Driving in Puglia: Tips for Your Road Trip
When in Puglia, it’s easy to find inspiration right outside your car window, as your day unfolds in a thousand shades of white, blue, green. Short trips will take you from beaches to mountains, filling your holiday with wonder at every turn.
However, as appealing and intriguing as a Puglia road trip sounds, it also worries a lot of people who think Italy is hell for drivers.
Rest assured that driving in Puglia is no more difficult than driving anywhere else, you just need some common sense, adequate information and you’ll find it a breeze!
10 questions you should be able to answer before driving in Italy for the first time.
Essentials, back to the basics, first things first …. However you want to say it, this is what you need to know before planning your Puglia road trip.
What type of license do you need?
This one is the most fundamental! The police will fine anyone who doesn’t have a valid driving license and you may be unable to continue your trip. Make sure to check with your local embassy or consulate what the latest legislation for your country of origin is.
Here are some pointers for driving in Italy as a tourist:
- You need to be over 18 years old
- Your license should not be expired or expire during the trip (an obvious one but one often forgets when it expires, so verify this before leaving)
- Check if you need an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a legal translation of your own license. You don’t if your license was issued by a EU country.
Which side of the road to drive on?
Keep right and overtake on the left.
Who has the right of way at junctions and on roundabouts?
- The driver already on the roundabout always has the right of way.
- Give way to traffic on the right when you are at a junction or crossroads. You can only pass on the left.
- In general, overtaking is forbidden whenever visibility is limited.
What are the basic speed limits?
These are just guidelines, which may vary, so always look out for road signs.
- Urban areas 50 km/h (31 mph);
- Minor out-of-town roads 90 km/h (56 mph);
- Major out-of-town roads 110 km/h (68 mph);
- Motorways 130 km/h (81 mph).
We also advise you to take your time, drive slower and be more careful, firstly because you’re not familiar with these roads, secondly, because you want to take in the view and stop wherever you fancy to take photos, eat something or go off on an adventure!
What should you do if you have an accident?
Depending on what you need, phone the following numbers:
- Police 113
- Fire Brigade 115
- Ambulance 118
If you travel with us, you’ll also have roadside assistance included in your package. That’s handy, isn’t it?
What is the drink-drive limit?
The blood alcohol limit for drivers is 0.5 grams per liter.
Can you use your phone while you drive?
No, you can’t. Apart from being dangerous, you can also be fined by the police, so either use Bluetooth, stop or have your travel companion handle your mobile phone.
Are seat belts mandatory?
Yes! Even if you’re sitting on the backseat. So be safe and always wear one, you can incur a fine even in this case.
Are you familiar with Italian road signs?
If you don’t know the fundamentals of road signs whilst driving in Italy then you are a danger to yourself and others. Fortunately, Italy has a lot of signs which you will immediately recognize, as some are fairly universal, but dedicate some time to learn them ahead of your holiday nonetheless.
Do you know where to park?
A parking place is indicated by the blue sign with the white letter P or the word ‘parcheggio’.
- Blue lines on the tarmac mean you can park, but you have to pay. So please check carefully the timing and the fees. ‘Orari’ means hours, ‘Tariffe’ means fees. Ticket machines are easy to find and easy to use, but make sure you have coins with you. Simply insert the correct amount for the period of time you expect to be there and the machine will print a time-stamped ticket. This indicates the exact time by which you’ll need to have vacated your parking spot. Place the ticket somewhere visible and make a note of the time you need to get back. Of course, you can always go back and top up to extend your stay. The cost for parking in Puglia tends to be €1.30/hour but it can get up to €2.00/hour. It’s worth noting that, if you want to spend the entire day at the beach, then there are often private parking lots with attendants offering a ‘tutto il giorno’ (all day) rate of about €3, which will undercut the rate of the blue parking spaces. Try to park under shade if possible, it gets hot in Puglia!
- White lines mean you can park and don’t have to pay.
- Yellow lines are for disabled badge holders or for residents only.
- There are also official and unofficial paid parking lots. The Puglia maps we hand out to our customers include the best parking lots, one of the perks for booking with us.
When searching for parking, bear in mind that popular tourist towns get really busy, and whilst you may find on-street parking if you arrive early, private car parks may well be your best bet. The closer to the beach or a ‘centro storico’ you get, the less likely you are to find any non-blue (i.e. free) parking.
Bonus tips for those thinking about renting a car:
You’ll need a valid form of ID (your passport, for example) and a credit card for the deposit (not a debit card or prepaid card). It’s important for the credit card to have at least a €500 balance, which should not be spent during the trip so that the dealership is able to charge you for any mishaps happened whilst the car was in your possession. On this note, we also suggest that you always opt for KASKO insurance (which covers almost 90% of the deductibles).
Expert road trip tips to make traveling easy
Road trips are what we do, our company is centered around them, so we know a thing or two when it comes to driving around Puglia, which is why we rounded up the best advice for traveling by car in this beautiful Italian region.
Bring a paper map with you
Can you imagine being lost somewhere where there’s no signal, your cellphone battery has died and there’s no human in sight, only sheep? Nowadays this scenario is fairly unrealistic, but it still could happen, a large part of Puglia is mostly rural, so it’s best to be prepared. Simply printing out directions or buying a paper map will give you peace of mind. That’s exactly why anyone traveling with us gets a printable itinerary!
Learn some Italian
Some basic phrases can help you out if you need to ask for directions or even if you want to ask for restaurant recommendations (the printable itinerary we mentioned earlier? It comes with our very own restaurant recommendations – score!). If you struggle with pronunciation, write down common sentences and show them to people.
Park outside the town center
Most towns in Italy have pedestrian-only zones or can be accessed only by residents. Save yourself the headache and park in the outskirts, towns are small and it usually doesn’t take long to reach the attractions on foot, plus you might discover quaint shops along the way, cheaper eateries or the perfect spot for an Instagram shot.
One thing to look out for especially are ‘ZTL’ areas, signaled by a display monitor. These indicate areas where, during certain times of the day, unauthorized vehicles cannot enter:
VARCO ATTIVO: it means you cannot enter the ZTL.
VARCO NON ATTIVO: it means you can enter the ZTL without getting fined.
You can receive a fine up to a year later, so pay attention.
Leave yourself more driving time than you think you’ll need
The first couple of days especially, it may be wiser to factor in some extra time, as you need to familiarize with driving in Italy and on Puglia roads.
Let serendipity guide you
Even if everything is planned (which is the case if you travel with us), it doesn’t mean you can’t be spontaneous and stop to admire the view, buy those olives roadside or drive up a hill to explore a tiny village no one has ever heard of. That’s the beauty of a road trip. Having a plan simply means knowing you’ll have someplace to rest after all the exploration.
Carry cash for tolls and parking
Coins and small denomination bills are so useful in Puglia, you should always carry enough with you. You’ll need them to pay for parking at the automated ticket machines as well as to pay for any toll roads (which may also have automated machines).
The most scenic drives in Puglia
A good rule of thumb when driving in Puglia is to take the highway when you need to get somewhere fast. The main one is the A14 Bologna-Taranto. When instead you want to take your time and properly explore, then opt for a ‘Statale’ and/or ‘Provinciale’ road to see the most authentic side of Puglia.
Like most places, some roads are more scenic than others and here’s our list of the most beautiful road trips in Puglia:
- SP53 (Gargano area); pick this road to enjoy stunning views of bays and cliffs, from Mattinata to Peschici.
- SS17 (Daunia area); crossing the Dauni mountains, it starts in San Marco la Catola and ends in Foggia.
- SS15, from Cozze to Polignano a Mare, driving down this road in Summer you’ll get to see the harvest in full swing. A stop along the road makes for great photos, with cacti, golden fields and whitewashed barns.
- SS90; from Montaguto to Foggia, best for rural countryside views.
- SS172; crossing the Itria Valley. Framed by dry-stone walls, it is also called ‘Strada dei Trulli’, it starts in Casamassima and ends in Taranto.
- SP358; one of the most scenic roads in Puglia, starting in Otranto and ending in Leuca. Beautiful views will accompany you along the route.
Happy road tripping folks and safe travels!