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Puglia - Cycling Southern Italy Plus! the Ionian Seaside

  • Itinerary Summary

    Situated on the Adriatic Coast between the spur and heel of Italy's "boot" lies Puglia. Here, ancient Greek and Italian culture mingle among hillside vineyards and olive groves, and whitewashed villages nestle against the brilliant blue of the Mediterranean. Join us as we pedal through a landscape filled with unique conical shaped dwellings known as trulli, explore fabulous limestone grottoes, and visit three world heritage sites in Castel del Monte, Matera, Alberobello and Lecce. Along the way, you will enjoy meals prepared with Italian, Greek, and Middle Eastern influences and discover the warmth and hospitality of Southern Italy's friendliest people.

    If this sounds great but you don't have time for the full 12 days, check out our Puglia - Cycling Southern Italy tour, which features the first 8 days of this itinerary.

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    1. Day 1: Tour begins in Trani, Southern Italy

      Highlights: Romanesque cathedral of Trani, introductions & bike fitting, welcome dinner

      We gather today on the Adriatic Coast in Trani, at one time the principal commercial port in southern Italy. Trani's Romanesque cathedral, dating to the late 12th century, is not only one of the finest early Romanesque churches in Puglia, but its position at the edge of the sea makes it especially unique. We'll fit bicycles this afternoon and then enjoy dinner together this evening.

      Lodging: Hotel S. Paolo al Convento

    2. Day 2: Bicycle Trani to Ruvo

      Highlights: UNESCO World Heritage Site at Castel del Monte, wine tasting

      The classic Apulian landscape unfolds before us today as we cross the Appian Way and pedal past centuries-old olive groves and hillside vineyards. We'll suggest a lunch stop at Castel del Monte, built by the Emperor Federico II. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the castle is unique in Europe for its simple octagonal shape and for the eight octagonal towers that ring it. Arriving in Ruvo mid-afternoon, we'll enjoy a wine tasting before dinner together. Distance: 60 km (37 miles).

      Lodging: Pineta Ruvo

    3. Day 3: Bicycle Ruvo to Matera

      Highlights: Ceramics & 13th century cathedral in Ruvo, hilltop towns of Gravina and Matera

      During the 3rd and 4th Centuries, Ruvo was the principal supplier for classical Greek pottery. You can visit the National Ceramics Museum and the town's spectacular 13th century cathedral this morning. Then, we'll enjoy a ride through fields of wheat and hay as we cross the high Murgia plains to the hilltop towns of Gravina and Matera. Dinner is together tonight. Distance: 76 km (47 miles)

      Lodging: Hotel San Domenico

    4. Day 4: Rest day in Matera

      Highlights: Caves of Matera, guided walk through UNESCO World Heritage Site

      Matera is unique in all of Italy for the cave dwellings that ring the central city. Inhabited by refugee clerics and monks from Greece and the Balkans during the 8th and 9th centuries, the cave churches and domestic dwellings carved into the town's sandstone cliffs at one time housed as many as 25,000 people. Today, the churches and caves are preserved as a World Heritage Site. We'll take a walking tour of the area together, then you're free to spend the rest of the day exploring on your own, to take a loop ride, or to do both! Dinner is on your own tonight. Distance: 43 km (27 miles)

      Lodging: Hotel San Domenico

    5. Day 5: Bicycle Puglia's Trulli Country to Alberobello

      Highlights: Enjoy the unique scenery of Puglia's countryside

      Heading out across the Murgia plains again today you'll enjoy a gentle downhill ride to Gioia del Colle and into the heart of the trulli area. Trulli are conical shaped rural dwellings unique to this part of Italy. Originally used as storage sheds for farmers, they quickly became popular as temporary shelters. Today the landscape in central Puglia is dotted with these unique structures, now used as weekend retreats and permanent homes. We'll have a guided tour tomorrow to learn more about these conical shaped buildings and the people who built these stone houses. Begin your own investigations tonight because we'll stay in trulli in the heart of Alberobello. Dinner together. Distance: 71 km (44 miles).

      Lodging: Trulli e Puglia

    6. Day 6: Optional ride to Castellana

      Highlights: Limestone grottoes of Castellana, guided visit of the trulli

      Today is a rest day, but we have planned both a long and short loop ride, as well as a guided exploration of the trulli. We'll pedal past the limestone grottoes of Castellana which you might choose to visit. These are among the largest and most beautiful caves in Italy. Our ride there and back takes us through vineyards and olive groves punctuated with whitewashed trulli. If you'd prefer to take the day off, you are welcome to spend the afternoon exploring Alberobello. Dinner is on your own tonight. Distance: 56 km (36 miles), optional.

      Lodging: Trulli e Puglia

    7. Day 7: Bicycle to Martina Franca

      Highlights: Trulli, vineyards, olive groves, Baroque architecture of Martina Franca

      Our ride today will take you first through the small town of Locorotondo. Continuing on through vineyards and olive groves we'll reach our destination for the evening, the hilltop town of Martina Franca. Rich in Baroque architecture, Martina Franca gained wealth during the Middle Ages when the Prince of Taranto gave tax-free status to anyone choosing to live there. We'll visit an olive-oil press in town that has been in the same family for four generations. Dinner together this evening. Distance: 52 km (32 miles) or more.

      Lodging: Park Hotel San Michele

    8. Day 8: Loop ride through Valle d'Itria

      Highlights: Optional routes allow for easy or challenging bicycling

      We'll take a loop ride from our hotel today through the Valle d'Itria, where we'll visit the medieval town of Cisternino. From there you can opt for the longer loop ride to the whitewashed town of Ostuni. Distance: 25 - 52 km (16 - 32 miles), optional.

      Lodging: Park Hotel San Michele

    9. Day 9: Bicycle to Manduria

      Highlights: Ceramics of Grottaglie, Ionian Coast

      It's a pleasant ride this morning to Grottaglie, Puglia's most famous pottery town. Visit the local studios there, and learn about pottery, painting and firing. Our accommodation tonight is a Masseria, another example of typical Apulian architecture. Once a wall-fortified working farm with barns, stables, and houses for the peasants and for the landlord, now it's a great hotel with lovely swimming pool. Dinner together tonight. Distance: 74 km (47 miles).

      Lodging: Masseria Bosco

    10. Day 10: Bicycle to Gallipoli

      Highlights: Scenic bicycling along the Ionian Coast, whitewashed villages, ancient Gallipoli

      Small fishing villages dot the landscape today as we pedal along the coast past sand dunes and forests of Mediterranean pine. Our destination is Gallipoli, derived from the Greek word kalépolis meaning "beautiful city." Our hotel is located in the heart of old Gallipoli, so you can explore the city sights this afternoon. Distance: 59 km (37 miles).

      Lodging: Palazzo del Corso

    11. Day 11: Bicycle Gallipoli to Lecce

      Highlights: Lecce, farewell dinner

      Check out Gallipoli's lively fish market this morning. Then, we'll pedal inland to our final destination, Puglia's most beautiful city - Lecce. Also known as the baroque Florence of Southern Italy, Lecce's pink sandstone buildings and pedestrian city center make for an inviting afternoon of exploring. This evening, we'll celebrate the end of our journey with a farewell dinner tonight. Distance: 66 km (41 miles).

      Lodging: Hotel Santa Chiara Lecce

    12. Day 12: Tour ends in Lecce, Southern Italy

      Highlights:

      We'll say good-bye after breakfast today. Spend an extra day exploring Lecce, head south to Otranto, or just enjoy some R&R back on the coast. Whatever you decide, thanks for cycling Puglia with us. Buon viaggio!

    • Highlights

      Mixture of Greek & Italian cultures, Classic Puglian landscapes, The beautiful scenery of the Adriatic and Ionian coasts, Hillside villages, Three World Heritage sites
    • Includes

      12 days, 11 nights accommodation; 7 dinners with wine, 11 breakfasts; wine tasting; guided walk in Matera and trulli in Alberobello plus "The Usual"
    • Countries

      Italy
    • Begin/End

      Trani/Lecce
    • Arrive/Depart

      Bari Airport (BRI), Rome or Naples Int'l Airport (NAP) / Brindisi Airport (BDS), Bari, Rome or Naples
    • Total Distance

      603 km (372 miles)
    • Daily Distance

      Average daily mileage 60 km (37 miles).
    • Rating

      301 Undulating terrain every day with short climbs, generally into villages, the longest of which is about 5 miles. Two options for a rest day.
    • Terms

      Terms & Conditions
  • Dates Price Single Supplement Notes

    * We are happy to match solo travelers who would like to share a room with someone of the same gender. If no match exists, due to hotel pricing, we will charge 50% of the single supplement rate. This fee will be collected at the time of the final payment. If a roommate assignment is available this fee will be refunded at the conclusion of the tour.

  • Stories

    • I have described this as the best vacation I have had. The best way to see and understand Italy is by bicycling. The tour guides were fabulous as they made sure everyone enjoyed the trip. You ride at your pace instead of feeling rushed or pushed. I took over 900 pictures, with the memories and pictures this will remain one of my best vacations.

      Cindy R., New Albany, OH
    • What was your favorite experience on this trip? The tour of the sassi in Matera. The first sight of the sassi from the overlook took my breath away. The wine tasting in Ruvo was so much fun. Dino was very animated and enthusiastic in explaining the different wines. The antipasti at every meal were delicious, unique, and enough to fill me up!

      Sari R., Glastonbury, CT
    • Puglia was a unique area of Italy, so very different from Tuscany, Umbria and Rome. My favorite thing was riding along the Ionian Sea. Traffic was nonexistant and the scenery was wonderful. Drinking the Puglian wine (primitivo and negramano) was the second most favorite experience.

      David G., Denver, CO
    • I loved seeing thousands of Trulli and then staying in one

      David F., Columbia, MD
    • My favorite experience on this trip?: Impossible to say...leaders, food/wine, countryside, historical and cultural visits, the route...

      Deena B., Incline Village, NV
    • The chalk arrows are outstanding. My wife and I ride at differnt levels and the arrows allowed us to each ride at our own pace without the anxiety of getting lost. I think it makes the whole tour flow much better. I work a lot on bikes; your bikes ran well and were set up very well. I appreciated the cleaning after a rainy day ride.

      Bill M., Ridgecrest, CA
    • The arrows...we love them. There is no substitute! We cannot imagine biking the routes we took and and roads we were on with any kind of written directions. It would take dozens of pages, we would have spent all our time looking at the maps and not the beautiful scenery... and we would never be sure we were on the right road = stress...just what we wanted to avoid. Bikes...the equipment was excellent. The quality of the bikes and the condition of the bikes are very important to us. This is a bike trip after all. One last thought: Some (many) bike companies have decided to market to people who are more interested in their hotel rooms and the restaurants than the biking itself. Don't "dummy down" your trips. You have a very nice balance of nice hotels, very good restaurants....and, importantly, outstanding routes and wonderful biking.

      Jim B., Incline Village, NV
    • [What was my favorite part?] How could there be a favorite when Castel de Monte was so amazing, the Sassi miraculous, Arobello so quaint and the Ionian Sea so beautiful?

      Janice B.
      Salem, SC
    • The route was rich with amazing historical sites and the leaders were wonderful. Massimo, aside from knowing all the restaurateurs, also ordered special desserts for us! Marco was meticulous in tweaking our bicycles for good performance, and intelligent, humorous and patient with stragglers. You picked the best leaders!

      Eunice C
      Roosevelt Island, NY
    • [Favorite experience?] Hard to pick just one. We loved staying in the Trullo, the riding, seeing all the beautiful wildflowers, swimming in the Ionian sea, the olive oil tasting, the dinners...

      Frank C.
      Melrose, MA
    • The cultural experiences were great! We enjoyed seeing all the UNESCO World Heritage sites and all the fascinating old cities and churches. The olive oil and wine tastings were great fun, and the tour of the Grotte di Castellana was well worth taking.

      Frank C.
      Melrose, MA
    • Your system of chalk arrows is by far the very best method that we have ever seen for the route ... It would have been totally unnerving to try to read directions and be aware of traffic.

      Anne C.
      Bristol, TN
    • The scenery was wonderful, the meals great, the guides knowledgeable.

      Anne C.
      Bristol, TN
    • This trip took us through Puglia and along the Ionian coast. The scenery was wonderful, the food incredible, and the towns and historic sites fascinating. After some spotty weather the first couple of days ... the weather was perfect. This tour is rated a 301, but it was no more difficult than what we experienced in Burgundy, and maybe a little easier. There were fewer steep, long climbs than in Burgundy at any rate, and there are a few optional riding days as well. There is a shortened version of this tour that leaves out the Ionian Seaside part (5 of the people on our trip were doing the shorter version), but I recommend doing the whole thing if at all possible. We highly recommend this tour - it's a fascinating region, and one that I had not really heard of before we started looking for trips that fit our schedule.

      Jessica L & Frank C.
      Melrose, MA
    • [My favorite experiences were ] visiting with tour guides about Italy riding through the small towns on the cobble stone street.

      Leah Rae H.
      Fort Collins, CO
    • [My favorite part was] The cycling! I absolutely loved the time spent on the bike ... Tour guides were terrific!

      Dwight J.
      Honolulu, HI
    • Impossible to have only 1 favorite! Visiting the ancient cities and buildings was awesome, sampling all the wonderful foods of the region (is there such a thing as "too much of a good thing"?) I think we all cried uncle more than once at dinnertime! Getting to know our tour leaders (their personalities and background) was very enlightening and enjoyable ... As always, we thoroughly enjoyed our trip, experiencing a new country or region and are always impressed by the caliber and personalities of the tour leaders. You certainly know how to pick them!

      Annette M.
      Saratoga, CA
    • [My favorite parts were the ] wine tasting in Ruvo and bicycling through the trulli.

      Marilyn G.
      Cupertino, CA
    • Your staff are great and made it a memorable trip.

      Tim M.
      Kaneohe, HI
    • I have become a devotee to ExperiencePlus!, can't wait to do more trips and have even signed up for on in April, Sicily, so reading books about that area. Thanks for everyones' good work to make our trips the best.

      Barbara H.
      Lexington, MA
    • I looooved the tour leaders, nothing bothered them which made the trip relaxing. They were kind, considerate and well informed. They were all good at keeping us informed. They were part of the group not outside the group as tour leaders.

      Barbara H.
      Lexington, MA
    • Your new Puglia tour is a triumph. Has it all from great biking and food to the most excellent guides. We loved every minute.

      Becca S. and Rich G.

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