The Reality of Being a Vegan in France & Tricks for Surviving in a Land of Foie Gras

The Reality of Being a Vegan in France & Tricks for Surviving in a Land of Foie Gras

While the rest of the population hails France as being the ultimate foodie destination, vegans are often left bereft at the thought of yet another bare baguette. In a country where eating cheese is almost a religion, meat is seen as an essential element of any meal, and the yoghurt aisle of your local supermarket is so long it could double up as a small town landing strip – being a vegan in France can seem like an uphill battle.


My husband and I made the decision to adopt a plant-based diet around 6 months before we moved to France.

Dick move.

Just as veganism was hitting the mainstream in New Zealand, France, on the other hand, still had its head firmly stuck in the sand.

I’d experienced a taste of being a vegetarian in France during previous travels, and it didn’t leave me full of hope. Between being served a plate of plain pasta at a Michelin-starred restaurant, to finding lardons (ham) in my salade végétarienne – I knew I was going to be up for a challenge if I wanted to not just survive, but enjoy living in France as a vegan.

Living in France as a vegan.

Attitudes to Veganism in France

While the large majority of French are very firmly in the meat and cheese eating camp, in the 2 and a bit years we’ve been living in France, I’ve seen the sands slowly start to shift. Naturally, Paris has been more progressive than the rest of the country when it comes to vegan eateries and attitudes. And it is starting to filter through to the rest of the country.

A nationwide vegan movement has started to gain momentum, but not always with the right consequences.

As with everything the French do, they do it with a healthy dose of passion. But lately, an unhealthy trend has seen animal activists getting a bit heavy-handed with their message in Paris, where butcheries are increasingly vandalised and butchers threatened.

While I see the benefit of peaceful protests and cube of truth demonstrations, I don’t believe violence is an effective way of getting a message – that is ultimately about peace for all – across to the masses. And it adds to the unfair attitude towards vegans that we’re all a bunch of hot-headed fanatics.

But I digress.

For the large part, the worst you’ll get if you tell someone in France that you’re a vegan is a blank stare, a look of confusion, or an attitude of indifference. Oftentimes, people are genuinely interested as they can’t fathom how one survives without eating animal products, or indeed, why you’d want to!

Tips on Surviving in France as a Vegan

General attitudes aside, it’s entirely possible to survive France as a vegan – even outside of the big cities! Whether you’re heading to France for a holiday and worried about how you’ll fare, or you’re thinking about making the move more permanent, here are my insider tips for being a vegan in France – and why you needn’t worry!
Eating out as a vegan in France.

Eating out as a Vegan in France

The biggest fear many vegans travelling to France have is how they’ll manage when it comes to eating out. And it’s a valid concern. Not only do you have to deal with un-vegan friendly menus, but you somehow have to get your desires for an animal-free meal across in another language. It’s enough to make many a vegan tremble in their faux-leather boots.

But with a few tricks up your sleeve, eating out in France as a vegan doesn’t have to mean side salads and fries!

PRINT YOUR FREE FRENCH PHRASE CHEAT SHEET FOR VEGANS HERE!

How to find vegan-friendly eateries in France

Although rare, especially in rural areas, vegan cafes and restaurants do exist in France. They’re becoming more popular in larger cities, and with a little help, it’s not hard to sniff them out. Try these methods for starters:

  • Happy Cow. If you’re a travelling vegan, do yourself a favour and download the Happy Cow app now. I use it everywhere in the world for finding vegan-friendly eateries. You can search by location, or enable geotracking and let the app find your nearest options for vegan eats!
  • Ask on local vegan Facebook groups. Why not ask the locals? Suss out any national, or local vegan Facebook groups and ask people for their recommendations on places to eat around the country. Look up “English speaking vegans in France” or “Veggies and vegans in France” for English-speaking local vegans. Or if you speak French, type “vegans” and the name of the city you’re travelling to in the search bar to see if there are any local groups to join.
  • Google it. This seems obvious, if you’re unfamiliar with French you may not think of simply typing ‘vegan food in..’ in English in your search bar. But more often than not, it’ll bring back some worthy results.
  • Try Tripadvisor. Did you know there is an option to filter restaurants by whether they have a vegan option on TripAdvisor? Neither did I until recently, but it’s a fab way to find restaurants in any city.
  • Turn to other cuisines. There aren’t a lot of accidentally-vegan dishes in French cuisine (as seen below), so sometimes the easiest option is to turn to other nationality’s offerings instead. Italian, Turkish, Asian and African dishes are all naturally a little more vegan-friendly.

Eating out as a vegan in France.

How to veganify popular French foods

Here are a few french staples that are accidentally vegan, and some that can be made vegan with a few small tweaks.

  • The humble baguette. Yep, this French food staple is vegan. Thank goodness.
  • Croissants. While you may not find vegan croissants in the boulangerie, many supermarkets stock accidentally vegan versions of this popular pastry. Just look for the ones made with ‘huile de tournesol’ (sunflower oil) and avoid the avec beurre versions.
  • Sorbet. You’ll be thankful for this one come summer! Most ice cream stands have a large selection of sorbet which has been a godsend for my ice cream loving son (and his ice cream loving parents!).
  • Ratatouille. This dish from the South of France is one of the rare dishes that is entirely vegan – entirely by accident! So you can chow down on this classic dish as much as you like.
  • Pizza. Ok, so pizza should really be under the Italian section, but as far as I can tell (if the number of pizza vans/shops in every village are anything to go by) the French adore their pizzas. Simply ask for a vegetarian pizza “sans fromage” and you’ve got yourself a vegan pizza! Another nifty bonus is that when you order pizza in France, it almost always comes with a sachet, or bottle if you’re eating in, of sauce piquante – a chilli infused oil that makes even the plainest of pizzas taste amazing, and combats any cheese-deficit dryness.
  • Salad. This one won’t win any awards for originality, but at a push, a salad can do just fine for lunch. Ask for a salade végétarienne (sans fromage, sans oeufs) – with the dressing on the side if you’re unsure of its ingredients. Then drizzle some olive oil over the top, et voila, you have yourself a vegan meal.
Ratatouille is an accidentally vegan French dish.

Ratatouille is an accidentally vegan French dish.

Types of restaurants where you’re more likely to find vegan menu items (intentionally or not)

In time, we’ve learned there are certain types of restaurants that are better to bypass. And likewise, there are those in which we know we’ll find a vegan option or two. The latter normally involves looking past traditional French cuisine, and instead to other global foodie influences.

  • Japanese. Sushi is a staple for us when eating out. Luckily, our son loves it, so it’s always his first pick of where to eat anyway. Just be aware – the French do have a weird habit of adding mayonnaise and sometimes even cheese to their vegetarian sushi – so it’s best to clarify before ordering.
  • Indian. The Indian restaurants we’ve been to in France haven’t been amazing – they tend to tone down the flavours a lot to cater to the French palate. So if you like your curry spicy, you need to ask for it hot! Also, check that they don’t use ghee in the dish you’re ordering.
  • Moroccan. A vegetable tagine makes for a delicious vegan meal if you can find a Moroccan restaurant on your travels.
  • Italian. Apart from the obvious choice of pizza (minus the cheese), many Italian restaurants will also serve a simple tomato-based pasta, or try my favourite – spaghetti aglio e olio!
  • Turkish. Kebab shops can be found in most French towns of a reasonable size. Order a falafel kebab – just watch that the falafel isn’t made with egg.
  • Ethiopian. Ethiopian food is generally very vegan-friendly, and amazing! But a little harder to come by in France unless you’re in a city.
  • Vietnamese. Vietnamese food is typically heavy on the meat, but there are several dishes that lend themselves well to the vegan diet. Try a papaya salad, spring rolls, or a classic spicy tofu chilli dish.
  • Thai. Our local Thai restaurant doesn’t have a single vegetarian menu item, let alone vegan. But I have found amazing vegan Thai food on menus around the country – so just do you research before you go.

Vegan restaurants in France.

– Ordering Coffee in France

For all you coffee addicts out there – sorry, but you’re going to have to get used to taking your coffee black! I’m yet to find a ‘regular’ French cafe with any cow milk alternatives on the menu. Like I said above, vegan-friendly cafes do exist, but if you’re outside of the main centres you’ll be out of luck.

I was a bit of a coffee aficionado before moving to France, so as you can guess, the first thing I do when I step foot in another country (sometimes, if I’m lucky, before I even leave the airport!) is order a large almond latte!*

*And as a responsible vegan, I always make sure to have my KeepCup on hand.

– Eating Vegan on the Road

One thing to be aware of when travelling in France as a vegan is that if you’re driving long distance, you’re going to want to take some vegan eats with you! The service stations on the motorway seem to be slower than average with catering for a range of diets and you’ll be hard pressed to find anything other than crisps and a packet of Oreos to nibble on.

Another thing to note is the standard eating times. Outside of very touristic areas, you’ll struggle to find anyone serving lunch past 2.30pm and anyone serving dinner before 7pm! And most supermarkets are also closed on Sundays, so stock up on Saturday just in case.

Shopping as a Vegan in France

If you’re staying in France for a while, or you’ve booked self-catering holiday accommodation, you’ll be able to take advantage of the amazing farmers’ markets and bio (organic) shops throughout the country.

Farmers’ Markets

It’s very much part of the French way of life to visit the farmers’ markets throughout the week to stock up on fresh fruit and veggies. Every village (of a certain size) has a weekly market, and they alternate days so you won’t have to venture far to find a market on any day of the week.

If you’re in a larger town or city, you’ll find they often have daily markets. It’s the best place to buy seasonal produce, as well as other goodies like bakery goods, deli items, and occasionally bulk grains.

French farmers markets are a great place to shop as a vegan in France

Supermarkets

French supermarkets don’t generally have a huge range of vegan goods. But they are the cheapest place to buy vegan milk, yoghurts, dark chocolate, hummus (watch out for added milk or cheese!) bulk nuts and grains, and staples like pasta and noodles. Most supermarkets will have a decent sized organic section too, and the allergens aisle is often stocked with vegan-friendly finds.

While I have found things like tofu and mock meats in the supermarket, the ones I’ve tried leave a lot to be desired! You’re better off heading to your nearest organic shop to find ready-made vegan goods.

Organic Shops

The organic movement is huge in France, so you’ll find organic shops (magazin bio) easily. All the stores I’ve tried have had a good selection of tofu and seitan products, plus they’re generally just amazing for nuts, grains, milk, parmesan-free pesto, vegan treats, even raw cakes!

Oh – and they’re the only place I’ve found sriracha sauce in France!

Organic shops in France are great for vegan food options.

Online Shops

France has some great online vegan stores. My favourite, The Vegan Shop, sells the most incredible artisan nut-cheeses that taste just like the real deal.

Some other online shops include:

  • Boutique Vegan – A mega vegan store where you’ll find anything and everything! Based in Germany, but ships to France.
  • Un Monde Vegan – Well stocked online shop as well as two real-world stores in Paris and Lyon.
  • Naturalia – Their online store isn’t strictly vegan, but they do have a good range. They’ve also recently opened their fourth vegan supermarket in Paris!
  • Graine de Vegan – French online vegan shop that’s well stocked with all the essentials – everything from baking goods, to baby products.
  • Veggie Shop 24 – An online shop based in Bavaria that ships throughout Europe.

Vegan Fashion in France

This is where I admit that I haven’t made a massive effort to seek out vegan clothing and shoe manufacturers in France. The French website Vegan Pratique has you covered here though, with their thorough list of vegan-friendly clothing and accessories shops.

My favourite international vegan accessories brand, Matt & Nat not only make beautiful wallets, handbags and shoes, they also do their bit for the environment by using eco-friendly fabrics. Plus their linings are made from recycled plastic bottles – how cool is that?

Shop my favourite Matt & Nat looks here

Raising Kids Vegan in France

Bringing your vegan kids to France for a holiday is one thing, but what’s it like living here with little vegans? Although there’s plenty of evidence to support veganism as a healthy diet for growing kids, French medical practitioners, in general, aren’t open to the idea.

You’ll also have a hard time in public schools, where lunches are catered, and always contain meat and/or dairy. The only options for vegan parents with school-aged children is to either pick your kids up and take them home for lunch every day or get a medical certificate to allow your child to take a packed lunch.

Private, or semi-private schools sometimes allow a bit more flexibility. Some, such as the first French school our son attended, don’t cater lunch at all, so every child had to bring their own. And some offer a bit more flexibility around catered menus. Steiner schools routinely offer vegetarian lunches as standard and can often be accommodating to the vegan diet.



Being a vegan in France can present challenges, and often some frustrations, but it’s absolutely doable! I hope this guide has given you some ideas for thinking outside of the box when it comes to visiting France as a vegan. One thing is for sure, when you do find amazing vegan food in France, you’ll appreciate it all the more!

Happy travelling x

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If you're a vegan travelling to France, you may be worried about how you'll get by in a country renowned for meat & cheese! Being vegan in France doesn't have to be difficult - if you know what to look for! Read our complete vegan travel guide to France and download your free French vegan phrase printable!

 

Where to Find the Best Lavender Fields of Provence France

Ultimate Guide to the Best Lavender Fields in Provence, France

To some, there’s nothing that epitomises the appeal of Provence more than the purple rows of lavender that pepper the landscape every summer. The lavender fields of Provence represent a change of seasons, a ripening of the earth, and a time where life slows to the mercy of the sun’s strong rays.

The Provence lavender fields are among the best in the world, and they’re certainly the most famous. Come early summer, when the spring poppies have all but disappeared, bright lavender flowers start to transform the already beatific landscape into a patchwork of colour.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll introduce you to the best fields of lavender in Provence, France.


Lavender fields of Provence, France

Lavender Season in Provence

When does lavender bloom in Provence? This is the question I (and I’m sure all other Provence locals) get asked a lot! And unfortunately, there’s no exact answer. The best time to see lavender in Provence is different depending on where you are in the region, but it also changes year to year. This year, for example, the Provence lavender season started later than usual because of the unusually wet spring we had.

Despite these variables, here are some guidelines about the best time to visit Provence for lavender:

Provence Lavender in June

  • By late June most Lavender in Provence is in bloom.
  • The fine lavender grown in the highest altitudes of Provence is the latest to bloom.

Provence Lavender in July

  • Early July is the best time to visit lavender fields in Provence. The entire region is peppered with vibrant purple fields. And, if you get in before the school holidays (which normally start after the first week of July), you’re more likely to beat the crowds.
  • From mid-July lavender fields start to be harvested.
  • The upper Luberon lavender fields and the Château du Bois fine lavender are generally harvested around the 15th of July.
  • The lower Luberon (around Lourmarin), the Valensole lavender fields and those in Grasse and around Sisteron are harvested later in July, typically around the 25th of July.

Provence Lavender in August

  • If you’re visiting Provence in August you may be worried about missing out on seeing the lavender fields at all, but there are still a few lavender fields in bloom in August.
  • Aim for the Sault lavender fields or around Banon to find lavender in bloom until the 10th of August.

Lavender fields of Provence, France

Best Places to find Lavender in Provence, France

Fragrant lavender fields can be found popping up everywhere in Provence in summer. It’s the most famous crop of the region and one that has held significant importance for the people of Provence for centuries. But the lavender fields of Provence aren’t just a source of pride for the locals; they’re also a key Provence attraction that draws in visitors from around the world, year after year.

I’m going to introduce the best places to see lavender in Provence, focusing on three main areas: The Valensole Plateau, Sault Plateau, and the Luberon Valley.

Provence Lavender Fields Map

The below map illustrates where to see lavender fields in Provence. There are other areas, but these regions have the highest concentration of lavender farms in Provence, so you won’t waste your time traversing the landscape unnecessarily (unless you want to)!

where to find the best lavender fields of Provence, France


Valensole Lavender Fields in Provence

The Valensole Plateau is famous the world over for its lavender fields, but it’s also home to impressive historical sites, golden fields of wheat and sunflowers, charming Provençal villages, and deep turquoise lakes.

Perhaps the most famous village in the Valensole Plateau is deservedly that of Valensole. This colourful village sits elevated above the plateau, with the 11th century St Blaise church at its helm. Pastel coloured houses crowd the narrow streets and the hidden gardens beckon you to discover their secrets. Take pause here on your tour of the lavender fields of Valensole to take a stroll, sample lavender-laced delicacies, or sit in a curbside cafe for lunch.

At the other end of the Valensole Plateau lies Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon, a picturesque village hanging on the hillside overlooking the vast lac de Sainte-Croix.

Valensole lavender fields.

Valensole Plateau lavender fields, France

Lavender fields of Valensole, Provence, France Sunflower and lavender fields in Provence, France

Map of the Valensole Lavender Fields

There’s no doubt that the Valensole Plateau creates the most popular Provence lavender route. Some of the most amazing lavender farms can be found here among the fields of golden wheat and full-faced sunflowers. And it’s the birthplace of many an iconic photo of Provence lavender.

The landscape here is fairly flat but it has just the right amount of gently swelling soil to give the rigid rows of lavender some dimension, creating the swoon-worthy fields you’re no doubt longing for.

To make the most of this photographic region of Provence, you’ll need a car to get around. You can hire one here.

*To see each field number, click on the markers on the map above.

Field #1

This lavender field is bordered by sunflower fields, which just makes the experience even more magical. Park opposite the lavender field and take care crossing the road. Wander up the divide between sunflowers and lavender and you’ll find respite from the crowds, and another less frequented lavender field behind. This lavender field is a great place to photograph the contrasting colours of yellow and purple.

Field #2

A short stroll past the sunflower fields will have you arriving at Lavandes Angelvin – home to some of the more famous Provence lavender fields. With seemingly endless rows of purple perfection, only interrupted by a few well-placed trees, it’s a spot that well deserves its reputation.

Field #3 

This is one of my favourite Valensole lavender fields. With a gently swelling landscape (the hill becomes more pronounced on the eastern end), bright orange soil, and a rugged mountainous backdrop – its one not to miss!

Field #4

Between Riez and Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon, rows of lavender hide behind a canopy of trees. It’s a good place to escape the crowds and find solitude among the buds.

Field #5

Just before Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon, you’ll find another lavender farm framed by sunflowers. There are two main fields here. The first you’ll come to is situated right by the road, and a little further down you’ll find another set back off the road a little. It’s opposite a sign advertising lavender honey.

Field #6

On the way towards Puimisson, from Riez, you’ll find a remarkable lavender field (see the picture at the start of this post) with an amazing traditional stone house placed perfectly among the purple rows. For the best vantage point, drive up the small road to the left of the field.

Field #7

There are expansive lavender fields on the opposite side of the road to where I’ve placed this marker, however, what makes this lavender field special is a crumbling cottage set within the lavender.


Sault Lavender Fields in Provence

The fortified village of Sault sits on a ridge wedged between a thick wooded forest on one side and a rolling agricultural valley on the other. Well-preserved and brimming with history, it’s worth wandering through the medieval streets to sample the unique flair of this northern Provençal village.

Be sure to pop into the nougat factory for a taste, and pick up a walking tour map from the local tourist office, which will guide you around the old town.

Map of the Sault Lavender Fields

The road leading to Sault offers views over a plateau awash with lavender. It’s here that you realise the immense scale of lavender production in this region of Provence. More concentrated than in the Valensole Plateau, the lavender fields of Sault are best explored on a bike, or by foot.

There’s a 5km “lavender path” that will lead you through some of the finest fields. To walk it, park at the public car park just after the Vallon distillery on D164. If exploring by bike or by car, follow the suggested lavender route below.

*To see each field number, click on the markers on the map above.

Field #1

This lavender field situated opposite La Bastide des Bourguets is absolute perfection! Bordered by a mountainous ridge and fields of fluffy golden wheat, it’s a delight to wander through. There’s even a small stone hut near the centre to add a little more interest.

Field #2

A petite field, it’s no less impressive as it perfectly frames the hillside village of Aurel.

Field #3

On one side of this marker, you have a beautiful large field with a little hut at one end. And on the other, there’s another gently swelling field with two well-placed trees at its highest point.

Field #4

Rolling fields on either side of this road. Perfect purple fields, as far as you can see.

Field #5

To find these fields, park on the road and wander up behind the field of trees. Here you’ll find a patchwork of lavender fields, some with old cottages tucked between the rows.


Luberon Lavender Fields of Provence

The Luberon valley is my favourite area of Provence. A place where hilltop villages collide with dramatic scenery and history is ingrained in its soul. A place to go for a drive through whimsical roads, a walk through fragrant foliage, or to explore the cobbled lanes and advantageous views of its villages.

The Luberon is an artist’s earthy toned palate. It’s where fiery red canyons slice through a dark green forest. Where serrated hills meet preened vineyards. And golden stones create both ancient conical houses and modern-day mansions. In essence, it’s the perfect place to get acquainted with the ‘real’ Provence.

Lavender of Provence, France

Map of the Luberon Lavender Fields

Lavender fields in the Luberon Valley aren’t as highly concentrated as those in the Valensole or Sault plateaus. But this means finding them is as easy as going for a Sunday drive. Winding through country lanes, you’re sure to find a field or two between the vineyards and olive groves.

There are a few spots where you’re guaranteed to find Luberon lavender fields in bloom every year though, including some of the most iconic lavender fields in Provence!

*To see each field number, click on the markers on the map above.

#1 Sénanque Abbey

This monastery set into a wooded valley not far from Gordes is one of the best places to see Provence lavender. The unique backdrop of the stone abbey offsets the purple lavender beautifully. During the Sénanque Abbey lavender season, crowds descend on the Luberon to get a glimpse of this iconic scene. Combine it with a trip inside the Sénanque Abbey for a truly memorable trip.

#2 Between the villages of the Luberon

At the midway point between Gordes, Lacoste and Bonnieux, you’ll find a large cluster of lavender fields that are perfectly framed by the three villages. One in particular (where the marker is) is home to a beautiful large stone mas, which breaks up the purple perfectly.

#3 Rustrel

Between the pretty, petite village of Rustrel and the incredible landscapes of the Colorado Provençal, you’ll find lavender fields crisscrossing between the bucolic country lanes.

#4 Château du Bois

The Château du Bois lavender farm is located high in the Luberon, at 1100m above sea level, in a village called Lagarde-d’Apt. Growers of true lavender, it’s here you have a more delicate bud and a finer fragrance, than in the lower elevations of Provence. The Château du Bois lavender farm can only be visited by an organised private tour in early July – read more about the experience here.


Where to Stay to Explore the Lavender Fields in Provence France

In order to make the most of your time in Provence, I’d recommend staying central to explore the other delights of the region. Here are some suggestions, or you can read my full guide to the best places to stay in Provence.

The Luberon Valley is a great place to see the lavender of Provence, France

Aix-en-Provence is a fabulous city full of culture, festive ambience, and Provençal charm. It’s an excellent place to stay to take day trips around Provence, and it’s not too much of a drive to all three lavender regions detailed above. Alternatively, you can take a lavender tour from Aix-en-Provence.

Best places to stay in Aix-en-Provence

Avignon is a city brimming with history and old-world grandeur. Like Aix, there are many day trips from Avignon that will round up your perfect holiday in Provence.  Avignon is closer to the Sault and Luberon lavender fields, but it’s still possible to drive or take a tour to the Valensole lavender fields.

Best places to stay in Avignon

If you want to be knee deep in French village living, head for the Luberon Valley. Take your pick of charming hilltop villages to stay in and enjoy driving the country lanes lined with lavender fields.

Best places to stay in the Luberon

Provence Lavender Tours

If you don’t have a car to explore the lavender farms of Provence on your own, it’s entirely possible to visit some of the finest fields with a half or full day lavender tour. See some options below, or click on the links to find the perfect lavender tour to suit you!



Visiting the Provence lavender fields is an incredible event that will leave you spellbound. Whichever of these lavender routes in Provence you decide to take, or indeed if you experience them all, you are sure to have an unforgettable time in Provence.

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Looking for the best lavender fields in Provence, France? This comprehensive guide to the Provence lavender fields details where to find the best lavender fields, where to stay, and the best lavender routes in Provence!

If you're heading to Provence to experience the incredible lavender fields, read this first! This detailed guide gives you the low down on where to go to see the best lavender fields in Provence, France

Inside Guide to the Best Puglia Beaches and Swimming Holes

Best Puglia Beaches, Italy.

Visitors to Puglia will be amazed by the unspoilt nature of Italy’s heel. Gnarled, centuries-old olive trees give way to whitewashed villages that wouldn’t look out of place on a Greek Island. Down dusty rural roads, you’ll find the unique Puglian architecture is a curious mix between tipi-topped Trulli and the rectangular robustness of the traditional Masseria. And the fresh flavours of the local food and produce will leave sweet memories on your tongue long after you’ve departed.

But perhaps the best-kept secret is Puglia’s beaches. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that the beaches in Puglia are among the best in Italy. With the longest coastline in the country, bordered by the Adriatic Sea on one side and the Ionian Sea on the other, the swimming holes and beaches of Puglia are undoubtedly remarkable, yet they remain too-often ignored by foreign visitors.

Here is why I think you’d be remiss to skip this incredible region, and where you should go to find the best beaches in Puglia Italy!

Best Beaches in Puglia Map

Where to Stay to Enjoy Puglia’s Best Beaches

Apart from its sublime shoreline, Salento is brimming with amazing villages and towns to discover on your holiday in Puglia. In order to discover the best of the region, it’s wise to stay central and take day trips to the Puglia attractions that most appeal to you. You’ll find that if you stay at any of the suggested Salento hotels and B&B’s below, you’ll be no more than an hour from Puglia’s best beaches and swimming holes.

Top Choice:

The Aia – This is where I stayed on my most recent visit to Puglia – you can read the full review here.

The Aia is a charming retreat venue and B&B tucked away at arm’s length from Nardò, with a relaxed vibe and plenty of events and activities to keep you busy. It’s the perfect place to explore both the Puglia coast and the villages and towns of Salento. Check prices and book here.

At the Aia - retreat venue in Puglia, Italy

Other great places to stay in Puglia:

  • Palazzo Sant’Anna Lecce – An amazing, character-filled hotel in the heart of Lecce. If you want the best of both worlds – city living by night and beachcombing by day – then this affordable-luxury hotel has you covered. Check prices and book here.
  • Masseria San Cosimo – For a budget-friendly stay in a traditional Masseria, this Puglia accommodation is ideally located to explore the best of Puglia. It’s roughly equal distance from the charming Puglian towns of Otranto, Lecce and Nardò. Check prices and book here.
  • Montirò Hotel – In the deep south of Puglia you’ll find this charming hotel built in a traditional style, but with all the modern luxury amenities you could ask for. The ideal place to explore the best beaches in southern Puglia. Check prices and book here.
  • Antica Masseria Del Fano – If you want to stay in style near the Puglia coast, then this character-filled property could be just what you’re after. Situated close to the Maldives of Salento, you’ll be in a great position to explore the best beaches of Puglia. Check prices and book here.

How to visit the beaches of Puglia, Italy

In order to see the best of Puglia, I’d highly recommend hiring a car! Public transport will allow you to visit Puglia’s towns and cities, but to find the best secret beaches in Puglia you’re going to need your own wheels. Both times I’ve visited Puglia, I’ve rented a car from Avis at Brindisi airport. Their service is outstanding and the vehicles have been modern, clean and a joy to drive. Book your rental car here.

Best beaches of Puglia Italy

When to visit Puglia Italy

Obviously, the warmer months are ideal for enjoying Puglia’s best beaches, but you’ll enjoy the experience more if you plan to visit Puglia outside of the peak summer season. That’s not to say you shouldn’t plan a vacation in Puglia in July or August, but be prepared for busier beaches, higher prices, and fewer chances of finding a secluded swimming nook just to yourself.

The ideal time to enjoy the beaches of Puglia is in the shoulder season of May/June or September/October. It’s in these quieter months that you’ll experience Puglia at it’s finest. My most recent visit was in early June when the weather was just perfect for both sightseeing and swimming!

Top 10 Puglia Beaches and Swimming Holes

Let’s get acquainted with Puglia’s best beaches and swimming holes, listed below in no particular order…

#1 Lama Monachile, Polignano a Mare

A river used to flow through the picturesque town of Polignano a Mare, but the only remnants today are a stately roman bridge and the dry dusty path that leads to Lama Monachile. A deep and narrow beach, what Lama Monachile lacks in size, it makes up for in setting. On either side, sea-battered rock creates the foundation for the old town. Tall buildings sit so near to the edge you’d be forgiven for thinking twice before laying your blanket too close to the old walls.
Polignano a Mare is one of the best beaches in Puglia, ItalyThe white sand beach is a popular spot in summer, not only because of its remarkable surroundings but also because it sets the stage for the annual cliff diving world championship (see a sample of the action below).

It’s one of the best places in Puglia for swimming and snorkelling, as the water is calm, clear, and there are plenty of caves and tunnels to explore around the bay.

#2 Maldives of Salento

When a stretch of coastline is nicknamed the “Maldives of Salento” it has a lot to live up to. I haven’t been to the Maldives, so I can’t remark on its similarity, but I can tell you that it’s a divine stretch of shoreline. This area, close to the southern tip of Italy and hugging the Ionian Sea, is home to some of the best sandy beaches in Puglia. The sea is tiffany-blue and the fine sand melts under your feet like butter.

best beaches in salento puglia

It’s one of the few popular stretches of coastline that still has free space to stretch out and pitch your own umbrella. There are also plenty of private areas where you have to pay to play, but they come with their own benefits such as a bar service and a little more security for your stuff while you’re swimming.

The Maldives of Salento stretch from Torre Pali in the north, through Pescoluse (the heart) and ending in Torre Vado. I took the below photos in June and the beach was mildly busy at best, but I’m sure come the peak holiday season it’ll be thronging with visitors. So be sure to get there early to nab the best spot.

The Maldives of Salento is one of the best Puglia Beaches.

#3 Grotta della Poesia, Roca

The Cave of Poetry is a natural sinkhole not far from the beachside town of Roca. Swimming in this sheltered natural pool is an incredible experience that needs to be on your Puglia itinerary. The deep pearl-shaped cave is separated from the sea by a thick sheath of rock that doubles up as an excellent viewing and sunbathing platform between swims.

Best Puglia Beaches, Italy.

Jump 15 feet into the crystal clear water below, or take the stairs etched into the wall of the Grotta if you’re not so daring. Keen explorers can swim out to the sea from the cave and investigate the surrounding weathered coastline with its pockmarked sea walls.

Get there early to enjoy the cave before the crowds of locals descend for the day, and be sure to walk around the coast to discover the ancient cave network nearby.

rotta della Poesia, Roca is one of the best swimming holes in Italy

#4 Beach of Purity, Gallipoli

Gallipoli’s most central beach, the Beach of Purity, is one of the most charming Puglia beaches to discover. True to name, its golden-tinged sand and gently lapping sea is some of the cleanest and purest in Salento. Surrounded by ancient city walls and overlooking Sant’Andrea Island with its iconic lighthouse, this beach in Gallipoli is one to remember.

Beach of Purity in Gallipoli is one of the best beaches in Salento, Italy.

Located on the western shores of the island, next to the port, it’s a beach to enjoy in between browsing the charming streets of the old town. Wander through the historical centre, sample the lively atmosphere and grab a mouthwateringly tasty gelato before hitting the beach for a siesta in the sun.

For a Puglian experience like no other, head to the beach itself, or one of the many beach bars overlooking this Gallipoli beach at sunset to see the sky light up in a magnificent array of fiery tones.

Purity beach in Gallipoli is one of the best beaches in Puglia, Italy

#5 Santa Maria al Bagno

The beach at Santa Maria al Bagno is a sheltered and scenic respite from some of the more popular stretches of Ionian coastline. This clean cove of fine white sand is surrounded by sea walls, creating a secluded enclave perfect for swimming and snorkelling.

Best beaches in Puglia, Italy

Although there isn’t a huge amount of space on the beach, locals make use of the opposite rocky ledge to launch themselves into the turquoise water below. The water is so clear and calm here that it’s like swimming in a luxurious infinity pool.

After spending the morning splashing around in the sea, simply walk across the road to enjoy lunch with a view before resuming your beachside sojourn.

Santa Maria al Bagno is one of Puglia's best beaches.

#6 Mora Mora Beach

A stone’s throw from Salento’s capital Lecce, on the Adriatic coast between Torre Specchia Ruggeri and Roca, you’ll find the tranquil oasis that is Mora Mora beach. The pearl-white sand is bordered by dense shrub on one side and the gently swelling sea on the other. It’s this semi-rural appearance that cements its reputation as one of the nicest beaches in Puglia.

Mora Mora is one of the best beaches on the Adriatic coast Italy

At the car park end of the beach, you’ll find Mora Mora Bistro’ del Mare – an upmarket beachfront bar and restaurant serving up gourmet treats and hand-mixed drinks with a view. If you’re after something a little more laid back, set yourself up in one of the sun loungers on the beach and order a beverage from the conveniently located kiosk.

If paying to lounge on the beach isn’t your style, wander on past the rows of loungers and you’ll soon find yourself a free spot to soak up some rays. Likewise, on the other side of the car park, you can find a few secluded nooks and sheltered swimming spots away from the crowds.

Best secret beaches in Puglia Italy

#7 Salsedine Beach, Santa Maria Al Bagno

Salsedine Beach is a man-made beach/swimming hole positioned just around the corner from Santa Maria al Bagno (whose swoon-worthy sandy cove is also featured on this list) and within gawking distance of the photogenic Four Columns.

Salsedine is one of the best places to swim in Puglia.

Although not a beach in the traditional sense of the word, it’s the perfect place to swim in a natural inlet – in true Salento style – minus the typically required cliff jumping! The folks at Salsedine beach have created a fun and hip space where you can spend the afternoon sipping on cocktails or taking a dip in the spa in between immersing yourself in the cool, inviting water of the Ionian Sea.

Relax to a subtle soundtrack of chillout lounge vibes as you work on your tan and enjoy the view.

Best Puglia Beaches, Italy.

#8 Costa Merlata Beach

A twenty-minute drive from the white city, Ostuni, through an endless meadow of olive groves, is where you’ll find the beaches of Costa Merlata. The serrated coastline shelters a series of secret coves and idyllic swimming nooks between its rocky ridges.

Costa Merlata Beach in Puglia italy

Park anywhere near Santa Lucia, or indeed further north or south of the petite settlement and walk the coastal path until you find a beach or basin of crystal clear water that you just can’t resist. Then take the plunge and enjoy the tranquillity of Puglia by the sea.

The entire coastline here can be traversed, leaving you to explore at will. Walk through the low shrub, over wooden walkways and around jagged cliffs, stopping to admire the scenery, for a drink at a beachside bar, or to inspect the fallen 16th tower at Torre Pozzelle.

Puglia's secret beaches.

#9 Torre Dell’Orso Beach

Halfway between Lecce and Otranto is where you’ll find the forest-fringed beach of Torre Dell’Orso. While there’s no denying this beach is one of Puglia’s worst kept secrets, you are still able to find calm among the canopies. The southern end of the beach is quieter than the northern end – where the beach meets the resort-town. And if you wander around the bend, you’ll find a secluded nook tucked away between rocky walls.

best beaches in italy adriatic coast

Approach the beach from the informal car park marked on the map below and after a short walk through a shaded natural park, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view of The Two Sisters. These twin rocks just off the coast can be easily accessed if you’re a good swimmer (alternatively hire a kayak and paddle out) and make a popular spot for cliff diving.

Where to park at Torre Dell'Orso Beach

If you’ve got the time and energy to spare, walk south along the coastal trail to find the spectacular Torre Sant’Andrea. Natural limestone sea stacks rise from the sea to create a fabulous backdrop for an afternoon frolick. Access to the sea is from the tiny, but perfectly formed Torre Sant’Andrea Beach, but the locals prefer to dive off the cliffs to explore the sea caves and islands below.

Best Puglia Beaches, Italy.

#10 Torre di Roca Vecchia, Roca

A short stroll away from the more famous Grotta de Poesia, the Torre di Roca Vecchia is a quiet treasure trove of caves, coves and craggy limestone islands. Between the shore and the street lies an archaeological site that has been carefully excavated to reveal Bronze Age architecture and Mycenaean pottery over a period of almost 30 years.

Best Puglia Beaches and swimming holes.

Beyond the fenced-off site, plenty of ancient caves and dwellings remain to be explored. Walk down the stone stairs then swim through a narrow channel to explore a long-deserted island with its old watchtower – the Tower of Maradico. Climb down to hidden beaches between battered bluffs, or walk around the coast to find the perfect cliff diving launch pad.

Torre di Roca Vecchia is the perfect spot to escape the crowds while still revelling in the scenery and spirit that is ever-present on the Salento coast.

Best Puglia Beaches and swimming holes.



Final thoughts on Puglia beach holidays

After exploring Puglia’s beaches and swimming holes, I’ve been absolutely blown away by the raw beauty and untarnished nature of this exquisite part of Italy. Do yourself a favour and visit the best beaches in Puglia on your next Italian vacation!

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Puglia's beaches are among the best in Italy. Find out where to find the best beaches in Puglia, Italy, here!

Puglia is home to the longest coastline in Italy. It's no surprise then, that it's also home to some amazing beaches and swimming holes! Find the best beaches in Puglia, here.

Four Fun Ideas for Family Easter Breaks in France

Short Breaks to France - Avoriaz - LLW

Guest Post by Nick Vowles

 

France is an excellent choice for family holidays, and families thinking about taking short breaks to France soon find that they are faced with an over-abundance of options. Because of the diversity on offer, more often than not, your choices for a family holiday in France are influenced by the seasons.

Easter is a great time to explore what France has to offer, so if you are planning to spend Easter in France, it’s important to make sure that you choose a destination that truly shines in the springtime. Here are 4 ideas for an easter family holiday in France.


The City Break — Paris

The city break — Paris

Although it may indeed be a cliché to say that Paris is magical in springtime, it would also have been a mistake to leave such an amazing city off of this list. With its vivid scents and seductive colours, Paris makes for an enchanting Easter destination. Spring is the time before the crowds arrive in earnest, when the sidewalk cafes begin to fill, and when the city’s green spaces feel at their freshest, most buoyant and most alive. The weather is also ideal at this time of year — warm enough for picnicking or eating al fresco but not so warm as to preclude spending hours strolling by the Seine. In terms of parks and gardens, springtime highlights are too many to mention, but it is well worth taking the time to see the Jardin des Plantes, the Parc Monceau and, of course, the Jardin du Luxembourg.

As for Easter itself, this is a festival that the city warmly embraces. Cathedrals such as Notre-Dame and Sacré-Cœur hold impressive services, while patisserie windows are filled with imaginative creations that are sure to tempt passers-by. In terms of family activities, various Easter egg hunts are organised within the city’s many parks. In short, Paris in the springtime is a gift that your whole family will remember for years to come.

The Scenic Break — Pont Royal, Provence

Easter in France - Pont Royal - LLW

With its orchard blossoms and pleasant (albeit sometimes windy) spring climate, Provence is a wonderful destination for an Easter break. In the heart of the region, perched above the Durance valley, is the peaceful resort village of Pont Royal. Surrounded by forests and filled with lavender-scented breezes, Pont Royal has all the charms of a Provençal village combined with the comforts of a holiday resort. Highlights include a renowned eighteen-hole golf course and exceptional views of the Luberon mountains.

There are lots of fun activities for children to enjoy, including the Vallée des Loisirs water park, which has a wave pool, wild water rapids and slides. And the market in the village square is a great spot for shopping for Provençal crafts and specialities.

The Coastal Break — Antibes, Côte d’Azur

Short Breaks to France - Antibes - LLW

Visiting the Côte d’Azur in the spring is a very special experience. Unlike summer, with its intense heat and thronging crowds, in the springtime, you will find an atmosphere of breezy Mediterranean tranquillity instead. The weather is warm and pleasant yet the beaches are much quieter, allowing families a chance to truly unwind.

Sandwiched between Cannes and Nice, the ancient walled port town of Antibes is known as being one of the loveliest on the French Riviera. With a history stretching all the way back to Ancient Greece, this is a fascinating spot for a family break. Features include golden sandy beaches, an old town area with a covered market and the largest marina in Europe. The town also boasts a number of museums, with one highlight being the 16th-century Château Grimald, which features works by Picasso (who briefly lived in Antibes). Additionally, there are plenty of cafes, restaurants and ice cream shops to be discovered while exploring the old town’s winding streets.

The Ski Break — Avoriaz, French Alps

The ski break — Avoriaz, French Alps

With guaranteed snow coverage until April, the ski resort village of Avoriaz is ideal for an Easter adventure on the slopes. Situated in the heart of the Portes du Soleil, the village has as its backdrop a sheer rock face that is impressively floodlit at night. Avoriaz also offers some of the most stunning vistas in the Alps, including Dents Blanches and Dents du Midi.

The resort is an enclave of wooden-clad, sloped roof buildings with horse-drawn sleighs as the very charming local mode of transport. As there are ski slopes to suit every age and ability, this is a great family choice. Moreover, as Avoriaz is entirely pedestrianised, it is safe for children to walk around. The nearby hamlets of Les Prodains and Ardent add some more rustic charm to the area.


If you are planning to spend Easter in France with your family, then hopefully this article has provided you with some inspiration for possible destinations. Whether you choose a mountain, coastal or city escape, you will find that France is filled with plenty of springtime enchantments.

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Looking for the perfect place for a family holiday in France? If you're headed to France at Easter, I've got you covered with four fun ideas for a family break in France! #france #family #vacation

Luxury and Lavender: An Exclusive Tour to Le Château du Bois in Provence, France

Fine Lavender Tour Provence. Chateau du Bois Lavender Farm.

Imagine walking through a manicured estate growing Europe’s finest lavender. Fields of purple flowers spread out into the horizon, like ripples on a sunset-bathed ocean. As you lazily brush your hands through the knee-high stems, their delicate scent fills the air around you, while the buzz of contented bees becomes your beatific soundtrack.

Welcome to Le Château du Bois, producers of true lavender in Provence, France. 

Last week I was invited to experience an exclusive new tour to the lavender fields of Château du Bois. Our day involved getting acquainted with the region’s finest lavender, a sumptuous lunch, and touring some of Provence’s most exquisite sights. Read on to find out what makes this luxury lavender tour in Provence so special, and how you can experience it for yourself.

Chateau du Bois fine lavender estate in Provence, France

Le Château du Bois Lavender Farm

If you’ve ever purchased any of Le Château du Bois’ lavender products, you’ll know there is a quality to them that supersedes the competition. But what you may not realise, is that behind that coveted scent is a family that dedicates their lives to the creation, and protection, of fine lavender in Provence. The Lincelé family have been growing Lavandula Angustifolia (formerly known as Lavandula Officinalis) at Le Château du Bois since 1890, and have turned their love of lavender into a burgeoning family business.

Jack Lincele of Chateau du Bois explains the intricacies of fine Provencal Lavender.

Jack Lincelé of Château du Bois

Learning about lavender at Chateau du Bois

What makes the fine lavender grown at Château du Bois special

To find true lavender, you must venture up past the Luberon to the highest landscapes of Haute-Provence. It’s only here, set above 800m, in the finest lavender fields of Provence, France, that true lavender can grow. The lavender that can cure a multitude of ailments; the lavender with a distinctively sweet, delicate smell; the lavender that is AOP certified to guarantee its quality.

While it’s true that you can visit many other lavender fields in Provence, what you should know is that they are in fact fields of, lavandin, or hybrid lavender. They too produce a fragrant scent which is much stronger than that of fine lavender, but it comes without some of the medicinal properties that gave lavender its nickname of ‘blue gold’ in ancient times.

Fine lavender of Provence

Highlights of the Château du Bois lavender tour at a glance

  • Intimate environment – 15 ppl maximum on the Provence lavender tour
  • Exclusive access to the Château du Bois lavender farm 
  • An amazing lunch overlooking the lavender fields
  • Informative, passionate and educated guides
  • Luxury open-top bus
  • Discover the true lavender of Provence, France
  • Experience one of the most exclusive Lavender tours of Provence, France

>> SKIP AHEAD AND BOOK YOUR LAVENDER TOUR HERE

Exclusive Tour of the Château du Bois – Lavender Fields of Provence

Our tour of the Château du Bois lavender estate starts at the Musée de la Lavande in Coustellet. The lavender museum is also owned and run by the Lincelé family – as an outlet to showcase their love, and knowledge of true lavender – but today we’re leaving the treasures inside to be discovered at the end of the tour.

Instead, we climb aboard a luxury open-top minibus that will be our chariot for the day. We zip through the Luberon with the sun shining on our faces as we gaze up at Gordes, and catch a glance of the distinctively warm tones of Roussillon in the distance.

We climb higher, through landscapes peppered with lavender fields and golden stone houses, and finally weave our way up a steep winding road overlooking the Colorado Provençal until we reach Lagarde-d’Apt – home of le Château du Bois.

Provence Lavender Tour, France

Lavender tour in Provence, France

Lavender Tour at Le Château du Bois

A welcome breeze gently brushes our shoulders as we step off the bus and into the sublime scene before us. Our first stop is near the ancient windmill where Jack and Max Lincelé, our guides for the morning, takes us to an excellent vantage point for seeing the entire estate with its patchwork of purple lavender fields and tall cedar forests.

As the morning unfolds, we have ample time to explore, enjoy, take photographs and get acquainted with the lavender fields of Provence at Château du Bois. Max leads us through both the oldest and youngest lavender fields on the farm and explains the intricacies of growing lavender in this environment. It’s clear that here, the Lincelé family are the guardians of the land, but mother nature is very much left to do what she does best.

Lavender fields of Chateau du Bois.

Fine lavender tour in Provence, France

Lavender Distillery Provence

Once we’re ready, we head back towards the château where we learn about the lavender oil extraction process. Like everything on this farm, it’s a full family affair that must take place at precisely the right time to make the most of the year’s crop. It’s a relatively simple process, and it’s astounding to see that by and large, the lavender is still distilled much as it has been for decades before.

Lavender oil extraction at Chateau du Bois in Provence, France

Luxury lunch at the château

We’re welcomed into the château like friends and toast to a wonderful morning with a glass of champagne laced with lavender syrup.

The doors of the renovated château are open wide to make the most of the incredible views – not only of the farm – but beyond, where the alps can be seen jutting into the skyline in the distance. Lunch is light and delicious. Local specialities in fine flavours, paired with silken wines. Afterwards, there is cheese, fruit, and finally coffee to perk us up for the second half of this incredible full day tour of Provence.

Chateau du Bois luxury lavender tour

Lunch at Chateau du Bois. Luxury Lavender Tour in Provence, France

Chateau du Bois in Provence, France

Lunch at Chateau du Bois, Provence, France

Visiting the Abbaye de Sénanque

Boarding our bus again, we whip through the countryside, this time pausing for the iconic view of Gordes as it spills down into the landscape. We then carry on around the bend to the breathtaking Sénanque Abbey.

Our guide explains the significance of the Cistercian abbey as we marvel at its beauty. Both the surroundings and the structure itself will leave you spellbound, while the abbey’s curated lavender fields create a contrast against the green pine backdrop.

Visiting the Abbaye de Sénanque on a luxury lavender tour in Provence.

Guided Tour of Gordes

Aside from lavender fields, there’s no image more synonymous with Provence than that of the hillside village of Gordes. It’s fitting then, that Gordes is our next stop on the lavender tour. This time we park in the centre of the village and walk down through the stunning cobbled lanes of the village. We pause to peek inside the church which, although the roof is currently being restored, is still lovely to see in all its Italian-influenced glory.

We continue through the village, and even though I visited Gordes plenty of times in the past, I’m surprised there’s still a lot about this historical village that I didn’t know. But I’ll let you discover those tidbits for yourself!

Visiting the village of Gordes on a luxury lavender tour in Provence, France

Visiting Gordes on a lavender tour of Provence.

Guided tour of the Musée de la Lavande

The last stop on our Provence lavender tour is the Musée de la Lavande. This intriguing lavender museum tells of the importance blue gold has had in Provence throughout the years. It houses a variety of traditional stills and other lavender distilling paraphernalia that will capture your attention as you listen to the informative audio guide.

At the end of the petite museum, you’ll find the Château du Bois boutique where you can sample and purchase a wide variety of lavender laced treats to take back home.

Musee de la Lavande in Provence, France

Things to take with you on your lavender farm tour in Provence

  • Light, breathable clothing to keep cool.
  • Sunhat and sunglasses.
  • Sunscreen – it’s a long day in the sun, so stay protected!
  • Water bottle – you can refill it at the château during lunch.
  • A good camera to capture the gorgeous lavender scenes.


Final thoughts on the Château du Bois Luxury Lavender Tour in Provence

Fine lavender tour in Provence, France

If you’re after a truly unique experience in Provence, the Château du Bois Lavender tour will be just the ticket. Discover the true lavender of Provence in complete tranquillity, high above the villages of the Luberon, in an exclusive setting. Let the scents and sounds of this exquisite property serenade you as you learn about its incredible importance, not only to the Lincelé family but also to the preservation of fine Provencal lavender.

To book your own Luxury Lavender Tour in Provence, or to find out more details, see the Luberon Coeur de Provence website here.

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Looking for the best lavender tour of Provence? Look no further than this luxury lavender tour to Chateau du Bois in Provence, France. If you want to experience a lavender tour of Provence like no other, then this luxury lavender tour to Chateau du Bois is for you! Read what makes this exclusive day tour in Provence, France so magical.

Disclaimer: I was hosted on this luxury lavender tour in Provence. However, as always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Experiencing the Best of Salento At The Aia

best place to stay in Puglia - review of At The Aia B&B

A directionless wind whipped around the olive grove sending leaves fluttering and causing sunlight to dance on the red earth. “It’s the Libeccio. The crazy wind” says Giulia in her Italian-American drawl. Puglians, it seems, are well acquainted with the winds. There’s one for every day of the week, although you could experience more than one a day in this island-like strip of land between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas.

It was my first morning in Salento, and after a delicious sleep-in, I wandered outside to eat breakfast on the terrace of The Aia. Giulia joined me as I feasted on freshly baked bread dripping with olive oil and sun-ripened tomatoes. And as we shared a pot of strong, dark coffee we chatted about the weather and her plans to help me experience Salento throughout the week.

Experience Salento Retreat at the Aia

At The Aia – B&B and Retreat Venue in Puglia

Tucked away at arm’s length from nearby Nardò, and alluringly close to the sea, The Aia presents a sanctuary in which to unwind. Its strong angular construction is at odds with the soft agrarian backdrop in which it stands. And yet, in hues of pink, cream, and forest green, The Aia takes on the traditional charm of a Masseria.

As Giulia shows me around the garden, she points out the source of the farm-to-table meals she creates for her guests. Tomatoes grow in the rich soil, capers flourish by the yoga shala, and last season’s apricots lay perishing beneath empty branches.

Every tree here has a purpose it seems, whether its simply to provide an anchor for a swing, shelter for a hammock, or to bear the fruit that’s pressed into The Aia’s very own velvety olive oil.

The olive trees give way to a luxurious pool, and a wide path etched out of the local Lecce stone leads you back to the house.

At the Aia - retreat venue in Puglia, Italy

B&B accommodation in Puglia, Italy

Inside is a cool retreat from the scorching Salento sun. White walls meet ashen tiles, and high ceilings create a feeling of space. Simple wooden furniture is painted vibrant green adding a pop of colour to every one of the 7 rooms. But it’s the personal touches that make The Aia present as more than an accommodation space. A well-read novel waiting to be read, family photographs adorning the vintage furniture, paintings picked up from Giulia’s life and travels – she can tell you a tale about each and every one.

Indeed, it’s Giulia that makes The Aia the inviting haven it has become, so let me introduce you to the owner of The Aia.

Review of The Aia - Accommodation in Puglia, Italy

Meet Your Hosts

A New York native, Salento is about as far away from Giulia’s childhood stomping ground as you could imagine. And yet it’s a place that has always had a firm grip on her heart. As she shows us around this bucolic corner of the country, it becomes obvious that summers spent here with her Italian family have played a big part in her life, and ultimately helped to lead her back to Puglia indefinitely.

Since moving to Italy with her young daughter, Franci (now 4), Giulia has fully embraced the Apulian way of life. In opening The Aia, she has created a welcoming space where visitors to Salento can learn about what makes this region so special; and locals can come together to enjoy a long lunch, practice yoga, or watch a movie together under the stars.

Giulia and Franci - At the Aia

Giulia lives nearby in a property that has been owned by members of her extended family for years. And yet, her personality is evident everywhere around The Aia. She has managed to create the cosy, relaxed atmosphere you’d expect to find in a family-run B&B.

Experiencing The Aia

You have two options when it comes to discovering The Aia and the delights of the Salento region. You can simply book into the B&B as a guest for as many nights as you please, and explore on your own time. Or you can join in one of the ‘Experience Salento’ week-long retreats.

Puglia Accommodation Review - At The Aia

The Bed & Breakfast

Over the summer months, guests can appreciate The Aia at their own pace. Book one of the double or triple rooms and use it as an ideal base to explore Italy’s heel. Giulia will treat you to a fresh, farm-to-table breakfast every morning which will fuel you for the day’s activities.

B&B guests are invited to take part in The Aia’s regular events, including Yoga Wednesdays and Movie Night Thursdays. And other activities such as wine tastings, cooking lessons, or a delicious 4-course homecooked meal are available to be booked separately.

There’s ample space inside and out for every guest to enjoy The Aia in their own way. Whether it’s reading a book by the pool, taking a siesta in a hammock, chatting over coffee, or enjoying a walk through the olive grove.

Rooms in the B&B start at €100 – Click here for details.

Experience Salento Retreat

These typically week-long retreats are held in the shoulder season months from March – June and September – October, and are the ideal way to experience the best of what the region has to offer while taking care of your mind, body and soul. Arranged around a relaxed schedule, you’ll sample the local culture, food and nature through a series of excursions and in-house activities. Benefit from Giulia’s extensive knowledge of the region as she introduces you to the land she loves. And meet Kamal, The Aia’s own in-house yogi, as she guides you to a calmer, more relaxed state through yoga.

Prices currently start at €590 for the retreat week – Click here for details!

At the Aia - retreat in Puglia, Italy

Experience Salento Retreat at The Aia, Puglia, Italy

Experience Salento Activities include:

  • Yoga Classes

Allow Kamal to guide you through a series of hatha yoga poses as she expertly assists you in accomplishing greater flexibility, relaxation and breathing capacity. Kamal hails from England and has Indian roots. She can take classes in either English or Italian (or both).

  • Hiking

Giulia has accumulated a lifetime’s knowledge of the walking trails around Salento. Her and Kamal will guide you through some of the region’s finest scenery on hikes of varying lengths.

  • Cooking Class

There’s nothing quite like fresh pasta made with love in the traditional way. Learn the tricks of the trade as you take part in an interactive cooking class with a local cook. Try your hand at different dishes typical to this part of Puglia, and then enjoy the fruits of your labour afterwards.

  • Wine Tastings

Sample the wines of the region with a fun and informal wine tasting session. It’s the best way to experience a real Italian aperitivo!

  • Cultural Outings

Salento’s capital, Lecce, is a stunning baroque city that deserves to be explored. Giulia’s home when she first moved back to Italy, and where Kamal lives and works, both women have strong ties to this city and are happy to share their knowledge of it with you.

Nardò is another notable town nearby with impressive architecture, a gorgeous town square and the most amazing gelato!

If you’re interested in the arts, a visit to a traditional sculptor’s workshop can be arranged. Watch how a local artist carves the soft Lecce stone into practical works of art.

  • Sunset Cruise

For another perspective of Salento, take to the sea! Join Giulia and Kamal on a sunset cruise from Santa Caterina and relax on board as you’re guided around the rugged coastline. Sip on a glass of champagne and nibble on olive laden bread while cruising in the calm waters.

  • Massage (extra charge)

For the ultimate in relaxation and restoration, book in for a healing massage at the hands of a trained massage therapist.

Things to do in Salento, Italy

B&B accommodation in Nardo, Puglia, Italy

Things to do Nearby The Aia

The Aia is ideally located close to many activities within Salento. Choose to soak up the culture of the cities and towns, wander through the charming villages, swim in the sea at any of the incredible beaches nearby, dine on Puglia’s own tantalising take on Italian cuisine, dive into the region’s most famous swimming hole, or simply relax into the Puglian way of life.

Spending time with family and friends is essential in this part of the world, and it’s the perfect place to appreciate time with yours!


Whether you’re after a relaxing and restorative retreat, or simply a quiet base from which to explore Salento, there’s no doubt that The Aia is the ideal place to stay in Puglia.

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If you're looking for the perfect place to stay in Puglia, Italy, look no further. At The Aia is an affordable B&B and retreat centre in the heart of Salento. Read our review of this accommodation in Puglia here. #italy #puglia #salento #retreat #yoga

Disclaimer: I was a guest of The Aia during my 1-week stay in Salento. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

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