Puglia, in southern Italy, is an excellent spot to pick if you’re looking for a vacation that is going to satisfy both parents and kids.

From the sandy beaches of Salento to the history-rich cities of what was once Magna Graecia, passing through villages and towns that seem to have popped right out of a fantasy novel, the region known as the "Heel of Italy" has something for all ages.

The regional cuisine in Puglia is also sure to be a hit with every member of the family — both the picky eaters and the more adventurous ones — as there’s little room to be wrong with a dish of orecchiette ("little ears" pasta), mountains of delicious taralli (pretzel-like biscuits), fresh-out-the-oil panzerotti (dough pockets filled wtih mozarella) and delicious seafood.

A small beach tucked in at the base of a cliff with a family relaxing in the sun
With beautiful beaches and a welcoming local attitude to kids, Puglia is a popular family destination © Ragemax / Shutterstock

What makes Puglia good for kids?

Puglia is undoubtedly a great destination for kids. Many Italian families pick this region for their summer vacations, since it combines everything that is good about Italy — beautiful beaches, incredible food and unique history.

Traveling with children is usually easy around Italy and much of it comes down to the general attitudes of Italians towards kids. It’s very normal for Italian children to be included in everyday activities, from visiting museums to having meals at the same time as the adults do — no one will bat an eye at a family taking a nice post-dinner walk on the lungomare (seafront promenade) at eleven o’clock in evening. 

Still, exploring Puglia with children does require some logistical planning beforehand. Many of the streets in the region’s historic city centers are cobbled and on the narrow side, which might mean opting for a more lightweight stroller, one that is also easy to shuffle on and off trains and buses if you're relying on public transport.

You’ll also need to be mindful of the weather, which can grow very hot in the summer and prove difficult to handle for kids. For every outing, pack sunscreen, plenty of water, breezy clothes and take a leaf from the Italians’ book by staying out of the sun in the warmest hours of the day.

Where is best in Puglia for kids?

No matter where you turn, there’s something to do almost everywhere in Puglia. Here you'll find your pick of some of the best beaches in Italy, from the Gargano promontory in the north of the region to the Salento coastline down south. 

Then there are the city sights of Taranto or Bari, with their old town cobbled roads and Ancient Greek ruins, and the towns and the villages of the countryside. Head to Ostuni for its white houses, the picturesque Massafra and the iconic Alberobello with its trulli (circular stone-built houses).

And if you’re looking for something more adventurous, you can take a guided tour of the Grotte di Castellana, a series of caves that are to sure to awe all young explorers.

Planning to explore beyond Puglia as a family? Here's our guide to travel in Italy with kids

A single dolphin gracefully leaps out of a very still ocean with no other creatures and no boats in sight
Dolphins are often sighted in the waters of the Ionian Sea © Cosimo Calabrese / Getty Images

Best things to do in Puglia with babies and toddlers

Take a boat tour to look for dolphins

The blue waters of the Ionian Sea, stretching out off the shore of Taranto, have always been a favorite hangout spot for dolphins and other cetaceans. Sailing away on an excursion to try and spot them as they hop among the waves is sure to be an incredible experience for both kids and parents.

Associations like Jonian Dolphin Conservation, which promotes scientific research and protection of these incredible animals, organizes catamaran tours departing from Taranto. It’s best to book tickets in advance — it’s free for children under three — on the website, especially if you plan to go during the high season. Beware though that these tours last around 5 hours, which might be a little too long to keep the attention of very young children. For shorter tours, head out with Pugliamare from Porto Canale Marina di Ginosa.

Walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs in the Gargano National Park

If you’re raising little paleontologists stop at the Museo Paleontologico e Parco dei Dinosauri in the village of San Marco in Lamis, deep in the Gargano National Park.

This specific area of Puglia is filled with dinosaur prints, which allowed researchers to speculate on what kind of dinosaurs roamed this place millions of years ago. The museum is dotted with life-size statues of all the major dinosaurs we’ve come to know and love. Check opening times and book your tickets in advance online — there’s a reduced rate for kids aged from three to 12, while families comprising two adults and two children pay a flat fee of €30.

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A mother and son pose for a photograph in a town with lots of low-rise round white-stone buildings
Kids will love the fairy-tale feel of the round stone houses in Alberobello © Levranii / Shutterstock

Best things to do in Puglia with school-age kids

Explore the unique-looking trulli in Alberobello

The picturesque trulli of Alberobello are one of Puglia’s most famous sights with a uniqueness that is sure to charm every visitor. Trulli are perfectly functional houses — and very good at keeping the summer heat out — with structures that date back to the 14th century and were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site back in 1996. Once you’re right in the middle of them, it will seem like you’ve stepped into some sort of fairy tale.

Given Alberobello’s popularity as a tourist spot, you’re better off visiting it during shoulder season when most of the summer crowds have left but the weather is still pleasant — even though there’s definitely something to be said for not-so-common sights of snow-covered trulli in winter. Keep an eye out for slippery pavements, made smooth by thousands of feet walking on them everyday.

Plunge underground into the caves of Castellana Grotte

The caves that open up just outside the village of Castellana Grotte extend for more than 3km (1.9 miles) and reach a depth of more than 120m (394ft) underground. There are plenty of incredible sights to go around, from clusters of stalactites to underground lakes and the breathtaking "White Cave," made of white stone. 

Booking your excursion in advance is always a good idea, as is keeping in mind that the temperature in the caves is around 16°C (61°F) — make sure to bring a warm layer, even if you're visiting in the middle of summer. Kids under five can enter for free and there’s a reduced price ticket for travelers until 14 years of age.

A person floats above the surface of the sea near an opening to a cave
Grab some gear and go snorkeling in the Tremiti Islands © Isabella Gottardi / 500px / Getty Images

Best things to do in Puglia with tweens and teenagers

See under the sea on a snorkeling trip

If you’re traveling with tweens and teens who love to swim, then they might enjoy a day of snorkeling off the shores of the Tremiti Islands, a small archipelago some 20km (12 miles) away from the Gargano promontory. 

There are several companies that organize full-day excursions where you only have to bring yourself and your curiosity about what lies under the surface of the sea, like Blu Tremiti, based in the island of San Domino. You can rent equipment and have lunch on board, and be sure that your time in the water will be monitored at all times by professionals.

Dance to traditional music at the Notte della Taranta

All throughout August, cities and towns across Salento participate in the Notte della Taranta music festival, a series of concerts of local folk music that culminate with a huge show in Melpignano that usually features a number of big names from the Italian scene.

It’s a great occasion to dance and enjoy a fun night out while surrounded by local culture. The exact date of the final concerto of the Notte della Taranta changes every year, but the festival usually starts right at the beginning of August.

Planning tips

In general, people in Italy tend to enjoy interacting with and accommodating children whenever possible. Most restaurants will usually be happy to put together a simple plain tomato sauce pasta dish if nothing on the menu looks appetizing for little travelers or heat any baby food you have brought with you. They generally have high chairs, but it's good to call in advance to be 100% sure.

The same goes for cots in hotels or B&B — they are usually available, but your best bet is to call to request a cot and make sure one will be available. As for any baby-related needs — formula, nappies, baby wipes — Italian supermarkets of all major chains are well stocked, especially the bigger ones. Still, even a relatively small shop in a city center will usually have a couple of the most common baby items. Some shops, especially if they’re not part of any type of big chain, could be closed on Sunday and also on another day of the week, usually Monday. 

If you're planning to travel by train, download the Trenitalia app, which you can use to check routes and timetables as well as purchase tickets. Children under the age of four can board for free, while for travelers up to 15 years of age pay half of the standard adult fare. Most museums and activities also offer reduced tickets for kids and teenagers.

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