Join us for a historical, cultural, and culinary adventure to “the heel of the boot,” one of Italy’s least-exploited tourist destinations. The Salento Peninsula has been conquered and influenced by many ancient civilizations, from the Byzantine Greeks to the Romans, the Arabs to the Bourbons. Puglia has hundreds of miles of golden beaches lapped by azure waters, a breathtaking combination of whitewashed hilltop villages, and beautiful Baroque cities like Lecce and Bari. This is one of the most fascinating, history-filled destinations you'll ever visit. Puglia is home to some of the simplest yet tastiest Italian food. Bread, olive oil, vegetables, and wine are the main components of the Pugliese diet. It’s home to the so-called cucina povera (the cuisine of poverty). Pasta is made without eggs, and bread is made from local durum wheat. They are often combined with the fabulous fresh vegetables grown in the region. There are no rules. Recipes have long been improvised from what is available. The wines of Puglia are varied and renowned far and wide, and Puglia also boasts 1000-year-old olive trees. This trip is designed to immerse you in the local Pugliese culture. Each day, we'll introduce you to a different area, allowing you to discover its beautiful landscape, architecture, sacred sites, characteristic historic towns, local artisans and, of course, food and wine. On this trip, you won’t be a spectator. You’ll learn to cook in the rich Pugliese tradition, and you'll have plenty of free time to relax and explore on your own. You’ll be enchanted by the area's history, past and present, and you'll undoubtedly be touched by the magic of phenomenal Puglia.
A day by day itinerary in Puglia
Bari, in Italy, is the capital of the Puglia region. Plan to arrive there in the morning, by train or air. A driver will pick you up at the airport. If you'd prefer to arrive early and shake off the jet lag, we can recommend several Bari hotels for a pleasant and comfortable stay.
Our van will take us to the ancient town of Conversano for our first cooking class. We're about to prepare a local pasta called “orecchiette” (“small ears”). We'll savor the fruits of our labor for lunch.
In the afternoon, we're off on a guided tour of Conversano. The town has existed since the Iron Age, and you're about to discover a legendary castle, monastery, and cathedral.
Next, we'll drive to Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage town. It is famous for its iconic “trulli,” conically shaped Apulian houses. We're staying at an authentic Trullo resort, away from touristy streets. Dinner is at a local restaurant not far from the hotel.
Lunch & Dinner
After breakfast at our Trullo hotel, we'll take a guided tour of Alberobello. Here, we'll walk the narrow streets between the cone-shaped trulli houses breathing in the distinctive atmosphere. We'll have time to stop at small shops to browse for local products and souvenirs.
Today, we'll savor lunch in a traditional “trattoria,” followed by a tour of Locorotondo. It's one of the most beautiful, whitewashed towns in the Itria Valley. We'll walk through ancient olive groves at an organic olive farm. Take the time to savor the delicious, extra-virgin olive oil produced here.
Having eaten our fill, we'll return to Alberobello for a relaxing night.
Today, after breakfast, we'll check out of the Palazzo Hotel and head to Matera, one of the most distinctive cities in Italy. We'll stop in Altamura, a hill town known for its traditional durum wheat bread – “pane di Altamura.” Here, we'll visit a legendary local bakery to discover how the local bread is made and savor fresh creations. Bread produced here is a designated protected designation of origin (PDO).
Lunch today is on your own - choices abound.
After lunch, we'll continue our drive to the extraordinary hillside town of Sassi di Matera, a UNESCO Heritage site known for its ancient cave dwellings. It is thought that the first human Italian settlements originated here.
We'll enjoy the unique experience of staying in a cave hotel for the next two nights, dine at Baccanti Ristorante, and experience underground cave dining.
Prepare for full immersion into this ancient and extraordinary destination. We have the pleasure of spending two nights at Sant'Angelo Luxury Resort.
Breakfast & Dinner
This morning, we’ll explore the fascinating Matera archaeology and landscapes with its caves, grottos, and natural ravines. We'll also visit some of the Rupestrian Churches, built into the caves of the Murgia, a large limestone plateau.
In the afternoon, you'll enjoy a culinary cooking experience at a nearby Masseria, a traditional stone farmhouse. You'll learn to prepare (two) Matera authentic dishes, like fresh pasta with beef ragu or fresh spaghetti with capers and olives. Other favorites include spinach and ricotta puff pastry, asparagus with eggs, roast chicken and potatoes, creamy panna cotta, or homemade “panzerotti." The choices abound. Tonight, we'll feast on these culinary creations for dinner.
After breakfast, we check out of our hotel and drive to Ostuni. We'll explore the “white city” named for its whitewashed hilltop houses overlooking the sea. Gaze in awe at the breathtaking valley and coastal views.
Today, we'll savor a gourmet lunch at the Osteria Cattedrale.
This afternoon, we'll take a leisurely drive into the countryside. We'll spend the rest of the day relaxing at an ancient farmhouse, “Masseria,” where culture and tradition mingle with modernity.
Dinner is cooked exclusively from excellent raw materials, like durum wheat, tomatoes, artichokes, fava beans, rocket, fennel, peppers, onions, beef, and lamb, all processed as little as possible to retain their natural flavors and nutrients.
We'll lay our heads down in Ostuni at the Masseria il Frantoio, where we'll stay for the next two nights.
We'll dedicate today to exploring the beautiful Baroque town of Lecce, the “Florence of the South.” We'll take a guided tour of the historical center, visit a paper-mache artesian shop, and taste local street food, like crispy pizza with melting cheese or homemade meatballs with sauce.
In the afternoon, we'll delight in a local wine tour. We'll visit the cellars and vineyards and, of course, taste the rich and traditional local wines.
After a busy day, we'll head to Ostuni for a light meal and a peaceful rest.
After breakfast and check out, we'll move to the last destination of our Apulian trip – Polignano a Mare. The town is perched atop dramatic limestone cliffs. This stunning location was the inspiration for Domenico Modugno's song “Nel blu dipinto di blu" - known in English as Volaré!
We'll stroll around and admire the breathtaking views from the Terrace of Santo Stefano. Then, we'll enjoy our final lunch together at Terrazze Monachile and gaze at the panoramic view of the cliffs, white-washed houses, and the beautiful Adriatic Sea.
We'll make our way back to Bari in the afternoon. We should arrive at around 4:30 pm and say our sad goodbyes. Take a late flight home or stay in Bari for the night at our recommended hotel, Vis Urban Suites, and fly out the next day.
Breakfast & Lunch
Hotel in Bari
The combination of a 19th century palazzo and an authentic trullo makes for a uniquely beautiful hotel and a real step back in time but with added comfort and style.
A one thousand year old cave turned into a five-star hotel. Now that's alluring!
Since 1500 Masseria il Frantoio has been the answer to travelers who were wondering where to stay in Puglia. Located in the countryside near Ostuni, this transformed ancient farmhouse in one of the most authentic hotels in Puglia where culture and tradition are surely alive and well.
Meet Leigh- Intense Foodie, Lover of Italy, Wanderer, and guaranteed to offer you mint green tea.
Your host for this trip is L. Leigh Rhoads (“Linda Leigh” to her friends, of which you will assuredly be one after your travels). Leigh calls the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia home and is a true Southerner, replete with the warmth, manners, and charm for which that region is known. A Civil Rights attorney by trade and a yogi at heart, Leigh has taken every gift of time available to her, between practicing law and being mother to an extremely fun and mischievous set of twins, to seek out adventurous and meaningful travel experiences like this one. She is so looking forward to sharing it with you!
The Heel of the Boot of Italy
Dreamlike bays, stone villages, olive groves, wilderness, unique architecture and four UNESCO sites, one more fascinating than the other. Puglia has been named the "most beautiful region in the world" and for good reason. Scattered across the seashore and hilltop villages lie cathedrals, castles, whitewashed houses and flowered balconies. Puglia's captivating charm and delicious rustic food shall not be missed.
Lodging at unique hotels
All guides, experts and entry fees
All in-country transport including airport transfers
A small group experience
All meals as indicated in the detailed itinerary
A GG2W gift
Additional wine, beer, or spirits beyond what is offered at meals.
All personal souvenir purchases
Travel and Medical Insurance (required)
Round Trip Airfare to Bari, Italy
Puglia was more than I imagined. Beyond beautiful! The friendships and memories that were made will last a lifetime. I can't wait to do another trip.
Rebecca W-Houston Texas,USA
The trip officially starts on May 10 2024 in the morning. If you’re traveling across an ocean to get to Italy, consider arriving a day or two early so you have time to relax and adjust to the local time zone. If you do decide to arrive early, let us know and we’ll help you with arrangements if you like.
Fly into Bari International Airport-Karol Wojtylat. If you plan to see more of Italy you can fly into any other major airport and take the train to Bari. If you need assistance with trains let us help.
Other nearby airports include Brindisi (BDS) (105.3 km) and Dubrovnik (DBV) (196.4 km).
We will have a zoom call about 6 weeks before the trip starts to discuss all that information and give you a packing list. Here is a great website that we love that will help you with packing and travel trips.
The weather in Puglia in May is dry and warm. It's the start of the summer season with an average high temperature 71°F. Evenings are mild, the sea is now nudging 55°F and it's one of the driest months with only 1.5" of rain falling over a handful of days.