You can buy a holiday home in Apulia that offers the best of all worlds. A country home, yet close enough for easy trips to the beach and charming historic towns. Apulia has well over 500 miles of golden beaches and breath-taking cliffs, lapped by the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, the Strait of Òtranto and the Gulf of Taranto. Just the names are enough to evoke the sound of the sea and the aroma of suntan lotion! This peninsula feels like an island but has the benefits of being part of the mainland.
The Apulia region is often thought of as the “heel of the Italian boot”. However, this southernmost portion, called Salento, is only half of it. Apulia stretches much further, past the regional capital Bari and on to the Gargano promontory. Here you will find an extensive National Park, pretty seaside towns and small islands.
There are five Apulian provinces: Foggia, Bari, Taranto, Brindisi and Lecce. But, it is the southern half that attracts most holiday home buyers.
If you are looking to buy a holiday home in a popular area near the sea, head south to the Salento peninsula. Even if you buy inland you are never more than 30 minutes’ drive from the sea, called “Mare” in Italian. The climate is typically Mediterranean with short mild winters, hot dry summers and temperatures over 30C in July and August.
This makes Salento one of the most popular holiday destinations for Italians from further north. They drive down on Bank Holiday weekends and for summer holidays, with Rome to Apulia a similar driving time (five hours) as from London to Cornwall.
Many of them head straight to the coastal areas around Otranto and Gallipoli. There they can enjoy the restaurants and nightlife of these beautiful coastal towns and relax on one of the many beaches during the day. Beaches worth hunting out include Torre Lapillo Bay and Punto Prosciutto near Porto Cesareo. Others of note are the sheltered bay of Porto Selvaggio, or just north of Otranto discover the soft sand of Torre dell’Orso.
Despite being inland, the town of Lecce is definitely worth considering, as it is in a good location from which to explore both coasts. The historic centre with its baroque architecture attracts many visitors, who marvels at the ornately carved stone facades of its churches. The town really comes alive in the evening with many quality restaurants, bars and summer events.
If you are looking for a more relaxed setting for your holiday home, look around the pretty Salento villages. Such as Acaya with its castle dating back to 1536 and nearby luxury golf resort. Or Nardo, with one of the most beautiful piazzas in Italy, while Galatina has five city gates. Santa Cesarea Terme has lovely, “liberty” neoclassic-style villas and Moorish Palazzo overlooking the sea. Castro has a castle, of course, but also an attractive port. Presicce also has splendid homes: 17th century noble residences. Calimera, rather appropriately given its name, has a strong Greek influence. Finally Specchia, which has been voted one of the most beautiful villages in Italy and is also close to the lovely beach at Porto Selvaggio.
Property for sale in Salento
From €110,000 you can buy a two-bedroom apartment in Gallipoli. A three-bedroom apartment in Otranto costs around €190,000. In the town of Lecce you can find a spacious 17th century Palazzo from €500,000 that is perfect if you fancy opening an Italian B&B. Simple two-bedroom holiday villas near the sea start at around €150,000. When searching for property in Salento look under the province of Lecce.
Don’t make any offer on an Italian property until you have read the Property Buyer’s Guide to Currency. Written by our trusted partner (and Rightmove’s) Smart Currency Exchange, it is packed with tips on protecting your purchase from currency risks.
Provinces of Brindisi and Bari
As foreign visitors tend to fly into Brindisi and Bari airports, most of them either rent or buy holiday homes within 45-minutes’ drive of the airport. San Vito dei Normanni and Carovigno are the nearest to Brindisi airport. Each has a growing international community who are always welcoming to newcomers. There are holiday homes at low prices too.
Personally, I would recommend driving further inland to attractive towns such as Locorotondo, Cisternino and Martina Franca.
In Brindisi province the pretty hilltop town of Ostuni draws the most visitors and is busy in summer. The historic part of town is a maze of narrow lanes and alleyways, with shops, bars and restaurants. Between them you’ll glimpse amazing views across the olive groves to the sea. Nightlife centres around Piazza Liberta, with regular live music events.
Property for sale in Ostuni
You can buy a one-bedroom apartment in Ostuni for as little as €60,000, even quite close to the Piazza. A small townhouse in one of the historic lanes on the hill will cost you from around €150,000. Those with balconies and roof terraces with a view towards the sea are the most prized of course. Their higher price comes with the best rental potential too.
The Itria Valley (in Italian: Valle d’Itria) is the most popular area for foreign buyers to purchase a holiday home in Apulia. Positioned centrally between the two airports, it is also close to motorways and train lines. The area spreads across three provinces, each having lovely towns. They are, in the Province of Bari: Alberobello, Locorotondo, Noci. In the Province of Brindisi: Ceglie Messapica, Cisternino, Fasano and Ostuni. In the Province of Taranto: Martina Franca.
Can’t afford to buy on your own? Why not split the cost and double the fun of holiday home-ownership in Italy by buying with friends or family? Read our guide, Buying Abroad with Family.
Day visitors flock to Alberobello to see the cone shaped houses, called trulli, in an area recognised by UNESCO World heritage. However, among the low rolling hills you will spot many more trulli, some abandoned and others which have been turned into unique and charming summer residences. Due to their stone construction they keep quite cool in summer months. You will also find small villas and lamia houses on generous sized plots, often with olive and fruit trees.
If like Helen Mirren you can afford a larger property to spend your holidays in, then take a look at the masserie. These large country homes were once used as fortified farmhouses, but today some are being renovated and turned into holiday accommodation. Their high vaulted ceilings are built with the local sandstone and they have large private courtyards.
By the sea
Along the coast between Brindisi and Bari there are very popular seaside resorts such as Rosa Marina. Further up and within the province of Bari are the charming old seaside towns of Monopoli and Polignano. A two bedroom stone property in the historic part of Polignano with sea views costs over €750,000. A one-bedroom stone house in Monopoli can cost as little as €250,000, but there are cheaper holiday homes near beaches along the coast.
Brindisi to Taranto
If you take the duel carriageway out of Brindisi heading towards Taranto you will notice that the land is much flatter. There are turn-offs for a number of working Italian towns that are great for all year round living as well as holidays. My personal favourites are Mesagne, Oria, Francavilla Fontana and the famous pottery town of Grottaglie. Countryside properties around these less touristy towns can be considerably cheaper than near Ostuni or the sea and the cost of going out to restaurants is cheaper too. Each of them has beautiful historic centres with a castle and are attracting more and more visitors each year.
The towns have working communities, so you will see residential areas with blocks of flats on the outskirts. Don’t let this put you off parking the car and exploring the historic centres, which may be partly pedestrianised. All the towns have a “Centro Storico” with architecture that varies from medieval to Baroque. As you walk these ancient streets, surprises are at every turn. Discover carved stone doorways, pretty balconies, ornate church facades, craft workshops, cafes, restaurants and at the heart of the town, the Piazza.
Property in Brindisi province: 1 bedroom villas and Trullo, needing some work, from €40,000. Countryside properties that are ready to move in start at around €130,000. Prices vary a lot depending on location and the condition of the property. There is a large selection of Brindisi properties for sale on Rightmove.
On the spur of Italy’s boot, Gargano is home to beautiful fishing villages, ancient forests, secret caves, picturesque coves and sandy beaches. Among the most beautiful are Mattinata beach and the coastal area of Baia delle Zagare, with its famous stacks a few metres from the shore. The beautiful Tremiti Islands are also a favourite destination for many Italian tourists.
The most popular and fashionable town in Gargano is the medieval village of Vieste, with its narrow streets and white houses, dominated by a stunning 13th century castle. Very few foreign buyers have discovered the Foggia. Indeed, there are not many Foggia properties advertised on international websites, but that shouldn’t put you off. On Italian sites you will find small apartments in Vieste from €50,000. Not bad for such a beautiful spot, and well worth looking at if you have a smaller budget.
Santa Cesarea Terme
San Vito dei Normanni
Baia delle Zagare
Property in Apulia
In general, Italians prefer to live in the towns where they can be close to family, school and work. Their properties tend to be mainly apartments or three-storey townhouses and palazzo. Often the ground floor is used as a shop, garage, workshop or made into a granny flat. If you drive around any of the residential back streets you are likely to find the odd bar, shop or craftsmen’s workshop dotted amongst the houses.
Small family run businesses are still thriving in Puglia and young entrepreneurs are given encouragement by their local community. Although, it does appear that most opt to open yet another pizzeria! A few town properties may have a courtyard or roof terrace, but apartments often only have a balcony as their outside space.
Many Italians in Apulia inherit plots of land with olive groves, vineyards, fruit and nut trees. Most will have some sort of building on it that is used either to keep farm equipment in or serves as a weekend/summer house. For much of the year you may only see the grandfather turning up to potter around, tending the trees. But come summer the whole family will turn up to enjoy a summers evening sitting outside together.
Such properties are often very basic, with small kitchens and only single skin walls. When the younger generation inherit these houses they sometimes get left abandoned, but they hang on to them because they are part of their family history. However, in recent years with young people travelling further to get work and the tax on second homes rising, many of these properties have come on the market.
Many Italian families also have second homes by the sea that they only use in July and August. These come up for sale less frequently and might only be advertised very locally, so if you want to buy one it’s worth driving around, looking out for sale boards and tracking down a local estate agent.