from local durum flour, and in 2003 it was granted PDO (Protected designation of origin) status within Europe.

Day 4: Alberobello & Castellana Grotte

Castellana Caves
Castellana Caves

Today you'll visit one of Apulia's most popular attractions, the UNESCO World Heritage Trulli district. Begin the tour of Alberobello on the road from Aia to the Trulli district, which stretches over seven hills. 

The center of the city looks like most Italian small towns, with a few trulli located here and there. Head to the Rione Monti district to see many of these pointy white buildings clustered together. The neighborhood is situated on several narrow lanes on a hillside and is full of little gift shops selling souvenirs and Trulli-themed gifts. You'll have time to wander the picture-perfect streets to find everything from colorful terracotta whistles (a favorite local gift) to trulli-shaped knickknacks. 

Once you've explored to your heart's content, head up the Via Monte Michele to the Chiesa di Sant'Antonio, Alberobello's 20th-century Trullo church. 

Continue to Alberobello's second Trulli district—the quiet residential Aia Piccola, which is less frequented by tourists. The rest of the city is mostly composed of typically Italian buildings, with the occasional trulli popping up here and there. Conclude your tour with a visit to 18th-century Trullo Sovrano, the largest trullo home. This two-story building houses an excellent history museum and is outfitted with period fittings illustrating Italian life in the 1700s.

In the afternoon on the way back explore the Grotte di Castellana. Go 230 ft (70 m) underground to see the caves' incredible natural features, including The Grave of Castellana (a huge natural pantheon with a natural skylight) and the White Cave (famous for its shining white alabaster). You'll learn about the 90-million-year-old history of the caves, from their origin in the Cretaceous period to the modern day.

Day 5: Free Day in Vieste

Vieste
Vieste

After breakfast, make your way to the Pearl of Gargano: Vieste. It charms with its silvery pink sand, crystal clear waters, long beaches, cliffs, and 26 sea caves. The sea also stars at the Malacological Museum, which has more than 15 thousand shells from all over the world.

The coastline, a continuous series of inlets and coves, features must-see beaches at Vignanotica, Castello, San Lorenzo, the Bay of San Felice (with an “architello”, a natural stone archway over the sea), and Punta Lunga.

Later, explore the city center. A characteristic fretwork of narrow alleys, steep stairways, and thin stone arches, its dominated by Fredrick II’s Castello Svevo (Swabian Castle). This fortress, built over Angevin ruins high on the hill, watches over Vieste with its imposing dark brown silhouette. Also guarding the city is the Cattedrale dell’Assunta (Cathedral of the Assumption), a remarkable example of Romanesque architecture. From here, you can set out to discover the town, from Piazza Garibaldi to Piazza Kennedy, all the way down to the marina and over to the Oriental side of Vieste. Here, the area around Via Tripoli looks a little bit like Greece.

Day 6: Gargano National Park & the Umbra Forest

Umbra forest
Umbra forest

The Gargano is a mountainous promontory in the northern part of Puglia. For its geographical location, surrounded on 3 sides by the Adriatic Sea, it is also called “the spur of Italy”.

While maintaining many of the characteristics of the Apulian landscapes, the Gargano area is very distinctive: you will find wooded areas with lush pine forests, mountainous landscapes, forests, a spectacular coast full of white limestone cliffs, sea caves, long beaches sandy and villages overlooking the sea.

The variety of the landscape is one of the salient features of this area: today you'll explore this wonderful zone. 
This vast nature reserve is in the innermost part of the Gargano, just 30 minutes by car from Vieste, but since it has an altitude of about 2,624 ft (800 m) you will find an ideal temperature for hiking even in summer. Due to its variety of landscapes, the Gargano is to be considered a small paradise of biodiversity: many plants and animal species in the area have unique characteristics, such as the spontaneous orchids of the Gargano.

To best explore the Umbra Forest (the secret heart of The Gargano National Park with ancient oaks and unspoiled nature), arrive by car in the central area, near the artificial lake where there is also the bar/refuge and the area reserved for fallow deer.

This territory is also rich in important prehistoric settlements such as the Paglicci Cave and the mine of the Defensola, which falls almost entirely in the Gargano National Park.

Day 7: Explore the Gargano Coast & Tremiti Islands

Tremiti islands
Tremiti islands

The villages of the Gargano preserve for many traits the ancient medieval characteristics of the agricultural villages in the innermost areas and the seaside villages along the coast.

They are all fascinating in a different way: pick up your rental car and make your day starting from Vieste.
Follow the direction to Peschici and Rodi Garganico to the mountain villages of Vico del Gargano, Monte Sant’Angelo (UNESCO site) and San Giovanni Rotondo.

The coastal villages are overlooking the sea and the intricate maze of white alleys often leads to lookout squares with a magnificent view of the Mediterranean.

Equally lovely are those of Vico del Gargano, Monte Sant’Angelo with its mystical sanctuary dedicated to San Michele Arcangelo, and that of San Giovanni Rotondo: this last linked to the unbreakable cult of Father Pio.  

If you are more into relaxing on a  fine beach, make your way to Mattinata. Along the way, you'll find countless bays and coves that you can visit, as well as many cliffs overlooking the sea, fjords, and paradisiacal beaches: Baia delle Zagare, Vignanotica, Cala della Pergola, or Pugnochiuso are the most beautiful.

After an afternoon on the beach, the smell of the sea also hangs over dinner at the "trabucchi", traditional fishing huts, housing charming restaurants over the Adriatic.

Alternately, enjoy a day trip to the Tremiti islands: an unspoiled marine landscape, a few miles from the mainland, where you can experience the crystal clear, turquoise sea and admire the marine wildlife. There are daily ferries to the Tremiti Islands from Vieste.

Day 8: Goodbye Apulia!

Typical white house in Apulia
Typical white house in Apulia

After one last cappuccino over breakfast, head to the airport to drop off your rental car. Safe travels!

Map

Map of Relaxed Puglia Coast & Gargano Road Trip: Bari, Trani, Vieste - 8 Days
Map of Relaxed Puglia Coast & Gargano Road Trip: Bari, Trani, Vieste - 8 Days