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Puglia is a destination that should be on the radar for all Italy lovers and this holiday combines a discovery of its superb cuisine and wines with easy rambles among gently rolling landscapes. Explore the ancient Sassi quarter and gorge of Matera, visit the conical trulli houses of the Itria Valley and see how local cheeses, bread, olive oil and wines are produced.
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.
The trip starts today in Altamura, a pretty town with a walled old quarter of flagstone streets and white-washed buildings, located on Puglia's sparsely populated limestone Murge Plateau.
Your trip Leader plans to meet everyone in the hotel reception at 6pm for a welcome meeting. Afterwards our journey of culinary discovery commences with an included dinner of regional dishes at the popular Tre Archi restaurant. Our husband and wife hosts, Nina and Peppino, serve us up a feast of their home-grown vegetables and other locally sourced produce in an amazing array of traditional Puglian antipasti appetisers.
There are no other activities planned today. 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 50 minutes' drive from Altamura. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
Hotel Fuori Le Mura (or similar)
Altamura is famous for being the only town in Italy with a DOP (standing for 'protected designation of origin') recognised bread. The bread has a hard crust and creamy coloured dough and usually comes in very large round loaves. We start the morning with a 20 minute walk to visit a well known Altamura DOP bakery where we watch the art of making and baking the bread in huge wood-fired ovens. Naturally our visit includes the chance to taste the freshly made bread!
The afternoon is left free to spend your own time exploring more of the narrow alleyways and closed courtyards of unspoilt Altamura. Alternatively, you may like to take the local train to the nearby town of Gravina which has a fascinating underground city of rock cut caverns, churches and passages.
This morning we take a short drive to Nina and Peppino's vegetable garden to see how they cultivate the vegetables served at their table, learn about the local varieties and help harvest them. We then go to their restaurant, the Tre Archi, for a hands-on cooking lesson where we learn to prepare the distinct Puglian pasta known as orecchiette - meaning little ears - as well as learning the tricks of how to prepare oven-baked vegetables, one of the specialities of the house. For lunch we will eat what we have prepared during the cooking class. In the afternoon we drive out of the town to the Alta Murgia National Park where we start our walk from the Pulo di Altamura, a giant sink hole, some 500 metres wide and 80 metres deep and one of the park's most impressive geological features. The steep rock face is embedded with caves that have been inhabited since prehistoric times and are an important nesting ground for rare birds and habitat for native flowers and other plants. We walk through a landscape of cultivated fields and wild grasslands along footpaths and cart tracks, passing old abandoned farms. The walk ends at the Lamalunga archeological museum where we learn about the life and fate of 'Altamura man', a Neanderthal who fell down a sinkhole around 150000 years ago and whose bones became fused with the stalactites in the cave walls.
Today's eight kilometre walk, an ascent of 30 metres and descent of 90 metres, is expected to take around two hours.
This morning's walk is in the environs of the Castel del Monte, about an hour drive from Altramura, standing on a hill on the edge of the Alta Murgia National Park. The 13th century citadel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was the source of inspiration for the novel 'The name of the Rose'. Around the castle, fine wines are produced of the 'uva di Troia' (Troy) grape variety. We start with a climb towards the castle through a shady forest, descend the other side and continue through fields lined with dry stone walls and dotted with small ancient trulli (the white, conical-roofed, beehive-shaped structures that are typical of this part of Puglia). In this sparsely populated region the vast open views are spectacular. Our walk ends at a local organic farm, Masseria Sei Carri where we enjoy an included lunch of local produce.
After lunch we drive back to Castel del Monte for a guided visit before continuing on to our next destination, the town of Matera, over the provincial border in Basilicata. The town is impressively located on the side of a gorge eroded by the Gravina River and is famous for its ancient 'Sassi', a UNESCO-listed troglodyte quarter whose origins date back to the prehistoric era. In the 1950s the government of Italy forcibly relocated most of the population of the Sassi which it considered a slum. Today the quarter is regenerating with hotels and other businesses moving in.
Today's eight kilometre walk, an ascent and descent of 250 metres is expected to take around two-and-a-half to three hours.
Hotel Sassi (or similar)
This morning is left free to explore the neighbourhood of the Sassi where the stone dwellings are partially cut deep into the rock. This part of Matera has been continuously inhabited for 5000 years. Your Leader can arrange a guided tour with a licensed guide for those interested. Roaming through the maze of narrow alleys, up and down the stone stairs you will find yourself transported to a distant past. Sit down on a terrace of one of the bars for a cappuccino and soak up this magical atmosphere. In the afternoon we plan to set off direct from the town, on a walk through the deep gorge that cuts through the plain just outside the town. The walk also takes us to see some ancient rock churches.
Today's three-and-a-half kilometre walk is expected to take around two hours, with an ascent of 200 metres and descent of 170 metres.
NOTE: The path down into the gorge from Matera has been closed for some time and it's not clear when it will reopen. If it's not possible to do this walk we will drive round to the other side of the gorge for a circular walk around the Belvedre di Timeo for some spectacular views back towards Matera. This one-and-a-half kilometre walk is expected to take approximately an hour (as we admire the views!) with a total ascent and descent both of 100 metres.
This morning we leave Matera and drive to visit an organic cheese maker who has won several national and international prizes. We will see how mozzarella, trecce and nodini are made and try the freshly made cheeses. We then continue on to Cisternino, a charming town of whitewashed houses, shady streets, historic churches and elegant piazzas. It is famous for its butcher shops which serve a local barbecued delicacy known as bombette, little meat parcels filled with mince, ham and cheese, as well as other grills. We enjoy a walking tour here and buying lunch from one of the butchers is highly recommended.
After lunch we visit an olive oil mill that produces oil using both a traditional and a modern press. We tour the mill and walk in the surrounding fields to see the ancient olive trees, followed by a tasting of the oils produced here.
We then drive on to our final destination of the holiday, the coastal fishing town of Monopoli. With its bustling harbour, splendid white-washed houses and narrow alleyways with a number of excellent fish restaurants, we experience another authentic slice of Puglian life. Our charming accommodation is a concept known as albergo diffuso, individual rooms and apartments in a variety of locations in the heart of the old town with a central breakfast location.
Hotel Monopoli Albergo Diffuso (or similar)
We start the day with a walk through Monopoli. Later we head inland to visit Alberobello in the Itria Valley - famous for its iconic trulli buildings. A trullo (plural - trulli) is a traditional dry stone hut with a conical roof and often white-washed walls, which were generally constructed in the 19th century as both dwellings and storehouses. Trullo are built singly or in groups of up to 5 trulli, and a group would be occupied by a single family. Inside an individual trullo dome is just one room, although additional separate spaces were created by curtains hung across arched alcoves. As well as wandering in the town, there's the option to visit the Cantina Albea and the wine museum for a tasting of local Puglian wines, both still and sparkling - an excellent aperativo before our last night dinner! We'll round off our culinary explorations with a last night group meal either in Alberobello or back in Monopoli.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Monopoli.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Monopoli at any time. If you are departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Bari International Airport - Karol Wojtyla (BRI), which is around 50 minutes' drive from the hotel.
Total distance : 22.5 kilometres
April/May and October/November are pleasantly warm. June/September are the hottest months. Showers are common in Autumn.
2 Pin Round
Altamura - Local train to Gravina to visit underground city - Matera - Guided 2 hour city tour including entrance fee to a traditional troglodyte home - €21 per person Alberbello - Cantina Albea wine museum visit and wine tasting - €12 per person
You will need light layers of clothing for walking during the day and a fleece and waterproof jacket for early mornings and evenings, and early/late season. A sunhat is essential.
We recommend you bring lightweight walking boots, make sure that your boots are worn-in and comfortable before the start of the trip. Also trainers or sandals for relaxing and general wear. We suggest that on international flights you either carry your walking boots in your hand luggage or wear them - should your luggage be lost or delayed, your own boots are the one thing that will be irreplaceable.
Take one main piece of luggage and a daypack.
You should bring a 2 litre water bottle, sunhat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Trekking poles may also be useful.
Can you drink the water?
It is generally possible to drink the local tap water, therefore to reduce the need for single-use plastic bottles we recommend you bring a refillable water bottle with you. Your leader will advise you on refill points each day.
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Italy: Visas are not required by UK, E.U Nationals, Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian citizens. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office. 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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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.
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For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
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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.