Puglia is known for its stunning landscapes, charming towns, and delicious food. This guide to driving in Puglia will provide you with helpful information to make your driving experience enjoyable and stress-free. From obtaining the necessary documents, to understanding the rules of the road, I’ll cover everything you need to know for your Italian road trip.

a person in a car with a hat on their head driving in Puglia Italy

I have visited the Puglia region many times as a solo traveller, and my most recent visit was in April 2023. Puglia is my favourite region of Italy!

In addition to reading this guide to driving in Puglia, I also recommend reading my Ultimate Guide to Visiting Puglia. You can also browse through all of my Puglia posts.

I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through my affiliate links.

Your guide to driving in Puglia.

I have split this post into 12 sections. You can use the table of contents above, or use these links below to skip to each section.

  1. Obtaining an International Driving Permit
  2. Renting a car in Puglia
  3. Rules of the roads in Puglia
  4. Tips for driving in Puglia
  5. Different types of roads
  6. Parking in Puglia
  7. Driving etiquette
  8. Where to drive to in Puglia
  9. Planning your Puglia itinerary
  10. Map of Puglia
  11. FAQs about driving in Puglia.
  12. Where to stay in Puglia.

Further reading: A Series of Planned Road Trip Itineraries around Puglia, Italy.

1. Obtaining an International Driving Permit (IDP).

Before hitting the road in Puglia, ensure that you possess a valid driver’s licence from your home country. To be on the safe side, obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) which acts as an official translation of your licence. It’s relatively easy to obtain an IDP from your local automobile association or motor vehicle department.

the sun is setting on a mountain road driving to Puglia Italy.
Roads in Puglia, Italy.

2. Renting a car in Puglia.

To explore Puglia at your own pace, I highly recommend renting a car. Several car rental agencies operate at major airports, cities, and towns throughout Puglia. Be sure to book your rental vehicle in advance to secure the best rates and availability.

There are several reputable car rental companies available in Puglia, offering various types of vehicles to suit your needs and budget. Some popular options include:

Discover cars is a car-comparison website and it is always my go-to place for car rentals in Italy.

Puglia has two airports, Bari and Brindisi (read about both here), and you can rent from Discover Cars at both airports. I recommend booking your car rental online to ensure availability and secure better rates.

Further reading: Ultimate Guide to Renting a Car in Puglia, Italy.

3. The rules of the road.

Driving in Puglia, Italy follows a set of rules that might differ slightly from those in your home country. It’s crucial to acquaint yourself with the local traffic regulations and signs.

Here are a few essential legal points to keep in mind:

  • Drive on the right-hand side of the road.
  • Seat belts are mandatory for all passengers.
  • The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.05%.
  • Keep your driver’s licence, registration, and insurance documents handy at all times.
  • It is illegal to drive while using a mobile phone unless you have a hands-free device.
  • The speed limit on motorways is 130 km/h, while in built-up areas, it is 50 km/h.
  • It is mandatory to use headlights in tunnels and during adverse weather conditions.
a couple of green street signs hanging from the side of a road.
Puglia motorways

Further reading: Ultimate Puglia Travel Guide.

4. Driving tips for driving in Puglia

Driving in Puglia may be different from what you’re used to, so here are some helpful tips for navigating roads in the area.

  • Overtaking: Drive on the right side of the road and overtake from the left.
  • Rural roads: Be aware that some roads in Puglia, especially in rural areas, can be narrow and winding. Take extra caution when driving through these routes.
  • Speed limits: Always follow posted speed limits, which are typically indicated by a circular sign with a red border and black numbers. Speed limits vary depending on the type of road: urban streets (50 km/h), secondary roads (90 km/h), main highways (110 km/h) and motorways (130 km/h).
  • Parking: Parking spaces can be limited near historic town centres (centro storicos) and UNESCO World Heritage sites (like Alberobello and Matera). Look for designated parking lots or street parking spots marked with blue lines, where you’ll need to purchase a ticket from nearby machines. More on parking below.
  • ZTLs: Keep an eye out for Zona Traffico Limitato signs – these indicate restricted traffic zones where only authorised vehicles are allowed during specific hours. Avoid entering these zones without proper authorisation to avoid fines.

With your car rental sorted and equipped with essential driving tips, you’re ready to explore Puglia and beyond. Discover charming towns like Locorotondo, Cisternino, Ostuni or venture further into Puglia’s stunning coastline along Polignano a Mare or Monopoli – all within easy reach by car.

Further reading: Must See Sights: The 30 Best Places to Visit in Puglia.

4. Different types of roads in Puglia.

Puglia offers a well-maintained network of roads that connect towns, villages, and popular tourist attractions.

Here are the main types of roads you’ll encounter when driving in Puglia:

  • Autostrade (highways): These toll roads offer swift connections between major cities and regions. They have multiple lanes and are ideal for long-distance travel. Some of these roads may be toll roads.
  • Strade statali (state highways): These main roads are marked with an “SS” sign and connect cities, towns, and smaller attractions.
  • Strade provinciali (provincial roads): These are local roads connecting smaller towns and villages. They often provide scenic routes and are worth exploring.
  • ZTL (Limited Traffic Zones): Some historic city centres have restricted vehicle access. Look out for signs indicating ZTL areas and avoid driving into them unless you have special permission or are staying at a hotel within the zone.

5. Parking in Puglia.

When visiting popular tourist spots, finding parking can sometimes be a challenge.

Here are a few parking options in Puglia:

  • Pay-and-display parking: Look for blue lines or signs indicating parking spaces. Purchase a ticket from the nearby machine and display it on your dashboard.
  • Parking garages: Larger towns and cities have multi-level parking garages where you can park your vehicle for longer durations.
  • Free parking: Some smaller towns and rural areas offer free parking, but make sure to check for any restrictions or time limits.
a road along the side of a cliff next to the ocean, driving in Puglia.
Coastal road north of Gallipoli

When it comes to parking in Puglia, it’s essential to understand the meaning behind the different lines and signs. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Blue Lines: parking spaces marked with blue lines are designated for paid parking. Be prepared to pay a fee for parking in these areas, typically using a parking meter or a ticket machine.
  • Yellow Lines: Parking spaces marked with yellow lines are reserved for disabled drivers. A valid disabled parking badge must be displayed as proof.
  • White Lines: Parking spaces with white lines typically indicate free parking. In most cases, you can park in these areas without any charge. However, it’s always a good idea to double-check for any additional signs or restrictions specific to the location.

To identify free parking areas, look for signs displaying a white “P” on a blue background. These signs are commonly used to indicate free parking zones. Additionally, in less populated areas and outside of large cities, unmarked parking lots often imply free parking.

It’s important to note that parking regulations and signage may vary in different parts of Puglia. Always be observant of local parking signs and pay attention to any additional instructions or restrictions specified.

6. Driving etiquette in Puglia.

When driving in Puglia, you may notice slightly different driving attitudes compared to drivers in your home country. Italian drivers are known for their assertiveness, and Puglia is no exception.

To ensure a smooth driving experience, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Stay alert and be prepared for unpredictable driving behaviour.
  • Use your indicators when changing lanes or making turns.
  • Be mindful of speed limits and road signs.
  • Give way to emergency vehicles.
  • When in doubt, yield to the right.

7. Towns to visit on your Puglia road trip.

There are so many beautiful towns to visit on your trip to Puglia that I wrote a separate post on them. But here are some of the most popular towns to add to your Puglia itinerary when driving in Puglia.

  1. Alberobello: A UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its unique Trulli houses that are cone-shaped and built without mortar. Read more about the town of Alberobello.
  2. Lecce: Known as the ‘Florence of the South’, Lecce is a beautiful Baroque city with ornate churches and palaces. Read more about Lecce in my Puglia towns post.
  3. Polignano a Mare: A charming coastal town known for its stunning cliffside views and crystal-clear waters. Read more about Polignano a Mare in my Puglia towns post.
  4. Ostuni: Known as the ‘White City’, Ostuni is a beautiful hilltop town with winding streets, white-washed buildings, and panoramic views. Read more about Ostuni in my Puglia towns post.
  5. Bari: The capital city of Puglia, coastal Bari has a delightful old town, plenty of history and the best street food scene in Puglia. Read more about the town of Bari. Read more about Bari.
  6. Matera: While not technically in Puglia, Matera is located just over the border in the neighbouring region of Basilicata and is worth a visit for its ancient cave dwellings and stunning views. Read more about the town of Matera.
  7. Salento region: famous for its stunning views, national parks and beaches. This is also where you can find the famous grotta della poesia.

Further reading: 14 Beautiful Towns in Puglia, Italy.

8. Planning your Puglia itinerary.

I have published a set of done-for-you road trip itineraries for Puglia, which I will list below.

My itineraries come in 7 day, 10 day and 14 day versions, but of course you can amend them to suit your own preferences. They all contain driving instructions, maps and suggestions for things to do and places to stay.

Puglia road trip itineraries:

Collage of photos of a trip to Puglia, Italy
Above: A collage of beautiful places you can visit in Puglia! From left to right: Polignano a mare, Alberobello, Bari, Ostuni, Martina Franca, Bari alleyway, Itria Valley + orecchiette dish in Alberobello.

9. Renting a car in Puglia

I have written an ultimate guide to renting a car in Puglia, but in the meantime here are some tips:

1.Research and Compare: Use the Discover Cars website to compare rental options, rates, and vehicle types available in Puglia. Look for the best deals that suit your travel needs.

2. Book in Advance: Secure your preferred car and rental dates by booking in advance. This helps ensure availability and may lead to better rates.

3. Check Reviews: Read customer reviews and ratings for the rental companies available through Discover Cars. Choose reputable providers with positive feedback.

4. Check Pickup Location: Verify the pickup location in Puglia. Often, airport pickups are convenient, but you can also find rental options in city centres.

5. Verify Driver Requirements: Ensure all drivers meet the age and licence requirements specified by the rental company.

6. Inspect the Car: Upon pickup, inspect the rental car for any existing damages and report them to the rental company to avoid being held responsible later.

7. Understand Cancellation Policy: Familiarise yourself with the cancellation policy in case your travel plans change.

8. Keep Rental Documents: Carry your reservation confirmation, driver’s licence, and credit card used for the booking when picking up the rental car.

Further reading: Ultimate Guide to Renting a Car in Puglia, Italy.

10. Map of Puglia

This Google map is from my post about the best towns to visit in Puglia. The map shows 14 of the main towns in Puglia (and one in Basilicata – Matera). Click the blue icons to see more information about each place, or click the star to add to your own Google Maps. I will also include a map showing hotels in Puglia further down.

11. FAQs about driving in Puglia

Q: Do I need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in Puglia?

A: While an IDP is not mandatory, it is highly recommended to have one. It serves as an official translation of your driver’s licence and can be useful in case of any language barriers or if requested by local authorities.

Q: Are the roads in Puglia well-maintained?

A: Yes, Puglia has a well-maintained road network. Highways (autostrade) connect major cities, and state and provincial roads provide access to towns and villages. However, when driving in Puglia you may find some rural roads are narrower and require caution while driving.

Q: Can I drive with my foreign driver’s licence in Puglia?

A: Yes, you can drive in Puglia with a valid driver’s licence from your home country. However, it’s always a good idea to carry an IDP along with your license for added convenience.

Q: What are the speed limits in Puglia?

A: The general speed limits in Puglia are as follows: 130 km/h (80 mph) on highways, 90 km/h (55 mph) on state highways, and 50 km/h (30 mph) in urban areas. However, always pay attention to posted speed limit signs as they may vary depending on the road conditions.

a light house on a hill next to the ocean and a road in Puglia Italy.
Santa Maria di Leuca lighthouse, Castrignano del Capo, Apulia region, Italy

Q: Are there tolls on the highways in Puglia?

A: Yes, some highways in Puglia have tolls. Keep in mind that toll fees may vary depending on the distance travelled. Make sure to have some cash or a credit card readily available to pay the tolls when driving in Puglia.

Q: What is parking like in Puglia?

A: Parking in Puglia can vary depending on the location. Major cities may have parking garages or pay-and-display parking zones. In smaller towns and rural areas, free parking spaces may be available, but be sure to check for any restrictions or time limits.

Q: Are there any restrictions on driving in historic city centres?

A: Yes, some historic city centres (or centro storico) in Puglia may have restricted vehicle access known as Limited Traffic Zones (ZTL). These areas are usually indicated by specific signs. Unless you have special permission or are staying at a hotel within the zone, it’s best to avoid driving into these areas.

Q: Is it easy to find gas stations in Puglia?

A: Yes, gas stations are readily available throughout Puglia. Most stations accept major credit cards. However, it’s advisable to have some cash on hand, especially if you plan to visit more remote areas when driving in Puglia.

Q: What should I do in case of an emergency or breakdown?

A: In case of an emergency or breakdown, pull over to a safe location and activate your hazard lights. If needed, call the appropriate emergency services. It’s always a good idea to have emergency contact numbers and your rental car agency’s information readily available.

Q: Can I use my mobile phone while driving in Puglia?

A: It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving in Italy unless you have a hands-free device. It’s best to refrain from using your phone while behind the wheel to ensure your safety and comply with the local laws.

Driving in Puglia offers a fantastic opportunity to explore the region at your own pace. By familiarising yourself with the local driving regulations and following road safety guidelines, you can have a smooth and enjoyable experience on the beautiful roads of Puglia.

a highway at sunset on a Puglia road trip.
Roads in Puglia at sunset.

Driving in Puglia: conclusion.

Embarking on a road trip through Puglia offers an unforgettable experience, allowing you to soak in the region’s natural beauty, visit off-the-beaten-path destinations, and discover the warmth and charm of its people.

By following the tips outlined in this guide, you’ll be well-prepared to navigate Puglia’s roads and create lasting memories of your Italian adventure.

Travel advice for Puglia.

For more in depth travel advice for your trip to the Puglia region of Italy, please see my main Puglia Travel Guide. This guide contains information on things like currency, weather, best time to visit Puglia, tourist seasons, safety and general travel advice for the region.

It also contains a list of every Puglia post I have published, all in one place.

Further reading: Ultimate Puglia Travel Guide.

Climate and tourist seasons in Puglia

Puglia enjoys a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot summers. Tourist season peaks in summer, while spring and autumn offer pleasant temperatures and fewer crowds. The longest beach season lasts from May to September, with daytime temperatures ranging from 18-25°C (64-77°F) and nighttime temperatures around 15-20°C (59-68°F).

Winters are mild, ranging from 7-14°C (45-57°F), and snow is rare but possible in higher areas. Rainfall is moderate throughout the year, with autumn experiencing the heaviest precipitation. Many hotels in Puglia close during the winter months (November to February), and rates may be higher due to limited availability, so it’s best to check with individual hotels for winter hours of operation.

Getting around in Puglia

Puglia offers great opportunities for exploration by car, which is the preferred choice for many tourists. Renting a car from Discover Cars at Bari airport allows you to easily navigate the region and visit multiple destinations in a day. See my Ultimate Guide to Renting a Car in Puglia, Italy for more advice.

Further reading: Hazel’s Guide to Driving in Puglia, Italy.

Alternatively, train travel provides an affordable option, although it may not be as accessible as driving. The main railway connects major towns in Puglia, while buses offer regular services between cities and towns.

Boat trips along the picturesque coastline, visiting charming fishing villages and impressive harbor towns like Gallipoli and Otranto, offer an even more scenic experience.

Further reading: 14 Beautiful Towns in Puglia, Italy.

Currency in Italy

Currency in Italy is the Euro (€ EUR), available in both paper notes and coins. Coins range from 5 cents to 500 euros. Credit cards are widely used. Italy has ATMs called ‘Bancomat,’ similar to those in the UK or USA, providing convenient cash access. Cash is generally preferred, although some places accept card payments. Banks operate from 08:30 to 13:00 and 15:00 to 16:00, Monday to Friday.

Where to stay in Puglia.

I recommend basing yourself in one of the larger towns in Puglia (such as Bari or Lecce) and hiring a car to reach all the other towns. For car hire, I recommend the brilliant car-comparison site Discover Cars.

You can use this map from Booking.com to see your best options in the Puglia region.


Quick hotel links for your trip to Puglia.

Below are some hotel booking links for some of the most popular towns in Puglia. These links will get you the best rate on Booking.com today. Feel free to use them just to check prices, even if you don’t book.

Book hotels in Alberobello | Book hotels in Bari | Book hotels in Brindisi | Book hotels in Cisternino | Book hotels in Gallipoli | Book hotels in Lecce | Book hotels in Locorotondo | Book hotels in Martina Franca | Book hotels in Matera | Book hotels in Monopoli | Book hotels in Ostuni | Book hotels in Otranto | Book hotels in Polignano a Mare | Book hotels in Trani | See all hotels in Puglia.

Puglia travel recommendations.

Here are some Amazon recommendations from me to you.

Related Reading for Puglia.

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