Most visitors arrive into Bari or Brindisi airport. However, another option is Naples airport if you get a better deal and intend renting a car – it’s about a 3 hour drive across to Puglia which isn’t bad if you arrive early in the day.
Checked baggage versus hand baggage – if travelling for more than a week, and especially if you are renting a car, then maybe think about you baggage before you hit the ‘no checked bag’ box when booking your flight. We traveled with hand baggage only – the first things we bought were two beach towels at €10 each (despite having a cupboardful at home). Then I had to wait until I got back to the airport to buy olive oils, wine, etc. at a less favourable rate. With checked bag fees starting from €20, I definitely lost out.
Put in a light scarf or something for shoulders in churches
Consider your footwear as you will be walking on cobbled streets
If coming for a few days and just visiting a few of the major towns then you could manage on public transport – there is a rail network as well as a bus service. However, renting a car will give you greater flexibility and a chance to see the countryside.
Photograph every scratch on your car before you drive off.
Some rental companies don’t charge for an extra named driver so make sure all drivers bring their licence with them.
Streets are narrow – as are many of the rural back roads – so, unless you’re travelling with a family, stick with a small car.
Parking – many tourist destinations here will have designated areas for parking. These car parks tend to be a bit more expensive than the town’s on-street parking rate. However, unless you know where you are going, or have plenty of time to find a local spot, just pull into the car park, pay up and go off and enjoy (especially in high season when parking spaces are like gold dust!) – and don’t spend the day checking the metre price on every street!
Fuel – petrol is expensive
The driving itself is fine but unfortunately you won’t have the road to yourself. Italian drivers tend to keep close to you, having a different understanding of braking distance and safety margins! Any hesitation on your part, at junctions or corners, is not appreciated. You actually do get used to it and learn to ignore what’s behind you and just concentrate on the road ahead.
You will be fine in the main centres but if travelling elsewhere then don’t assume that there will be someone at your hotel or restaurant to understand you – not everyone speaks English. Most restaurants we visited were able to supply some sort of English menu. If there is any real issue, hotel staff will phone someone locally who can communicate with you.
Money and Paperwork
Don’t forget to notify your bank before you leave home
Bring your E111 (if European)
Have copies of your passport, licence and travel insurance
There are ATMs in main centres and credit cards are accepted in most places but make sure to carry cash
During peak season try to arrive early – parking spaces are at a premium
Siesta times …shops close 1.00pm – 4/4.30pm
Always carry cash
Be prepared to pay for public loos in towns
If driving then you will have to arrive early for parking
The most popular beaches may have paid parking facilities only
Be prepared to pay €20 – €25 per day for an umbrella and two beds.
There are free areas on the beaches not controlled by the lidos. If spending a few days on the beach then it will definitely be worth your while buying an umbrella and chairs at a supermarket. Get your towels and coolbox at the same time.
Food and Drink
While the old advice stands – never go into a place touting for business, using pictures of food on their menu or displaying an English menu in plain sight – we found the standard and quality of food to be very good overall.
Eat away from the main squares if possible.
Coperto is everywhere – it is charged per person (including children) and has nothing to do with bread, water, etc. We were usually charged €2 per head but the rate varies and costs more in very touristy areas.
Cappuchino is only to be ordered in the morning – and never after a meal!
Pick the local wine when ordering in a restaurant.
In case you’re wondering ….
Trulli (trullo – singular) are huts with conical roofs.
Dry stone wall.. means construction without mortar or cement to hold it together
Difference between a basilica and a church – ‘basilica’ is actually just an architectural term for a certain type of building – originally a large hall with three long aisles. Churches were modeled on this design with an altar added at one end.
The term ‘basilica’ itself is Greek meaning kingly or regal and so, over the centuries, it became a church with certain privileges conferred on it by the pope. This often happens when it holds special architectural or spiritual significance (e.g. the presence of relics)
What is Orecchiette? This is the symbolic pasta of Puglia – a round concave shape which means ‘little ears’. You may see people making it outside their homes – pressing their thumbs into cubes of pasta dough. It is classically served with turnip greens or broccoli but also available with sauces.