Matera and Alberobello are probably the two most unique villages in Italy. Day trips depart every day from Bari. However, in order to make the most of it, a road trip would be the best choice.
I went to Puglia looking for a region of adventure and nature activities. However, I ended up getting lost in two of the most fascinating places I´ve ever been. Puglia is not just a place for some views. This Italian region hides two of the most culturally important cities in the country: Matera and Alberobello. They are simply wonders of civilization – and not only because of its Roman history.
Charming villages instead of hectic cities
If you are planning a road trip to Matera and Alberobello, Bari is probably the place to start. The Puglisi capital is not only the largest city in the area, but also the perfect spot if you are planning to prepare everything. Budget airlines fly there for less than 10 EUR in low season and with several rental companies competing for customers, prices tend to be less expensive than in other cities like Brindisi or Lecce.
Inside Tip: Rent your vehicle at the airport. You will avoid annoying and long transfers, as well the hectic cities.
Landing in Bari doesn´t necessarily mean you have to stay in Bari. The city is extremely dirty and as many Italian cities, some areas are not safe. Keep in mind that Italy has some of the most beautiful and charming villages in the world. Why spending the nights in a city when you can rent a small house in one of its many cozy towns.
Instead of sleeping in Bari, I tried the small village of Giovinazzo. A lovely town with narrow streets, cozy cafes and a gorgeous old city. It is located just 20 minutes from Bari Airport and finding accommodation was extremely easy. Capuccino and Cornetto for breakfast tasted better there than anywhere else I could imagine.
Inside Tip: I used Airbnb to find accommodation. I booked just a couple of days in advanced and was able to sleep for 40 EUR/night in a traditional home in the city centre.
Life is slow in these places. There is usually one single bar open at night and limited options for dinner and nightlife. Consider this if you want to stay in a small village. Some places also only open during Summer. Avoid tourist towns on Winter, as they will be completely empty and you will get stuck in a village without restaurants and shops.
Matera or Alberobello? Why not both
There are different ways to reach these two villages from Bari: With one of the main tour operators doing day trips, by yourself with public transportation or with your own vehicle.
Traveling around Puglia with your own car gives you the perfect flexibility for planning an itinerary the way you want. Renting a car in Italy is very simple and if you are with 2 friends or more, it can even be way cheaper than using public transportation or local tour operators.
Inside Tip: In some areas of Italy finding a gas station can turn into a nightmare. Check Google Maps in advanced where the next stations are and avoid running out of gasoline in the middle of nowhere.
Once on the road, a day trip in at least one of these villages is a must. While Alberobello is perfectly located if you are going South, Matera could be an interesting choice if you want to travel in circle counterclockwise. You can also visit one after the other if you are limited in time and these cultural sites are your priority when visiting Puglia.
Inside Tip: While doing a road trip in Puglia, you should drive at least once along the coastline. It´s one of the most beautiful roads in the country and although Matera and Alberobello are rather located in the centre of the region, you could extend your road trip and spend one afternoon driving along the coast – It will be worth.
Alberobello is famous for its unique and picturesque trullo constructions (traditional Apulian houses made of dry stone). The trulli of Alberobello have even been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996 and since them they have been attracting people from all over the world.
Get lost by yourself in their old town or do a walking tour about the cultural importance of the village. Alberobello is a place to be amazed and visit a city like you have never seen before.
On the other side, Matera was the home of the first human settlements in Italy. Its historical centre “Sassi” is known as one of the rarest places in Europe, as visitors can see the caves which served as homes for thousands of years. Matera is a magical town itself. It was built on top of a hill and views are simply beautiful.
Matera was also declared Italian host of European Capital of Culture for 2019 and the “Sassi di Matera” was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.
Inside Tip: Prices are way more expensive in these tourist hotspots. If you are traveling with you own vehicle, try one of the many restaurants located in the villages next to Alberobello or Matera – You will find food with better quality for a way cheaper price.
Where to stay? Booking accommodation in a trulli or in the Sassi is a unique travel experience. However, if you are traveling on a tight budget, I would recommend you find a home stay in the outskirts of the city (or neighbouring villages) instead of a budget hotel in the city centre. You will have a unique experience with an Italian family, and it won´t cost you much.
Puglia fascinated me. It was one of the most beautiful Italian regions I´ve visited. It offers amazing food, great cultural experiences and incredible landscapes. Matera and Alberobello are just a small part of this wonderful part of Italy and if you are traveling by car, I can totally recommend you to explore more and sometimes just follow a map without a specific destination.