- See fairytale-like Trulli homes in Alberobello
- Visit the 9,000-year-old Sassi di Matera cave homes
- Make—and eat!—an authentic Pugliese meal
- Tour old town & religiously significant Basilica of Saint Nicholas in Bari
- Try Bari specials, such as panzerotto and focaccia barese, on a food tour
|Day 1||Arrive in Puglia, Day in Alberobello||Alberobello|
|Day 2||Matera Morning Tour||Alberobello|
|Day 3||Alberobello to Lecce, Afternoon Cooking Class||Lecce|
|Day 4||Lecce City Tour||Lecce|
|Day 5||Lecce to Bari, Afternoon Food Tour||Bari|
|Day 6||Grotto di Castellana Afternoon Trip||Bari|
|Day 7||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: 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 3: 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 4: 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 5: 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 6: 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 7: 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!