Famous for its rugged coastline, pastel-colored towns and beautiful sunsets, Amalfi is one of the trendiest holiday spots in Italy, but as anyone who’s been to Positano or Atrani will be able to confirm, it can be prohibitively expensive – not to mention ridiculously crowded.

It is the busiest destination in Italy, and as new Transatlantic flights and a second airport launch simultaneously, it will, without question, be nothing short of chaotic this summer – luckily, there’s a lesser-known stretch of coast on the opposite end of the Italian peninsual that’s just as beautiful.

Here are 5 reasons why you should visit underrated Puglia, on Italy’s turquoise Adriatic Coast, instead of jam-packed Amalfi in the upcoming season:

Just As Fascinating A Local Culture

Historic Ancient Theater In Lecce, Puglia, Italy, Southern Europe

It may not be as widely popular worldwide as the Eternal City of Rome, the Venetian canals or the elegant Costa Amalfitana, but Puglia is just as relevant a cultural hotspot as all of Italy’s leading tourist hotspots:

It is home to Bari, a regional capital known for its winding streets and Baroque churches, Polignano a Mare, a laid-back coastal town and resort zone with the postcard beach bordered by small cliffs atop which sit whiteashed houses, and fairytalish Alberobello.

Historic Trulli Houses In Alberobello, Puglia, Italy, Southern Europe

Often called one of the prettiest towns in Italy, this UNESCO-listed Heritage Site it is distinct for its trulli, hobbit-like stone huts with corbelled roofs; other landmarks include the perfectly-preserved medieval town of Ostuni, and the off-beat, ocher-colored, Roman-era Lecce.

The best part is, Puglian towns are nowhere near as crowded as Amalfi’s, or Liguria’s trendy collective of five coastal towns known as Cinque Terre, nor upscale Portofino:

Don’t get your hopes up, there are still plenty of tourists around, particularly in summer – this is jam-packed Italy, after all – but outside the main cities and beach areas, you’ll find most of Puglia is surprisingly quaint, and several of its historic towns remain undiscovered.

Panoramic View Of Ostuni, A Hilltop Whitewashed Town In Puglia, Italy, Southern Europe

The Cuisine Is Out-Of-This-World

Italian cuisine has been voted the absolute best in the world, and while you can go on memorable gastronomic journeys irrespective of the Italian region you’re visiting, with fresh pasta and pizza being served nationwide, there’s dishes that are best served in their native Puglia.

Mainstream faves focaccia and burrata cheese are two examples of Puglian delicacies foodies might not even be aware originated here, though our own top picks would be:

Focaccia Being Prepared, Italian Food, Italy, Southern Europe

The lesser-known friselle bread (crunchy dried bread softened in tepid water and topped with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, tuna, and whatever else nonna has handy in the kitchen today, panzerotti, a common street pastry that oozes melted mozzarella at the first bite, and of course, pasticciotti.

This creamy custard-filled tart is a well-loved Puglian dessert, and we suspect it may have contributed to Puglia’s placing in the top three best Italian destinations for food and wine:

It Has Award-Winning Wine

A Vineyard With Trulli Houses In The Background, Puglia, Italy, Southern Europe

One in three Italians consider Puglia one of the three best regions for enogastronomy, which is just a fancy word for food and wine-based tourism.

We’ve touched on food, but wine is an equally-big draw for tourists skipping Amalfi and heading to Puglia instead this summer, as the sunny Adriatic province, its fertile heartland and dry, subtropical climate are the secret the full-bodied, fruity Primitivo.

Grapes Being Picked In Puglia, Italy, Southern Europe

Other iconic Puglian wines are the dark-colored Nero di Troia and Negroamaro, found in any Bari osteria, the smooth Castel del Monte Aglianico, and the Verdeca-based whites, made from a rare variety of grape only found in Southern Italy.

If you’re a true wine conoisseur, the Primitivo Wine Tasting Tour in Gioia del Colle is a must-do activity during your Puglia vacation, costing an affordable $70 per person.

It Is Much, Much Cheaper Than Amalfi

Small Whitewashed Town Of Otranto On The Shores Of The Adriatic Sea, Puglia, Mediterranean Italy, Southern Europe

This ties into reason number four: Puglia is remarkably affordable by Italian standards.

Of course there are far cheaper sunny destinations in Europe, like Albania or Bosnia and Herzegovina, but when you compare it to the Italian peninsula’s own opposite coastline, Puglia starts to feel like a steal of a deal.

In Amalfi, you’re expected to budget $218 per person, per day; on the Adriatic side, only $123. In Amalfitana towns like Sorrento and Atrani, you can spend as much as $67 on meals per day, and that’s if you’re being particularly frugal, while in Bari, the average is $35almost half the price.

Aerial View Of Old Town Bari, The Capital Of Puglia, Italy, Southern Europe

As demand for Puglia vacations is lower, overnights also cost significantly less than in other parts of the country, with local-owned guesthouses advertising rooms on Booking.com from only $40 per night, while modest beachside hotels can cost a reasonable $75 – $110 to book.

In Positano, the busiest Amalfi town, the cheapest hotel overnight this summer is an eye-watering $474: no all-inclusive deals, just a three-star listing with breakfast included (but hey, at least you get the Mediterranean views, right?)

Roman Amphitheater In Lecce, Puglia, Italy, Southern Europe

Italians Themselves Love Puglia

Finally, Puglia is officially the number one domestic destination for Italians themselves.

Based on a recent survey carried out by Rome-based tour operator Vamonos Vacanze, 13% of Italians will be heading to Puglia for their next vacation, making it a greater consensus than Sicily (11%) and even Italy’s off-path darling Sardinia (10%).

Aerial View Of A Sandy Beach In Puglia, Italy, Southern Europe

Amalfi, Cinque Terre, Portofino and the Lakes of Como and Garda are nowhere to be seen on the list, and in all fairness, these are almost exclusively visited by foreign tourists in the peak season, as they don’t mind paying double – or triple – the average accommodation price, or over $20 on bland pasta.

Italians love their Adriatic Coast for the cheaper hotels and restaurants, less-chaotic beaches, and unspoiled culture.

Don’t be like everyone else: this summer, go where the locals are headed.

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