There are countless beaches around the extensive coastline of Puglia, with many private lidos and clubs which charge for entry but also provide good quality services - however, there are also many free to use beaches - many of which also benefit from shops, cafes and restaurants.
We have summarised many of these free to use locations below, focusing around the Ostuni coastline but also further afield.
As you can probably imagine, these investigations have been painstakingly hard work, and a task the children in particular have hated having to do!!
Torre Santa Sabina
Located just off the main highway and on the coast nearest to the town of Carovigno (roughly 8km from the town). Torre Santa Sabina is one of the closest beaches to Trullo Annunziata, taking about 15 minutes to drive there, and thankfully it is one of the best in the area!
It consists of a large sandy cove with an ancient defensive tower at one end (hence the 'Torre') and numerous shops, cafés and restaurants dotted along the back of the beach. It has much more of a 'resort' feel than many of the other beaches in the area but nothing like the resorts found on the Greek Islands for example. With one end of the cove dedicated to small fishing boats the restaurants inevitably specialise in seafood dishes, but most establishments cater for all tastes, with meat, pizzas and pasta also available.
Slightly further back from the beach there are other shops and cafes, including a macelleria (butcher) which sells delicious ready roasted meats.
The sandy beach has a very gradual slope out to the sea so is good for small children to paddle around in However, be warned that there is a fairly large rocky area just into the sea which has been the cause of many a pained squeal! During peak season (July-August) it gets very busy so get there early to reserve a good spot! Outside of this time when the sea is still warm it is an ideal place to have a peaceful day at the beach!
About halfway between Torre Santa Sabina and Villanova is Costa Merlata.
Head directly to the coast from Ostuni and you will arrive at Villanova, where many Ostunese keep a summer house. It is just to the south-east of the Marina di Ostuni, and there is a bus service directly there from the town.
There is a pleasant sandy beach to enjoy, as well as a number of facilities - both next to the beach and at the nearby Marina - cafes and restaurants mainly specialising in seafood dishes.
Situated just north east of Ostuni Marina is a small but popular beach called Diana Marina. It consists of a small cove surrounded on either side by rocky areas, but with a delightful sandy beach at it's centre.
Although it can get a little seaweedy in places at times the beach itself is very nice. The gradual slope into the sea means it remains relatively shallow a good way out, so ideal for small children. There are rocky areas to avoid as you walk out into the sea, but once you know the rock free route there's no problem!
A real bonus for this beach is the café that services it. A variety of drinks and snacks are available, including some delicious sandwiches, and more substantial dishes if required. A sandwich will set you back around €3, and a coffee around €2.
For the thrill seekers out there, the rocky sides of the cove at Diana Marina provide the opportunity to jump into the sea.
Located just up the coast from Marina di Ostuni, slightly further on from Diana Marina, is the small beach of Monticelli.
Similar to Diana Marina in that it is a small cove edged with low rock cliffs with a sandy beach throughout the middle. In our experience efforts have been made to remove much of the seaweed that can build up at beaches like this, so the sand and shore are nice and clear. The water deepens gradually so is good for small children, but does get deeper slightly further out, which is popular with older children wanting to swim underwater with goggles exploring the vegetation and groups of small fish that dart around. Again, the rocky edges to the cove provide opportunities to jump, or dive for the braver, into the clear blue sea.
During the busier times of the year - mid-June to September - there is often a small van selling refreshments such as snacks and cold beers.
Further up the coast to the north-west of Diana Marina is Rosa Marina.
Nestled next to Rosa Marina is the beach at Pilone. When following the signs for 'Pilone' the road will take you towards the Torre di San Leonardo, just before which is a parking area. There are sandy beaches to either side of the tower, which are of a pretty decent length and deeper than most around on this part of the coast - in our opinion this is probably the best free to use beach in the Ostuni area - that we have discovered so far anyway!
During peak times of the year there is a cafe just to the east of the tower - they serve sandwiches for c.€3 and coffees, beers and other refreshments. The nearby campsite also use the beach to run activities for their customers during peak times so at one end there is often music being played if you prefer a more lively atmosphere.
Torre Guaceto is the name of a nature reserve surrounding a 16th Century tower, but also includes a number of large sandy beaches such a Punta Penna. It is easily accessible from the main coastal highway, around 15km northeast of Brindisi. There is a large car park next to the highway which costs €5 all day. From the car park you can either stroll down the road to the beach (takes around 5-10 minutes) or catch the 'train' for a small fee. At the end of the access road there are a number of beach options in each direction, all being nice and sandy.
In terms of facilities there aren't a great deal at the beach, but along the access road there are various stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, so stock up as you stroll down. Alternatively there are the usual entrepreneurs prowling up and down the beach selling fresh coconuts, almonds, watermelons etc. If you turn left at the end of the access road and walk about 1 km along the beaches there is a café area, which tends to be frequented by members of the Italian Air Force.
On our last visit we noticed that a group of buildings at the end of the access road were being converted for use as information points on the nature reserve and 'tourist services', so potentially a café or restaurant will appear in the near future.
San Vito Dei Normanni
Further afield from the beaches on the Adriatic coast near Ostuni, undoubtedly some of the best beaches in Puglia, or indeed Europe, are located on the Ionian coast between Gallipoli and Taranto.
If Caribbean-esque white sandy beaches are what you are looking for then this the area to head for - there is mile after mile of sand, with many areas open to the public free of charge. There are plenty of services such as shops, bars and restaurants as well as the lively 'lidos' that add a party atmosphere, but please note, out of season these places are deserted and it can be quite difficult to find anywhere open.
It takes a little more than an hour to drive to this part of the coast from Ostuni, but is well worth it for a day out at the beach, and there are many small towns along the way to stop off at - our favourites being Oria and Manduria.
Punta Prosciutto is located on the coast near Manduria, about halfway from the town to Porto Cesereo.
The beach is well known as having some of the most fabulous sparkling turquoise waters in the region, combined with beautiful soft sandy beaches. There are some rocky areas at points around this small headland, but it shouldn't be too difficult to find a spot on the large sandy areas.
San Pietro in Bevagna
Head directly south to the coast from Manduria and you will arrive at San Pietro in Bevagna. Aside from the church and interesting history of the settlement, there is a stunning white sandy beach.
It is easily accessed by heading a few hundred metres beyond the church at the centre of the resort. During peak season there are bar/cafe facilities on the beach, as well as the shops, cafes and restaurants at the resort slightly back from the beach.
At the coast to the south and west of Manduria are the Dune di Campomarino - as well as being a point of interest for wildlife the beaches along this stretch of coastline are primarily white and sandy, with beautiful turquoise sea. Along the coast road there are various points where you can park, with access over the dunes using wooden walkways.