Are you planning on visiting Puglia with your kids but don’t know where to start?
First off – congratulations on taking your kids off-the-beaten-path. True, there’s more awareness about Puglia than there was five years ago, but it’s still a raw gem waiting to be discovered by your family.
I’m a mamma of three and I live here in Italy. I’ve made many visits to Puglia with my kids, on cycling trips, and working as a cycling guide in the area. Puglia is one of my favorite places in Italy to visit with kids!
I’m happy to share what’s worked well for our family, including fun things to do with kids in Puglia, the best area and towns to visit in the region, and the perfect times to visit.
Andiamo – let’s go!
Why You Should Visit Puglia with Kids
You’ll surely enjoy a visit to Puglia if:
- You want to spend time at beaches with clear, turquoise water. Many of them have shallow, calm water – perfect for kids!
- You like exploring small villages. Puglia has plenty of them!
- You love eating fresh seafood, fruits, and vegetables. Puglia has some of Italy’s best produce and seafood. Seeking out spring cherries in the region is one of my favorite things to do in Italy.
- You’re looking to get off the main tourist trail. Many visitors head straight to Rome-Florence-Venice, and skip the heel of the boot. Their loss!
You may not love Puglia if:
- You’re seeking a pristine, manicured part of Italy. In Puglia, you’ll find potholes, trash on the side of the road, etc.
- You don’t want to drive your own car. It’s not easy traveling around Puglia using public transport – especially with little ones (and strollers, luggage) in tow.
- You want to visit tons of cultural monuments and museums. Puglia is more about the beach, food, and small villages.
- Your kids have a strict nap and bedtime schedule. People (including families) tend to eat late in Puglia, so it’s tough to stick with a strict sleep schedule.
Where is Puglia?
Puglia is one of Italy’s most southern regions – it’s the ‘heel’ of the ‘boot.’
It stretches from the Gargano National Park in the north to Santa Maria di Leuca on the tip of the heel. The capital is Bari, and other major cities include Lecce, Brindisi, Otranto, Taranto, and Foggia.
Good To Know: You’ll sometimes see the name of the region written in English as Apulia.
Which Part of Puglia Should You Visit on Your Family Trip?
Puglia isn’t huge – it’s about the same size as New Jersey. So if you’ve got time and you’re set on seeing a lot, you could. But wouldn’t you and your kids rather spend your time enjoying Puglia’s beaches, villages, and cuisines instead of racking up miles in your FIAT?
If so, I recommend visiting the Itria Valley (Valle d’Itria) on a first visit to Puglia. It has variety, it’s set up well for visiting families, and it’s easy to access from Italy or internationally. Plenty of quality accommodations at all price points. If you’re coming back and want to try another part of Puglia, go for it. We tend to come back again and again to the Valle d’Itria because it’s so family-friendly and it’s where my kids want to be. It’s also a relatively small area, so you won’t feel like you’re spending half your day in the car – which, as you know, is so important when you’re traveling with kids.
Highlight towns and villages of the Val d’Itria:
Monopoli – We often use Monopoli as our home base for visiting Puglia as a family. The historic center is lively, gorgeous, and kid-friendly. My boys love getting dinner in town, hanging out in Piazza Garibaldi and walking along the Porto Vecchio (old port). Read more about Monopoli with Kids.
Polignano a Mare – Home of the postcard-perfect Lama Monachile beach and some of our favorite sandwiches. Read more about Polignano a Mare with Kids.
Ostuni – One of the most picturesque ‘white cities’ of Puglia. Get lost, find the blue door, and explore! Read my guide to Ostuni with Kids.
Alberobello – You can’t come to Puglia with kids and not stop in the ‘trulli town!’ Get the scoop on Alberobello with Kids.
Cisternino, Martina Franca, and Locorotondo – Three more of our favorite places to visit in the area. Great for exploring, outdoor dining, and browsing shops. Read my tips for visiting Locorotondo with Kids.
If you’re down to explore (and drive a bit more), some of our favorite places in Puglia outside of the Valle d’Itria are:
- Trani – Explore the city and stop in at Lula, one of the best bakeries you’ll find in all of Italy.
- Lecce – Nicknamed the ‘Florence of the south’
Combing Puglia with a Visit to Matera – UNESCO World Heritage Site Matera is just over the border in Basilicata and combines well with a visit to Puglia. I highly recommend visiting Matera with children.
The Best Time to Visit Puglia with Kids
QUICK ANSWER: If possible, visit in EARLY JUNE or LATE SEPTEMBER/EARLY OCTOBER. You’ll miss the crowds but will be able to swim (not guaranteed, but highly likely).
To me, a successful Puglia trip with kids means plenty of beach time, without huge crowds and high prices. If you feel the same way, you’ll want to plan your visit for the late-spring/early summer or the early fall.
Our family likes to visit in late May (or early June) and the first week of October (maybe even into the second week). Most Italian schoolkids start their summer vacation from around June 10th, which means families descend on the beaches then. And, we’ve found that while early October is usually perfect for a trip (kids are back in school, beach clubs are quiet, weather is pleasant), from mid-October it can be iffy weather-wise.
The summer in Puglia is hot, beautiful, lively, crowded, and expensive. I know what you’re thinking – “but that’s the time we have for our family trip!” And, you can have an amazing time during the summer months (June – August), without breaking the bank, and without sitting on a beach like sardines. Here’s how:
- Book your trip hotel (or apartment, trullo, masseria) ASAP. The best budget places are scooped up quickly, so check sites like Booking.com and LastMinute.com (or whatever consolidator you prefer to use) for specials and discounts.
- If possible, visit before June 10th-ish or after September 15th-ish. Italian kids will be in school so you’ll find fewer crowds (and lower prices) and you’ll still have pleasant weather (based on historic weather data and our family’s experiences).
- Consider paying for beach club access. Yes, Puglia has gorgeous free beaches, but they’re definitely more crowded. And, beach clubs have amenities that help make family beach visits smoother – like changing cabins, toilets, restaurants, and showers.
- Reserve must-do activities and can’t-miss restaurants. If you’ve got something on your list that you really want to see or do, try to pre-book. For example, reserve your visit to the Castellana Caves – don’t just show up and hope you can get a ticket.
- Don’t stay on the beach. Instead, reserve accommodation inland a bit and drive to the beaches. You’ll likely want to visit more than one beach anyway, and you’ll be driving around to visit the villages and towns.
Spring in Puglia means gorgeous wildflowers (think red poppies!). This is a lovely time to visit with kids because it’s not as crowded as in the summer and you’ll likely be able to swim. We’ve been in late-April and early-May and my kids spent a lot of time in the water.
Fall in Puglia brings the olive and grape harvests and if you’re visiting in the early fall, you’ll likely be able to swim (we swim in Puglia in early October and there are few crowds at the beach).
Winter in Puglia is special for Christmas festivities (the luminarie light displays are fun for kids to see), and some towns like Locorotondo really put on a show with holiday decorations. And, in late winter, your kids can see Carnevale festivals and celebrations – some of the best in Italy are in Puglia.
Kid-Friendly Things to Do in Puglia
Go to the Beach – Playing at the beach and swimming in the Adriatic Sea is my boys’ favorite thing to do when we’re in Puglia. And I love it too! Puglia’s eastern coast is dotted with sandy beaches and turquoise water. There are also rocky beaches – just avoid those with kids.
Our favorite beaches to visit as a family are in Capitolo and near Ostuni.
Puglia’s public beaches are crowded during the summer, so if possible, arrive early to get a great spot and be aware that you’ll be within arm’s reach of your neighbors once the beach fills up. It’s worth paying for beach club access for less crowds and for the family-friendly facilities (toilets, changing rooms, showers, on-site restaurants, etc).
See the Trulli in Alberobello – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve visited Alberobello for work (and play), but I can tell you my visits won’t stop anytime soon. My boys adore Alberobello and its fairy-tale trulli – the stone buildings with conical roofs. Alberobello is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and very touristy, but it’s still charming because it’s so unique. It’s at its best in the early morning or in the evening. Make the most of your visit with my guide to Alberobello with Kids.
Learn How to Make Mozzarella – Even if your kids don’t like fresh mozzarella cheese, it’s fun to watch it being made. And, it doesn’t take long, so it’s a perfect cultural opportunity for kids of all ages and attention spans. You can watch demos at local farms, ask your hotel for recommendations, or book through sites like GetYourGuide and Viator. Trulli e Puglia in Alberobello does demonstrations in town.
Explore the Castellana Caves – If your kids are like mine and love the adventure of walking through a cave, don’t miss the Grotte di Castellana. There are multiple visit options – pick the shortest one (it’s plenty long for kids) or if it’s offered when you’re there, choose the family tour. A walk through the cool caves is a perfect activity on a hot summer day in Puglia. Read my guide to visiting the Castellana Caves.
Take an Ape Tour – Ape means ‘bee’ in Italian, and these small, 3-wheeled vehicles sound just like the insects. Many towns in Puglia (and throughout Italy) are set up with ape tours. We did them in Polignano a Mare and Ostuni and my 6-year-old loved them both.
Stay up Late – No one in Puglia will blink an eye if you’re out will young kids at 11pm or midnight in the summer – it’s the norm. This was a tough one for me, and we don’t stay out that late when we’re in Puglia, but I do let my boys mingle with other Italian kids in piazzas and outside restaurants at 9 or 10:00pm.
Go to a Soccer Game – Lecce is in Serie A this season, so you could take your kids to see a match at Stadio Via del Mare. It’s a fun way to immerse yourself in Italian culture! Read my guide to Going to a Soccer Game in Italy and Tips for Taking Kids to a Soccer Game in Italy.
There are other things to do in Puglia:
Aquapark Egnazia – Fun if your kids want to visit a water park, but keep in mind it gets extremely crowded; if you have a water park at home, I’d skip it.
IndianaPark Castellana Grotte – An adventure park that’s great if your kids really want to visit one. However, if you’ve got active kids, you can always take them to the beach!
Parco dei Dinosauri – This dinosaur park is small and ‘vintage,’ but if you have a dino-obsessed kid, it could be the perfect quick break for you. We have a Dinosaur Park near our home in Tuscany (the park’s in Peccioli), and it’s also very ‘vintage,’ but my dino-loving elementary kid adores it.
Zoosafari Fasanolandia – We have been to this drive-through zoo near Fasano. My boys loved it, along with the scattered small amusement park rides and snacks (when you finish the drive-through part). If you don’t like zoos in general, I’d skip it. And if you do go, heads up that many visitors feed the animals foods they shouldn’t eat.
Eating with Kids in Puglia
Puglia with kids is easy – there are plenty of snacks, pastas, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
You’re spoilt with choices of where to eat (restaurants – indoors and outdoors, beach bars, markets, picnics) and depending on the season, you’ll pass roadside stands of cherries, taralli, and more.
The main ‘pain-in-the-bum’ thing about eating with kids in Puglia is the late dining. Families eat dinner late, and if you don’t want to, you’ll have fewer options. We usually adjust our schedule a little bit and eat around 8pm.
Kid-friendly foods in Puglia include:
- fresh fruits and vegetables (purchased from markets or roadside stands)
- taralli – little ‘o’-shaped crackers that come in many different flavors; my boys love picking out their own bags of taralli from market vendors
- olive oil – all of those old, majestic olive trees make amazing oil; kids can dip bread or veggies in it (pinsimonio)
- seafood – especially grilled
- mozzarella cheese – more tasty if you’ve seen it made fresh in front of you
- orecchiette – ‘little ears’ pasta, my boys love it with a simple pomodoro (tomato) sauce
- cavatelli – another local pasta
- caciocavallo – an aged cheese that’s similar to provolone; we like the affumicato (smoked) version
- pasticciotto – local pastry filled with cream or custard
- focaccia barese – good quick snack in the afternoon if your kids need something before a late dinner
- panzerotti – like little calzones, or Argentinean empanadas, these little ‘bread pockets’ are a kid-friendly snack (and sometimes a meal for my boys)
Where to Stay in Puglia With Your Family
Puglia is the perfect part of your trip to sample some unique Italian accommodations – at least for a night or two. This is the land of trulli and masserie!
Trulli are the stone buildings with conical roofs that you see in an around Alberobello. You can stay in a trullo in Alberobello, or spend a night or two in one in Puglia’s countryside surrounded by olive groves. They’re both great options. In town, you can walk out of your trullo and head to dinner and explore Alberobello after the day trippers are gone. In the countryside, you’ll have more space for your kids to run around, and possibly even a swimming pool.
Trulli e Puglia have plenty of options for trulli stays in Alberobello.
Masserie are fortified farms, and they range from casual places to lay your head for the night to full-on luxury resorts (with big price tags).
If you want something more traditional, you’ll find self-catering apartments, hotels, and B&Bs throughout the region.
The main thing you need to decide is if you want to stay in a town, in the countryside, or at the beach. I’ve found places on the beach (or within walking distance) often aren’t great value. Countryside accommodations are a great option if you want lots of space for your kids to run around and you think you’ll be spending a lot of time there. City hotels and apartments are perfect because evenings in Puglia towns are lively and fun for the whole family.
What We Do: We’re usually out exploring villages and playing at the beach during the day, so we mainly use our Puglia accommodations for sleeping. We like to stay in town because it’s great to be able to explore the historic center in the evening and be able to walk to restaurants and lively piazzas. The main drawback to this is you need to deal with city parking.
Helpful Tip: If you’re visiting a property with a swimming pool, ask if the pool is fenced. Many aren’t in Italy, as it’s not the law.
Get my recommendations in Where to Stay in Puglia
Getting to and Travelling Around Puglia with Kids
You’ll definitely want your own car in Puglia if you plan on exploring the region, its small towns, and its gorgeous beaches. There is a public transport system (trains and buses), but with kids in tow, you’ll want the convenience and flexibility of a car.
You can rent a car in another Italian region and road trip to Puglia (we often drive down from Tuscany), or you can fly into Bari or Brindisi and rent a car at the airport. These are the easiest, most fuss-free options.
If you absolutely do not want to drive your family around, your best options are to either:
- Arrive in Puglia by train or flight and then hire a taxi or private driver to take you to your accommodation and on day trips around the region (expensive)
- Arrive in Puglia (like above) and spend your time in one place, like at a beach hotel. This is an option if you just want to stay in one place and relax for your trip.
What to Pack for a Puglia Family Vacation
Of course, what you pack depends on the season you’ll be visiting.
If you’re coming to Puglia in the summer, be sure to pack:
- Rash guards
- Shorts, sundresses, light tops
If you’re coming to Puglia in the winter, be sure to pack:
- A warm coat or a warm jacket
- Layers that you can peel off during the day if the weather is nice
- Comfortable shoes – you’ll be doing a lot of walking in the small villages!
For all seasons, don’t forget to bring:
- An external charger (if you’re using your phone for Google Maps driving directions)
- Our Italy Coloring Pages and Italy Map for Kids for those moments at the restaurant before your food arrives
Don’t worry if you forget something. You can find everything you need in Puglia at grocery stores, hypermarkets, and shops in towns.
Helpful Reminder: Check the forecast before your departure and make last-minute adjustments.
I hope this helps you plan your trip and that you enjoy visiting Puglia with your kids!
Puglia with Kids – FAQ
Torre Guaceto is part of a WWF nature reserve, and it can definitely be part of your Puglia family trip. You park and take a little train to access the beach on the north part of the reserve. There is a public beach and you can also pay for beach club access. There’s also a turtle rehabilitation center, but hours are limited and there may or may not be someone present who speaks English. Facilities are limited.
Punta Prosciutto, Porto Cesareo, and Torre Lapillo are all beautiful beaches on the Ionian Sea side of Puglia – not very convenient to the area I’ve been talking about (Valle d’Itria). While there are plenty of gorgeous beaches on this coast, the Valle d’Itria offers the villages (Alberobello, Ostuni, Locorotondo, etc) that are worth visiting with kids.
Italy’s pediatricians put together an annual list of the best Italian beaches for families. They get the designated bandiera verde (green flag). You can read all about them in Italy’s Best Beaches for Families.
If you’re in the Valle d’Itria and up for a drive, you could head north to the wild and natural Parco Nazionale del Gargano (Gargano National Park) or east to the Parco Nazionale Alta Murgia (Alta Murgia National Park). You may want to stop at the Castel del Monte in the Alta Murgia (but it’s fine to see it from the outside if you’re with a child – there’s not much inside). The Gargano warrants at least an overnight stay.