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Small Group Tour - National Geographic Expeditions - Italy

Puglia round trip - Discover "The Beauty" between two seas

Highlights

  • Adventure to the still unknown places and regions in the southernmost parts of Italy

  • Cultural highlights, such as seeing Castel del Monte, visiting the trulli in Alberobello, and participating an olive oil tasting

  • Wine tasting with a small aperitif in Alberobello, taste bakery specialties in Lecce, participate in a focaccia tasting in Altamura, and enjoy a boat trip in Otranto

  • Experience Lecce, the Florence of the South, including the famous Santa Croce Basilica

  • Visit the cave dwellings of Matera, one of the oldest cities in the world

Description

Puglia is Italy’s southernmost region, far away from the mass tourism of the upper Adriatic and with beaches reminiscent of the Maldives or the Caribbean. This destination boasts scenic beauty and some of Puglia’s most significant sights. Cultural treasures in Bari and Matera boast romantic, winding old towns to get lost in. Discover the Trulli (limestone dwellings) in Alberobello, visit Leece, also known as the Florence of the south, or take a day trip to the rugged coastal region on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Are you craving some of the best Italian food globally, or do you feel like immersing yourself in the famous Italian everyday life? Find out all of this and more during our National Geographic Expedition small group tour.

Destination

Europe

Trani – Bari – Monte S. Angelo – Vieste – Foresta Umbra – Castel del Monte – Otranto – Santa Cesarea Terme – Santa Maria di Leuca – Lecce – Ostuni – Castellana Grotte – Alberobello – Martina Franca – Castellana Grotte – Alberobello – Martina Franca – Polignano A Mare

Date: TBA

Prof. Awdie Coppola Arouse
Coppola sparks curiosity and enthusiasm. He brings history and tradition to life, enabling profound cultural exchange and building bridges between foreign worlds. Born in southern Italy to an Anglo-Italian family, Coppola has been a freelance translator, interpreter, English teacher, and professional tour guide in the world of tourism for over 30 years.

Benvenuto a Italy! Upon arrival, our local partners will give you a warm welcome. Start your adventure on the boot of Italy right away!

Your itinerary begins with a short drive to Trani, a bustling little town not far from Bari on the Adriatic coast. Enjoy a welcome drink and your first dinner together on your first evening. Get to know your fellow travelers and expert who will give you a deep insight into the region and the authentic Italian attitude to life in southern Italy.

Travel time from Bari Airport to Trani: approx. 30 minutes / approx. 25 km

Bed and breakfast in Trani, Puglia, Italy

After breakfast, begin your first discovery tour through the Mezzogiorno, the land of the midday sun just south of Rome.

The enchanting Gargano Peninsula is a nature reserve best known for its impressive landscape, such as the rugged cliffs. Drive north along the coastal road from Trani up to the medieval village of Vieste. The cave paintings at Sfinalicchio show you that there have been inhabitants here for over 10,000 years.

In the afternoon, explore the medieval old town of Vieste. We invite you to a traditional Italian lunch before continuing your journey to the center of the peninsula. Leaving the medieval walls, head into the Foresta Umbra, a sprawling pine forest that stretches much of the nature reserve.

On the way back to Trani, a scenic stop awaits you in the small town of Monte Sant’Angelo. The Grotto Church of San Michele is the city’s symbol and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Normans built the pilgrimage church and dedicated it to Archangel Michael, who welcomed renowned pilgrims such as Pope John Paul II.

Journey time: approx. 5 hours / approx. 300 km

Bed and breakfast in Trani, Apulia, Italy

Today you will explore the 1 cent coin from Italy: the Castel Del Monte. This gorgeous destination, also known as the Crown of Puglia, was built by Emperor Friedrich II and sits majestically atop a hill. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and now world-famous thanks to its image on the back of the 1 cent coin. Afterward, you’ll visit an Agriturismo nearby and enjoy a traditional lunch.

Bari is your next destination and is only a one-hour drive away. It is the capital of the Puglia region and has around 325,000 inhabitants, making it the second-largest city in southern Italy. Bari was the center of significant events in the Middle Ages, such as being the main harbor of the crusaders traveling to and from the Holy Land. Because of its ideal location, the city was repeatedly conquered by different rules who shaped the cityscape with Frankish, Islamic, and Norman influences. A must-see in Bar is the gleaming white Basilica of San Nicola, which houses the relics of Saint Nicholas of Myra.

Bari is also known for its southern Italian lifestyle. An old castle wall partly surrounds the old town, and the small streets and alleys form an enchanted labyrinth. Clotheslines between the houses, Italian women kneading fresh pasta in front of the houses, and men drinking fragrant coffee in the side streets form an idyllic contrast to the bustling piazzas in the city center. Collect all of these impressions and more during this city tour with your expert!

Upon arrival at the hotel, you will have ample time for dinner and relaxation.

Driving time Trani - Lecce: approx. 4 hours / approx. 250 km

Bed and breakfast in Lecce, Puglia, Italy

Immediately after breakfast, set off toward the small port town of Otranto, the southernmost village in Puglia and known as the gateway to the Orient. Shortly before arriving, you can see the tiny white houses on the cliffs between oleander bushes and agaves. A long stretch of the beach leads along the city wall to the historic, round town center, which lies on a small peninsula. Like any port city, Otranto has a fortress called Castello Aragonese. Your expert will lead you on this city tour and take you to more highlights, such as the Norman Church and the Byzantine Church of San Pietro, known for their masterfully crafted mosaics. The 12th-century cathedral is also on today’s sightseeing program.

After lunch, head into the city of Cesarea Terme for a visit. Go on a relaxed boat trip near Santa Maria di Leuca with an aperitif on board. Should this excursion not occur due to the weather, you will have lunch at a typical farm in Salento.

One of the many reasons that make Santa Maria de Leuca such a famous place is its many stunning, stately villas from the second half of the 19th century. You will also visit Serre, Salentine, which sits on the flat slopes amongst the white rocks of Lecce.

Journey time: approx. 2 hours 30 minutes / approx. 160 km

Bed and breakfast in Lecce, Puglia, Italy

After breakfast, your guide will take you on an exploration tour of Lecce. This destination may not have a seafront location, but that’s never too far away in the Salento region. The famous Leccese baroque adorns almost all buildings in the old town, and they built the newer houses with light beige tones of the tufa stone, also called Pietra Leccese.

Lecce has preserved many buildings from the Baroque period, such as Basilica Santa Groce, and buildings from the ancient Roman period. A charming street to stroll through is Via Giuseppe Libertini, which fills up in the evenings for “la passeggiata,” Italian for an evening stroll. The Lecce Roman Amphitheater is from the 2nd century AD and has a capacity of around 20,000 spectators — a highlight of every city tour! The cathedral, Palazzo di Governo, and the Church of San Niccolo are also worth visiting for those interested in Lecce’s cultural history.

In between, treat yourself to a sweet refreshment at one of the numerous ice cream parlors. We scheduled a tasting of typical Salento bakery products for you in Lecce.

At noon, continue your tour to the fragrant fields of Ostuni. The city’s white architecture is prominent on the three hills, with a medieval fort crowned on the top of the highest hill. The old town boasts ornate Renaissance buildings and a 13th-century cathedral worth visiting.

Another highlight of the day is an olive oil tasting tour. Do you recognize the differences in olive oils from the other regions? The oil in Apulia has a robust and distinctive taste.

After the sightseeing and tasting tour, your guide will take you to your accommodation today.

Travel time Lecce - Ostuni: approx. 1 hour / approx. 78 km
Travel time Ostuni - Locorotondo: approx. 30 minutes / approx. 27 km

Bed and breakfast in Locorotondo, Puglia, Italy

Before moving on to today’s highlight, Alberobello, visit Castellana Grotte.

During your discovering tour through Alberobello with the trulli, characteristic round stone houses of the region, you’ll learn that they are the city’s symbol. Stroll through the narrow streets and enjoy the romantic atmosphere and countless photo opportunities. Keep your eyes peeled for the signs on the trulli roofs — your guide will tell you all about it.

The city center consists of over a thousand trulli and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. Sant'Antonio di Padova church boasts the famous trulli style. Many of the region residents live from agriculture and cook local dishes out of it. Southern Italians are very proud people, especially when it comes to their cuisine. So it often happens that the locals spontaneously invite the tourists to eat their dishes, such as bombettes (veal roulades). We invite you to a wine tasting with a small aperitif as a farewell.

You will finally reach Martina Franca in the afternoon, a small town founded in the 10th century. Acorrinding current studies, people settled in the area for the first time after fleeing from Taranto, which the Saracens overran. The old town also adorns numerous baroque buildings, which makes Martina Franca the second most crucial baroque city in the south. A baroque masterpiece in the town is the Basilica di San Martino. You will also discover other baroque churches scattered in all corners of the city.

In the evening, you will go to a restaurant and enjoy a delicious glass of wine at the final farewell dinner with your group.

Journey time: Locorotondo – Castellana Grotte: approx. 30 minutes / approx. 25 km
Journey time: Castellana Grotte - Alberobello: approx. 20 minutes / approx. 15 km
Journey time: Alberobello - Locorotondo: approx. 10 minutes / approx. 10 km

Bed and breakfast in Locorotondo, Puglia, Italy

After breakfast, continue your journey to the town of Altamura, known throughout Italy for its long history of baking bread. They don’t even throw away stale bread! Instead, the residents process it into a specialty, the Cialda Fredda, with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and olives. Are you hungry yet? Perfect, because we invite you to a delicious focaccia tasting!

Explore the city’s historic center, which Frederick II of Swabia commissioned in 1230, on a guided tour. The narrow streets lead you to secret courtyards connected by Italian neighborhood alleyways. Would you like a snack? Try a piece of grano duro, a tasty durum wheat bread typical of this region.

In the afternoon, you will leave the Puglia region for a trip to the neighboring province of Basilicata. Your destination: Matera, the European Capital of Culture in 2019, and a James Bond film location. The historic old town nestles on a hill and consists of Sassi’s enormous cave settlements**.** These Sassi have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993 and are reminiscent of Cappadocia in Turkey.

During the Neolithic Age, the people settled here, making it one of the world’s oldest cities. Today, relics dating back to around 11,500 BC describe the transition from hunter-gatherers to sedentary farmers. The caves carved into soft tuff and the Stone Age inhabited until the 1950s. Over the millennia, many cultures have also left their mark. Matera’s surrounding caves and karst landscapes are more than impressive.

Journey time Locorotondo - Altamura: approx. 1 hour 30 minutes / approx. 75 km
Journey time Altamura - Matera: approx. 30 minutes / approx. 22 km

Bed and breakfast in Locorotondo, Puglia, Italy

On the last day, you’ll experience romantic moments again in Polignano a Mare — a beautiful destination that has been the backdrop for numerous films. Clear, dark blue waters gently lap the narrow bay and white houses dot the tall white cliffs. As you take a closer look at the stunning landscapes, you’ll notice the whitewashed houses that seem to grow out of the high-banded rocks.

After an exciting week, it’s time to head home and say goodbye to your group. Alternatively, we recommend extending your trip to a beach vacation on one of the beautiful Puglia beaches. For those who haven’t seen enough, it’s worth continuing the adventure to the neighboring provinces. Naples is just 330 kilometers away and you can easily reach it by rental car.

Journey time Locorotondo - Polignano a Mare: approx. 30 minutes / approx. 33 km
Journey time Polignano a Mare - Bari: approx. 30 minutes / approx. 35 km

San Paolo al Convento**** , Trani, Puglia, Italy

This hotel is a restored ancient Barnabite convent nestled directly on the port of Trani. The 33 rooms are spacious and elegantly furnished. You can enjoy original architecture and a rich breakfast in the former monastery chapel in the common area. The hotel also offers a relaxation area with tables, chairs, and umbrellas in the courtyard.

Risorgimento Resort*****, Lecce, Puglia, Italy

This accommodation nestles in Lecce’s old town and offers a rooftop restaurant with panoramic views. Guests can enjoy large, modern rooms, free WiFi throughout the hotel, and a relaxing wellness area. There is a minibar, satellite TV, a marble bathroom, bathrobes, and slippers in the air-conditioned rooms. There’s a continental breakfast buffet in the morning, and the three restaurants serve Salento and classic Italian cuisine.

Ottolire Resort****, Locorotondo, Puglia, Italy

Ottolire immerses itself within the tranquil open countryside. The accommodation carries away its guests to an atmosphere filled with traditional architecture, trulli, and cummerse (made with local stone according to ancient techniques by skilled artisans).

The chef proposes genuine and refined dishes made with vegetables from the organic garden and top-quality products every day. Trullo Spa has a Jacuzzi, Turkish bath, and an emotional shower for relaxation and intense well-being.

Set in a lush private forest of oaks, fragni, and Mediterranean plants, guests have the opportunity to engage in experiential activities such as yoga, Pilates, mediation, and more.

The hotel has a restaurant, outdoor pool, bar, garden, family rooms, and a terrace. Also, the property offers a 24-hour reception, room service, and free WiFi.

Closest airport: Bari Karol Wojtyła Airport

Included

  • 7 nights in the mentioned accommodations:

    • 2 nights in Hotel San Paolo al Convento**** with breakfast, Trani, Apulia, Italy

    • 2 nights at the Hotel Risorgimento Resort***** with breakfast, Lecce, Puglia, Italy

    • 3 nights at the Hotel Ottolire Resort**** with breakfast, Locorotondo, Apulia, Italy

  • Individual or group arrival transfer from BRI or BDS airport to the hotel on the day of arrival

  • Group transfer from the hotel to BRI or BDS airport on departure day

  • German-speaking airport assistance on days 1 and 8

  • Welcome drink and dinner together on day 1 (excluding drinks)

  • Joint farewell dinner on day 6

Included experiences

Trani, Bari, Vieste:

  • Guided tour Monte S. Angelo, Vieste, Foresta Umbra

  • Lunch in a typical restaurant in Vieste on day 2

  • Guided tour of Bari

  • Lunch in a typical agriturismo near Castel del Monte on day 3

Otranto, Santa Cesarea Terme, Santa Maria de Leuca:

  • City tour Santa Cesarea Terme & Otranto on day 4

  • Boat excursion with an aperitif on board on day 4

Lecce, Ostuni

  • City tour of Lecce on day 5

  • Visit an oil mill with oil tasting in Ostuni on day 5

  • Guided tour of Ostuni on day 5

Castellana Grotto, Alberobello, Martina Franca:

  • City tour of Castellana Grotte, Martina Franca & Alberobello

  • Wine tasting with a small aperitif in Alberobello on day 6

Altamura, Matera:

  • Focaccia tasting in Altamura on day 7 & city tour

  • City tour of Matera

Polignano a Mare:

  • City and market tour (depending on group departure times)

Excluded

  • International flights

  • Meals and drinks not mentioned in the scope of services

  • Tips and personal expenses

  • Baggage on the ferry trips (to be paid on site)

  • Travel insurance

  • Tourist tax (to be paid on-site)

Notes

  • Single room surcharge: 395 EUR

  • Group size up to a maximum of 12 participants

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