Last updated on February 4, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Puglia

Is Driving in Puglia Difficult?

Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot, is a region known for its charming coastal towns, idyllic countryside, and rich cultural history.

But for travellers and newcomers alike, the question often arises: is driving in Puglia difficult? Only when entering the bigger cities of Bari or Brindisi, otherwise not really, but the answer may not be as straightforward.

It depends also on other factors, including your driving experience, familiarity with Italian road rules, and ability to navigate through diverse landscapes.

In this article, I will delve into the specifics to understand if it is a good idea to rent a car in Puglia.

The Road Conditions in Puglia

Puglia’s road conditions vary. The region’s primary highways, like the A14 Autostrada, are generally in excellent condition. They are wide, well-maintained, and have clear signage.

However, as you divert from these primary routes to local roads, conditions can change.

Some rural roads may be narrow, winding, and not as well maintained, especially in the countryside or old town areas.

Road signage in Puglia is generally clear and follows international standards.

However, it’s recommended to have a good navigation system as some rural areas might have less frequent signs.

In terms of hazards, be aware of occasional potholes, slow-moving agricultural vehicles, and pedestrians, particularly in smaller towns.

The picturesque lanes of the old city of Bari.
The picturesque lanes of the old city of Bari.

Traffic and Congestion in Puglia

Major cities like Bari and Lecce can experience rush hour traffic, typically between 8-9:30 AM and 5-7:30 PM. During these times, patience is key.

As for parking, it’s generally available but can be challenging in the city centres. It’s often a good idea to park on the outskirts and then walk or take public transport into the centre.

Understanding local driving habits, such as liberal use of the horn and close tailgating, can help you navigate the roads more confidently.

Navigating the Puglia Landscape

The region’s landscape is so diverse. A fantastic playground for an amazing Puglia road trip.

The coastal roads offer breathtaking views but can be narrow and winding. On the other hand, the region’s interior roads, especially those leading to hilltop towns, can be steep and challenging.

Driving in Puglia’s small towns, with their narrow, winding streets, is an experience in itself. Many streets were designed long before the advent of automobiles, so patience and careful driving are necessary.

A small, compact car is often the best choice for these areas, which, in my opinion, are the best places to stay in Puglia.

Ostuni - White town skyline and Madonna della Grata church - Puglia
Ostuni – White town skyline and Madonna della Grata church – Puglia

Legal Requirements and Road Rules in Puglia

Puglia, like the rest of Italy, has stringent road rules. Speed limits are strictly enforced, and there are heavy fines for violations.

Also, be aware of the Zona Traffico Limitato (ZTL) zones, areas in many Italian cities where access is restricted to local residents and authorized vehicles only.

Violations are detected by cameras and can result in hefty fines.

Before driving in Puglia, ensure you have the necessary documents, including a valid driving license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration documents.

I have written a full guide to renting a car in Puglia, with all you need to know about it, including a few scams you want to avoid.

Renting a car in Puglia
Renting a car in Puglia

Renting a car in Puglia Compared to Other Transportation Options

Public transportation in Puglia is fairly comprehensive, with an extensive network of buses and trains connecting the major towns and cities.

However, for exploring rural areas and smaller towns, having a car can be more convenient.

I usually rent my cars from DiscoverCars, a sort of AirBnb for car rentals usually providing the best prices on the market

Cycling is a popular option in Puglia, especially in the coastal areas, but may not be practical for long distances or for those with a lot of luggage.

Taxis and private transfer services are available, but the cost can add up, especially for longer journeys.

You can find a full comparison table between renting a car vs public transportation in my guide to getting around Puglia.

Getting Around Puglia without a car and with a car
Getting Around Puglia without a car and with a car

Top Tips for Driving in Puglia

If you’re considering renting a car in Puglia, here are some top tips:

Choose the Right Vehicle: Opt for a smaller car if you plan to explore narrow city centres or hilltop towns. A compact car is easier to navigate through tight spaces and parks.

Familiarize with Road Signs and Rules: Before hitting the road, familiarize yourself with Italian road signs, rules, and regulations. In Italy, like most of Europe, they drive on the right side.

GPS is Your Friend: A reliable GPS system can be a lifesaver, especially when exploring rural areas or navigating the winding roads of hilltop towns. Most car rentals will offer a GPS for an additional fee, or you could use your smartphone.

Be Patient: Whether dealing with local driving habits, negotiating narrow roads, or finding parking, patience is crucial.

Avoid Restricted Zones: Be aware of Zona Traffico Limitato (ZTL) zones in city centres. These zones are restricted to authorized vehicles only, and unaware tourists can often end up with hefty fines.

Stay Insured: Ensure your rental car is adequately insured. Check with your rental company about the coverage and consider taking out additional insurance if necessary. I highly suggest renting the car with DiscoverCars including the 7 Euros/day full insurance (no excess) for a no-stress experience.

Prepare for Toll Roads: If you plan to use the autostrada, ensure you have cash or a card handy for tolls.

Fuel Up: Be aware that many petrol stations in Puglia (especially in rural areas) are not open 24/7. Some may also be self-service. So plan your refuelling stops accordingly.

A panoramic shot of the Bari Cathedral surrounded by buildings and sea in Italy
A panoramic shot of the Bari Cathedral surrounded by buildings and sea in Italy

Conclusion

So, is driving in Puglia difficult? It can be challenging, especially if you’re not familiar with the region or Italian driving habits.

However, with careful planning, understanding the road rules, and selecting the right vehicle, driving in Puglia can also be a rewarding and flexible way to explore this beautiful region.

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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