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One Week in Puglia by Train?

Ottawa, ON
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One Week in Puglia by Train?

Hi:

My partner and I are thinking of spending a week in Puglia, traveling by train, the first week in June. We are interested in food, wine, and sightseeing, primarily. We don't want to rent a car, but we don't want to spend all our time on trains. Ideally, we'd like to maximize our time exploring town and country. We are willing to do one-day organized tours for wine tasting, etc., but mostly prefer to be on our own. We aren't mad on beaches, but we like walking. We aren't keen on busy cities. We prefer smaller towns, but a night or two in a larger city would be okay if there's lots to see and do. We are not big shoppers.

Can anyone suggest a reasonable itinerary for one week that will allow us to get a good taste of Puglia without dashing here, there, and everywhere? It is a holiday, after all, and we want to relax.

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Cambridge, United...
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1. Re: One Week in Puglia by Train?

Hiya,

You can get around on the buses and trains, but not having a car does limit you somewhat and you'll find it harder to get out into the 'countryside'. If you don't want to hire a car because you've heard horror stories about driving in Italy, you may want to reconsider as the roads in Puglia are relatively calm (compared to, say, Naples and the madness of the Amalfi coast road!). But if you just want a break from driving you can certainly see a fair bit of Puglia by train - but it might take some serious planning, as the trains aren't that frequent on all routes so if you do things in the 'wrong' order you could find yourself waiting a long time for train connections and the like. But having said that I've been around Puglia mostly by train and never had too much trouble, you just won't have quite as much freedom.

In a week relying on public transport (or in a car, to be honest!) you won't be able to see 'all' of Puglia by any stretch of the imagination. I would concentrate on the southern part, mainly just because I'm very biased towards that bit, but also because if you went to the northern part you would *have* to go to Gargano, and I think public transport there is pretty patchy. Where are you flying into?

So...you've got two train companies to deal with - one is the Italian state railway company, Trenitalia / Ferrovie dello Stato (www.trenitalia.com), which connects generally the 'bigger' places, and the other is Ferrovie del Sud Est, a private local train company which connects the smaller places (www.fseonline.it). Both sites have pretty clear timetables and have an 'English' option. Some stations (such as Martina Franca and Lecce) are served by both train companies - you'll probably have to buy your tickets for local trains from a different ticket office to the main one. Both types of ticket need to be stamped in the yellow machines before you board the train. The FSE trains are small and not *absolutely* reliable all the time, and you might also find you have to change trains when the timetable didn't look like you had to - it's no problem, I've always found the other passengers and the conductor to be extremely helpful when I've been confused! There are very few (if any?) train services on some local FSE lines on a Sunday, so bear that in mind when you're planning. There's also not a massive amount of space for luggage on those trains so you probably want to travel light!

I would probably split the week between two areas: first around Ostuni / Martina Franca / Alberobello / Cisternino; and then further south around Lecce and the southern peninsula, including Gallipoli and / or Otranto. There are so many nice towns around that it's hard to pick a few - and then it's up to you whether you'd rather see 'a town a day' or choose the ones you want to see - I would do some googling of some of the towns and see what takes your fancy.

You could probably stay in Martina Franca for the first part (over to another poster, Alexmac, for more details on Martina Franca - I don't know it nearly so well). From there you can very easily get to Alberobello (village of the trulli - touristy but worth seeing) on an FSE train, taking about 15 minutes. Cisternino is also only about 10 minutes from Martina on an FSE train and is quite pretty.

Ostuni ("the white city") isn't on the FSE network, but if you try to do Martina to Ostuni on Trentalia it will take 1hr 30 minutes ish, which is just silly! The best thing to do is to get an FSE train from Martina to Cisternino (10 minutes) and then a train from Cisternino to Ostuni (another 10 minutes). You will have to have a play around with the timetables for FSE and Trentalia though, as I'm not sure how well the trains 'line up' as it were. At Ostuni, the city is on a hill, and the station is at the bottom. There are buses but their timetable is something of a mystery to me...

You might want to stay the night in Ostuni, just because then you'll be on the main (faster!) train line for getting south to Lecce (c. 45 mins on a fast train). Lecce itself is lovely, definitely a city but not a big bustling one particularly - it does have a busier shopping district and on summer evenings the historic centre is packed, but mostly it's fairly chilled out and very pretty. From there you're in a fairly good position for getting to the best-known of the coastal towns on that bit of the peninsula, Gallipoli and Otranto, both of which are really interesting and very pretty (I would vote for Otranto if I had to choose, but both are nice). Then there are other little pretty towns inland such as Nardo' and Galatina. All of those are reachable by FSE train from Lecce, but it does take a while to get to Gallipoli and Otranto, usually involving a change of train somewhere (often at Maglie if you're going to Otranto, and at Zollino or Nardo', I think, for Gallipoli - but it's straightforward enough, really).

That's just an idea, and there are probably too many towns there for a just a week if you really want chilling out time. Personally, I would choose Martina Franca (with half a day in Alberobello), Ostuni, Lecce and Otranto, but it's pretty subjective, so... also you'll have noticed that they are all towns, nowhere really rural, but that's because you'll struggle to get to anywhere really rural on public transport!

London, England
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2. Re: One Week in Puglia by Train?

Hang on and you'll hopefully get replies from a couple of regular transport expert contributors to the Puglia forum, but meanwhile you could try both the national rail website www.trenitalia.com (whose English language pages are sometime easier to access via the expert European rail travel site www.seat61.com) but also, as this doesn't cover all regional Pugliese bus and train services the local operator www.fseonline.it

You could also see dozens of earlier posts on this subject, by searching under the word 'train' in Puglia forum, using the search box above.

And finally- as regards itinerary, get a map or guidebook and think about areas to visit; walking's not so common in Puglia (search this too as I think there have been a few posts) as much of the terrain is farmed, and there seem to be fewer signposted trails than in the more mountainous regions further north. If walking is a big factor, I'd think about an area like the Gargano peninsula, a forested limestone promentary in North Puglia where there are many trails, well mapped but not fantastically well waymarked.

And finally- unless you can't face driving, don't write off renting a car; even public transport enthusiasts admit it's a bit slow, driving's a delight, and it would be easier to get to small coastal cities like Vieste (in the Gargano), Trani, which is half-way to Otranto or Santa Maria di Leuca (both in the far South), or baroque inland gems like Martina Franca, martinafrancatour.it/inglese/introduzione.asp

all of which are well worth a visit and which fit your specification

London, England
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3. Re: One Week in Puglia by Train?

Wow Vicki- snap! I paused mid post and by the time m phonecall was over- there you were. Alexmac

Bristol, UK
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4. Re: One Week in Puglia by Train?

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g187873-i798-k24…

The thread above might help. More travellers hoping not to use a car!

I've not got time to read through all the other suggestions, but I'd say Ostuni, Lecce, Galatina, Otranto (or Gallipoli) are all worth adding to your list and are all fairly well connected.

Have fun!

Jim

5. Re: One Week in Puglia by Train?

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