Published on: 9 April 2013 | Last updated: 27 March 2017
This tour is designed to give a flavour of everything that Puglia has to offer (and a little bit of the Basilicata region as well). The scenery includes the open rolling wheatfields of the high plains around Altamura, the dramatic coastline of the Gargano coastline, and the olive groves of the Salento with their ancient olive trees. The tour takes in four UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites:
- Alberobello with its conical trulli that have become an icon for the region;
- Castel del Monte the mysterious castle that can be seen for miles around;
- Matera - the unique city built into the rock;
- the Santuario di Monte Sant’Angelo part of the Lombards in Italy site, has been a place of pilgrimage for well over a thousand years.
There’s a lot more besides: Lecce, which, with its baroque centro storico, coastal cities with sea-front cathedrals and castles, and the gleaming white cities of the high inland plain.
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|Lecce - Otranto||63 kms|
|Otranto - Santa Maria di Leuca||50 kms|
|Santa Maria di Leuca - Gallipoli||52 kms|
|Gallipoli - Porto Cesareo||33 kms|
|Porto Cesareo - Ostuni||88 kms|
|Ostuni - Alberobello||43 kms|
|Alberobello - Monopoli||41 kms|
|Monopoli - Matera||76 kms|
|Matera - Trani||106 kms|
|Trani - Manfredonia||72 kms|
|Manfredonia - Vieste||67 kms|
|Vieste - Rodi Garganico||35 kms|
The Strada Statale 16
The Strada Statale 16 is the major road along the Adriatic coast running for hundreds of kilometres. The geography of the area means that the coastal strip has become a transport corridor with the major road and the rail line - and for long stretches it runs on the inland side of a railway embankment, so you don't even get to see the sea. This can make travelling along the coast with a bike problematic. Some stretches of the SS16 have been ‘upgraded’ to superstrada, and in many cases bikes are banned from the superstrada. Fortunately the old road has usually been left in place and offers an alternative for local travellers and cyclists. There are other stretches where the SS16 seems to be the only alternative. I have spent a day cycling along a section and it was pretty tedious: this is quite possibly Italy's most boring road - I started looked forward to the sight of a petrol station. If you’re looking at the map and thinking ’ooh that looks like a nice coastal road’ my advice would be to think again. If you are planning on cycling along the coast then definitely check out the bicitalia routes designed using the knowledge of local cyclists.
Getting there and back
If you are flying, the two main airports are Bari and Brindisi. Brindisi airport seems to have a greater range of services even though Bari is the regional capital. From Brindisi you can take the train to Lecce or you could pick up the Bicitalia Ciclovia Adriatica to Lecce.
There are frequent high-speed train services between Lecce and Bologna (the rail hub serving northern Italy), but you will need to carry your bike in a bag.
At the end of the route at Rodi Garganico you can catch the train to Foggia and from there to other stations on the national network. Trains on this line are operated by the Ferrovie del Gargano. The company now has a fleet of bike-friendly trains; for more information (in English) go to: ferroviedelgargano.com: Bike transport on the train.
When to go
April, May, June and September are the best months to go - with blossom in the trees and wild flowers in the fields. Avoid July and August as it will be very hot and probably pretty crowded.
This route would work just as well in the other direction.
You could turn it into a figure of 8 by following sections of the Bicitalia Ciclovia Adriatica. They’ve also published a for the section through Puglia;
The route also connects to two Bicitalia national routes:
- Ciclovia dei Borboni which connects Bari with Napoli via Ruvo in Puglia, Castel del Monte, Potenza, Avellino, and Salerno
- Ciclovia Francigena (until recently called the Ciclovia dei Pellegrini) which connects Brindisi with Roma (and beyond) via - Taranto, Altamura, Benevento, and Cassino
There are lots of possibilities for day rides in the Gargano peninsula and around Alberobello.
Maps to print out or view offline
- Puglia Grand Tour Part 1: A4 maps (parts 1-3 - Lecce to Alberobello)
- Puglia Grand Tour Part 2: A4 maps (parts 4-6 - Alberobello to Trani)
- Puglia Grand Tour Part 3: A4 maps (parts 6-9 - Trani to Marina di Chieuti)
- Puglia Grand Tour Part 1: A5 maps (parts 1-3 - Lecce to Alberobello)
- Puglia Grand Tour Part 2: A5 maps (parts 4-6 - Alberobello to Trani)
- Puglia Grand Tour Part 3: A5 maps (parts 6-9 - Trani to Marina di Chieuti)
About the maps
Links open in new windows unless you ‘save as’ etc.
The maps are in two versions: A4 portrait format - for printing and maybe also for viewing on an iPad, and A5 for smaller tablets and smartphones. As far as eReaders are concerned so far I’ve not managed to get them to work on a Nook - but you may have more success with other devices.
- Puglia Grand Tour gps files
(.zip file containing 12 gpx track files plus waypoints)
- Italy Points of Interest
POIs are like waypoints, but while you can usually only store a limited number of waypoints on a device, you can store thousands of POIs. These files include information about campsites and hostels, bike shops, train stations, drinking water sources as well as warnings for tunnels and roads where bikes are banned. Please check the ReadMe file for instructions. Updated March 2017.
Places to stay
Hotels and B&Bs
Find and book places to stay with Booking.com
Booking.com pages for places on this section of the route:
About these links
If you use these links to book accommodation Booking.com will pay me a small part of their commission. This helps support the costs of producing this site.
I use Booking.com to find and book places to stay when there are no campsites in the area. The large majority of hotels and many hostels are now on ‘Booking’. I like it because it means that I can get almost-instant confirmation. The rating system is also a reliable guide to the quality of the accommodation.
I’ve never had a problem finding places to keep my bike —even if it’s a cupboard or store room. I always use the ‘special requests’ field on the booking form to tell the hotel that I’m travelling with a bike, which gives them the opportunity to let me know if there’s a problem.
Many properties offer free cancellation but it’s a good idea to check the conditions as these vary from property to property.
There are plenty of campsites along the coast. Inland, there are fewer campsites. Note however, that out of the main holiday season many hotels are campsites are closed, so it’s worth checking and phoning ahead if you are travelling in April, May or September.
Articles in this series
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