Advertisement

Moving to Italy For Members

Seven things to know before moving to Italy's Puglia region

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
Seven things to know before moving to Italy's Puglia region
Polignano a Mare. The Italian region of Puglia is a summer tourist favourite - but what is it like to live in? Photo: Mattia Bericcia/Unsplash.

The sunny southern Italian region of Puglia has become a hot travel destination, but what is it like as a place to live? The Local Italy's editor Clare Speak, who has been a resident since 2019, has the lowdown on what to consider before moving there.

Advertisement

In Italy’s south-eastern corner is a long stretch of glittering coastline surrounding vast expanses of olive groves and farmland, dotted with whitewashed villages and ancient fortified farmhouses. This is Puglia, a region that maintains a distinct culture in part thanks to its tucked-away location.

Puglia, sometimes known abroad as Apulia, has long been a favourite destination for beach holidays among Italians, and its popularity among international visitors has exploded in the last decade. Investors have poured money into developing businesses in a handful of popular areas, though much of the region remains firmly off the tourist trail.

OPINION: Bargain homes and fewer crowds – but Italy’s deep south is not for everyone

Second home sales are booming here, particularly in the central Valle d’Itria and nearby areas where conical stone trulli houses enchant visitors and, usually crumbling, are sold off at low (but increasingly, not so low) prices to those willing to do the renovation work.

If Italy is a boot, Puglia is the heel. Screenshot: Google Maps

But what is it like to live in the region longer term?

Mostly rural, relaxed and with mild winters and plenty of sun, Puglia is perfectly suited as a place to enjoy retirement. There’s also a new interest in the area among remote workers from northern Italy, Europe and beyond who are looking to escape the daily commute and enjoy life by the sea.

The coastal region also attracts watersports enthusiasts, nature lovers, artists, writers, yogis, winemakers, and all sorts of others looking for a lower-cost, slower-paced, more fulfilling type of life.

If you’re wondering if this could be the perfect part of Italy for you, here are a few things to know before you start your property search.

A trullo house before renovation in Cisternino, Puglia. AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE

Not just beaches

Puglia is best known in Italy and beyond for its summer beach spots. The region has over 800 kilometres of coastline, though the nicest stretches are mainly along the region’s southern tip, where you’ll find impressive rock formations and stretches of golden sand. Some of the more famous beaches here are regularly described in newspaper articles as being “Italy’s answer to the Maldives,” though anyone who has visited might find this comparison a bit of a stretch. 

READ ALSO: REVEALED: The Italian beaches you might want to avoid this summer

Much of Puglia’s coastline however is developed and given over to private beach clubs, resorts, and restaurants, and the remaining spiagge libere (‘free’ beaches) tend to be small and get very crowded in July and August. It’s still fairly easy to find a quiet spot at other times, especially if you choose your beach wisely and avoid the most popular areas.

Advertisement

Along the Adriatic coast, the rocky shores mean crystal clear water and the best way to explore the endless tiny coves (calette) is by boat or kayak, and there are plenty of spots for kitesurfing, SUP and other watersports. If that’s your idea of the perfect way to spend a Saturday, you’ll be right at home.

Photo by Massimo Virgilio on Unsplash

Sea temperatures are suitable for swimming between May and October, unless you’re particularly hardy. But luckily if you’re here year-round there’s much more to the region than its beaches, including national parks, vast expanses of unspoilt countryside, Baroque towns and cities, and ancient archaeological sites.

Cheap homes - or maybe not 

Southern Italy in general is famous worldwide for cheap property and you may be hoping to snap up a bargain, but in reality it's not always that simple and the prices really depend on where you go.

READ ALSO: How Italy's cheap homes frenzy is changing rural villages

The peninsula-like southern half of the Puglia region is the most popular area among visitors and second-home owners, along with towns in and around the Valle d’Itria, and the summer hotspots in the Gargano to the north - these areas have a lot of desirable properties, and higher prices to match, particularly along the coast.

Advertisement

Apartments in the region’s cities can also be surprisingly expensive - and property prices in the regional capital, Bari, are rising faster than anywhere else in the south.

You will find no shortage of charming old homes for sale in inland towns for under 70,000 euros, but these tend to require a lot of renovation work - plus issues with ownership rights and other ‘hidden traps’ are very common, and can quickly become expensive and troublesome.

As a foreigner in Italy, you should make sure you’ve taken independent financial advice and have the full picture of all expenses involved before putting down any deposits. If you have your heart set on renovating a trullo or farmhouse, make sure you're realistic about the costs from the outset - and that you get all the required permits.

Hot and humid

If you’re planning to move to Puglia, or any other part of southern Italy, one of the first things to ask yourself is whether you can stand the sometimes oppressive heat.

Particularly if you plan to work year-round you’ll need to consider the fact that anything requiring physical or mental energy becomes near impossible once the mercury rises into the high 30s (Celsius) and beyond, which is common in July and August and increasingly in late June as well. It gets very humid in most parts of the region, too, and humidity becomes extremely high in coastal areas.

READ ALSO:

As elsewhere in Italy, air-conditioning isn’t a given. Older buildings are designed with thick stone walls, high vaulted ceilings and shutters, all of which can help regulate indoor temperatures, but you’ll still need to plan around the heat - long midday breaks remain the norm in southern Italy for a reason.

Advertisement

If you’re used to similar climates, or can fit a siesta or swim into your summer days, you’ll be just fine. 

On the other hand, winters are generally mild and sunny, though you can expect fog and occasional frost and freezing conditions in inland areas.

Photo by Steffen Lemmerzahl on Unsplash

Friendly and welcoming

Italy as a whole is known as being full of friendly, welcoming people so it can be surprising to foreigners to hear people from the south say that people in northern areas - particularly Lombardy and Veneto - have a reputation for being cold and distant. But if you spend some time in Puglia, you’ll soon understand why: generosity and openness is taken to a whole new level here.

Particularly in rural areas, you will be helped and hosted in a way you rarely see in cities, nor in the twenty-first century much at all. In town for a day trip? You’ll probably be shown around by a local. Moving in next door? You’ll be invited for lunch and given food to take home. You can hardly go anywhere without being plied with biscuits, coffee, and homemade liqueur. Generally speaking, people here are some of the friendliest in Italy. 

Advertisement

Just don’t forget your new neighbours will expect you to return the favour at some point: it’s time to brush up on your baking and limoncello-making skills. 

And if you're a private person and/or you come from a country where the neighbours tend to keep to themselves, you may be in for something of a culture shock - expect your new neighbours in Puglia to take a close interest in the minutiae of your life.

As a general rule, the more rurally you live and the fewer other foreigners around, the more closely you can expect to be scrutinised. Of course, if you welcome close relationships with your neighbours (and don't mind being the talk of the village sometimes) you'll thrive in this sort of close-knit community.

Food is everything 

It’s certainly true that food is central to the way of life here, and it’s an enormous source of local pride.

Puglia has been a predominantly agricultural region for millenia, and today produces around 40 percent of Italy's olive oil, around 17 percent of its wine, and around 30 percent of the nation’s durum wheat. Many people continue to grow their own produce; from tomatoes, zucchini, fava beans, rocket, and sweet red onions to lemons, cherries, almonds, figs, pears and pomegranates.

Advertisement

Unsurprisingly, the region’s cuisine is based on staples like wheat, olive oil, and tomatoes. Mozzarella and ricotta cheese is either homemade or bought from small caseifici (cheesemongers). All of this requires strong red wine (vino nero) as an accompaniment, usually featuring primitivo or fragolina grapes, homemade or bought from local small-scale wineries.

READ ALSO: 17 ways your eating and drinking habits change when you live in Italy

In coastal areas, seafood is sold at stalls by the harbours, often brought in on traditional blue-painted wooden boats. And often eaten raw.

Needless to say, anyone who is seriously interested in their food will be right at home here. Though if you're looking for innovative cooking or international cuisine (other than sushi) you won't find much of that here.

Employment prospects 

Generally speaking, this is the wrong end of the country for exciting career opportunities, as the countless southern Italians who move north for work each year could tell you.

Many of the people who choose to move to Puglia tend to do so to escape the pressures of city life and fast-paced careers.

Advertisement

But that doesn’t mean there are no jobs available at all. There are some opportunities for English language teachers, as well as short-term employment in the tourism sector. Many people who move here for the longer term tend to be self-employed - perhaps as translators or tour guides - or start their own businesses, usually in hospitality.

READ ALSO: Digital nomad: What are the rules on working remotely from Italy?

The best option might be working online for a company based elsewhere in the world. Puglia’s coastal towns and cities tend to have reliable high-speed wifi connections and a comparatively low cost of living.

If you’d be happy to work remotely in the truest sense of the word, even rural farmhouses are often equipped with reliable internet connections. Writers and artists are increasingly gravitating towards these quiet, unspoilt areas, too.

A blast from the past 

For all the old-world charm and hospitality, some may find life in small-town rural Puglia a little old-fashioned or conservative. 

Whether it’s the lack of public transport infrastructure, the pace of life so slow that it sometimes grinds to a halt, or political opinions not heard in bigger cities for a good few decades, for better or worse this region is in no hurry to adopt modern attitudes.

If you want to experience traditional, small-town Italy, you’re in the right place.

More

Comments (1)

Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

Alan Thompson 2023/04/12 01:45
Hi, I’ve spent the last 20 summers there, based in Vallee d’Itria. Can’t say I’ve ever felt it humid. Very hot for sure, but humidity no. Winters can have very drab wet spells too. The unemployment rate especially young people is horrendous. But i love the area.
  • Clare Speak 2023/04/14 11:09
    Hi, Valle d'Itria is lovely! Glad to hear it doesn't get too humid there. The humidity is around 70-80% where I live in Bari in summer, which I find unbearable. We spend a lot of the summer with family just north of the Valle d'Itria area, and I also find it's much less sticky inland - but even hotter! I love it anyway.

See Also