I’m pretty certain you won’t be disappointed with a family holiday to Puglia. We’ve recently returned from an amazing six day visit with our six month old baby and two year old toddler, so I thought I’d share some of my family travel tips and answer some of your questions about Puglia holidays.
Puglia With Kids
What things can I see and do with kids?
This totally depends on your travel style. Our boy is young enough to be happy just running about in a new spot (usually chasing pigeons!) or eating gelato and our baby just gets carried or pushed wherever we go. Puglia is ideal because it’s full of lots of beautiful towns and villages that you can explore – think winding lanes, hilltop views and charming, cobbled plazas – see the next section for specific recommendations. The kids get to burn off some energy and parents get to explore the region – win, win.
One thing that Nova absolutely loved was the pasta making class (organised via Bookings For You and Raro Villas). The Italians made a real fuss of him, letting him turn the handle for the pasta machine and drowning him in praise.
If you prefer to visit attractions and have more structured things to do, there’s a Dinosaur Park. Our boy would have loved this (we play dinosaurs a lot!), but it’s only open from mid March to September, so we just missed out. Entry is just a few Euros.
There are a few nature reserves in Puglia too; Parco Nazionale del Gargano, Riserva Naturale di Torre Guaceto, the Riserva Naturale Bosco delle Pianelle and the Riserva Naturale le Cesine.
And if your little ones love animals and nature, you might want to visit the salt basins, Margherita di Savoia, where you can spot flamingos.
Of course, Puglia also has some really beautiful beaches; Vieste – Marina Piccola, Spaggia del Castello, Peschiri,Mattinata, Polignano a Mare and for miles of sandy beach head to Torre Guaceto Nature Reserve.
What towns and villages should I definitely visit?
Without a doubt head to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Alberobello. I’d recommend half a day here. Nova loved running up and down the hills, the park at the top of the main site and the ‘mountain houses’ aka trulli.
The site is split with a flat strip in the middle – on one side you’ll find a hill with the trulli and on the other side you’ll find a hill with plazas, fountains and a viewing area out to the trulli. There’s a pay and display car park right in the centre, so it’s super easy to get to. I think it cost us 6Euros to park all day.
We also love Polignano a Mare. It’s perhaps a little more touristy than some of the other towns in Puglia, but it’s beautiful and the tourists mainly seem to be Italians, so it still feels authentic. Again, half a day here is enough if you include a stop somewhere for lunch.
We like it because the whitewashed labrynth of lanes seem to always lead you to a different view point or café.
Our final recommendation would be for Ostuni. The old town is perched on a steep hill, so the views are beautiful but it also means it’s great for wearing energetic toddlers out! You’ll find cute little restaurants tucked away and sleepy cats sunbathing on the walls. It’s gorgeous.
Should I take a carrier or buggy?
If like us you’re travelling with young mini-explorers I’d suggest a buggy. I find a carrier is okay for a short amount of time, but when you’re walking up steep hills or in the sunshine it’s just not fun to be all sweaty! It’s also a bit tricky then when you stop for a break and you don’t really have anywhere to put them down.
We took a second hand double buggy (Red Kite Push Me Twini) with us and were so glad we did. Nova isn’t massively keen on the buggy unless he’s tired, so it helped on those occasions. Wherever we went people were desperate to peek into the stroller to see the two of them. They received so much attention! When he wasn’t in his seat we put our backpack in there.
In Alberobello we just avoided the main street with steps. The streets all intertwine and it was easy to go another way without missing out. Similarly in Ostuni and Polignano a Mare there were only a handful of lanes we found we didn’t want to negotiate. Ostuni was the only one that may have been easier with a carrier, just because the alleyways seemed to be a lot narrower and sometimes you wouldn’t discover the steps until you’d already wandered round the corner.
We always check the stroller in at the plane door and this was the first time that our stroller was given back to us as we got off the plane (rather than waiting for it at the carousel). It was a massive help. Oh and it’s worth saying that the double buggy seemed to be a bit of a grey area in terms of if Ryanair would count it as one piece of baby equipment or two, but thankfully it was treated as one both ways.
Where should I stay?
We stayed in the countryside near Ostuni, which meant all of those towns and villages I recommended only ever took a maximum of one hour to reach. We stayed in Corte Dei Messapi via Bookings For You and Raro Villas, in one of the smaller villas. It’s a simple, yet stylish hideaway with a private heated pool. Nova had his own room with en suite, as did we and they were separated by a living area with fully equipped kitchen.
I’d definitely recommend a villa. A lot of the restaurants, particularly in the quieter seasons, don’t open until late. It’s common for Italians to head out to eat at 10/11pm and whilst you’ll see plenty of kids out, if yours aren’t used to that lifestyle it can be tricky. A villa gets round that issue.
We found it much easier to pick up supplies from the local supermarkets and market stalls and to cook at home. The kids would be fed by 5pm and in bed by 7.30pm meaning we could enjoy a glass or two on the terrace. Bonus!
What’s the food like?
If you like pasta, pizza and gelato you’ll be happy! Most of the restaurants we stumbled into for lunch had pages and pages of meat options, but not so many veggie ones. We didn’t see any kids or veggie menus either and when we tried to veer off the main options, such as a plate of plain prawns rather than in marinade for Nova or a pasta dish but without the meat, we were told no as they wouldn’t know what to price it at!
We may have just been unlucky. My previous trip to Puglia, sans kids, was much more successful with food but I had a guide. We also found this time round that we’d lose track of time getting lost in the winding lanes so by the time Nova needed to eat lunch we’d have to go to wherever we were near.
I’d recommend researching a few options before your visit to Puglia as a back up or taking a sandwich out with you for the kids. That said, we tried to find a Mint, a veggie restaurant in Polignano a Mare that I’d been to before, but despite having the address and Google Maps we couldn’t find it!
Also bear in mind that the pizza ovens are often quite old, traditional ones and are commonly not turned on during lunch time so check before you sit down if you have your heart (or stomach!) set on pizza.
We sampled a lot of gelato and were never disappointed, so if all else fails dine out on that!
Do I need to hire a car?
Yes. It will make things so much easier. Many of the roads are very narrow and not really geared up for public transport. Puglia is brimming with beautiful villages and towns that you’ll want to explore. It’s so easy to keep the car seats buckled into your car, chuck a few bags into the car and go. We were based in the countryside near Ostuni and had so many places to visit that ranged from a five minute drive up to an hour. We found the car hire options to be really affordable too. We had an estate car for six days for £90. There were smaller cars for much less, but we always go for more space these days.
How long do I need in Puglia?
We had six days in Puglia and really had to pick and choose what we wanted to see and do. Our pace is a lot slower when we travel with the children so we knew we wouldn’t be able to do everything. I think you could easily spend two weeks in Puglia, relaxing by the pool (as much as you can with kids!) and exploring the region.
What’s the time difference and how long does it take to get there?
The time difference is an hour so you don’t have to worry about the children suffering with jet lag. The flight time is around two and half hours so it’s completely manageable in my opinion. We flew directly from London Stansted to Bari with Ryanair. easyJet and BA also offer flights.
Bari airport has a couple of restaurants and lots of car hire options.
Is it safe?
Yes. We always felt safe and at ease. It helped that we travelled in the shoulder season, so it wasn’t too busy and most of the villages were quite sleepy.
What’s the weather like?
It was around 15-19°C degrees when we visited in early March. Think blue skies and sunshine. We wore sweaters and cardis or a light jacket. The boys even got in the pool on one day.
July is said to be the hottest month to visit Puglia with temperatures averaging 24°C.
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Replicate the Trip
Fly: London Stansted to Bari via Ryanair – 2hr 30min
Drive: Astra Estate via Alamo
Visit: Alberobello, Polignano a Mare, Ostuni (each half a day)
Big thanks to Bookings For You and Raro Villas for hosting my stay.