If you’ve been reading my blog and following along, you’ve probably noticed that I don’t really talk about “family friendly travel” very much but today I’m making an exception. Many families, including grandparents, are finding “multi-generational” travel to be extremely rewarding and Italy is a natural choice to please everyone!
Lesser known than many of the other region of Italy, Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot has a lot to offer everyone. If you’re planning a family or multi-generational vacation, Puglia should definitely be on your list and here’s why…
Since Puglia is basically a peninsula, that translates into miles and miles (actually 500!) of beautiful and pristine coastline. Combined with excellent weather year round, you’ll find the beaches and beach towns along the Adriatic and Ionian seas to be both inviting and refreshingly uncrowded.
Getting there: Puglia has two major airports (Bari and Brindisi) served by several major (e.g. Alitalia) and local airlines (e.g., Ryanair). Naturally you can also arrive by car or train and, as Puglia becomes more popular, the train schedules are expanding.
Unlike many of the other regions, Puglia is relatively flat, which makes getting around (i.e., driving) less intimidating but you will find public and private transportation is easy enough to arrange.
Staying in one or two centrally located towns is an excellent way to explore the region. Some of the many picturesque towns worth visiting include: Lecce, Otranto, Gallipoli, Polignano a Mare, Ostuni, Alberobello and Martina Franca, and Trani, to name a few).
Roman ruins, castles, medieval fortresses, caves and caverns, not to mention the unique trulli dwellings of UNESCO designated Alberobello will intrigue visitors of all ages. Throw in charming historical centers with inviting piazzas, interesting museums and churches, and you have a diverse and rich heritage to explore.
A visit to Puglia wouldn’t be complete without visiting an olive tree grove. Of course, with 60 million trees (yes, you read that right!), Puglia’s entire landscape includes mile upon mile of simply breathtaking groves. Many of the trees are over 1,000 years old! Try to visit an olive tree farm and, of course, be sure to sample the fabulous oil!
Also, for the outdoor set, there are natural parks as well as camping, hiking, biking, horseback riding, swimming, sailing and just plain relaxing.
As I have found throughout Italy, the Pugliese are warm and hospitable. Most locals speak a little English (less in smaller towns and shops) so learning and practicing a little Italian together can be fun. Arrange a guided walk to learn more about the local traditions and, of course, to enjoy local specialties (such as pasticciotto!).
Take a cooking class and make pizza together, enjoy local festivals, go to local markets, visit and watch local craftsmen (such as cartapesta or papier-mâché or ceramics artisans) and, of course, don’t forget to sample the gelato!
Staying in a masseria (a restored farmhouse/working farm similar to an agriturismo) is particularly rewarding and perfect for families. These are usually family-owned and managed outside the cities. Be sure to find one that is “family friendly”. Typically, they have a swimming pool, bikes and, perhaps, some friendly local animals.
Check to see if they can arrange cooking classes or other activities. Small B&B’s are another accommodation option to consider. They are typically well-located, often family owned and managed, and very reasonably priced.
Come midday (around 1ish), remember that, especially in smaller cities, everything shuts down. Plan accordingly. You may still find small trattorie and ristorante staying open so that you can enjoy the traditional regional cuisine and specialties or, perhaps, do some food shopping at local markets in the morning and have a little picnic on the beach or at a local park?
In the late afternoon/early evening, shops and eateries re-open, and you will find locals taking the traditional passegiatta, the evening stroll. Especially on Sunday afternoons, this is very social, a big family time and delightful way to really experience and enjoy the local way of life.
Music and children playing, piazzas come alive. It’s time for an aperitivo or gelato! Be sure to enjoy this lovely tradition.
If you’re like most of us, you’re probably on a budget? That’s another reason why Puglia is, not only family-friendly but, becoming the next place to go in Italy. It’s budget friendly and affordable! Your euro will definitely go further here!
I fell in love with Puglia two years ago and this fall will be my fifth visit there. Each trip unlocks more layers and delights! My visits are usually a minimum of 2 weeks so I would recommend that, if you can, allow at least 10 days for your visit (not including travel days). Better yet, a few weeks…trust me you won’t regret it!
A Few Words of Advice and Some Resources
I have always found that the best recommendations for where to eat or find local activities is to ask the locals. Contact local tourism offices, ask the owner of your accommodation or the barista at the local caffè.
Go where the locals go. I found my favorite gelateria by asking a local and NOT relying on Trip Advisor or a guidebook. Check out blogs, ask people who have traveled there extensively (yes, you can ask me!).
As with every region of Italy, Puglia is unique. Preparing yourself and your family members for the cultural differences of being in Italy as well as this or any other region Italy is, in my opinion, a must.
This exposure to a different way of life can be not only an enriching family time but indelible memories to last a lifetime.
If “DIY” travel just isn’t something you enjoy or want to do, here are some helpful planning sources/options:
#1 – For all of you traveling to Italy, I highly recommend my book, Victoria’s Travel Tipz Italian Style. Available on Amazon, it provides over 400+ insightful and essential tips on what to expect and how to enjoy the Italian lifestyle and way of life. You will be prepared to appreciate and embrace Italian ways and all for only $9.99 (paperback) or $3.99 (Kindle). A great investment in your trip.
#2 – For families: Shannon Kenny and ItaliaKids can help you plan the perfect family friendly solution.
#3 – For those of you who prefer an “adults only” experience, I can help you. My small group tours (only 4-12 guests) to Puglia are focused on an authentic cultural immersion. All you have to do is show up and my Puglia expert partners and I do the rest: