This Italian Region Has Whitewashed Homes Just Like Santorini Without The Crowds And Cost

The Greek island of Santorini is a beautiful place. There are pretty, whitewashed houses and architectural wonders to experience. If you've decided to visit, you're not alone, as more than 2 million tourists visit Santorini every year. That stands in contrast to the mere 15,000 local residents. It's also very expensive to pay this overly popular place a visit. That's why people are always looking for an alternative to overcrowded Santorini on other Greek islands. And we already know that Italy boasts some amazing, lesser-known islands, but there's also a destination as beautiful as and similar to Santorini that gives visitors a huge area to explore instead. 


Meet Puglia (aka Apulia), which is a region along the heel of the "boot" of Italy. You'll find fewer crowds in this lesser-known area and, similar to the stunning Italian island of Ponza, there are gorgeous towns, architectural wonders, and perfect beaches.

Visit Polignano a Mare for one of the top beaches in Europe. Check out Lecce to see an ancient Roman amphitheater right in the center of town and the Baroque masterpiece, Santa Croce Basilica. You can't miss the magical-looking "trulli" or stone houses of Alberobello, which are protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There's so much to do and see that you'll be saying, "Santorini? Where's that?" Here's what you need to know about this lovely region with fewer tourists and more to do than Santorini. 


Puglia offers beaches, cliffs, and a restaurant in a cave

If beaches are your jam, pay a visit to Polignano a Mare near the top of the boot heel. You can see above how clear and bright the water is at the famous Lama Monachile Beach. This free-to-visit pebble beach has a lovely Roman-era bridge behind it, and gorgeous cliffs surrounding it. You'll also find poems written all about the town on the walls and stone steps by Guido, il Flaneur, a wandering poet. There are dramatic cliff-diving competitions in September, and the famous Grotta Palazzese. This is the meal to save your money for as it's the one expensive thing you shouldn't miss. This hotel and restaurant actually sit inside a cave and have hosted parties since around 1700. Just go for appetizers if you want to keep it less pricey as the rooms can be up to $2,000 euros a night. 


Another place for gorgeous beaches is Punta della Suina in Salento. This beautiful sandy beach with coves, snack cafes, sunbeds, and umbrellas was named one of the 40 most beautiful beaches in Europe by The Guardian. It's in walking distance of a number of other public beaches as well. It's close to the city of Gallipoli and nearby Sant'Andrea Island with its lovely lighthouse. 

Baroque architecture and ancient wonders

It's not just Puglia's beaches that are a match for Santorini. There is old architecture to visit here as well. If you pay a visit to Lecce, you can see a Roman amphitheater (pictured above) from around 1 B.C. that once held 25,000 spectators. You can't miss it, set right in the middle of the town in the Piazza Sant'Oronzo. Lecce, often called the "Florence of the South," is also known for its version of the elaborate Baroque style of architecture built from the local cream-colored Lecce limestone. Visit the astonishing Santa Croce Basilica with carvings so intricate they almost look like lace from afar. Set on the site of an old monastery, it took over a century to finish and was finally completed in 1699. The rose window is a marvel, and there are no less than 17 decorated altars inside. 


If you're intrigued by the fantastical stone cottages in the first picture, you can see them in the town of Alberobello. They're called "trulli," and they're round stone dwellings with roofs in conical shapes (you'll also see pyramidal and domed roofs) made of limestone. Even more fascinating is that they're made with no mortar at all in an ancient building technique. Their thick walls make them cool inside despite the fact that air conditioning is banned in them. You can stay in one for around only $150-200 a night. During the day, wander the lovely shops and cafes in the area.