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Puglia, the sun-drenched heel of Italy's boot, is a region that promises visitors a blend of rich history, stunning landscapes, delicious cuisine, and vibrant culture. It is a remarkable region and visiting during the summer months promises to offer a pristine atmosphere and so many things to do!

After spending 2 months in Puglia in July and August, however, I have come up with a list of things that will be really useful to know for someone visiting Puglia (or Italy in general) for the first time in summer.

Here are 23 useful things you need to know before visiting Puglia in the summer:

1. Things to know about ordering coffee

The coffee bars in Italy aren't really like a normal cafe in other parts of the world. They are actual bars (that also serve alcohol and pastries). You can actually order your coffee at a bar, stand up, drink and leave. They will also give you some water with your coffee.

If you haven't been to Italy before, you may be confused about what to order! Espresso is the most popular option but for Westerners, a milky coffee is usually the go-to. 

If you see 'latte' on the menu, this isn't a latte as we know it but a glass of warm milk with a shot of coffee on the side.

A cappuccino is the most standard milky coffee they have, so is a good option (they will very rarely offer you chocolate on top though!). It is also considered a sin to drink a cappuccino after 11 am!

In my experience, pretty much all cafes had soy milk and almond milk if you don't drink cow milk!

Also, do yourself a favour and try a Caffe Leccese! This is from the region and is an iced espresso with sweet almond syrup. Incredible during the blistering heat of summer. 

2. Breakfast isn't a thing but pastries are

In Italy, they don't really do big cooked breakfasts and brunch in their cafes. Usually, it's all about coffee and pastry. This can be a bit concerning for brunch-loving folks! My advice is to just get amongst the way they do things because they do what they do well.

Croissants and other speciality pastries like the pasticciotto (a custard-filled pastry with different flavours) are SO good. To ensure you don't come back with a cholesterol issue (which by the way is hard to do in Italy because the food quality is so good), have breakfast at home. You can buy all that your brunchy heart desires in the supermarket.

Side note - if you do find a cafe that does have a brunch menu, you might be disappointed.

3. How to order if you're vegetarian or vegan

Italians and their rules about food mean it can be tricky to order at a restaurant if you're vegan or vegetarian. However, there are some ways you can get around this by basically tricking the waiters into bringing you suitable food to meet your dietary requirements.

The trick is to select something on the menu and ask them to take things out or add things on instead of asking for something vegan or vegetarian (they may flat out say no they can't).

Another thing is to say you have an allergy, even if you don't, as they take that seriously. The same applies to gluten intolerances or preferences.

4. Weighing veggies at the supermarket

This always gets me when I go to supermarkets in Europe for the first time! But many places will require you to weigh and get a label for your fresh produce in the produce section, they don't usually do this at checkout.

It's super annoying getting to the checkout and then having to go back and do all the labels! Always see if there is a weighing station with a barcode machine. The codes for each piece of produce will be on the price per KG label on the produce itself.

In some places you need to do it yourself, others have a dedicated staff member to do it. If no one is there and you're clueless ask a staff member and they will happily do it for you.

5. Card is accepted everywhere

To my surprise, pretty much everywhere accepts cards (with the exception of buses). They all have contactless too without any surcharges, so paying for things is easy and you don't have to worry about always having and withdrawing cash.

6. Parking is a true nightmare

In summer, parking is incredibly challenging everywhere in Puglia. Particularly at the beach on the weekends! If you have rented a car, factor this in because it may honestly take you 20 minutes or more to find a park. This is one of the perks of utilising public transport that is available in summer. Also, parking isn't free and usually quite expensive too!

7. Get familiar with the wind!

The region of Puglia is ruled by the direction of the wind. Everyone is always talking about it! Each direction of the wind even has its own name. The reason it's important is because people use it to decide which coast they will go to for the day to enjoy the beach or the best towns.

If the wind is blowing down from the north (or east), the Adriatic East coast will be rough and unpleasant. People will go to the southern beaches or western beaches in this case. and if it is blowing from the south (or west) the Ionion West Coast and south coast will be unpleasant. The southern tip is generally pretty sheltered from north, east and westerly winds.

It's also good to know that when there are winds blowing up from the south you can expect the temperature and humidity levels to rise dramatically because it is coming from Africa.

Another funny thing about Italian culture is that when it is windy, even in the middle of summer, Italians believe they will catch the wind and get sick so they cover their necks.

8. There are plenty of buses in the summer

From June to the start of September there is an extensive network of buses that run all over Puglia to take people to popular destinations. The buses are affordable and really reliable. The trick is to master the timetables so you don't get stuck.

Throughout the Salento (the very southern part of Puglia) there is the Salento by Bus network that runs. Do not rely on Google Maps for correct timetable information. Always check the timetable on this website and double-check check you are looking at the timetable for the correct year. You can also buy your tickets online (you can also buy in cash but online is a lot better.)

Other bus companies are running in the region that you can use, for this I would recommend downloading the Omio app to find and book buses (not the Salento bus though!).

Buses are really affordable and a great option for getting around as long as you can master the timetables as the buses aren't frequent and finish quite early.

9. Trains are also a good way to get around

There is a decent train network running through Puglia particularly from Lecce to places in Bari (buses are better in Salento). This is a reliable and comfy way to travel around the region. Again, you can use the Omio app to find routes and book tickets.

I was able to go pretty much everywhere I wanted to in Puglia in the summer, being based in Lecce, using public transport! 

10. There are ferries to other parts of Europe

Puglia is an amazing place to access other parts of southern Europe without having to get flights! There are many ferries that run from the ports of Bari and Brindisi to the Balkan countries like Albania and Greece - making this a great stop on a Southern European Summer adventure!

11. Tourist traps & scams aren't something you need to worry about

Puglia has only relatively recently come onto the international map when it comes to tourism. This means that while it is still crazy busy in summer, it is mainly Italians on holiday and there aren't many Westerners. Because of this, there aren't really any tourist traps restaurants, street scams or pickpockets operating in the cities here (in my experience). It was very safe and the quality of restaurants was very high.

This could potentially change in the near future but I really hope not!

12. Google reviews are harsh

When it comes to restaurants, Italians have very high standards and they aren't afraid to be pretty scathing on Google reviews. This means on average, restaurants on Google reviews would have a lower rating than you'd expect. Reviews are reliable and even a bit harsh but the restaurants and food are usually still top-notch. If you see a place with over 4.5 stars you know it's going to be exceptional. It also means a place that has under 4 stars might still be incredibly good! 

13. Difference between east coast & west coast

The east coast, also referred to as the Adriatic coast is distinct from the west coast, also called the Ionian coast. The beaches on the Adriatic coast tend to be more rocky, with cliffs and deeper water. The beaches on the west coast are more sandy and shallow water. Depending on your beach preference, you can choose your top spots accordingly! The west coast tends to attract more families because of the sandy beaches and shallow water, which is good to know!

14. Not many people speak English 

Most people don't speak English at all or very little. To make things a bit easier (you can get around the language barriers if you know no Italian too FYI), learn a few phrases to make everything a bit easier. Knowing how to order food and meet any dietary requirements is very helpful. If all else fails, Google Translate will come to the rescue!

Also, Italian is quite easy to pick up so when you are there you will figure it out because you kind of have to!

Babbel is a great language app to learn languages in a more conversational way which is good for travelling.

15. Data is super cheap!

If you're staying in Italy for more than a month, and you don't already have an EU sim, the data plans are very affordable. The only downside is they have quite a hefty set-up fee. But it's worth it to have access to the internet for maps and Google Translate. I had a SIM card with TIM and it was great.

They have tourist packages too if you are staying less than a month, but for more than one month going on a regular plan is the best option.

16. It can get dangerously hot

In July and August, it can get hot and I mean HOT. As mentioned earlier, when the wind is blowing from Africa, there are scorching heatwaves. Even when there isn't a heat wave pushing the temperatures into the 40s it is still very hot all day and it stays hot throughout the night.

Make sure you are drinking plenty of water and ensure your accommodation has aircon in the room, trust me, you need it. Use the early morning and evening to do sightseeing and avoid being outside in the peak afternoon if you are sensitive to heat.

17. It's crowded - but not unmanageable

It's true that during the summer months, Puglia gets very crowded. The whole country is on holiday and many people come to this region for holidays or to go home and visit their families. However, it's not busy to the point where I wouldn't recommend going at this time of year.

The busyness adds to the vibrant and incredibly lively atmosphere, which is particularly electric in the evenings in the towns.

18. There are some multi-day free festivals during summer

When you're in Puglia check online or with locals about what festivals are happening while you are there. There are many, they are usually free to attend and they are so much fun. There is a multi-day beer festival and a separate multi-day wine festival during the summer, plus many more.

19. Siesta is taken seriously

Siesta is definitely a thing in Puglia. With many shops closing from around 1 pm to 5 pm. It makes sense given the intense heat during summer!

Plan your shopping trips accordingly and remember to check Google for opening times, which are usually pretty accurate.

If you can brave the heat, siesta is a good time to explore as the streets become pretty empty.

The beach also tends to get a bit less crowded around 1 pm as people go home for lunch - a great time to snap up a good spot! Just bring (or hire) an umbrella.

20. People in Puglia do things very late

This is really good to know if you are coming from a country where dinner is served at 7 pm or earlier. In the evenings things only start happening around 8 pm and go on til around 2 am, with 10 pm being a popular time to get dinner.

8 pm is a great time to go to a popular restaurant to get a table as this is when restaurants will open!

Because of how late things run in Puglia, if you're an early bird, 7 am - 9 am is a great time to explore town centres and to head to the beach as there will be no one around, even in the middle of August. Nothing will be open though!

21. People take dressing up seriously

Italians know how to dress up and they definitely do, every evening. So to make sure you fit in with the vibe of Italy unless you're against it, the fashion police aren't real, bring some nice clothes and shoes to wear out in the evening.

You can also make sure you leave space in your bag to buy some beautiful Italian clothes and shoes while you're there. If you're anything like me, you will be heavily influenced by how nice everyone looks and want to look nice too!

22. Don't go straight from the beach to a restaurant

One of the things that Italians do is after a day at the beach, they go home, shower, get dressed up and then go out. It is not acceptable to put on a cover-up over your bathing suit, step into your flip-flops and head out for Aperitivo. You not only will potentially annoy people but you may not even be allowed in! - you will offend people and maybe not even be let in.

23. Use the Vivino app to help you pick wine

There are so many Italian and Puglian wines to choose from at the supermarket. However, you will most likely have no idea what they are, what they taste like and whether they are even good. Vivino is a great app to use to help you! I used it all the time. You just take a photo of the label and the app will tell you what the wine is and give you reviews and ratings people have written.

It's also worth mentioning, that buying wine in plastic bottles (even big ones that look like oil) is very common and very normal, especially among locals. The wine is very good!

There you have 23 useful things to know before you go to Puglia in summer all from personal experience visiting the region for 2 months!

>>> Learn about the best beaches in Puglia here

>>> Discover things to do in Lecce here

>>> Find out what the best towns are here

>>> See what the hidden gems of Puglia are here