Benvenuti (Italian for welcome!) to Puglia, the “heel” of Italy. Also known as the “Vegetable Garden” of the Italian Peninsula, it is a region rich in flavors and history that has seen many empires seize control, from the Greeks to the Romans, Barbarians to Normans, French and Spanish to the present day with the united Italy.
This tour includes the must-to-see places of Puglia as well as the City of Matera, the city of the stones in neighboring Basilicata, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The central southern region of Basilicata derives its name from “Lucania”, the ancient people which lived in this area in Roman times. With its rugged landscape, at times very rural and rustic, it is not very much visited by tourists other than in the enchanting town of Matera.
Besides Matera, we visit a second UNESCO World Heritage Site: the trulli-filled town of Alberobello. Other highlights include the city of Lecce, famous for its Baroque buildings, the towns of Ostuni, Otranto, Altamura and Polignano a Mare, and the quaint village of Locorotondo named one of “the most beautiful villages in Italy” (i borghi più belli d’Italia, a designation established in 2001 with the aim of preserving and maintaining villages of quality heritage).
The region is 250 miles long, stretching from north to southeast, and about 40 miles wide. Almost two-thirds are surrounded by the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, hence it offers miles of coastline as well as natural reserves and countryside.
True to its nickname, the garden of Italy, you will be amazed by the variety of local recipes featuring fresh and seasonal vegetables and fruits, local fish and meat, mozzarella cheese, homemade pasta and all the simple ingredients of the world famous, UNESCO protected, healthy Mediterranean Diet.
Dotting the countryside are masserie (traditional fortified farms offering accommodation and food). This region is famous for its native grapes such as Negroamaro and Primitivo that you can find in full-bodied earthy reds from the Salento area, and Verdeca and Bianco di Alessano enjoyed in crispy whites from Locorotondo. Olive oil is another distinctive and important ingredient in the Pugliese cuisine, locally produced from trees that, in some cases, are centuries old!
Come get swept away in the Mediterranean magic and warm atmosphere with a full immersion into the local culture.
What are you waiting for? Ti aspettiamo! (We are waiting for you!) A presto! (See you soon!)
PUGLIA, THE VEGGIE GARDEN OF ITALY AND MATERA
TOUR DATES AND PRICES
Minimum of 6 participants, maximum of 16, with a maximum guide-to-guest ratio of 1 to 8
DATES (7 days)
For more info, dates and availability please contact us.
Per person in double occupancy: from $3,290
(tour price will vary and contingent upon availability of cozy agriturismi and 3-star hotels or more elegant 4-star hotels)
Single Supplement: $490
In addition, we pledge to donate more than 1% of your trip price to food literacy and environmental non profit organizations
- Discover two UNESCO Sites: the Sassi of Matera and the Park of Rupestrian Churches; the Trulli of Alberobello
- Tastings of regional Slow Food Presidia and visits to local wine, olive oil, bread and cheese makers
- Experience the authentic Mediterranean Diet through local traditional cuisine featuring fresh and seasonal ingredients and learn more about local recipes
- Enjoy some of the best reds of Italy, Primitivo and Negroamaro grapes, two indigenous varieties of the Salento area
- Relax in unique, elegant masseria or 3- or 4-star hotels distinctively representing the local cultures and traditions
- Delve into history, traditions and culture in this unique area of south of Italy
- Explore the tranquil countryside inland, at times surrounded by century-old olive oil trees or a natural reserve by the sea
Called the ‘heel’ of the boot of Italy, Puglia is also the peninsula’s vegetable garden, which over the centuries attracted many empires to this coastal region. We believe the neighboring regions of Puglia and Basilicata –the latter MOST KNOWN FOR the town of Matera– are best experienced as a pairing.
Between the two, we’ll explore two UNESCO sites, visit with local wine, olive oil, bread and cheese makers, take in the famed trulli (conic-shape dwellings) of Alberobello, visit the quaint villages of Locorotondo, Polignano a Mare and Ostuni, and of course taste the native grapes of Negroamaro and Primitivo, found in full-bodied earthy reds, and overnight in magical masserie (fortified farmhouses or country estates), unique to the region.
Fly to Brindisi Airport and join us for one 45-mins group transfer to a masseria (an old fortified farm offering accommodation and food) in the Salento area. Check in and relax, then meet your guide for a light lunch followed by introductions to the tour, Slow Food and the regions of Puglia and Basilicata.
This afternoon, we’ll enjoy a walk around the masseria, which is also an educational farm and olive oil producer. Then we explore the medieval village of Acaya with its Spanish fortress and quiet atmosphere, before our first dinner together featuring typical Pugliese recipes and an olive oil tasting.
After breakfast, we enjoy the Natural Reserve of Le Cesine by the sea, managed by the World Wildlife Fund. This area offers a pleasant opportunity to walk near the sea before we head to Otranto, famous for its Aragonese fortress and the cathedral dating back to 11th C.
Enjoy a walk in town and lunch on your own. Be sure not to miss the typical sandwich from Salento area called “puccia” (it derives from “pouch” because the homemade bread is sliced and stuffed with different local ingredients such as spinach, cheese, cured meat and more).
Return to the masseria for some relaxation, then transfer to Lecce to visit the capital of Salento famous for its Baroque buildings. Dinner will be savored in a typical local restaurant for more Pugliese recipes.
Today we leave the Salento area, famous for its native grapes such as Negroamaro and Primitivo that you can find in full-bodied earthy reds. We will discover these and learn more with a visit and tasting at a local winery.
On our way to Alberobello, we stop to visit the charming town of Ostuni, one of Puglia’s most strikingly beautiful cities, a collection of white-washed structures, haphazardly perched upon a hilltop, affording views out over a seemingly endless sea of silvery olive trees and the sparkling Adriatic beyond. A medieval walled city, it was built without a plan, as its labyrinthine web of streets illustrates. Let’s enjoy a stroll to admire the town and views, and the way the southern sun hits the white-wash here, before heading on to Alberobello.
On these two days, depending on our remaining available time we might stop by the village of Locorotondo in the beautiful Itria Valley. Named one of “the most beautiful villages in Italy” (i borghi più belli d’Italia, a designation established in 2001 with the aim of preserving and maintaining villages of quality heritage), Locorotondo shares Ostuni’s luminous white-wash and perched position. The name means “round place” in reference to its circular historic center. With a foundation dating back to 1000 AD, the town was indeed built following a circular plan. Narrow concentric streets lined with white-terraced houses make for beautiful walking.
Finally we reach our first UNESCO Site that quintessentially represents Puglia with its distinctive conic-shape dwellings called trulli. We’ll enjoy Alberobello for two nights, possibly overnighting in trulli, (accommodation to be confirmed depending on availability) and enjoy a guided visit of the town museum, which is housed inside a series of conjoined trulli.
Another exciting day of exploration in the heart of Puglia includes visiting the historical site of Egnazia, founded by the Messapic population in the 11th century BC before being conquered by Romans. This village was on the ancient Roman road that to this day connects Brindisi and Rome. Then stop by the sea town of Polignano a Mare to enjoy the Mediterranean atmosphere by the sea.
Another highlight today is our visit to another masseria to learn about their organic vegetable production and traditional recipes over a cooking demonstration and lunch. After lunch we return to Alberobello. Relax in your trullo or explore more of this charming town. Dinner tonight is on your own but please ask us for suggestions!
This morning, enjoy some additional time in town or a one-hour hike in the forest nearby. Later, we depart and begin making our way to Matera.
En route, we stop in Altamura, a town that can boast the only bread D.O.P. (Denomination of Protected Origin) of Italy. D.O.P. products receive the designation based upon a combination of high quality and geo-specificity. This particular D.O.P. bread is also one of the Slow Food Presidia, projects supporting food at risk of extinction, among the initiatives organized by Slow Food, a non-profit organization founded in Piedmont, Italy in 1986 that promotes “good, clean and fair food” (the motto of Slow Food International).
Here in Altamura, we will visit the oldest oven in town which dates back to 13th century and have a tasting of locally-made delicacies such as taralli (ring-shaped pretzel-like snacks typical in the south), focaccia and bread. In terms of Altamura’s much more recent food history, the town that boasts “the best bread in Italy” managed to shutter a McDonalds in December 2002 (the New York Times colorfully covered the story in January 2006).
The rest of our day we spend in Basilicata, visiting our third UNESCO Site: Matera, originally founded by the Romans in the 3rd century BC and suspected to be one of the first pre-historic settlements in all of Italy. The city is famous for “Sassi,” ancient cave-homes dug into the calcareous rock that we’ll visit with a local guide. This unique setting was chosen as the backdrop for Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ.” Over dinner you will learn more about the local cuisine and unique delicacies of Puglia and Basilicata.
This morning you have time to soak in the mysteries of Matera on your own before our visit to a cheese maker to taste their freshly-made mozzarella. After lunch on own, we suggest a 1-2-hour hike in the Park of Rupestrian Churches near Matera to discover another must-see site with breathtaking views of the canyon carved by the River Gravina and to see the caves used since prehistoric times as dwellings, prisons, and churches.
Tonight is our time to celebrate the tour over one last delectable dinner featuring more exquisitely southern local recipes and native wines.
Catch our group transfer to Bari airport. Buon viaggio (“Safe travel”in Italian) and see you soon!
- 6 nights of accommodation in 3- or 4-star hotels and masserie
- 6 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 5 dinners with either a 3- or 4-course menu
- Walks in Matera and Alberobello historic centers
- Entry fees to Egnazia Roman site and trulli museum in Alberobello
- 1 cooking demo in an agriturismo and 1 olive oil tasting in a masseria
- 1 visit and tasting to a bakery in Altamura (Slow Food Presidium)
- 3 optional hikes and daily walking opportunities
- 1 tasting & visit to local winemaker and 1 to mozzarella maker
- 1 visit to a WWF natural reserve with a local guide
- Comfortable transportation by 9-seat van for all travel on tour as cited in the itinerary
- Bilingual, professional Tour Leaders
- Last group transfer to Bari airport
- Local taxes and gratuities for luggage porters and restaurant servers during tour
- 4 lunches and 1 dinner on your own
- Alcoholic beverages at group dinners (including wine and spirits)
- Round-trip airfare and expenses to/from the tour
- Transfer to first hotel from Brindisi airport
- Trip cancellation, baggage loss or travel delay insurance (this optional coverage is highly recommended and is not provided by Food.Stories.Travel.)
- Gratuities for your Tour Leader
- Personal expenses, such as, but not limited to, phone calls, laundry, emails, snacks, gifts
Cristiano Bonino has led tours for North Americans all over Italy for more than thirteen years. Currently, he resides in the Boston area with his American wife. Cristiano likes to say that he has been “hybridizing” over the past three years in the U.S. He mixes the best of the both American and Italian cultures, which he loves, but never forgets his native roots in Turin.
Your itinerary has been meticulously hand-designed by Food.Stories.Travel. and Cristiano Bonino. This journey is based on their favorite flavors and unforgettable past experiences. Every establishment you will visit has been personally vetted, tested and enjoyed by Cristiano himself and his team of experienced Tour Leaders.
In some cases we’ll take you to places you could not find by yourself or in a guidebook.