Best of Puglia Tour – 2020
Puglia is a region in Southern Italy with so much to offer. Unique sights, such as the trulli conical stone houses, and the nearby cave town of Matera.
- The UNESCO World Heritage sites of Alberobello (with its conical trulli houses), Matera (with its cave houses) and Castel del Monte
- Key locations such as Ostuni, Polignano A Mare, Lecce, Trani, Martina Franca, Locorotondo
- Discover how the range of civilisations that have settled in Puglia have all left their mark. For example, within walking distance you can find a Spanish palazzo, a Byzantine church and a Roman amphitheatre
- A culinary focus – we try recipes handed down through the generations and allow you to connect with this ancient wisdom. Match this with Puglia’s wonderful burrata cheese, and with wines found only in this part of Italy – this is a food-lovers’ dream. Later in a masseria (a 16th century farmhouse), a chef helps us cook a fantastic final meal together
- Experience ‘living traditions’, such as visiting a 4th generation olive oil producer, and a convent where the nuns make biscotti in a centuries old manner (which we sample of course)
- Our tours are a balance between being informative (historical details, examples of the culture and lifestyle) as well as having everything that makes for an enjoyable trip (long lunches in good restaurants, a relaxed pace, free time in places we visit)
- We stay for the week in one place, the town of Locorotondo. Here people have the time to share a smile or a chat in the piazza – and by the end of the week you’ll be greeting the locals too!
- Small groups, maximum 14 people
- This is the trip that you’d design for yourself.
- This 7 day tour starts and finishes in Bari
19 – 25 April
3 – 9 May
17 – 23 May
24 – 30 May
7 – 13 June
14 – 20 June
21 – 27 June
30 Aug – 5 September
13 – 19 September
27 Sep – 3 October
11 – 17 October
$3850.00AUD per person twin share.
- All Accommodation is included
- Meals as listed in the itinerary: breakfast every morning, plus a main meal each day of 3-4 courses including wine
- All costs/entry fees for activities listed in the itinerary are included
- All transport during the tour is included. Travel is in our van/minibus with a professional driver
- A tour manager for the duration of the trip
DAY 1 - BUONGIORNO PUGLIA!
We meet in Bari, the main city of Puglia, and from here we start our discovery of the region.
Our first stop is Ostuni, known as “la città bianca” (the white town). Ostuni is a cluster of whitewashed buildings perched on a hilltop overlooking the coast. Walking through the narrow streets of Ostuni is like being in a forgotten time, evocative and ancient, looking out over an expanse of olive trees. We advise keeping your camera at the ready!
Towards evening we reach the Valle d’Itria, the area famous for trulli houses, where we stay for the next six nights. This area is dotted with charming towns such as Locorotondo and Martina Franca. The historic centres of these towns are lined with elegant baroque palaces of the noble families, evocative lanes amongst the whitewashed buildings, and piazzas with the traditional ‘passeggiata’ in full swing each evening. Over the next few days you’ll have plenty of time to explore the town at your own pace.
Tonight we dine together, having our first introduction to the cuisine of Puglia. Throughout the week meals are in restaurants designed to showcase the region’s cuisine, with the specific venues all carefully selected by us. This is in order to provide a variety of food styles over the duration of the tour.
MEALS: DINNER (4 COURSES INCLUDING WINE)
DAY 2 - INTO THE FAIRYTALE
We depart for our first stop, Alberobello.
The picturesque Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a unique town with streets lined with ‘trulli’. In fact it is known in Italy as the “Capital of trulli”. Trulli are small stone houses with a distinctive conical roof, built 300-400 years ago. By walking along its narrow streets, you will be fascinated by the magical and fairytale atmosphere of this place. We explore this town together, and learn about why and how these dwellings were built, and about the cryptic symbols painted on the roof-cones.
Before lunch you have some free time to browse the shops of Alberobello and to wander around.
We then move on to Polignano a Mare on the coast nearby, an impressive town clinging to a promontory suspended above the Adriatic’s turquoise waters. With a history spanning back to the 4th century BC as a Greek settlement, Polignano a Mare is a charming town centred around the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. The town was on the ancient Roman Trajan’s Way, and you can still see the remains of this route. Polignano a Mare encircles a pebble beach, nestled in a cove between rocky cliffs. The beach is suitable for swimming.
Our lunch in Polignano a Mare is focussed on seafood, with the local produce from the Adriatic Sea being a key part of the cuisine here.
MEALS: BREAKFAST, LUNCH (3 COURSES INCLUDING WINE)
DAY 3 - THE MARVELS OF ELEGANT BAROQUE
Today we travel to Lecce, a city that flourished in the 17th century when extravagant and elegant baroque buildings were built by the ruling classes. The baroque style features ornate decorations covering the facades of churches and palaces.
We take a private tour around Lecce with a local expert guide to have the key sights explained to us. The baroque style here is distinct from that in other parts of Italy, both stylistically and in the use of the beige coloured local stone.
As well as the architectural and historical features, Lecce is an elegant town in which to indulge in more modern pleasures. There are many interesting boutiques and cafes, and the piazzas are full of life in this important southern Italian centre.
After some free time in central Lecce we have lunch in a local restaurant, where we dine on the food specific to this part of Puglia, called ‘the Salento’.
MEALS: BREAKFAST, LUNCH (3 COURSES INCLUDING WINE)
DAY 4 - A STEP BACK IN TIME
This morning we travel to the town of Matera in the neighbouring Basilicata region. Visiting Matera, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is like a step back in time. In fact this is one of the oldest continually inhabited settlements in the world. The oldest cave dwellings go back to the Bronze Age.
The town consists of houses carved out of the rock face along the side of a steep ravine. We meet with a local guide here who gives us an interesting insight into life in Matera, both now and in the past. In fact his grandparents lived in these caves.
We visit the ‘sassi’ cave area, and enter one of the typical houses built into the rock, showing the difficult existence in these conditions. We also visit a cave church hewn out of the rock, featuring Byzantine frescoes and with interesting histories as their usage has evolved and adapted to the conditions over the years.
Matera was used for the filming of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” – you’ll see why it is so easy to imagine Matera as being completely removed from the modern age.
Since we are in the Basilicata region, our lunch here focuses on the specialties from this inland region.
MEALS: BREAKFAST, LUNCH (4 COURSES INCLUDING WINE)
DAY 5 - A VISIT TO CASTEL DEL MONTE
Today we travel to Castel del Monte, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Literally meaning ‘castle on the hill’, this is a very fascinating building.
The castle was built by the emperor Frederick II in the thirteenth century. The fascinating thing about this building is the innovative design. The castle is built to an octagonal pattern, with octagonal towers on each corner, and is imbued with symbolic significance relating to mathematical and astronomical phenomena.
We continue on to Trani, which has long been an important centre with its natural harbour, a coastal town with a fishing village feel. Many people visit Trani to see the stunning Romanesque cathedral perched right on the waterfront. We see where the Knights Templar would depart to the east from, originally the final point for missions to leave these shores. We look around the old Jewish quarter, as Trani has long been significant for the Jewish population.
Today the harbour in Trani is a fishing port ringed by waterfront restaurants. Each morning the fishermen sell their fresh fish from the pier where they dock. Lunch is a seafood meal, in a seaside restaurant making the most of this fresh catch.
MEALS: BREAKFAST, LUNCH (4 COURSES INCLUDING WINE)
DAY 6 - FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD
This morning we visit a family run winery, focussed on making quality wines from the traditional varieties that are grown in this area such as fiano minutolo and susumaniello. The winemaker takes us through the vineyard, and we taste a range of wines. Some of these wine varieties were so rare that they were not made commercially up until a few years ago.
Following the winery we continue on to the nearby town of Locorotondo, voted as one of the “Borghi più belli d’Italia” (one of the most beautiful villages of Italy). The town is perched on a hilltop overlooking the Valle d’Itria, a broad fertile valley. The historic part of town – the centro storico – is circular with little lanes lined with historic buildings, including some impressive baroque details. As today is the weekly market day in Locorotondo, we get to see how the locals do their shopping – rows and rows of stalls with cheese, seasonal fruit, vegetables, and other fresh produce.
In the afternoon we visit a ‘masseria’. A masseria is a historic farm centre, originally with all the estate’s workers living in the fortified buildings. Nowadays some of these estates are still agricultural enterprises, while others have been converted into boutique lodges. The masseria that we visit still produces organic extra virgin olive oil from trees that are many centuries old. This land has been worked for thousands of years – we are shown the remnants of the ancient Roman agricultural production here, along with items from habitation from the middle ages through until modern times.
In the evening we have a special experience, taking a cooking lesson from a local chef. Since you’ve been with us for a week, now you will all be Puglia food experts. The focus will be on cooking typical Puglia dishes, first taking you through the types of ingredients used and their provenance. The cuisine of Puglia is based on the produce at a very local level, so is different to the food from other Italian regions. Seasonal vegetables, as well as focaccia and other breads, dominate this cuisine. All these are based on the abundant fresh ingredients as well as the ever-present extra virgin olive oil – a simple and effective cuisine. Recipes have been handed down through the generations and are truly expressive of the Mediterranean diet. The purity of flavour expressed in this cuisine is gaining it a reputation internationally, such that you’ll now find Pugliese dishes in top international restaurants.
The session is hands on and we are all involved in making a series of dishes, and we finish off the session by dining on the meal we’ve prepared.
MEALS: BREAKFAST, DINNER (4 COURSES INCLUDING WINE)
DAY 7 - ARRIVEDERCI PUGLIA!
Today is our last day in Puglia. We organise transport for you to your departure point in Bari and bid you “buon viaggio”.
The tour finishes in Bari at 11 a.m.
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