A self-confessed romanticists solo travel guide to Italy
If you're planning your trip to Italy I have the perfect 1 month itinerary, hitting all the top spots including the Almafi Coast and Rome and starting in my own personal favourite region of Italy; Puglia.
Admittedly, I probably I over romanticise nearly every interaction in my life. Whether that’s strolling through a new city feeling like I'm in a film or taking random ‘sign’s' from the universe when I see them, and it suits my storyline agenda. But looking back Italy was was probably the place that sparked this romanticism. My obsession for the food, culture, weather, history, architecture, beaches and people have always lived up to my idealised imagination of the country. A lot of my core memories were formed in classic Italian romantic destinations such as Florence, Tuscany and Venice on family holidays. While growing up in the 90's with Mary Kate and Ashley 'When in Rome' films and when Lizzie Maguire went to Rome for the summer, I didn't stand a chance.
Skip to today as a 29-year-old woman I've had my fair share of life experiences and heartbreaks that has on occasion shattered my inner romantic. Realism infiltrated my innocent naivety of love but Italy has always been my own personal symbol of hope.
So, in 2021 after a year of healing my own heart, I set out on a month-long solo travel trip to Italy to rekindle my romantic spirit once again. Spoiler alert; it worked. If you're planning your trip to Italy I have the perfect 1 month itinerary, hitting all the top spots and starting in my own personal favourite region of Italy; Puglia. This itinerary is actually a culmination of two years of trips I did in the region so I can give you the best possible itinerary.
1 Month Solo Travel Itinerary In Italy
LDN -> BRINDISI or BARI (Puglia)
Let's kick off this trip with 2 whole weeks in the Puglia region. If you haven't been to this region before I highly suggest you put it on your list right now. There's just something about this place that is magic. And in my personal, humble opinion something this part of the world has that's superior to the rest is the FOOD. The Pugliese really know their food and I am absolutely here for it.
When flying into Puglia you'll either go to Brindisi or Bari, located centrally in the region. I would pick whichever is cheapest or has the best flights. Generally speaking the flights aren't too expensive from the UK.
First Stop: Bari
Duration: 3 /4 days
While in Bari I stayed in the old part of the town called Bari Vecchia and it was like being in a classic old Italian film. I woke up everyday feeling like I had been dropped into a film set with my neighbours blasting vintage Italian music every day and the older relatives all sat outside in the evening gossiping. The Vecchia district is truly beautiful, made up of lots of old narrow streets and alleyways which as a solo female traveller may seem a bit scary and I won't lie I did have my wits about me but I also chose accommodation that was less than a 2 minute walk to the main Piazza so I never really felt unsafe.
Bari is often overlooked in Puglia destination guides as the biggest city in the region and I guess this can be subjective but I really enjoyed my time there. I did meet a boy too, but that's a story for another day...
Bari is THE gastronomical centre of Puglia so my main suggestion for Bari is to eat and drink your way around town. I had the best pasta of my entire life in Bari (I nearly shed a tear) but really you can't go wrong. There is a local dish called Panzerotti which you have to try but also make your way around the Bari Vecchia district and you'll see older women making fresh orecchiette pasta. If you fancy trying a new sport Bari's beach is known for kitesurfing, I spent a day just watching these people do insane acrobatics in the water.
Bari is a great jumping off point to the rest of the region so you can also do day trips from here like Polignano a Mare.
Stop 2: Polignano a Mare
Duration: 1/2 days
How to get there? Bus or train from Bari station
Polignano a Mare is probably one of the first images you'll see when you type 'Puglia' into Google. Polignano is truly an iconic town, the Cala Porto beach is a wonder and the azure waters that surround the area makes it the perfect destination for boat tours. This leads me to my next point, get a boat tour. Or two. Like I did because clearly, I'm obsessed with boats.
Polignano is a fairly small town but wandering around the whitewashed streets, grabbing delicious snacks and ice cold white wine makes it feel like such a vibe. The main highlights of Polignano that you cannot miss include Cala Porto beach, the famous Grotta Palazzese cave restaurant and the various stunning viewpoints of the town. My personal highlight was getting a boat tour from San Vito for the day which gives you a whole new perspective to seeing the town, visiting all the caves that trace the land before stopping in a cave to swim too. It was so fun I ended up going twice!
Stop 3: Alberobello
Duration: 1/2 days
How to get there? Bus, train or taxi from Polignano a Mare
This little town is truly like nothing I had ever seen before. This town is famous for it's 'trulli' which is essentially a conical shaped white houses that looks like something from a fantasy book. It's actually a Unesco World Heritage site protecting the 15th century history of the zona dei trulli. Walking around Alberobello is truly a wander, seriously I spent a good day just strolling around, taking it all in and of course snapping a photo every two seconds because everything was so photogenic. One of the highlights of Alberobello is, of course - the food. I asked a local what their favourite restaurant was and it did NOT disappoint. It was situated in a lower-ground cave and felt so elegant. The food and wine was incredible as well as the service.
Stop 4: Ostuni
Duration: 2/3 days
How to get there? Bus, train from Alberobello
Ostuni was another place that was unlike any other. As you approach the town you'll see it sits on a hill with the beautiful white-washed buildings cascading around it. I truly loved the vibe of this place. It has a certain energy about it that I really enjoyed. And, I'm going to sound like a broken record at this point but THE FOOD. Again, I asked a local for his top restaurant recommendations for Ostuni and he delivered. And, again, so good I went twice. Truffle pasta is all I have to say. This restaurant was called Osteria Del Tempo Perso and you must go if you visit.
I would spend a good day just exploring the town, maybe get a rickshaw tour as the town is quite hilly! Make sure to visit the Borgo Antico Bistrot and Centro Storico which both have excellent choices of restaurants and bars. On your second day I would suggest visiting one of the beach clubs out of town at the coast. You can get a bus or taxi but be warned the buses often work on their own schedule so you could be waiting for a while. There is a number of incredible beach clubs on the coast which is so fun to spend a day at. This feels like true Italian summer.
Stop 5: Lecce
Duration: 2 days
How to get there? Bus, train from Ostuni
Heading further south we get to the university town of Lecce. Slightly bigger as a city there is plenty of exploring to be done here. You can often get walking tours or personal guides to take you around to show you all the historic and cultural points. As with all the Puglian towns you have to spend a day exploring to get to grips with the place. What really blew me away in Lecce was the incredible architecture, Baroque-style churches dot every street and make for some stunning backdrops for an afternoon Aperol Spritz. As a university town there is a youthful energy to the place that really comes alive at night. Make sure you visit the old quarter for plenty of bars which will be spilling with people into the street.
Stop 6: Gallipoli
Duration: 3 days
How to get there? Bus, train from Lecce
The summertime is really when Gallipoli comes alive. It's famed for it's nightlife and beach club reputation so expect plenty of big beach parties throughout the summer season. As we went just after the summer season ended we unfortunately didn't get to go to any of the parties, but honestly, Google it... Because the scenes look absolutely wild. The town itself is fairly small but has plenty of gorgeous, white narrow streets to explore with incredible restaurants around every corner. If you head to any bar, make sure it's Blanc. We spent many nights there sipping wonderful cocktails and making friends.
Stop 7: Otranto
Duration: day trip
How to get there? Bus, train from Gallipoli
A day trip to Otranto from Gallipoli is a fantastic idea if you fancy it. Otranto is another incredible white-washed town that boasts a cute beach, seaside restaurants, bars and shops. I spent a great afternoon strolling around admiring the little shops, eating 5* gelato, drinking Aperol's (shock) and devouring delightful pizzas. I kind of wish we got to stay there for a whole night but a day was still just perfect.
Stop 8: Matera
Duration: 2 days
How to get there? Bus, train from Lecce
Matera is like something from a film, which might be why it was featured in the latest Bond film actually. When I travelled to Matera I wasn't so lucky with the weather which was a shame but it was still like nothing I had ever seen before. I wandered around for hours marvelling at the incredible architecture before shielding from the rain in one of the many plaza's the town has. But on a sunny day this town really is something to behold. It feels both medieval and modern today and has insane views overlooking the gravine below the town. Plus, it's under an hour to get to from Bari making it a perfect day trip but I would highly suggest staying for a night to really soak up the vibe.
Stop 9: Almafi Coast (Naples)
Duration: 5 days
How to get there? Bus, train from Bari
The place in Italy that really needs no introduction is the Almafi Coast. I was slightly worried that it would be overhyped and I wouldn't like it but it really lived up to my over-romantisiced idea somehow. I will say this is probably because I went in off-season which meant that prices were way lower, it wasn't half as crowded and the weather was still good. I situated myself in Almafi town for my time there and did a day trip to Positano but in hindsight I probably would do the reverse if I went again as there is just a bit more going on in Positano for young, solo travellers than Almafi town. Again, this could just be that I went in off-season. Either way the whole coast is absolutely stunning, it really is a bucket list item.
Stop 10: Rome
Duration: 3 days
How to get there? Bus, train from Naples
How could any romantic trip to Italy be done without a visit to the eternal city? Once again I wasn't sure if I was going to love Rome or not but I totally fell in love with the place. Honestly, I would 100% live there. I loved that the city was big enough to feel like there was many districts to discover, the history and architecture and cannot be missed and there was a certain youthful vibe, particularly in the Trastevere district that really made the place come alive for me. I stayed in a hostel here, made friends and went discovering the city for a few days which was so much fun.
And that wraps up a whole month itinerary in Italy! Obviously you can add or remove any places you aren't fussed about but the great thing about travelling Italy is that the transport links are really good. I highly suggest getting buses and trains as they're really reliable, cheap and make travelling so easy in the country. Download FlixBus app which has so many routes across the country for dirt cheap prices as well! Let me know if you need help planning your trip to Italy and I would love to help. Alternatively, join me on my solo traveller group trip to Italy later this year here.