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The 'heel of Italy' is more densely populated by olive trees than by people; it has a relaxed atmosphere, sunny climate and rolling countryside. This trip offers the perfect balance of culture, food and the Adriatic coastline.
Explore Tour Leader
7 nights comfortable hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in the Adriatic port city of Bari. The old town area of Bari Vecchia is located next to the harbour and is a tangled maze of old streets. One of the main highlights is the Basilica of San Nicola, which legend has it, contains some of the bones of jolly old Saint Nick.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Bari at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Bari International Airport - Karol Wojtyla (BRI), which is around 20 minutes' train journey from the city centre. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
The transfer from Bari Airport to the Bari Central will be by train. Our Leader who is normally at the airport from 10.30am to 4pm will meet you at the arrival gate and give simple instructions on which train to catch. It is then a short 5-minute walk from the train station to our hotel. If your flight is arriving before 10am or after 4pm then you will need to make your own way to Bari Central by train and walk to our hotel. It is a very straightforward journey and details of the route will be provided in your final documentation.
Please note that according to the current timetable (which is subject to change), the earliest train from Bari Airport departs at 5.54am and the latest train departs at 11.24pm.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to take a walk along the Lungomare seaside promenade.
In Puglia the food revolves around local produce, so the dishes on offer will vary depending on what's in season. A lot of the cuisine is vegetable or cheese based and of course, they make good use of all the olive oil produced from the 60 million olive trees in the region. Over the next week you could sample a range of dishes such as fried polenta, tubs of ricotta, mozzarella balls stuffed with cream, orecchiette pasta (known as small ear pasta due to its shape), which is normally served with a sauce made from turnip tops, meat and rice stuffed peppers or a large array of seafood dishes. The wine is also delicious with Primitivo red wine being a popular choice.
Hotel Adria (or similar)
This morning we leave Bari and drive to Altamura, which is a city famed for its bread and we'll get the chance to try it along with a selection of other specialities like taralli savoury biscuits flavoured with fennel seeds, focaccia, pizza and wine. Pane di Altamura is a very filling bread and loafs on average weigh a kilo and traditionally would have been eaten by workers out in the fields. The bread is cooked in 'forni' stone oven using oak wood.
Next we have a guided visit of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Castel del Monte. It is one of the best preserved medieval castles in Southern Italy and is an unusual octagonal shape with a tower in each corner and there's no roof over the large central courtyard. The architectural design suggests Arabic influences as well as more classical Italian features. It was built by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and was of huge importance to the region. It is believed to have been a cultural centre for ancient scholars coming from all over the world and that each part of the castle conceals philosophic and alchemical meanings within its unique design.
Later this afternoon we arrive in Matera, which is just over the regional border in Basilicata and where we will spend the next two nights. The town is impressively located on the side of a gorge eroded by the Gravina River and is famous for its ancient sassis, a UNESCO-Listed troglodyte quarter, which originates from prehistoric times. Stepping into the city is like stepping back in time, and it feels as though the cobbled narrow streets and meandering buildings have changed little over the past 7,000 years. It's a place that has to be seen to be believed and we have the wonderful experience of staying in a hotel within these ancient sassi cave dwellings. Note: Depending on the size of the group we may be accommodated across two properties 5 minutes walk apart.
Hotel Sassi (or similar)
This morning a local guide will takes us on a walking tour of the sassi quarter which is split into two halves - Sassi Caveoso and Sassi Barisano, with the cathedral sitting between them. The city is so unchanged over the centuries that it has frequently been used as a film set for biblical scenes. It's hard to believe it now, but in the 1950s Matera was an embarrassment to the Italian authorities, as many families were living in one room caves, in poor conditions and poverty was rife. The families were helped and re-housed and the city cleaned up and it's now a treasured historic city that was the European Capital of Culture in 2019.
After spending the morning exploring the cobbled lanes, rock carved churches and caves we have the afternoon free to discover more or you might choose to take a train to neighbouring Gravina (the journey is around 45 minutes each way). Gravina is a historic town that has retained much of its character. The buildings here line the sides of a deep river gorge with a Roman bridge connecting them. The highlight of the town however is the Gravina Sotterranea, which is an underground network of meandering passageways that run beneath the city through caves and cellars where you can find rock carved churches under the houses above. This remarkable underground labyrinth has only recently discovered.
This morning we drive to an agriturismo in Putignano or in the surrounding area for a cheese tasting. Agriturismos are traditional country farms that have opened up their doors to visitors, everything here is homemade. After seeing how the cheese is produced and exploring the farm and gardens we'll sample their delicious food, which usually includes freshly braided mozzarella.
Our first stop in the UNESCO World Heritage Listed town of Alberobello is in the Cantina Albea Winery and Museum. After having a guided tour and learning about the different wines of Puglia we'll then get to sample the award-winning wines that they produce. The small town of Alberobello is famous for its unusual trulli round houses with their white washed dry stone walls and pointed 'witches hat' tiled roofs and we spend the next two nights in these unique buildings. After our wine tasting we will take a pleasant walk through the trullis to our hotel. Trullis or trullos as they're also known are either built singly or in groups of up to five which would have originally been occupied by a single family. After checking in to our trullis our Leader will take us on a walk of the town to learn about the history and to help us get our bearings. The town is divided into two districts - Rione Aia Piccola and Rione Monti. On our walk we'll see Trullo Sovrano, built by a wealth priest in the 18th century it is the only two floor trulli house and it's now a museum, and the Trullo Church with its domed towers and curved windows it looks like a stretched trulli and was built far later in 1927.
This evening is free for you to experience more of the town. There are a number of restaurants and shops and typically Italian bars along the main street of Largo Martellotta.
Hotel Trullidea (or similar)
Today is free for you to relax among the trullis or perhaps to travel further afield for more sightseeing. You could take the train (around 10 minutes each way) to the pretty town of Locorotondo. Although it's only a short distance from Alberobello a completely different building style has been used with tall, narrow rectangular buildings packed together with their tiled gable roofs and whitewashed walls. The formation of them and their hilltop location makes the town resemble a white fort.
Alternatively, you might like to take the train to the Castellana Caves (taking about 35 minutes per way). You can join an English speaking guided tour of one of the most amazing natural wonders in Puglia and see the array of stalactites, stalagmites and fossils that can be found in this underground grotto which started to form about 90 million years ago.
Or perhaps you'd like to spend the day on the coast and take a taxi to Monopoli, which is approximately 30 minutes' drive away, and home to defensive sea walls, a cathedral and even a castle. The tall white buildings and rocky walls are offset by the bright blue waters of the Adriatic Sea dotted with traditional fishing boats and lined with narrow sandy beaches from where you can take a dip in the sea.
We leave the trullis and head to Masseria Frantoio Ipogeo, which has an underground olive press originally created by monks in the limestone caves that form here naturally. The monks realised the importance of keeping the olive oil at a constant temperature in order for it to last and to get the best flavour, and the caves offered the perfect solution.
We drive on to the historic seafront town of Otranto where our Leader will take us to visit the cathedral to see the amazing 'tree of life' mosaic floor and to have a brief orientation walk through the maze of the narrow alleys. After free time for lunch there's the chance to take a rugged coastal walk to the old bauxite quarry lake before returning back to Otranto. The almost turquoise waters of the lake are surrounded by the red earth of the old quarry walls, which makes it a very photogenic spot. Along the way to the lake there are spots ideal for swimming or paddling along the coast. The route takes around an hour each way, covering a total distance of seven kilometres. If you don't fancy joining the walk then you can further explore the town or relax on the sandy beaches.
Later this afternoon we drive on to Lecce, which is nicknamed the 'Florence of the south' due to its rich Baroque heritage seen in the city's palaces, churches and statues made from the local cream coloured limestone. This evening is free for you to have dinner and explore the city.
Hotel Eos (or similar)
We start today with a guided walking tour of Lecce to see the Basilica di Santa Croce, Piazza del Duomo (cathedral square) and the cathedral itself. The Baroque basilica took over two centuries to construct and has a richly decorated facade with carved figures and topped with a large rose window.
Following our tour the rest of the day is free. In the city you'll find a Roman amphitheatre, a statue of Saint Oronzo, which is said to have healing powers and the Triumphal Arch, which is one of the three main gates into the old centre. You might choose to visit the Museo Faggiano, which will give you an even greater insight into the city's long history.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Lecce.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Lecce at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Bari International Airport - Karol Wojtyla (BRI), which is just over two hours by train.
If your flight is departing early, then you will take the train to Bari Central Station with your Leader at around 6am and then you will continue by train to Bari Airport.
If your flight isn't departing until later then you can still travel to Bari Central Station where there are luggage storage facilities at the station that you could make use of and then go into the city to explore independently.
Alternatively, you can choose to spend longer in Lecce in the morning and then travel by train to Bari Central and on to Bari Airport at a time of your choosing. Luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. Your Leader will give you your train ticket for the journey to the airport and advise you on when the trains will be departing.
Please note that according to the current timetable (which is subject to change), the earliest you can reach Bari Airport by train is 7.25am and the latest is 11.40pm. If your flight is departing earlier in the morning then please speak to our Sales team who can arrange a private road transfer for you at an additional cost.
April/May and October/November are pleasantly warm. June/September are the hottest months. Showers are common in Autumn.
2 Pin Round
Matera: Gravina Sotterranea entrance with guided tour is €15 per person entry plus €20 per group for the tour in English. Please note that the cobbled streets in Gravina can be slippery and due to its gorge location and there are a number of steps around the town and down into the Sotterranea. Alberobello: Train to Locorotondo is approximately €1.10 per way. Train to Castellana Caves is approximately €1.80 per way and entrance and guided tour for the partial route is €16.50 or for the full route is €19.50. The times for the English speaking tours can be found here: http://www.grottedicastellana.it/en/timetable/ Please note that due to the train schedule it is normally only possible to go to one of the above places during your free time on day five. Taxi to Monopoli is around €35 per vehicle per way. Bari: On day eight depending on your flight departure time, you might have the opportunity to go into the city centre. Luggage storage is available daily from 8am-8pm at Bari Centrale Train Station and is €6 for five hours.
July and August are the hottest months and lightweight cotton clothing is best. During spring and autumn temperatures can be lower or drop during the evenings and there is also a stronger possibility of rain. You'll need your swimming costume and light rainwear may be needed at any time of year. A warm fleece is recommended for cooler evenings.
We recommend taking comfortable walking shoes for exploring essential for the rugged costal walk and trainers or sandals for relaxing.
One main piece of baggage and a day pack. Remember you are expected to carry your own luggage so don't overload yourself.
We advise taking a water bottle for our included walks as well as sun glasses, sunscreen and a sun hat. Insect repellent may be needed in the summer months. In case of emergency we recommend that you carry a first aid kit and a torch. Bring a swimming suit and towel for taking a dip in the Adriatic Sea. You might find walking poles useful, as some of the towns visited are cobbled, hilly and have a number of uneven steps.
In Alberobello we will stay in traditional trulli houses. Our group will be split between several different houses, but they're only a short distance apart and are all of a similar size and standard. Each trulli has its own bathroom, but this may be shared between two bedrooms within the same trulli. In Matera we will stay in original sassi cave buildings. At this unique hotel each of the rooms are different sizes and layouts and some are located within the caves themselves and others in the ancient entry buildings attached to the caves. They are all only a short distance apart and rooms are en suite. There are excellent views from the hotels' terrace over the surrounding cave dwellings and Matera Cathedral. Depending on the size of the group, we may also need to use an additional property located 5 minutes walk away which also features an eclectic selection of rooms.
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Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
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Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Italy: Visas are not required by UK, E.U. Nationals, Australian, New Zealand, US or Canadian citizens. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office. All visa information is subject to change. You should confirm all visa related questions with the relevant embassy prior to departure.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
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Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
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On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
A number of the towns and cities visited on this trip have cobbled streets that can be uneven and slippery underfoot. This is especially true of Matera where the hilly streets also include a number of irregular steps.
Nothing required. Tetanus recommended. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.