Puglia and Matera.
The charm of Salento, the beauty of the Gargano, the Baroque art of Lecce, the centuries-old olive groves, the ancient villages, the breathtaking cliffs and beaches, the gastronomy of a region kissed by the sun and nature. Let yourself be surprised.
- Starting from Rome, or Napoli.
- Two days of enchantment in Matera
- A day and a night of magic in Alberobello
- Three days in Lecce to visit the wonders of Salento
- Three days in Bari, the valleys of the centuries-old olive groves, the Castles, the traditions
- Three days on the Gargano, sea, forests and faith.
- Return to Naples or Rome.
Day 1 – Matera
Morning departure for Matera, through the immense and beautiful Parco del Cilento, crossing the Apennines to Potenza. Late morning we arrive in the city of Matera, a UNESCO World Heritage site and in 2019 European Capital of Culture. Matera is a fascinating city of dwellings carved into a canyon of tufa rock. The houses piled one on top of the other are actually a network of caves and have been inhabited since the Paleolithic era. Unknown to much of Italy, the city hid a society living in poverty; malaria was rife and families lived alongside their animals within the caves as a recently as the 1950s. We will check into our hotel before an afternoon walk through the “Pedras de Matera”, the oldest part of the city.
Day 2 – Matera
After breakfast, explore the two principal districts of Matera, Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso. Starting from the belvedere, our local tour guide will lead down into the canyon and through the labyrinth of streets, churches and homes.
After a lunch of Lucanian specialties, homemade pasta, cheese, meat, extra virgin olive oil, bruschetta and local wines, Primitivo and Aglianico, we will leave you free to wander among the narrow alleyways of a unique city.
In the afternoon we leave you free to wander among the views of a unique city.
Day 3 – Matera/Alberobello/La Valle dell’Itria
After breakfast we leave for the magical Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Walking among the Trulli, we seem to be transported back in time. A Trullo is a circular house built from local stone. It has a domed ceiling and cone shaped roof topped with a pinnacle, the signature of the builder. The historic centre of Alberobello is divided into two districts, Monti and Aia Piccola; and from here we will begin our walk uphill to the Church of Sant’Antonio.
Take your time and wander around, take photos, and soak up the atmosphere or visit the only two-storied trullo in existence, built in the seventeenth century now used as a museum. We will continue through the spectacular plain of Fasano and its secular olive groves and have lunch on an ancient farm near Locorotondo, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Perched on a hill and overlooking the valleys below, Locorotondo is a dazzling white vision. After a lunch of local specialities, we pay a visit to the town’s centre, before returning to the trullo B&B at Alberobello.
Day 4 – Alberobello-Ostuni-Lecce
After breakfast, we continue our journey through the plain of Fasano, an area that overlooks the sea and that extends from Fasano to Ostuni and Carovigno. We will visit a park of monumental olive trees, an imposing landscape that is as impressive as the trees that have resisted both time and man. Our next stop is to one of the pearls of Puglia, Ostuni, perched on three hills in the Itria valley, just 8 kms from the sea. Locals call Ostuni, the white city, and its historic centre, the earth.
The village is characterized by a tangle of winding streets and stairs, alleys, courts and squares, surrounded by a wall with only two entrances into the city. At lunchtime, enjoy the flavours of the local Salento cuisine before going back down to the valley to taste some wonderful extra virgin olive oil. Late afternoon, we take the coastal route to Lecce where we will check into our hotel, before taking an evening walk in the city centre.
Often called the Florence of the South, much of Lecce’s charm is due to the architectural style of its palaces and churches known as Leccese Baroque. This whimsical decorative style was developed in Puglia in the seventeenth century and was a way to reaffirm power and wealth. Wander the labyrinth of streets and marvel at the buildings’ facades bursting with strange beasts, allegories, cherubs, fantastical monsters and plants. We will start our visit from the main square’s Roman amphitheatre and follow the Via Appia, to Lecce’s Cathedral in Piazza del Duomo and finally to the Basilica of Santa Croce, that took over 100 years to be completed; taking the time to sample some of Lecce’s culinary specialties along the way.
This whimsical decorative style was developed in Puglia in the seventeenth century and was a way to reaffirm power and wealth. Wander the labyrinth of streets and marvel at the buildings’ facades bursting with strange beasts, allegories, cherubs, fantastical monsters and plants.
We will start our visit from the main square’s Roman amphitheatre and follow the Via Appia, to Lecce’s Cathedral in Piazza del Duomo and finally to the Basilica of Santa Croce, that took over 100 years to be completed; taking the time to sample some of Lecce’s culinary specialties along the way.
Day 5 – A day in Salento
In Salento, the sun shines all year round. The green peninsula’s stunning landscape is sandwiched between the Adriatic and the Ionian seas. The Salento has a spectacular coastline, excellent food and wine and a culture tinged with Greek influences, that are celebrated with frequent festivals, including the hugely popular and energetic Notte della Taranta. Visit some of the famous artisan workshops in the beautiful villages or try some of the area’s sweet specialties like the pasticciotto cake with a custard centre or the local ice-cream called spumoni. Hidden in the countryside, among the olive trees and dry stonewalls, are ancient farmhouses now transformed into charming accommodation facilities.
We start our day in the easternmost town in Italy, Otranto. Of Greek origin, during the Roman Empire it became one of Italy’s most important maritime centres and the natural point of trade with Greece. Otranto’s historical centre has been included in the list of the most beautiful towns in Italy. The imposing castle and its ramparts, built to defend the territory from Saracen attacks, dominate the town’s skyline.We start our day in the easternmost town in Italy, Otranto. Of Greek origin, during the Roman Empire it became one of Italy’s most important maritime centres and the natural point of trade with Greece. Otranto’s historical centre has been included in the list of the most beautiful towns in Italy. The imposing castle and its ramparts, built to defend the territory from Saracen attacks, dominate the town’s skyline.
We will continue the tour to Castro Marina, the ancient Castrum Minervae, the port where Aeneas arrived after escaping the city of Troy. Next stop is Specchia, another beautiful old village, and then to Santa Maria di Leuca, the southernmost point of Salento, on the very tip of the heel of Italy. Past the cape where the Adriatic meets the Ionian, we arrive in Gallipoli, famous for its white sandy beaches and its Baroque and Renaissance architecture. The oldest part of Gallipoli is on a small walled island and is connected to the mainland by a 6th century bridge. Lunch will be local specialties at a farmhouse.
Day 6 – Lecce and its coast
The Salentino coast is one of the most beautiful in Italy. Coves, cliffs, sandy beaches, crystal clear water, beautiful farms and uncontaminated nature. The fifty kilometres of dramatic coastline from San Cataldo to Otranto is a paradise for swimmers and divers. There are thousands of rocky coves, and caves to explore and two salt-water lagoons. It’s the perfect holiday destination with dreamy beaches, beautiful historic towns, delicious food and wine and an uncontaminated hinterland.
Late afternoon return to Lecce
Day 7 – Towards Bari, the capital of the Region
We leave Lecce after breakfast and cross the beautiful coast that takes us to Bari in just over an hour. We leave our luggage at the hotel and begin to know the city.
Bari is an ancient port city on the Adriatic coast with a strong mercantile tradition, it has always been the nerve centre of trade, political and cultural contacts with Eastern Europe and the Middle East. It’s famous for being the place where the relics (stolen from Myra in Turkey by Barese sailors) of Saint Nicholas, aka Santa Claus, are located. The Basilica, built between 1087 and 1197, is an important religious site for both Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians. We begin our walk from the imposing Svevo Castle, built around 1132, next to the ancient quarter of the city – Bari Vecchia. Sitting on a peninsula overlooking the old harbour, this walled part of the city is a labyrinth of twisting alleys, cobbled streets and small piazzas, begging to be explored. Within the thick, stone walls you’ll find 40 churches and a cathedral as well as St Nicholas’ basilica.
In front of the Castle’s moat, begins the famous road of the orecchiette, where we find an endless series of handmade pastas, carefully laid out on drying racks. Everyday, the skillful women display their art along this street, while continuing to work and chat, and enjoy the slower pace of this antique way of life. Next a visit to one of the historic bakeries of Bari Vecchia to taste the famous local focaccia. In the afternoon, a little free time to explore; do not miss Largo delle Albicocche and Piazza Ferrarese with its wall that overlooks the sea and a the wonderful walk to Fortino Sant’Antonio where you can enjoy a wonderful aperitif at sunset, before trying some of Bari’s local specialties for dinner
Day 8 – Bari-Trani-Castel del Monte
After breakfast we set off to Trani, a splendid coastal town, famous for the artistic and architectural treasures of its glorious past. During our visit, we will admire the Romanesque Cathedral and the Svevo Castle built to defend the port. Our next visit is to the imposing and mysterious Castel Del Monte in Andria, a wonderful building now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Completed in 1240, the castle’s location, its perfect octagonal shape, as well as the mathematical and astronomical precision of its layout all reflect the broad education and cultural vision of its founder, Emperor Frederick II. We return to Bari in the late afternoon.
Day 9 – Bari – Gargano – Vieste
We leave Bari early in the morning crossing the second largest plain in Italy, the “Tavoliere delle Puglie” towards the Gargano peninsula. It’s the spur in the heel of Italy’s boot and is surrounded by an enchanting blue sea. From the town of Monte Sant’Angelo there’s a breathtaking view of the entire peninsula and its coast. We will visit the beautiful Norman Castle and the Sanctuary of San Michele Arcangelo, a cave where the Archangel Michael is said to have appeared here to the Bishop of Siponto in 490AD. Monte Sant’Angelo is a beautiful medieval village, its historic center is very well preserved and there are many places to sample the local cuisine.
In the afternoon, we descend towards the towns of Mattinata and Pugnochiuso and finally to our destination, Vieste.
Day 10 – The Gargano
A morning visit to Vieste, an ancient fishing village, of cobbled alleyways and staircases, white houses and tiny piazzas decorated with flower boxes. Lunch in front of the imposing Swabian Castle built by Emperor Frederick II, overlooking the beautiful beach of Scialara. In the afternoon, we will cross the Umbra Forest (or shady forest), is so-called because of the density of its vegetation. The uncontaminated Mediterranean scrub, full of hills, valleys and caves, provides homes for a variety of animals and birds. We cross the entire forest to the town of San Giovanni Rotondo, famous for having its very own saint, Saint Pio of Pietrelcina.
The Italian priest, still affectionately called Padre Pio in Italy was canonised in 2002 and lived most of his life in San Giovanni Rotondo at the convent Santa Maria delle Grazie. We will visit the new sanctuary designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano and capable of accommodating thousands of pilgrims at a time. In the afternoon, we return to Vieste via the coast, stopping for an aperitif in beautiful Mattinata.
Day 11: The Tremiti Islands
The Tremiti Islands, the only Italian archipelago of the Adriatico sea, are about 19 kms off the Gargano coast in northern Puglia. Famous for its rocky coves, steep cliffs and the indescribable transparency of the sea. Legend has it that the islands grew from three pebbles, thrown into the water by the Greek king Diomedes back from the war of Troy. Only two of the five islands are inhabited: San Nicola and San Domino, with a collective population of about 300. Because of their position, the islands have often been a refuge for hermits and political dissidents: the Emperor Augustus sent his niece Julia there, Paul the Deacon was sent into exile there by Charlemagne and Ferdinand IV transformed the abbey into a penal colony that remained in operation until 1926. Since 1989 the islands have been part of the Gargano National Park and a protected marine reserve, the surrounding seabed is popular with snorkelers and divers.
The legend tells ….
Early morning departure for Rome.
- Overnight in selected structure, with breakfast service.
- All scheduled visits with accompaniment and private vehicle where required
- The entrances and tickets provided in the program
- The expected entrances
What’s not included:
- Personal expenses.
- Lunch and dinner
- Anything not included in the program