The Big Guide to Puglia’s beaches | Adriatic coast

WE (L) COME BACK TO PUGLIA’S BEACHES

At the beach, life is different. We live by the currents, plan by the tides and follow the sun.

Family friendly

The beach is part of our life in Puglia. We spend our summer holidays here with our parents as toddlers. As teenagers we come with our friends. As parents we take our children.

Lido Pôr do Sol | LED Beach Club, Gallipoli

Our favourite gay friendly beach in Puglia. Find out about our visit and their friendly welcome to everyone.

More | why we liked Pôr do Sol.

Spoilt for choice

Some of southern Italy’s finest beaches can be found at and around Salento at Torre dell’Orso, Sant’Andrea, Otranto, Maldive del Salento and Porto Cesareo. Equally fantastic are the long, white sandy beaches of Gargano.

 The Big Guide to Puglia’s best beaches

 

With over 800km of coast, Puglia has some of the best beaches in Italy. Stretches of soft white and golden sand alternate with rocky shelves and hidden coves, surrounded by crystal clear waters.

Puglia’s best beaches are found in Gargano and Salento. Here are some of our favourites - including the Valle d’Itria.

Puglia - a three part drama

When planning a visit to Puglia think of our region in three parts.

To the north there is Daunia and Gargano. Foggia the major population centre of the former, the later a green and lush mountainous peninsula rising out of the Adriatic.

Rugged limestone cliffs, hidden caves and private coves, sea stacks majestically reaching into an infinity of blue and the trabuchi; wooden fishing platforms, a cross between grotesque spiders and steampunk oil rigs. The Gargano National Park extends across much of Gargano’s interior, within which sits the dark and prehistoric Foresta Umbra.

Central Puglia with green olive groves and ferrous-red soil, is contained by white dry stone walls and punctuated by trulli typical of the Valle d’Itria. It may be the least interesting part of the Adriatic coast as beaches go, but is not without drama, as a visit to Polignano a Mare will confirm.

Where the Salento begins exactly is open to interpretation. But geography guides us. It’s the peninsula surrounded by two seas - the Ionian and the Adriatic, each with its own shade of blue and mood, the heel of Italy’s boot.

First thoughts

When it comes to beaches, Puglia’s finest are in Gargano and Salento. The Gargano’s exceptional, long sandy beaches are as good as the award-winning beaches of Salento.

For those looking for fine sandy beaches during the day and a vibrant nightlife, all within walking distance, some compromise might be necessary. Whilst we have plenty of both, the combination of the two is harder - especially for those looking no further than the Valle d’Itria.

Vieste and Otranto are the best destinations if you want fine stretches of soft sand that you can get to on foot within a few minutes from vibrant old town hubs.

Polignano a Mare and Monopoli are often suggested for those looking for a base in the Valle d’Itria, but here sand is at a premium, with typically pebble beaches and rocky shelves. We are very happy here, but if your priority is soft sandy beaches, then neither is probably for you.

Barletta to the north of Bari and Pescoluse, the Maldive of Salento, whilst ideal for those looking to spend the day on a lounger feel too much of a resort. The perfect combination for us would be to stay in the wonderfully quiet Santa Maria di Leuca and make the short drive to Pescoluse each day.

Tourist holiday and camping villages are popular coastal summer destinations. But these are typically self contained with a min-market and coffee bar and an on-site pizza restaurant.

Be prepared to travel a little to discover the finest beaches by day and the most beautiful towns with wonderful bars and restaurants to explore by night.

Act 1 - the north

Vieste

Vieste’s two beaches, either side of the centro storico, are long stretches of soft white and golden sand. Both are within a 5 minute walk from the town centre.

And there are faraglioni; the limestone stacks steeped in legend. Perhaps the most famous of all in Puglia is Pizzomunno, giving its name to the beach where it sits.

Facilities

Public beach and private lido, public bar and toilets | beach vendors | adjacent on-street parking

More | read The Big Guide to Vieste | our road trip to Gargano | Puglia’s top 10 destinations for 2021

Act 2 - central Puglia

Polignano a Mare

As iconic as it is uncomfortable to sit on for any extended period. But Lama Monachile is worth visiting for the experience of swimming out beyond the cliffs that contain it.

We prefer to lie on the adjacent rocks that sit down from the Modugno steps, where you get the most wonderful view of the old town.

Gay Puglia - the Big Gay Podcast from Puglia. Serving up Puglia’s finest food and destination recommendations. Italy’s best naturist and gay beaches are in Puglia.

Facilities

None - but the beach is in the town centre, with bars and shops only minutes away.

More | read The Big Guide to Polignano a Mare | Puglia’s top 10 destinations for 2021

Torre Incina

Located between Polignano and Monopoli Cala Incina is a popular local beach that draws people from as far as Bari. It is mainly rocky shelves and coves, with a very small area of sand.

Exit the SS16 at the Monopoli Nord exit, and drive towards the tower, where you can park.

There is a naturist area on the other side of the tower from Cala Incina (i.e. on the left as you face the sea), a short walk from the tower in the direction of Polignano.

Gay Puglia - the Big Gay Podcast from Puglia. Serving up Puglia’s finest food and destination recommendations. Italy’s best naturist and gay beaches are in Puglia.
Facilities

None. Car parking available by the tower.

Monopoli

The town beaches are busy, sand is at a premium, but if you don’t mind the rocks and the crowds, you will experience il mare like a southern Italian.

Facilities

None on the beach but bars are adjacent to Porto Rosso | adjacent on street and private car parking | these are town beaches minutes from the amenities of Monopoli.

Torre Canne | Torre Pozzelle | Lamaforca

These beaches are typical of the stretch of coast between Torre Canne and Brindisi.

Thin elongated stretches of sand are interspersed with coves within which smaller beaches can be found, some with maquis scrub and wooded areas behind them.

Along this section of the Adriatic are a number of camping villages which are attached to these beaches.

These are popular, busy beaches, “local” to Ostuni, Locorotondo, Cisternino, Alberobello and so on.

In order:

Pilone beach, lying on the stretch of coast from Torre Canne south in the direction of Ostuni. This part of the coast has long - but shallow - stretches of sandy beach. However it is typical of the Itria Valley’s sandy beaches.

Heading down towards Rosa Marina along the Torre Canne stretch of beach. This section of the Adriatic coast along with Specchiolla and Torre Guaceto are the best sandy beaches that the Valle d’Itria offers.

Lamaforca beach (below).

Facilities

None on the public beach areas, but private beach clubs and lidos run along the length of this section of coast | parking is on the side road that runs parallel to the main highway, the access roads and private car parks attached to the beach clubs.

Torre Guaceto

Punta Penna Grossa is the main beach at the Torre Guaceto nature reserve. It has a backdrop of sandy dunes, wetlands and marshes inhabited by a range of wildlife including amphibians and birds. There is even a marine reserve for turtles.

An extremely popular family beach with locals and visitors. The further down the beach you walk towards the Torre, the quieter it becomes.

It’s 20-minute drive from Ostuni and Brindisi. There’s a 5-minute walk to the beach from the main car park. Parking arrangements change from mid-late July until early September when you are directed to the northern car park. This has a €5 flat fee including the trolley bus that loops from the car park to the beach and back again (a 4-minute journey each way).

You can wait from 10-20 minutes to get on depending on the queues.

Facilities

Public beach and private lido, public bar and toilets, lockers, phone charging, disabled access to the sea. Beach vendors sell umbrellas, beach accessories, coconut, wet almonds and water.

Torre Guaceto’s famous naturist beach is much further away. A 55-minute walk through the reserve takes you beyond the tower. Keep heading in the direction of Brindisi. You will know when you get there.

More | read The Big Guide to Torre Guaceto Naturist Beach

Act 3 - Salento

San Cataldo

San Cataldo is a sleepy little town.

The small sandy beach on the lungomare is busy until the end of August when the Italian summer holiday ends and San Cataldo suddenly empties.

Shallow waters extend from the beach for some distance before finding yourself out of depth, the azure blue sea gently undulating as it embraces you in its warmth, and you float gently, the Salento sun smiling down on you.

Grab some refreshments from Il Molo, taking its name from the pier built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian whose nearby ruins sit in the sea. They serve coffee and morning pastries, light snacks - panini or some rusticò - with a cool beer or glass of wine for lunch. Enjoy an aperitivo and nibbles as the afternoon slips by into evening.

San Cataldo is 15km from the centre of Lecce. The drive takes you along the route of the original Roman road also built by Hadrian.

The larger beach at San Cataldo is located in the nature reserve immediately to the southeast in the direction of the architectural site of Roca Vecchia.

Facilities

Public beach and Il Molo public caffè bar with customer toilet. The beach is accessed directly from the lungomare S. Caboto where you can park your car in plain view from the beach. Public bars, shops and restaurants are accessed easily on the other side of the lungomare.

Grotta della Poesia

Located only 30 minutes from Lecce by car Grotta della Poesia (the Cave of Poetry) is part of the archeological site of Roca Vecchia.

As with most beaches, try to go before 10am after which it starts to fill up, especially during the summer months until the end of August.

With its crystal clear waters the pool is deep enough to jump into from the shelf, some 4 metres above the water. Once in the water enjoy the calming and magical swimming experience...

From here to Santa Maria di Leuca the coast becomes so much more dramatic.

Discover more

Torre dell’Orso and Spiaggia delle Due Sorelle

Overlooked by the ruins of the Torre dell’Orso (the Bear Tower) it is one of the most famous beaches in Puglia with its stunning natural rock formations.

Beach clubs and lidos run along the length of the beach, frequented by young Italians

With soft, white sand, crystal clear sea and its gently undulating dunes dappled with maquis scrub, the Spiaggia delle Due Sorelle (Two Sisters beach) at the other end has a wonderful pine grove behind it.

Dominating the view from the beach are two sea stacks - the Two Sisters.

Gay Puglia - the Big Gay Podcast from Puglia. Serving up Puglia’s finest food and destination recommendations. Italy’s best naturist and gay beaches are in Puglia.

Facilities

The beach clubs and lidos have lounger and umbrellas for and bar facilities with toilets. Restaurants and bars are adjacent and parking can be found on the street running behind the beach.

Santa Cesarea Terme | Castro | Tricase Porto

We often stop off on our way down to Santa Maria di Leuca, and variously spend a little time here.

Santa Cesarea Terms is a spa town, with geology and swimming areas as exciting as Polignano a Mare, but much less visited.

Castro is to Santa Cesarea Terms as Monopoli is to Polignano a Mare.

Porto Tricase has a small beach area with a concrete promenade either side, where locals spend summer days swimming and lying in the sun. It’s a small area, but we enjoy stopping off and relaxing either before or after lunch at Bolina (usually featuring seafood).

 

Marina Serra

We often stop off on our way down to Santa Maria di Leuca, and variously spend a little time here.

 

 Want some more?

 Try a bitesize piece of Puglia ...

It’s only a short hop from town to town wherever you are in our region. That’s why we have suggested Puglia in bitesize chunks. Suggestions, wherever you are, to make your visit to Puglia just that little bit more special.

Dip into the blue

Take me to Polignano 

Tra le granite e le granate

Francesco Gabbani’s song will forever remind us of summer in Puglia.

Polignano a Mare

Take me to Polignano