London lifestyle & travels with kids and babies
We spent a week in Puglia with kids this summer, but we could have easily spent a month! Our take and top things to do in Puglia? One should spend few days in an agroturismo for tranquil countryside (we picked the gorgeous Masseria Chicco Rizzo); indulge into cool beach clubs and gorgeous local food; explore both coasts & nature reserves (our favourite was Ethra unspoilt 5km stretch on the Ionian sea).
(I) The masseria hotels of Puglia (traditional farmhouse / agroturismos) are best for rustic design, outdoor swimming pools and traditional Puglian cuisine. Just like the fincas of Spain that we love so much, Puglian masserias unique charm and heritage are hard to beat in terms of authenticity.
At Masseria Chicco Rizzo one is mesmerised instantly by fine travertine vaults, Lecce stone fortified walls and entrance by sweet scented fig and plum trees; spoilt with breakfast by ancient olive trees and lunches and dinners in a zen courtyard prettily trimmed and punctuated with cacti and vineyard.
The staff goes a long way to make the guests feel at home and you can easily immerse yourself into the slow paced Puglian life just like the organic vegetable garden soaking the hot temperatures and picked tomatoes, aubergines, mushrooms and peppers roasting in the sun.
Chicco Rizzo is one masseria perfect for tranquil Puglia with kids – the large swimming pool at the back keeps them busy, as well as the gardens, little playground and orchards. Our monkeys socialised extensively with the Italian families and to our delight we also bumped into French, American and Brits (the latter being 30% of August audience, with over majority savvy Italians).
Temperatures in August soar above 35 degrees so after breakfast, we’d enjoy the sunloungers by the pool, light lunch by the green courtyard, aperols and cheese in the afternoon before heading to see the sunset by the coast. There’s also a charming rustic lounge area with fireplace and lots of agroturismo original features, plus over 500 books including lots on the fascinating history of the region, perfect for the curious minds of #CulturedKids and grownups. A dedicated article on Masseria Chicco Rizzo will be soon on the blog.
(II) The seaside of Puglia is gorgeous both Adriatic and Ionian side and within one week we discovered few cool beach bars and restaurants by the sea.
a. From Bari airport on our way to Masseria Chicco Rizzo we stopped by Guna Beach Bar on a beautiful stretch of sand dunes, perfect setting for kite surfing. One can walk up to the Torre Guaceto Oasis, a Marine Nature Reserve or eat and chill on Guna’s lawn or terrace by the gazebos or sunchairs. The music is cool, the crowd is funky and kids allowing there’s a spa area for massage and jacuzzi. We tried the fritto mixto, salmon ceviche, burrata and the kids had a blast by the sea.
b. For sunset, we headed from Masseria Chicco Rizzo towards Gallipoli and its vibrant G beach bar. Located inside the Natural Park of Punta della Suina and surrounded by lush greenery, this is a great spot for crystal sea, sunset and aperitivo drinks and bites. Swimming in the sea looked like too much of an adventure through the rocks, this is not a bring your toddler splash place but rather older kids and party people.
c. For great food right by gorgeous Adriatic, we headed to Giro Di Boa Beach, a 30 minutes drive from Masseria Chicco Rizzo. The food was the best we had by the sea in Puglia, great tartar ceviche, out of this world pasta and a funky dessert with coconut milk concoction and fruit within dark chocolate. The setting is funky but relaxed and one can also simply grab a snack at the bar if there’s a rush to get back to the beach.
d. The last but the best stretch of beach for us was Ethra reserve. Closer to Taranto and truly unspoilt, with a little beach bar serving aperitivos, icecream and coffee. We’d get the little train shuttle from Kalidra and Alborea for a 10min scenic ride through the pine trees forest and coming back, most days we’ve been treated with amazing sunsets.
(III) Indulge into exquisite local food and wines and be prepared to come back with a couple of extra kilos! Our favourites have been the lobster and seafood risotto, the black ink pasta, the tuna tartar and the local fish ceviche, the local cheese and obscene sweets. On our list of kids friendly Puglian spots, we’d add First in Gallipoli, lots of outdoors, more great food and graceful staff with our monkeys.
(IV) Nature reserves – Ethra is still on our mind. Alborea Ecolodge sustainability concept charmed us but Kalidra next door is probably more on our street. The proximity with Blue Serena club spoilt it big time for me though, too much of a mass tourism and loud shows even late at night. But what we truly liked were the Ethra reserve, where one can bathe in peace, stand up paddle board or windsurf; eat lots of gorgeous local food and relax by peaceful Alborea seawater pools or thermal spas.
(V) Puglia has so much more to offer and Mattera and Alberobello were both on our list. August proved too hot to include into our itineraries, so will have to leave the city of stone Unesco patrimony and the charm of the trulis for another trip!
Savvy travellers escape the crowds of Amalfi or Tuscany for something a bit less frenetic and commercially polished. We loved Puglia with kids and had so many friends this summer headed that way, looking to hear about their adventures and the gems they discovered! Have you been?
PS: Many thanks to Masseria Chicco Rizzo for the media rates and warm hospitality. For more unspoilt Italian gems in the area, read about our articles on Procida and Ischia, just a ferry away from well known Amalfi.