April 4 through 13; May 7 through 16
If Italy were a boot, Puglia would be the spiky heel that juts into the Adriatic. With its back against the mountains of Basilicata, the region looks east, toward Bazantium, and rarely back towards Rome. Indeed, throughout most of its history Puglia has been isolated—geographiclly, poitically, and philosophically—from the rest of the Penninsula. Which explains, perhaps, why this remote corner often feels like any place but Italy.
Day 1 (April 4 or May 7): The tour begins in Rome with an afternoon excursion to the Applian Way, a road built to connect Rome with what was then called "Apulia" and completed by Emperor Trajan at the start of the second century AD.
Day 2: Depart Rome for Puglia with a stop at Benevento, where the Appian Way passes beneath Emperor Trajan's splendid triumphal arch. Then on to the battlefield of Cannae, where Hannibal’s army dealt the Romans a devastating defeat. We end the day at Trani, a charming port city with colorful fishing boats and a cathedral that looks out to sea.
Day 3: Morning visit to the remarkable Castel del Monte, a creation of the nimble genius Frederick II. Afternoon visits to Ruvo with its Romanesque cathedral and Barletta with its colossal 5th century bronze statue of the otherwise forgotten Emperor Marcian.
Day 4: Today we visit a handful of Apulian Romanesque churches in the small medieval towns and cities that dot the landscape: Bisceglie, Molfetta, Bari. As many as we have time for and with lunch along the way.
Day 5: Visit two of the iconic villages for which Puglia is famous: Alberobello with its round stone trulli, and the little yet elegant Baroque city of Martina Franca.
Day 6: Head south to Lecce, a city famous for its fanciful Baroque architecture. Afternoon tour of the city that includes Roman ruins as well as Baroque splendor.
Day 7: Dolmen and menhirs in the morning. Afternoon visit to Otranto, a very ancient city with vast walls that nevertheless could not hold back the Turks when they invaded in 1481. The Cathedral has a stunning Norman-era mosaic floor, with a portrait of King Arthur!
Day 8: While crossing back across the Italian Peninsula, we visit Matera, a city known for its cave dwellings, the sassi, that were inhabited until the 1950s when citizens were moved to modern albeit sterile apartment blocks. Finish the day in Paestum.
Day 9: Morning visit to one of our favorite spots, the buffalo farm of Vannulo where they make what is arguably the world's best buffalo mozzarella. Farm tour followed by a mozzarella feast! In the afternoon we visit the archeological park of Paestum, which includes three of the best ancient Greek temples in existence. We finish the day at the Rome airport.
Day 10 (April 13 or May 16): The trip ends with breakfast.
2 nights at the Hotel San Paolo al Convento in Trani: Superior rooms with sea views.
In April we spend 2 nights at Il Frantoio, a traditional masseria in Ostuni while in May we are w nights at the 5-star Hotel Melograno near Monopoli. Both hotels are set in what were originally traditionally Apulia "masserie," or fortified farm.
1 night in Paestum at Il Granaio dei Casabella, a charming country farmhouse converted into a friendly hotel.
Final night at the Rome Airport Hilton Hotel.
10 to 12 participants.
A word about food:
Expect to eat well: abundant fish, pungent olive oil, buratta like you’ve never tasted, peasant dishes honed over centuries, and arguably the best bread in Italy. Oricchiete con cima di rape, purea di fava con cicoria, pane di Altamura: the very names make my mouth water.
April: $5100 in double occupancy; $5700 in single occupancy
May: $5200 in double occupancy; $6000 in single occupancy
Included: 9 nights in hotels, all breakfasts, one or two meals with wine and coffee each day, private bus transportation throughout the trip, entrance fees, and tips. Not included: airfare and airport transportation, room service, and items of a personal nature.
For more information or to sign up:
Italian Journeys is not your average tour operation. The combination of a small group, the wonderful food, and, most of all, the outstanding knowledge of Italy, its history, art, and culture that Nancy and Libby bring to the table lift it far above other tour experiences. You do not feel like you are traveling with a corporation, but rather that you are seeing Italy with friends.
Jim and Barbara; Washington, DC