Discover the best spots in southern Puglia and explore Matera's unique cave dwellings on this self-drive tour. Your trip begins in Bari, the regional capital. You'll wander the streets of Alberobello, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its famous trulli—cone-shaped, whitewashed houses that are unique to this part of Italy. From there, you'll travel to Matera, famed for its sassi, or cave dwellings, and explore the Lucanian Dolomites. You'll continue on to the Salento Peninsula, stopping at Lecce, the provincial capital, and using Otranto as a base for your explorations of the tip of the peninsula and the area's crystal-clear beaches. Along the way, you can hike, swim, or simply relax and enjoy views of some of southern Italy's most iconic towns and landscapes.

Highlights

  • Explore Bari's old city, with its 11th-century basilica dedicated to Saint Nicholas
  • Discover Alberobello's unique trulli houses
  • Wander the streets of Matera to see cave homes and churches
  • Marvel at Lecce's Baroque churches and Roman amphitheater
  • Enjoy the turquoise waters of Otranto's beaches and visit the tip of Italy's "heel"

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Bari to Alberobello Alberobello
Day 2 Alberobello and the Itria Valley Alberobello
Day 3 Matera, European Capital of Culture Alberobello
Day 4 Lucanian Dolomites Regional Park and Lecce Lecce
Day 5 Lecce Lecce
Day 6 Otranto Otranto
Day 7 South to Italy's "Heel" Otranto
Day 8 Back to Bari  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Bari to Alberobello

Aerial View of Bari
Aerial View of Bari

Pick up your rental car and head to the historic center of Bari. Stroll through Bari Vecchia's cobbled streets and discover architectural treasures such as the Basilica of Saint Nicholas, the Cathedral of Saint Sabinus, and the Petruzzelli Theater, the fourth-largest in Italy. Then, head southeast through the Puglian countryside to Alberobello; the 35-mile (56 km) drive will take approximately one hour.

Day 2: Alberobello and the Itria Valley

Trulli in Alberobello
Trulli in Alberobello

After breakfast, you'll explore Alberobello, the village of the trulli. These small buildings with conical roofs served as housing for peasants and agricultural workers and are still lived in today.

In the afternoon, you have several sightseeing options:

Rent bicycles and explore the Itria Valley, with its olive trees, vineyards, and prickly pear cacti.

Visit the Castellana Caves, about 20 minutes by car from the center of Alberobello. This set of corridors and underground cavities, with its arches, stalactites, and stalagmites, can be visited in an hour or two.

Take the road to Locorotondo, a 10-minute drive from Alberobello. This town, known for its white wine, is ranked among the 217 most beautiful villages in Italy.

Visit Ostuni, the "white city," which is aptly named. You can hire a local guide to give you a walking tour or wander about on your own. Be sure to walk to the city walls to get a view of the countryside and the Adriatic Sea. Ostuni is a 35-minute drive from Alberobello.

Day 3: Matera, European Capital of Culture

Matera
Matera

Today you'll visit Matera, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the neighboring Basilicata region. On arrival, you'll set off to explore this magnificent city and its sassi, cave dwellings dug into the rock, reached via a veritable labyrinth of winding alleys. Designated European Capital of Culture in 2019, Matera is considered one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. We advise you to hire a local guide to make the most of your time in this unique city. 

It will take you an hour and fifteen minutes to drive to Matera; expect to spend at least two hours exploring the city.

Day 4: Lucanian Dolomites Regional Park and Lecce

Castelmezzano
Castelmezzano

Today you'll drive to Lucanian Dolomites Regional Park in Basilicata to discover two of the most beautiful villages in the region. It will take you about two hours and 15 minutes to reach the park, but it will be worth your time. Pietrapertosa and Castelmezzano seem to spring directly from the rocky mountain peaks of the Lucanian Dolomites. It seems that time has stopped here. As you walk the narrow cobbled streets of the villages, you'll discover the rural soul of the region. After your visit, it's time to make the three-hour drive to Lecce.

Day 5: Lecce

Basilica di Santa Croce, Lecce
Basilica di Santa Croce, Lecce

Today you'll explore Lecce, nicknamed the Florence of the South. From its Roman ruins to its baroque masterpieces, this city is an architectural gem. Lecce's baroque style combines mythological creatures, fantastic characters, floral and flamboyant motifs, and, in the most prestigious palaces, proud coats of arms. You'll need to focus on the details to appreciate the dazzling whole.

Day 6: Otranto

Otranto
Otranto

After breakfast, you'll take the road to Otranto, which is 45 minutes by car from Lecce. When you arrive, you will go on a beautiful coastal walk to the Punta Palascia lighthouse, which is located on Cape Otranto, the symbolic border between the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic Sea. Cape Otranto is the easternmost point in Italy. Here, you are barely 50 miles (80 km) from the Albanian coast. During the hike, you'll have the opportunity to swim in crystal clear waters. Expect to spend two or three hours on this walk, with a 328-foot (100 m) change in elevation on the outbound and inbound journeys.

In the afternoon, you'll have free time to visit Otranto's medieval historic center, its Aragonese castle, and, especially, its cathedral with its beautiful, mysterious Tree of Life mosaic floor.

Day 7: South to Italy's "Heel"

The Salento Coast
The Salento Coast

Puglia has always been a crossroads of peoples and a meeting point between the West and the East due to its strategic location. Today you'll travel one hour south to the tip of the Salento Peninsula to see the meeting point between the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea. You'll visit two small towns on the peninsula, Santa Cesarea Terme, known for its thermal baths, and Santa Maria di Leuca, the southernmost town in Italy. If swimming or relaxing on the beach sounds appealing, Marina di Pescoluse, known as the Maldives of Salento, is your best bet.

Day 8: Back to Bari

Bari at Sunset
Bari at Sunset

It will take you about two hours to drive to the Bari Karol Wojtyla Airport from Lecce, and you'll want to arrive early to turn in your rental car. Depending on your flight time, you could stop en route at Monopoli or Polignano a Mare to stretch your legs and enjoy a cappuccino.

Map

Map of South of Puglia and Matera Self-Drive Tour - 8 Days
Map of South of Puglia and Matera Self-Drive Tour - 8 Days