Day 1 Monopoli
On our arrival at Bari airport we will be met by our Italian Leader. A private transfer will lead us to the seaside village of Monopoli. Our accommodation for five nights will be a gorgeous 5 star relais, formerly an ancient fortress on the rock, transformed by a careful restoration into a sophisticated, welcoming relais. The relais offers magnificent views of the Adriatic sea, a small pool and a gourmet restaurant in the rooftop terrace overlooking the sea. Staying in the heart of the ancient village will allow us to experience the local daily life, just enjoy a stroll through the tiny streets, take a coffee with locals discover new breathtaking panorama.
The dinner will be a truly special one since we will be guests in a private 1600’s Masseria and our hosts will be Mara and Marina, the personal chefs who will hold the cooking classes in the next days. Mara and Marina and their families will be glad to share with us all about Puglia, local food, art and traditions while we will experience the warm hospitality of Southern Italy.
Day 2 Alberobello, Ostuni & a special winery
Today our journey will take us to the Itria Valley with its enchanting landscapes and centuries-old white trulli that feature conical roofs made of limestone slabs from the surrounding area. Our guide will meet us at the hotel and we will drive to Alberobello, where nearly 1,000 trulli dwellings cluster the cobblestone streets. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996, Alberobello is a picturesque architectural gem. We will enjoy a walking tour of the neighborhoods of Aia Piccola and Rione Monti where we will find some of the oldest dwellings, still preserving the original features of construction.
The trulli are white dry-stone houses with conical roofs made of lapidary stones. Inside, the trulli have a square central room adjoining the other rooms of the house via arches. These dwellings are found only in the southern region of Apulia and were built using prehistoric building techniques still employed today.
Then we will reach a truly special winery which is one of the oldest and most prestigious family-run wineries in Puglia, located near the village of Locorotondo. The owner will lead us on private guided visit of the cellar where we can see the different steps of the wine production process, then we will visit the vineyards. The tasting of the wines and the light lunch will take place in the family’s Trulli surrounded by the beautiful scenery of the Itria Valley and overlooking the hilltop village of Locorotondo.
We will drive then to the ancient town of Ostuni, which dates back to 600 BC and it is certainly one of the most beautiful cities in Apulia. It is situated on the largest Murge (the hills of Apulia) offering stunning views of the countryside and the Adriatic that alone make the trip worthwhile. The white-washed houses have been painted for centuries with lime giving the town its nickname, “The White City.” We will visit the Gothic cathedral, which stands proudly as the city’s highest point flaunting its symmetrical façade and rose window. We will walk the ancient city walls for wonderful vistas of olive groves and the Adriatic Sea.
At the end of the afternoon we will drive back to Monopoli where will have dinner on our own.
Day 3 Mozzarella cheese and Polignano a Mare
Tomorrow we will first drive to Putignano where we will visit a cheese factory which produces some of the best cheeses of Apulia. We will learn how mozzarella is made, then we will have a tasting of some different special cheeses.
Then we will drive to the coast, south to Polignano where we will start an easy walk along the coast.
Our walk starts at Portalga, a small marina in the Southern part of Polignano a Mare, where fishermen shelter their fishing boats (often rowing boats). Crossing through the stone door, we might admire the St Paul rock, well known as “Scoglio dell’eremita” (the hermit rock). According to the legend, a hermit on this rock lived after building a small Chapel in honor of Saint Antoine and then used as leper hospital, and destroyed in 1837 for an epidemic disease of cholera. We will then walk in South direction, on some cliffs overlooking the sea together with vast green areas. During the tour we will admire wonderful caves, astonishing bays, spontaneous herbs typical of our region, sometimes used like food or like health treating. The walk will end at “Cala Incina”, another nice and shining natural marina.
A very interesting tower overlooks the location. Originally this was one of the 16 towers built as defense in Bari province (96 all over Puglia) and it was built after the military attack of the Turkish to Otranto town, south from Lecce, in 1480. Depending on the weather conditions, we will come back to the start by boat, visiting the numerous caves, and finishing our tour with an aperitif in Polignano.
Located on the coast between Bari and Brindisi, Polignano a Mare is a terrace overlooking the rocks. We will have time to investigate intriguing areas of the sun-washed southern village, enjoy a walk through the lively historic center, and our tour leader will be glad to suggest us some special places, art galleries, artisan workshops to visit in Polignano.
Dinner will be in one of the best restaurants in Polignano, which features a private terrace overlooking the rocks. Transfer back to Monopoli, after dinner.
Day 4 Apulian delicacies, Olive Oil, Picnic & Cooking Class at the Masseria
Tomorrow we will drive to the heart of the Itria Valley to discover some unique places in the countryside around the village of Cisternino. We will first visit a botanical conservatory which includes an orchard featuring more than 800 trees and more than 400 different figs, the owners will lead us on a tour through the orchard and we will end our visit tasting those juicy fruits.
Then we will reach another unique place in Cisternino: a company that produces traditional salami, made exclusively with the meat of three pig breeds roaming free in the countryside and bred within themselves without the influence of humans. Their diet is brought to them from their original feeding grounds such as acorns, roots and herbs from the Macedonian oak forests and it gives a special taste to their meat. This Company produces the Famous “Capocollo di Martina Franca“, a Slow Food presidium and many other meat products, all tied to local traditions and processed exclusively by hand. A tasting of these unique will treat our palate…
Our gourmet tour through Apulian delicacies will continue with the visit of a farmhouse producing an excellent extra virgin olive oil, where we will enjoy a fantastic picnic on the olive tree grove, weather permitting. We will have time to relax on the field, take a walk on the groves.
In the afternoon we will have our first , hands on cooking class at the Masseria in Conversano where we had our first Apulian dinner. The cuisine of Apulia has been referred to as the ultimate in home cooking. Led by professional chefs, we will take part in a hands-on cooking class where we will prepare authentic Apulian dishes that we will then enjoy al fresco in the courtyard of the Masseria.
Day 5 Matera and Cooking Class at the Masseria
This morning we will travel early to the picturesque city of Matera in the Basilicata region where we will meet our local guide. Matera is a remote and timeless corner of Italy, now regenerated that remains one of the Europe’s hidden gems. The old Matera called “I Sassi” is a maze of caves, churches — some dating back to Roman times — zigzagging steps and stone facades carved from a massive slope of yellowed tufa. This unique town of stone houses, a group of renowned cave buildings set in the Gravina Valley is a Unesco Wolrd Heritage Site. The city’s unique landscape is characterized by a series of caves excavated into the rocks, created as homes where peasants once lived with their animals.
After lunch we will drive back to the Masseria in Conversano for our second cooking class and we will enjoy our dishes al fresco in the courtyard of the Masseria.
Day 6 Lecce
Today we will drive to the Salento (Southern Apulia). The Salento area is a land rich in history and tradition and renowned for its natural and architectural beauty, its hospitality, its magical atmosphere, its delicious regional food, its warm sun, its crystalline sea and its dreamlike coast.
Salento was a land of conquest with the Romans, Greeks, the Byzantines and the Barbarian pirates, the Spaniards, the Turks, all having had dominance over the area and each having left their mark. The area is considered part of Magna Grecia, the region of Southern Italy that includes Apulia, Campania and Sicily where you will find magnificent examples of Greek art and architecture. The area is also rich in Leccese Baroque masterpieces.
Far off the beaten track for most of Italy’s art-loving visitors, Lecce sits on the southeast tip of Italy’s boot, waiting to demonstrate its little-known magnificence. Today we will meet our private guide in Lecce, also known as the “The Florence of the South,” for a walking tour of the historic center. We will see Lecce’s florid baroque architecture, carved from honey-colored stone by 17th-century architects. The Lecce baroque style—more fanciful than typical baroque flourishes—is composed of voluptuous caryatids, lyrical scrolls and whimsical garlands, fruit and crests. It is an unparalleled treat for the eyes.
Our accommodation for the next two nights will in a 5 star hotel in the historic centre of Lecce.
Day 7 Otranto Door to the Orient and Specchia
Our day begins with an excursion, accompanied by our guide, to the historically rich towns of Otranto and Specchia, some of the most beautiful sites of the Salento area. You will marvel at centuries – old olive groves, rich red – colored fields, and the many small Baroque villages so rich in art treasures.
Otranto, also called “The Door to the Orient,” is an ancient maritime city that sits on the eastern most point of Italy. Of Greek origin, and an important embarkation point to the East during Roman rule, Otranto offers its visitors interesting sites like the Cathedral, considered the largest church in Apulia and opened to prayer in 1088. There we see one of the best preserved Christian-Byzantine floor mosaics in Italy. Otranto is also home to the Aragonese castle with its towers, bastions and fortified walls.
Following our visit to Otranto we will drive to a truly special working cheese farm where we will enjoy a tour and a light lunch/tasting of delicious authentic local products, including cheeses and cured meats.
Specchia, Jewel of Italy. In the afternoon we will drive through the enchanting Salento countryside and visit the charming village of Specchia, recognized as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
Then we will drive to a seaside restaurant in Marine di Novaglie to enjoy a farewell dinner in a fantastic terrace overlooking the sea. Then transfer back to Lecce.
Day 8 Departure
Check out and private transfer to Bari airport.
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