Our guide to self catering in Puglia

Self catering just got a whole lot more exciting.

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When holidaying in the sun drenched heel of Italy’s boot, Puglia, self catering villas can elevate your time away. Nestled between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, Puglia not only offers an inviting blend of picturesque landscapes and rich history, but mouth watering cuisine too. Opting for a self catering holiday allows you the freedom to fully immerse yourself in this authentic Italian haven, all whilst savouring every moment and flavour at your own pace. 

Renowned for fresh produce, it’s very easy to get your hands on fresh and locally sourced, plump tomatoes, fragrant olives, artisanal cheeses and freshly caught seafood. Explore bustling local markets, interact with family vendors and hand pick ingredients to create your own Italian feast back at your private villa. 

Unlike set schedules of hotels or guided tours, self catering holidays offer flexibility and comfort, ideal for anyone who prefers spontaneous trips and a bespoke itinerary. So, explore Puglia's charming towns, sun soaked beaches and historical landmarks throughout the day and take your time, because you know that a fabulous meal is patiently waiting for you at home.

Enjoy leisurely breakfasts on your terrace, picnic lunches in olive groves and intimate dinners under the stars, all while enjoying the privacy and space of your own home away from home. So whether you are a family, a couple, or a group of friends, self-catering in Puglia provides the perfect blend of independence and indulgence, ensuring an unforgettable holiday experience. Read our blog below to ensure you are well prepared on your arrival for a week of tantalising your tastebuds. 

Scout out the supermarkets

We’ve all been there: you arrive at your villa, eager to unwind and start your vacation, and the next step is to hunt out the local supermarket to get your provisions. There's something about shopping in a foreign supermarket that transforms this mundane task into an enjoyable adventure. The unfamiliar brands, the unique local products, and even the different layout of the store can make this routine chore feel like a treasure hunt, adding an element of excitement to your holiday experience.

In Puglia, this experience is elevated by the region's commitment to sustainability. Many Puglian supermarkets are keen sustainability enthusiasts, featuring eco-friendly goods and dedicated organic sections. Shopping in these stores often means being accompanied by knowledgeable staff who are passionate about the food on the shelves. Their expertise can provide valuable insights and suggestions, making it much more interesting when trying to plan what to cook on the barbecue. Whether you are picking out the freshest local produce or selecting a bottle of regional wine, the emphasis on quality and sustainability enhances your shopping trip.

To get your trip off to a good start, we recommend heading down to some of the main, big supermarkets in Puglia, such as C7+, Famila, and Conad. These supermarkets offer a wide variety of products, ensuring that you can find everything you need, from daily essentials to gourmet treats. The opening hours are convenient, usually Monday to Saturday from 08.00 to 20.00, and Sunday from 08.00 to 13.00, giving you plenty of time to wander down to the shops whenever it suits you. Additionally, it's worth noting that these supermarkets accept both cash and card payments, so you can shop with ease regardless of your preferred payment method. So, take your time, explore the aisles, and enjoy the unique experience of shopping in Puglia.

Find a feast at the food markets

Food markets are a vibrant and integral part of Puglia's culture and daily life. These bustling markets, often held in picturesque town squares, offer a sensory feast for visitors and locals alike. Stalls are filled to the brim with local favourites that showcase Puglia's rich agricultural heritage, featuring an abundance of fresh produce like ripe tomatoes, luscious olives, and aromatic herbs. The vivid colours and fresh scents create an enchanting atmosphere, drawing people in from near and far.

Artisans proudly display an array of homemade cheeses, cured meats, and freshly baked bread, reflecting the region's culinary traditions. Each stall tells a story of Puglia's history and the people who have cultivated the land for generations. The cheeses, such as creamy burrata and tangy pecorino, are crafted with age-old techniques, while the cured meats, like spicy soppressata and savory capocollo, offer a taste of Puglia's dedication to quality and flavour. With a lively atmosphere, the chatter of vendors and the aroma of regional specialties fill the air, creating a vibrant tapestry of sounds and smells. A taste for proper Puglian life is on display, making these markets a must-visit for anyone wanting to experience the true essence of Southern Italy.

Maria, our Destination Expert, recommends markets in Ostuni (open on a Saturday), Cisternino (open Monday), and Alberobello (Thursdays), so whatever day you fancy wandering down to grab your provisions, you most likely are going to stumble upon a market. Each market has its own unique charm, with Ostuni’s market set against the backdrop of whitewashed buildings, Cisternino offering a more intimate experience, and Alberobello showcasing its iconic trulli houses. Our Destination Expert Alessandro suggests heading over to Lecce, Maglie, and Tricase, where the markets are just as delightful. If you fancy some fresh fish, Gallipoli is your best bet. Here, the catch of the day is brought directly from the sea, ensuring the freshest seafood for your culinary adventures. Whether you're a food lover or simply looking to immerse yourself in local culture, Puglia's food markets offer an unforgettable experience that captures the heart and soul of this enchanting region.

Typical breakfasts in Puglia

Unlike the hearty morning meals often found in other cultures, Puglian breakfasts tend to be lighter yet incredibly flavourful, emphasising fresh, local ingredients. The cuisine of Puglia, a region in southern Italy, is deeply rooted in its agricultural traditions, and this is beautifully reflected in their morning meal. A common start to the day would include a classic pastry, such as a cornetto, which is similar to a croissant but often filled with delicious cream, jam, or chocolate. This delightful pastry is typically accompanied by a strong espresso or cappuccino, providing a great kick start to the day. The robust coffee culture in Puglia ensures that every sip is rich and aromatic, waking up the senses and setting a positive tone for the hours ahead.

Another staple of Puglian breakfasts is ‘frisella’, a twice-baked bread that is rehydrated and topped with ripe tomatoes, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, oregano, and a pinch of salt. This dish offers a savoury option that highlights the region's exceptional produce and olive oil. Frisella is not just a meal; it is a celebration of Puglia's rich agricultural heritage. The tomatoes are often picked at the peak of ripeness, bursting with flavour, while the extra virgin olive oil, often considered liquid gold, adds a depth of taste that is unparalleled. The simple yet harmonious combination of these ingredients transforms a modest breakfast into a gourmet experience.

Seasonal fruits such as figs, grapes, and oranges often make an appearance on the breakfast table, adding a fresh and healthy touch to the morning meal. These fruits, grown in the sun-drenched orchards of Puglia, are full of natural sweetness and nutrients, making them a perfect addition to the breakfast spread. Our favourite ingredients for a villa breakfast in Italy also consist of fresh cheese, tarts, and local bread with a variety of jams. The fresh cheese, often made from sheep or goat milk, is creamy and flavorful, providing a perfect contrast to the sweetness of the tarts and jams. So, pop over to the supermarkets we suggested, grab your provisions, and set a delightful tone for the rest of the day with a mouth-watering breakfast. Enjoying a Puglian breakfast is more than just eating; it is an experience that connects you to the land, the traditions, and the people of this beautiful region.

Typical lunches in Puglia

A typical Puglian lunch might begin with a selection of antipasti, featuring local specialties such as burrata, a creamy cheese made from mozzarella and cream, and focaccia barese, a soft olive oil-rich flatbread topped with tomatoes and olives. These appetisers set the stage for the culinary journey that is about to unfold, tantalising the taste buds with their rich flavours and textures. The first course, or 'primo' to the Italians, often includes handmade pasta such as orecchiette, which is shaped like little ears. This pasta can be served with a hearty tomato sauce, fresh vegetables, or the region's famous turnip greens, known as ‘cime di rapa’. This combination of pasta and vegetables highlights the simplicity and freshness that are hallmarks of Puglian cuisine.

Seafood is a staple in Puglia, so a ‘secondo’ or main course might include freshly grilled fish, octopus, or the traditional ‘tiella’, a baked dish of rice, potatoes, and mussels. This dish showcases the coastal influence on Puglian cuisine, with the seafood providing a fresh and delicate flavour that compliments the heartiness of the rice and potatoes. To accompany these scrumptious meals, a crisp local white wine such as ‘Verdeca’ or ‘Bombino’ is recommended. These wines, with their light and refreshing notes, pair perfectly with the rich and diverse flavours of Puglian dishes.

Puglian lunches are a celebration of simplicity, freshness, and the rich culinary traditions that have been passed down through generations. We asked our Destination Experts who are local to the area what their favourite dishes are for lunch, and they shared some similar options with their own personal twists. Maria loves pasta al forno, or pasta bake, eggplant parmigiana, and cialledda salad, which consists of stale bread, tomatoes, and basil. This salad is a testament to the resourcefulness and creativity of Puglian cooks, who can turn simple ingredients into something delicious. Alessandro normally goes for orecchiette with tomato sauce or classic veal meatballs. These dishes, while simple, are deeply flavorful and satisfying, embodying the essence of Puglian cuisine. With each bite, one can taste the love and tradition that go into every meal, making lunchtime in Puglia a truly memorable experience.

Typical dinners in Puglia

Dinners in Puglia are a celebration of local ingredients, characterised by simple yet flavourful preparations that highlight the region’s rich culinary traditions. For starters, 'fave e cicoria' is a must-try dish. This comforting appetiser features pureed fava beans served with sautéed wild chicory, all drizzled with the region's famous olive oil. Another beloved starter among the locals is 'panzerotti,' a small, crescent-shaped turnover filled with a variety of ingredients such as tomato, mozzarella, and sometimes ham or anchovies. These turnovers are deep-fried to golden perfection, resulting in a crispy exterior and a gooey, delicious centre. Most starters in Puglia require straightforward preparation, ensuring that less time is spent cooking and more time is spent savouring the authentic flavours of Italy.

Main courses in Puglia prominently feature the region’s agricultural and coastal bounty. Grilled lamb, roasted vegetables, and an abundance of fresh fish are often simply prepared to highlight their natural flavours. A Puglian dinner wouldn’t be complete without the region's signature bread, pane di Altamura, known for its crusty exterior and soft, airy interior. This traditional bread is the perfect accompaniment to any meal, serving as a delightful base for soaking up sauces or enjoying with a drizzle of olive oil.

For those looking to recreate some Puglian favourites back at your private villa, 'Braciole' is a great option. This dish consists of beef rolls stuffed with garlic, parsley, and pecorino cheese, slow-cooked in a rich tomato sauce. It's a perfect dish to enjoy with a loaf of pane di Altamura and a glass of local wine while it simmers away. If seafood is more your style, octopus and swordfish are staples of the Puglian dinner table. Simply season them with olive oil, lemon, and herbs, perhaps even freshly picked from your garden, and you’re all set. Alessandro, our Destination Expert, recommends picking up some stuffed squid and red prawns from Gallipoli to cook outside and enjoy al fresco as the sun sets. This creates a perfect, picturesque dining experience that captures the essence of Puglia.

Your starter shopping list

It’s up to you on what you choose to add to your basket when roaming around the supermarket. But if it was us, our list would look something like this…

  • Pasta (lots of it)

  • Med veg mix (Tomatoes, peppers, onions, aubergines) 

  • Fresh loaf of bread (or two)

  • Salami, parma ham, olives, cheeses

  • Peaches, oranges, melon

  • Olive oil, balsamic vinegar and mixed herbs

  • Coffee and croissants

  • Meat and fish for BBQ

  • Potatoes

  • Salad

  • White wine (Soave)

  • Biscotti

Our favourite self catering villas in Puglia

We have a wide range of handpicked villas in Puglia that are ideal for anyone looking for a self catering holiday. Sit back and enjoy your dinner in our relaxing al fresco areas, or head over to the barbecue and cook up a Puglian feast. Some of our favourites are Villa Chiaraluce, a mesmerising villa surrounded by olive groves with an outdoor kitchen and Trulli del Boschetto, a villa with a separate pool house that has a fully equipped kitchen, stone built barbecue and shaded dining area, a great space for families. Or if you are interested in any of our ‘Masseria’ villas, good news for you, all of them are highly recommended for outdoor dining. 

Our Villa Specialists are happy to book a range of experiences for you. If you're feeling inspired by these experiences and would like to speak with one of our Specialists, make an enquiry or browse our self catering collection today.