There’s a lot of ground to cover in Puglia. Alongside the must-see places, we would like to recommend five old towns to add to your Apulian itinerary. They will not only give you insight into real local life but offer insight into the architectural and historical riches that are scattered across the land.
All of these are best visited in the early mornings (especially during Market Day), or come evening with the sunset when you can extend your stay to enjoy a pre-dinner aperitif and appreciate the small-town buzz.
This city is home to the Colossus of Barletta, a bronze statue that represents a Roman emperor, possibly Theodosius II – it is believed to be the biggest surviving ancient bronze statue and it was brought to Barletta from Istanbul. The town’s ancient port dates back to the third or fourth century BC and represented an important trade hub with the East. The connection between Puglia and the Holy Land remains uncontested and evident across the region; in Barletta, the 12th-century Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher sits between the Adriatic Road and the Traiana Road, leading to Rome and a destination for pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem.
Sitting right along the Appian Way, Mesagne is known as the cradle of Messapic civilization in Puglia, dating back from the Iron Age to the 2nd Century BC. You’ll find elegant churches and stunning Baroque architecture and treasures, too. Visit the ME.TA “Ugo Granafei” Territory Museum to browse the ancient objects on display.
Visit the Cathedral of Almifi just outside Parabita, an ancient carparo quarry dug by hand, believed to have been constructed in 1400. The history of Parabita stretches back to prehistoric times with archaeological findings pointing to neolithic-era huts uncovered in the center of the town. This was also home to the Messapic tribes, known then as Bavota, and of course, the Greeks settled here too in 800 BC. The Romans finally set foot and minted coins in Parabita.
Matino is an example of an authentic Salentinean borgo, one of the last well-preserved in the province of Lecce and almost unchanged, with original narrow alleys, courtyards, baroque balconies, and ancient underground oil mills dug into the limestone rock. In recent years, the sleepy town has been making a fresh appearance on the traveler’s route, with new boutique residences, cafes, boutiques, and a selection of great restaurants that you’ll want to try, including Ristorante Foscolo.
This charming town (known in the Salentinean dialect as “Curiànu”) is full of castles, and much of its history is rooted in ancient Greece with the local dialect still alive and spoken here. In fact, the village belongs to the historical region of Grecia Salentina. Over time, the village became an important stronghold and the site of many battles. Walk along Via San Nicola to get a glimpse of the courtyard houses typical in the town.