Looking for things to do in Gallipoli, where to stay, how to get there - or just trying to work out whether it's somewhere you'd like to visit on your Puglia road trip? Then this short guide to Gallipoli should have you covered!
In the south-west corner of Puglia lies the old island town of Gallipoli. Accessible only via sea or a 16th century bridge, it was once a strategic centre of influence for the maritime trade. These days however, it is more of a seaside summer escape for holidaying Italians and a growing number of Europeans drawn to the fabulous setting.
Surrounded by water on all sides, its identity remains indelibly linked to the rhythms of the ocean - fishermen fixing nets or doing repairs after their early morning outings are still common, seafood is a feature on most menus and the atmosphere in town can change should a salty gail begin to blow and buffet its ancient walls.
One thing has remained true throughout the changes; Gallipoli still more than lives up to the provenance of its name, 'beautiful city' in Greek.
Why You Should Visit Gallipoli
Gallipoli was our base for three nights, and it was absolutely perfect.
Prior to our arrival, we had expected to use it simply as a jump off point for day trips to the nearby beaches, which are some most beautiful in Puglia. However, the weather was against us, with the wind much stronger than usual at that time of year, so we instead spent more time in the town itself and living out the fantasy that Italy was our home.
And that's because, out of all the pretty little towns we visited in Puglia, Gallipoli was the one which felt most like we had walked into our very own 'Italy 1965' movie set.
One moment and one place sums it up best. In the late afternoon, we set off for some groceries. Navigating the narrow alleyways for the first time, we chanced upon a shop which felt frozen in time. With a beautiful old sign outside, the only person inside was the elderly bespectacled shopkeep; with her white hair scraped into a bun and wearing the sort of apron which all Italian woman of a certain age seem to own, she beamed at us and commenced to converse in lovely sing-song Italian. The high shelves were stocked with the local produce which Puglia is famed and it had wonderful sense of the local general store which people depend upon for decades before the rise of supermarket chains. We bought some wine, some olives, cheese and rosemary flavour taralli. We didn't understand much of what she said to us, but it was a small vignette which left us both pinching ourselves - the sort of moment and happenstance which we all travel for.
We're sure that when you visit Gallipoli, you'll make a similar memory.
Things to do in Gallipoli
As with every town you'll visit in Puglia, the main attraction of Gallipoli is in the beauty to be found in the centro storico (old quarter). Wander the impossibly pretty streets, nooks and alleyways slowly in the summer sun, taking time to stop for a glass of wine, a coffee or a conversation, and you will fall for this town.
- The Castello Angioino di Gallipoli dates back to the 13th century and is the most famous landmark in town. Created to ward off foreign attacks, it is now a tourist attraction and cultural centre. Entry is €7 for adults - opening times and further visitor information available here.
- Laze on the Spiaggia della Purita, the picturesque city beach. As you're likely to stay in the old town, this beach will only ever be five or so minutes from your front door. When we visited, the wind was too strong for a beach day, but we know that it's a lovely spot.
- Get your bearings on your first day by walking the perimeter of Gallipoli, which will let you spot some of the nicest seafront cafes or restaurants and spy on the fishermen fixing nets in their colourful boats by the port.
- There are so many churches to visit, but the Cathedral Sant'Agata and its intricate facade is a real stand out.
- Take a guided walking tour.
- Step back in time by visiting Corte Gallo.
- Dine al fresco in the evening in one of the cute and affordable restaurants - we recommend Alla Putia and you should definitely polish it off with two scoops of gelato from Martinucci.
- Sunsets are gorgeous in Gallipoli and best enjoyed with a glass of local wine and olives. We were fortunate enough to have a rooftop with our Airbnb to make the most of it.
- Gallipoli is also perfectly located for day trips to some excellent beaches or lidos, such as Spiaggia di Punta della Suina, Samsara Beach or Spiaggia di Pescoluse (Maldive del Salento).
Where to stay in Gallipoli
Given Gallipoli's popularity as a summer destination with Italians, it won't surprise you to discover that the city is full of accommodation options. Our advice: if you're a tourist in the city, don't stay anywhere but the old town or you inevitably spent half your time heading between the things you want to see, and where your accommodation is based.
Apartments in Gallipoli
After spending a fair amount of time looking for a place to lay our head, we quickly realised that the very best options in the city were Airbnbs, especially when seeking value for money. (BTW, if you haven't used Airbnb yet, your should absolutely go sign up with our referral code and save £20 off your first booking!)
If you're looking for an apartment but would prefer to book through a traditional site, booking.com has a whole bunch of them too.
Hotels in Gallipoli
Al Pescatore Hotel & Restaurant | Set in a beautiful 15th century building, this grand hotel provides phenomenal value for money, with economy rooms for as little as £47. Has a popular restaurant and a terrace with wonderful seaside views. Find out more and check availability here.
Corte Moline | A contemporary hotel with seaside charm - think driftwood furniture, white walls and colourful cacti. Throw in a great communal terrace and it's clear why this is a popular choice in town. Doubles start from £50 a night. Find out more and check availability here.
Via Palmieri 11 | Another hotel doing rustic charm but with a luxurious touch, this newly renovated hotel has four-poster beds in large minimalist rooms and a large roof terrace for guests to enjoy. Doubles start at £89 a night. Find out more and check availability here.
How to get to Gallipoli
We visited Gallipoli as part of our Puglia road trip, and we highly recommend this as the best way to discover the region. Car rental is available at Bari and Brindisi airports via Auto Europe, and you can read our road trip and driving advice for Puglia in our soon to be published article!
If arriving in Gallipoli with a rented car, then note that you can't drive in the centro storico, so you will have to park in the 'new city' and walk to your hotel or apartment. We used this free car park during our stay, which was free and only five minutes walk to the old town - note that it also had a paid car park next to it.
Gallipoli can also be reached by the Ferrovie Sud-Est train from Lecce, with a travel time of around one hour.
If you're using public transport to travel in Puglia, then check out Go Euro which is a fantastic free app for anyone travelling independently in Europe. It gives train and bus times, designs the easiest or cheapest route from A to B and lets you book tickets centrally and easily.