Spend 5 days in Puglia with toddler
Italy became one of our favorite European destinations over the years, because it gives that classic Mediterranean vibe with endless possibility where to go but giving the consistency of heavenly food & the seaside. We’ve visited Italy for quite some time now – off season & peak times – & whole heartedly we opted for springtime in Puglia when it came to plan our 5-day long family holiday.
Puglia with toddler
But how to spend 5 days in Puglia with toddler? After this trip I can assure you, March/April is one of the (if not the) best time to visit Puglia with family, because it’s quiet from the sea of tourists & locals, yet it gives you everything you want: mild weather, mouthwatering food & tons of places to see & feel the Italian Dolce Vita.
For better navigation, I’ll leave here the link to MyMaps I created for the trip. You’ll find all the historical places, restaurants marked on it (included all the places I mention below).
At the end I will also share some useful information, like food cost, parking recommendation or ticket fees. 🙂
Getting to Puglia and getting to Bari center
If you’re flying, you most probably end up in Bari. From the airport there are the classical options to get to the city center: bus, train & rental cars.
All of them has pros & cons, especially if you are traveling with toddler (or baby).
- If you’re going with bus no.16, it departs in every 40-60 minutes, the journey takes about 35-40 minutes & costs about 1-1.5 €.
- Trains are a bit more expensive (5 €), the journey is a bit shorter (20 min), but you have a bit more space.
- Car rental fees are totally up to your preferences, you can go all low-cost or higher end. The parking might seem a bit complicated, but I help you out:
Blue Lines - You can park anywhere but you have to pay. 🙂 These blue areas are common in densely populated or popular spots. On average we paid 0.5-1 €/hour. Parking meters accepts coins, but we managed to pay many times with card as well. (Pay attention that usually we had the give only a portion of the license plate number. Also in some cases we had to give the number of the spot we took.)
Yellow lines - They are for local people because you need a special permit – don’t park there.
White lines – They are for free. But as the name suggests, it’s free, meaning that you likely ending up with no free spots at all. Considering the fact we rented a car we didn't want to risk any accidents. We'd rather paid. 🙂
Why is Puglia good with a toddler?
In our opinion a place doesn’t have to be specifically child-friendly, a lot depends on our adaptability & flexibility:
- Generally speaking, highchairs are available in restaurants, the rest we usually figure out. 🙂
- Italian people were very friendly.
- & the region has such a wide variety of places to see & things to do – I think all families can find the needs they wish for in a family trip. Since the region is rich in small (& charming) towns, the rental car made it so much easier to be able to discover Puglia yet giving the comfort of going whenever & wherever we wanted.
- Also, I want to mention that old towns have cobble stones or at least uneven surface. It’s not totally impossible with strollers, but we were just fine with a hipseat. (Ours is from @Tushbabay – click on the link, to get it 15% off.) 🙂
Bari – good base
How to spend 5 days in Puglia with toddler? Start in Bari. It was a perfect base & I’ll tell you why. Coming from Central Europe, this city is a perfect transition between “inner” Europe & the Mediterranean. Its old town is charming (we stayed at the edge of the old town), yet you feel the urban influence of the tremendous amount of young people (mainly uni students) which makes it a forward-looking town with lots of history. Still, you have the sea, the port, the promenade along the seaside & of course the Italian cuisine. For what it’s worth, I would say that 2 half days or 1 full day is perfectly enough to explore the old town:
- Basilica di San Nicola – Built in Romanesque style, it’s simple on the outside but hides the relics of Bishop St. Nicolas. You can enter for free & go downstairs to see the relics. 🙂
- Cattedrale di San Sabino – If you thought there is only one significant church in Bari Vecchio, you were wrong. This Cathedral is just as symbolic in Bari’s life as the other one.
- Castello Normanno-Svevo – Built originally in the 12th century. I’m not gonna bore you with details, but it’s worth to share that thanks to the continuous maintenance the castle is in perfect conditions. However, many travel bloggers claimed it doesn’t worth the 10€ entrance fee.
- Teatro Petruzzelli – This terracotta-colored iconic building is Bari’s famous Opera House / Theatre. We often walked by as we rented our AirBNB close to it & the best view was at sunset time, when the warm setting sunrays painted the building even deeper orange.
- Strada delle Orecchiette – if you love Italian cuisine like we do – don’t skip this alley. Every day (from about 10am) Italian nonnas – although not all of them are middle aged 😊 – make fresh, hand made pasta just in front of us on the street. The famous pasta – not just in Bari but also in Puglia region - is called Orecchiette (little ears), made from semolina & water.
- Lungomare – Coming from a country where we have no seaside, our drive to see the sea is super strong. Lungomare is a long promenade along the saside starting from the Old town (more specifically from Teatro Petruzelli. You’ll have the most romantic & homely walk with your loved ones.
- Ferris wheel – Once we were walking on Lungomare, we let ourselves carried away & hopped on the ferris wheel. Is it a tourist trap? - Maybe. But we have special relationship with them, since my husband proposed on one. 🙂
- Pane e Pomodoro beach – I have to add here, that we haven’t checked out the beach – since we were in Bari in the middle of March with a 2,5-year-old toddler – we left this experience for another time. 🙂 However, if you have the chance I read mostly positive things about this sandy beach. The name comes from the fact that long time ago only the poor people came here bringing only bread & tomato for snack. 🙂
Bari is a great base choice because from here you have endless possibility to go & explore Puglia. We visited 4 destinations, & I’m super glad about the outcome. Let’s take a closer look at them:
We have started the morning driving to Alberobello. The world-famous, UNESCO certified trulli houses was on the top of my traveling bucket list for quite some years now. I’m super grateful I could make it with my family.
„The trulli, limestone dwellings, are remarkable examples of drywall (mortarless) construction. Characteristically, they feature conical roofs built up of corbelled limestone slabs. Although rural trulli can be found all along the Itria Valley, their highest concentration & best preserved examples of this architectural form are in the town of Alberobello, where there are over 1500 structures in the quarters of Rione Monti and Aja Piccola..” - Unesco.org
Okay, but why trulli were built like this? – Well, in the 1500’s the Acquaviva family (more precisely Giangirolamo II), the local ruler within the feudal system, wanted to avoid paying property taxes to the King. They ordered local peasants to build their houses & dwellings without mortar so that, in the event of a royal inspection, the structures could quickly & easily be taken down leaving the tax bill low. Although it might seem noble (helping the peasants), it was also greedy – the locals were not so happy to continuously demolish their houses. Eventually the scandal came to light & the king of Naples imprisoned him on charges of tax evasion. 🙂
We spend app. 2 hours walking in the neighborhood & in my opinion it’s totally enough. In the middle of March, we arrived at around 10am, and literally there were more souvenir ladies in front of their shops than tourists. We could easily find spots without anyone. Speaking of souvenirs – don’t be shy if the ladies invite you in for tasting their stuff, accept it. We have received quite a few sample & they are delish! If you follow our itinerary, have a well-deserved lunch here then head toward Monopoli / Polignao a Mare.
It would be mean of me if I will not mention Monpoli, but it’ll be a short & honest one. The drive from Alberobello to Monopoli was at nap time, so our daughter had a peaceful nap in the car. When we arrived, she was still sleeping, so we agreed that my husband will watch her, until I discover the center and they’ll join me later. Well, I checked out Porto Antico and the Castle, which had a super nice atmosphere, but overall all Monopoli’s old town was empty. I don’t know if our timing was off, but it wasn’t offering as much as Alberobello did. Moreover, the next stop, was sooo high on our list (Polignano a Mare), we decided to skip spending more time in Monopoli & headed to Polignano instead.
Polignano a Mare
Okay, I need to be completely honest. We love deals & be very conscious how we travel, what we are spending, but we also love experience special things. So, spending 5 days in Puglia with toddler, on our bucket list beside the Trulli of Alberobello, we also had 2 things, well, 3 in Polignano:
- to see the famous Lama Monachile beach
- to drink a Coffee Speciale in Il Super Mago del Gelo Mario Campanella &
- to dine at Grotto Palazzese
You need to know that the Restaurant is world famous – for a reason. I bet you already saw it on Pinterest at least once. It’s a high-end place where there is only one slot where children are allowed. You might wonder then why we wanted, but to be honest sometimes we like to experience things once in a lifetime. Like a fancy restaurant on a gorgeous place. However, our reservation was cancelled due to bad weather forecast.
Well, you know the phrase “drowns his/her sorrow in alcohol”. It’s funny to say that I practically did that because the other long-awaited coffee Speciale – which we managed to taste it – made of espresso, cream, lemon & amaretto! Guys, you have to try it if you’re going to Polignano a Mare! The alcohol is barely noticeable (lucky me), 😅 however the first weird pairing of coffee & lemon had an amazing bond, topped with silky cream. If you need more than a coffee, try the focaccia at Frumé Focacceria.
After indulging ourselves (okay, mostly me, as my husband drove) 😊 in Speciale, we walked around. First, we headed to the old town where we managed to find the best angle of the Lama Monachile beach.
From there we went back and walked across the Roman bridge of the Via Traiana. This is the spot if you want to see the beach from “behind”.
Continuing our way, to the Promenade, we passed by the statue of the world's most famous Polignanese, singer Domenico Modugno. Well, if it doesn’t ring any bell, don’t worry – I was clueless at first. But what if I say he sang ‘Volare’? – I’ll leave here the Spotify link. 😉 🙂
Behind the statue, there is a huge staircase leading you down to the rocky part, where the raw rendez-vous of the shoe & the sea meets. From here, you have the chance to see the beach from the side. Important: this place is big, spacious, but there is no rail whatsoever. Please be careful if you let children roam.
On the last full day – despite the wind – we decided to give Matera a go. This place is claimed to be the world's third-longest continuously inhabited human settlement since the Paleolithic era – which means if you love history and/or architecture, this place is kind of a must! Matera is famous for its Sassi (cave dwellings). However, the truth is that in these Sassi people lived in poverty up until the 50s when the city finally decided that the poor - “shame of Italy” – has to be evicted. Some decades past and now it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
We arrived on a super sunny, but super windy day. Since we originally planned to commute by public transport & opted for a rental car at the end, we already managed to visit everything we initially wanted. I’m saying this because at this point, we were chill about what we are seeing, since all of it was already a plus. 😊 However, the chill we got literally due to the wind, cut our motivation back a bit. Having a toddler in the equation made us evaluate what is worth it & what not. We ended up walking just a short amount of time in the old town, skipping the Sassi. Which is fine. We’ll get back here one & enjoy everything what Matera is capable of giving you – but for now our biggest & best moment was when our daughter finally decided that Italian cuisine is something she should try & we ate a whole big pizza together. It worth everything!
What about the costs?
I’ve collected a few of our spending. You might find it useful if you plan to visit Puglia soon. 🙂 🙂
Transport & Accommodation:
- 40 € / person / flight*
- 50 € - car seat in the rental car
- 40 € - fuel
- 0,5-1 € - parking per hour
- 5 € - parking for 2-3 hours in Alberobello (spot recommended: Nel Verde parking lot)
- 55 € / night in AirBNB
- 6-10 € - pasta dish
- 7-10 € - risotto dish
- 5-10 € - pizza
- 30-50 € - lunch for 3 (with toddler)
- 3 € - foccaccia
- 5 € - orecchiette pasta/kg
- 1,5 € - coffee
- 2,3 € - coffee Speciale in Polignano a Mare
- 4 € - lemon biscotti
- 10€ / person - Ferris wheel
- 10€ / person - Castello Normanno-Svevo entrance fee
- 2-4 € for magnets as a souvenir
This is how you can spend 5 days in Puglia with toddler! Looking back on our journey, I think we have maximized what we possibly could, without being exhausted in the chase to see more.
All in all, I would say Puglia is a region you can find countless hidden (& not so hidden) gems. If you travel alone, or with your spouse (without kids) you can squeeze the trip into a long weekend, but it’ll be intense! My recommendation is at least 4 full days. We had 3 full days (+2 half) traveling days & it’s manageable.
But still there are places we missed, like Ostuni, Lecce, Castel del Monte, Altamura.
Nevertheless, we’ll always have unforgettable sweet memories about our 5 days in Puglia with our 2,5-year-old toddler!
I leave here a few 'get-in-the-mood' link from my IG 🙂
Dance through Puglia - IG reels video
5 days itinerary in Puglia with toddlerl - IG post
How much does it cost in Puglia? - IG reels video
IG Guide with all the Puglia posts