- Make—and eat!—an authentic Pugliese meal
- Tour the 9,000-year-old Sassi di Matera cave homes
- Explore Roman theaters & medieval castles in Lecce
- Spend a day hiking in Gargano National Park
- Visit the picture-perfect coastal towns of Otranto & Castro
|Day 1||Arrive in Puglia, Day in Alberobello||Alberobello|
|Day 2||Alberobello Tour, Rione Monti & Aia Piccola||Alberobello|
|Day 3||Matera Morning Tour||Alberobello|
|Day 4||Free Day in Alberobello||Alberobello|
|Day 5||Alberobello to Lecce, Afternoon Cooking Class||Lecce|
|Day 6||Lecce City Tour||Lecce|
|Day 7||Day Trip to Otranto and Castro||Lecce|
|Day 8||Free Day in Lecce||Lecce|
|Day 9||Lecce to Bari, Afternoon Food Tour||Bari|
|Day 10||Grotto di Castellana Afternoon Trip||Bari|
|Day 11||Gargano National Park Hiking Excursion||Bari|
|Day 12||Free Day in Bari||Bari|
|Day 13||Goodbye Italy!|
Day 1: Arrive in Puglia, Day in Alberobello
Welcome to Puglia! From the airport, it's about an hour to the Alberobello town center. Depending on your arrival time, check in to your hotel.
The city of Alberobello is most well-known for its Trulli, circular 14th-century limestone building with a characteristic conical roof. Thanks to the 1,500 Trulli located inside the city, the 'Capital of the Trulli' is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of the fairytale-like homes are used for shops, restaurants, or lodging for tourists, while others are privately owned homes.
Along with the Trulli, notable sites include the Basilica, the 18th century Trullo Sovrano—the only Trullo with a raised floor—as well as the trullo Church of St. Anthony and the trulli museum. Alberobello hosts many festivals during the summer, from an international folk festival to jazz, theater, and children's events. The city also hosts religious festivals with music and fireworks. Most of these performances are free and open air, making it a popular destination with both Italian and international visitors. In the summer, the city's culture of passeggiata—long, leisurely evening strolls—continues well past midnight as pedestrians enjoy the warm summer nights.
In the afternoon, dive into regional Pugliese cooking in a 3-hour cooking class hosted in a local home. Learn how to prepare 3 local recipes from scratch with you Cesarina, or home cook. La Cesarine is Italy's oldest network of home cooks, and they maintain a strong presence in Alberobello. These passionate and welcoming hosts open their homes for curious travelers to enjoy an immersive culinary experience. This isn't just another cooking class—you'll be welcomed as part of the family and get a chance to live like the locals for a few hours.
Enjoy the meal you have prepared, then bid farewell to your friendly instructor and head out for a mellow evening of sitting in cafes, strolling around town, and people watching—age-old Italian traditions.
Day 2: Alberobello Tour, Rione Monti & Aia Piccola
Today you'll have a guided tour of Alberobello. The UNESCO World Heritage Trulli district in Alberobello is one of Puglia's most popular attractions, and the rest of the town is also lovely. Begin the tour on the road from Aia to the Trulli district, which stretches over seven hills.
The center of the city looks like most Italian small towns, with a few trulli located here and there. Head to the Rione Monti district, a neighborhood popular with travelers, to see the pointy white buildings clustered together like a storybook painting. The neighborhood is situated on several narrow lanes on a hillside and is full of little gift shops selling souvenirs and Trulli-themed gifts. You'll have some time to wander the picture-perfect streets to find everything from colorful terracotta whistles (a favorite local gift) to Trulli-shaped knickknacks.
Exploring the hidden nooks of this neighborhood is a tour highlight, as many of the buildings contain tiny bars and the panoramic views from the terraces are stunning. Once you've explored to your heart's content, head up the Via Monte Michele to the Chiesa di Sant'Antonio, Alberobello's 20th-century Trullo church.
Continue to Alberobello's second trulli district—the quiet residential Aia Piccola, which is less frequented by tourists. The rest of the city is mostly composed of typical Italian buildings, with the occasional trulli popping up here and there. Conclude your tour with a visit to 18th-century Trullo Sovrano, the largest trullo home. This 2-story building houses an excellent history museum and is outfitted with period fittings illustrating Italian life in the 1700s.
Day 3: Matera Morning Tour
Head out in the morning for a 3-hour walking tour of the ancient city of Matera. The town is famous for the Sassi di Matera, well-preserved cave homes cut into the soft rock. These unique homes are considered to be some of Italy's first human settlements and are a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Sassi are located on both sides of the valley. The Sasso Caveoso on the south side are the most historically fascinating, while the Sasso Barisano are commercially developed and house offices and residences. The city of Matera also has many beautiful winding stairways, as well as incredible churches carved into the side of the volcanic rock.
You'll tour the city as well as the unique cave dwellings and rock churches as you learn about the city's history from your guide. See the cathedral of Sasso Barisano, as well as some of the filming locations for Mel Gibson's film 'The Passion of the Christ'.
After lunch, the rest of the day is free to explore. Pick from the following suggestions to see everything Matera has to offer:
- Visit the Casa Grotta of Vico Solitario, one of Matera's oldest homes
- Tour the 19th-century Palombaro Lungo, a large underground water cistern
- Spend a few hours at the MUSMA—Museum of Contemporary Sculptures of Matera
- Enjoy nature in the Murgia National Park, (Natural Historic Archaeological Regional Park of the Rock Churches of the Matera region)
- Browse for snacks at the Central Market, where you can sample delicious cheese, salty cold cuts, fresh fruit and vegetables, and fresh-caught seafood
In the evening, return to Alberobello.
Day 4: Free Day in Alberobello
Today is a free day to explore the city of Alberobello. Pick from the following suggestions, then head out for a day of sightseeing:
- Discover local history at the Museo del Territorio "Casa Pezzolla"
- Go wine tasting at the Cantina Albea winery and wine museum
- Spend a few hours at the MarTA (National Archaeological Museum of Taranto)
- Enjoy nature and have a picnic at the Bosco Selva Alberobello public park, a developed area with benches, picnic tables, hiking paths, and playground
- Head to Ostuni, known as the "White Town" for the day
- Take a day trip to Polignano a Mare, a seaside town with a beautiful beach, or to Altamura, a nearby city that's famous for its Pane di Altamura bread
Day 5: Alberobello to Lecce, Afternoon Cooking Class
After breakfast, hit the road for the 1.5-hour trip to Lecce, a historic city on the coast of the Ionian Sea. It's the central city of the Salentine Peninsula and is over 2,000 years old. Thanks to its Baroque architectural monuments commonly found in the city, Lecce is nicknamed the "Florence of the Baroque" or "Rome of the South."
Lecce has a distinctly Greek culture, stemming back to its foundation by the Messapii, a lapygian tribe said to have been from Crete. The city's main attractions include Piazza San Oronzo, the 17th-century Duomo (designed by G. Zimbalo), Porta Napoli (the original gate to the old town), the Obelisk (erected in the 19th century to honor Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies), and the beautiful Paisiello Theatre.
In the afternoon get a taste of authentic local cuisine during a 3-hour cooking class at an expansive Lecce estate. You'll join the estate's owners, both professional sommeliers, in creating a full dinner of Pugliese specialties. Sit down to enjoy your meal, paired with a selection of fine wine.
Day 6: Lecce City Tour
Today's tour highlights include:
- Piazza del Duomo with the ornate 12th-century Duomo di Maria Santissima Assunta with the attached 17th-century bell tower. The Bishop's Palace and Seminary, both Baroque monuments, also stand in the square
- The main shopping street, Via Vittorio Emanuele, which runs between Piazza del Duomo and Piazza Sant'Oronzo
- The 2nd-century Roman Amphitheater, which once held 25,000 spectators
- The 17th-century Church of Santa Chiara, famous for its paper mache decorations, is located near the amphitheater
- The Archaeological Museum which houses remains of a Roman theater
- The richly decorated Basilica of Santa Croce, the city's emblem, as well as the next-door Palazzo Celestini, a former monastery, and municipal gardens
- The 16th-century Castle of Charles V and adjacent Opera House
- The Provincial Museum which houses important historical finds from the city's archaeological digs
Spend the afternoon enjoying nature in Lecce's public gardens and beaches. If you've got some extra time, head out of town to La Cutura Giardino Botanico, a wonderful botanic garden located in Giugianello, a half-hour drive south of Lecce.
Puglia's beaches are renowned for their rock formations and turquoise sea. Gallipoli Beach is one of the area's most popular, and Santa Cesarea Terme is a great place to explore small rocky pools. Spiaggia di Alimini is a 35-minute drive to the southeast of the city and is considered the area's finest beach for its white sand dunes and diverse ecology.
Day 7: Day Trip to Otranto and Castro
Today you'll explore the nearby cities of Otranto and Castro. Begin your full guided day with a trip to Castro, a small port city with beautiful nature. The morning's tour will include stops at the 16th-century Aragonese Castle and the 10th-century Byzantine church. Enjoy the views of the Adriatic Sea From the old salt buildings and pedestrian streets, then head downhill to the water.
Join a boat tour of Zinzulusa Cave, one of Salento's most impressive natural phenomena. If the weather permits, jump in for a swim in the crystal-clear water.
Continue along a coastal road through the town of Santa Cesarea Terme and Porto Badisco for a scenic drive to Otranto in time for lunch. With its mix of historic architecture, seaside restaurants, and white sandy beaches, Otranto is a favorite with local and international travelers.
Day 8: Free Day in Lecce
Today is a free day to explore the sights and attractions of Lecce on your own. Select from the following suggested list, then head out for a full day of adventure:
- Learn about the history of the railway at the Museo Ferroviario della Puglia
- See a show at Teatro Politeama
- Stroll through the green alleyways and gardens of Villa Comunale di Lecce
- Visit the Palazzo Taurino, a Jewish museum situated in the heart of the Old Jewish neighborhood in Lecce
- Tour the 2000-year-old archeological finds in the Museo Faggiano
- Enjoy nature at the Cesine Nature Reserve, an area largely covered in wetlands with lush greenery and a diverse variety of plants and animals
Day 9: Lecce to Bari, Afternoon Food Tour
After a relaxed breakfast hit the road for the 2-hour trip north to the city of Bari, on the Adriatic Coast. The city is famous for its port and university, and is southern Italy's second-most important economic center, after Naples.
Bari's old town district, known as Barivecchia, was the city's center during Roman times and is now a popular meeting place with many restaurants and bars. This neighborhood retains its Medieval city plan and houses many historic buildings and sites. Notable churches include the 12th-century Basilica of Saint Nicholas,13th-century Bari Cathedral, the newer Russian Orthodox Church (also known as the Church of St. Nicholas, and a popular pilgrimage site for both Russian and Greek Orthodox worshippers), the 11th-century San Giorgio degli Armeni church, and the 17th-century Baroque Santa Teresa dei Maschi.
The city is also home to the grand 19th-century Petruzzelli Theatre, the 12th-century Castello Svevo (now a museum), the Piccinni and Margherita Theaters (the latter is now a museum), and the Pinacoteca Provinciale di Bari museum of painting and art.
When the weather is nice, the Orto Botanico di Bari (botanical gardens) is the perfect place for a stroll or an afternoon picnic.
After lunch, meet up with a guide for a walking street food of Bari. You'll go off the beaten path in the city center, as well as the medieval city streets, to discover hole-in-the-wall cafes and family-owned joints. Try local specialties, such as focaccia barese (the local take on an Italian classic) and panzerotto, a sort of fried pizza calzone with a legendary following.
Day 10: Grotto di Castellana Afternoon Trip
Your morning is free to explore the city. Spend some time diving into history and art at the following museums:
- View archaeological exhibits at the Museo Archeologico di Santa Scolastica, from prehistoric to Roman and Greek artifacts, up to the 20th century
- Explore recent history, as well as an excellent display of old photographs, at the Museo Civico Bari
- See religious artifacts and sacred artwork at the Diocesan Museum of Bari
- Dive into art and religious icons at the Museo Nicolaiano, which explores the history of the Basilica of St. Nicholas
In the afternoon, explore the Grotte di Castellana, a sprawling cave system located in the countryside outside Bari. This adventurous half-day tour includes transportation from Bari, entrance to the caves, and a guided tour of the cave system. Learn about the 90-million-year-old history of the caves, from their origin in the Cretaceous period to the modern day. Return to Bari in the evening.
Day 11: Gargano National Park Hiking Excursion
Fill up at breakfast, as you have a long day of hiking ahead of you! Afterward, head to Gargano National Park located an hour north on the coast. In addition to the Mount Gargano promontory from which the park gets its name, the park also includes the Tremiti Islands Archipelago and the Umbra Forest, a large protected wooded area.
How long you spend on foot today is up to you, and you can work together with your guide to find a route that suits your interest and fitness level. The majority of the hikes in the park are approximately 4.3 miles (7 km) along country lanes.
The variety of landscapes and ecosystems in the park creates a large diversity of plant and animal species which are rarely found elsewhere. From coastal pine forests and yew and beech stands on the plateaus, to the low and sandy beaches which rise into steep limestone cliffs in the north part of the park, the stunning landscapes are as unique as they are beautiful.
The park also includes a variety of historical sites, from ancient paleontological findings to more recent villas and Renaissance architecture.
Enjoy coastal views, incredible flora and fauna, and a light sea breeze as you spend the day exploring all the park as to offer. After 6-7 hours in the park, return to Bari in time for dinner and a rest for your tired legs.
Day 12: Free Day in Bari
Today is a free day to explore Bari and the surrounding areas. Take your pick from the following suggestions and enjoy your day in the coastal city:
- Learn about local Bari cuisine, from selecting fresh ingredients to the full meal preparation, in a cooking class at Cesarina's house (a local home cook and food enthusiast who teaches regional traditions to visitors)
- Explore Bari on a bike tour that winds through Bari's maze-like old town and less-frequented neighborhoods outside the city center
- Rent a Vespa and explore three of Puglia's most scenic nearby towns—Locorotondo, Martina Franca, and Ostuni
- Enjoy a tasting of Lucanian wines, accompanied by an expertly-paired food tasting menu
Day 13: Goodbye Italy!
Time to say goodbye to the country of love! After one last cappuccino over breakfast, head to the airport for your connecting flight home. Safe travels!