This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
A friend of mine wants to go to Italy this year but is torn between seeing the treasures of Tuscany – which many of us have on our bucket lists – and the beaches of Puglia.
She’s comparing crisp, plump apples and sweet-smelling, sun-ripened oranges, but I can see why she’s on the fence about where she wants to go. She’s a real foodie, and both Tuscany and Puglia offer the potential for a fantastic feast of food and wine. But she’s also pretty interested in history, which both provinces have plenty of.
With this in mind, here’s my guide to both regions, in case you’re also dreaming of a trip to Italy.
What to see in Tuscany and Puglia
Many of us know the sort of thing Tuscany has to offer. The region has an unrivalled collection of Renaissance art, elegant architecture, and a spectacular collection of terracotta towns and villages. All of this is set amongst an iconic landscape of vineyards, silvery olive groves, and ochre fields.
Puglia, down at Italy’s heel, is less well known. It has around 800 km of coastline and probably more of Italy’s best beaches than any other region.
It also boasts some beautiful mediaeval towns, picturesque hamlets, famous cone-roofed dwellings (called trulli), and some splendid baroque town centres. There are also centuries-old olive groves, fields of rich red soil, and lots of space to explore!
What to eat in Tuscany and Puglia
Puglia probably has the earthiest of any Italian regional cuisine, and, being right on the coast, the people of Puglia also know what to do with seafood. Visitors can expect to find some great street food too.
Tuscany is known for its cucina contadina, or ‘farmer’s kitchen’; locals spend an inordinate amount of time and energy growing, preparing, and thinking about food and wine. You’ll be encouraged to take your time over food and seek out authentic flavours. Both regions boast about their vineyards and olive oil.
Choosing between Tuscany and Puglia – what highlights would you miss?
If you choose Tuscany, you’ll miss the beaches of Puglia, the glamour of Lecce, and the chance to see this area while it’s still relatively unpopular.
If you head to Puglia, you’ll miss the famous sculpture of David, the skyline of Siena, the magical towers of San Gimignano, and wine tastings in Montepulciano and Montalcino.
Where to stay in Tuscany
COMO Castello Del Nero
For a classic, luxury Tuscan experience, why not book a stay at COMO Castello Del Nero? This stunning 12th-century castle-turned-deluxe hotel is nestled amongst the region’s famous rolling hills.
Complete with Renaissance frescoes, a glimmering pool, wellness treatments, a Michelin-starred restaurant, and unparalleled views of the surrounding countryside, it’s a perfect base whether you want to relax or explore the region.
If you’re interested in a slightly more low-key option, Villa Armena might be for you.
Its three bedrooms and seven suites are all carefully and individually decorated with sophisticated Tuscan decor – think exposed beams, terracotta floors, and antiques abound.
The views are grand, the wine list is impressive, and the restaurant champions the best local produce – which isn’t hard around here!
Where to stay in Puglia
Masseria Torre Coccaro
Classic Puglia offers something different. Instead of the Tuscan terracottas, Puglia has a bright whitewash inside and out. Expect a warm welcome at Masseria Torre Coccaro, which started life as a 16-century farmhouse and now serves as a family-run hotel.
Surrounded by ancient olive groves, Masseria Torre Coccaro focuses strongly on food. You can dine under a jasmine pergola at Egnathia Restaurant or tuck into grilled fish from the Cabana Pool Restaurant and Grill. Besides tasting the region’s flavours, there are plenty of other activities to get stuck into – including horse riding and sailing.
Le Alcove Luxury Resort
Or, for an even more authentic experience of Puglia, why not check in to Le Alcove Luxury Resort, which features the iconic limestone dwellings, trulli?
Simple and cone-shaped, trulli often served as rudimentary housing for peasants and agricultural workers in times gone by. However, at Le Alcove Luxury Resort in Alberobello, they’ve been converted into luxury suites – providing an ideal mix of comfort and authenticity.
Tuscany vs Puglia – transport and climate considerations
There’s not a huge difference between travelling to Tuscany and Puglia.
Pisa is the main Tuscan airport, and most UK airports offer direct flights. Once you’ve arrived, you can hire a car or make the most of the reasonably fast and efficient train service. Which one is best will depend on how much sightseeing you want to do and how far out of town you want to stay.
As for Puglia, the region’s two main airports, Bari and Brindisi, have direct flights from the UK. Puglia does have local bus and train services, but you’re probably better off hiring a car here.
The climate in Tuscany is hot in the summer – especially July and August – with temperatures averaging around 30°C. It’s also the busiest time, but if you want to visit during the height of summer, you might want to stay in the hills, where it’s a lot cooler.
June and September are hot and dry, but April, May, October, and even November are still reasonably warm. Though, you can also expect some rain during these months, especially in November.
Puglia has a Mediterranean climate and also expects temperatures around 30°C in July and August. The summer stretches between May and September, but the autumn is still pretty warm.
You don’t have as many other tourists to contend with here, and you also have the beaches for a bit of respite from the heat. So, if you want to travel at the height of summer, Puglia might be the better option.
Are you considering a holiday to either Puglia or Tuscany? If so, which one takes your fancy? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.