BARI AND THE PUGLIA AREA
It was a hard year to travel. But it was possible. 2020 was a disaster for the travel industry. In July, countries were slowly opening up. So, I traveled to Italy. Basically, I was the only tourist. I took a Wizzair flight from Sofia to Bari. Spent a few days there. Then stayed in Altamura and Monopoli. I had a brilliant time. Below you may see the pictures and videos. I traveled through the area by train. In some areas, such as Irsina, trains are replaced by buses.
Basically, there is train infrastructure over the whole area. Just keep in mind a detail when traveling to Ostuni, which you may also see in the pictures below. There, the station is quite a walk from the center. You can take a bus but it's not that frequent. I walked instead, through the olive fields. Otherwise, you can travel up the whole coast all the way from Lecce to Trani. Tickets are affordable and the towns are all interesting in their own way. I highly recommend visiting every place in my pictures. But pay particular attention to Bari, Matera and Lecce. They shouldn't be skipped. I find Brindisi a bit quiet and sleepy but Bari was surprising. It felt like a metropolis. Fantastic restaurants all over the place.
In terms of hotels, there are plenty for good prices as well. I never spent more than 50EUR a night and in Bari, in the City Hotel, I spent just over 20EUR. It was one of my most affordable vacations. Especially nice was the lack of crowds. No tourists whatsoever. I felt completely safe and it was probably the only year in my life I'd get to see the place so deserted. There were mostly tourists from Italy, probably from the cities, trying to get some vacation on the coast. In terms of measures, there were only masks inside stores, public transport and crowded places. Otherwise, the atmosphere was completely relaxed.
I was not particularly fond of the beaches. I stayed in Monopoli but couldn't find a great, sandy beach. They were all small and packed or rocky. So for beaches, Puglia has better places outside the towns. But it's best if you travel by car. You can definitely do everything by public transport. Even inland, Matera is easy to reach. You travel there by train from Bari, with a stop in Altamura. But, this route is not served by Trenitalia (the national train company). Instead, it is served Ferrovie Appulo Lucane. They have special platforms that have a separate entrance from the main train station. It's not on the station square. Look up 'Appulo Lucane Railways Srl' in Google Maps and you'll see the location. You buy your tickets there as well.
Once in Altamura, the train branches off either to Matera (and beyond) or to Gravina in Puglia (and beyond). What I did is stay in Altamura and spend a day there, then in Matera and Gravina in Puglia. Did a bus trip to Irsina from there as well. None of these places should be skipped. It is the Italy you dream of. I highly urge anyone with the free time to follow my footsteps. For any questions about the itinerary, message me.