Unknown makes unloved? Not when it comes to Apulia. This lesser-known stretch of 'bella vita' in the heel of Italy's boot is surrounded by the deep blue waters of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. You will encounter beautiful landscapes with high cliffs, dark caves, countless olive trees and graceful vineyards, alternated with wonderful samples of Apulia's fascinating history.
Apulia is one of Italy's richest regions when it comes to Romanesque art. But also the imposing castles, such as Frederick II's 'Castel del Monte', the mysterious 'trulli' houses with their conical roofs, the typical 'masserie' and the dashing Baroque elements of Lecce all help to make this humble region a must-visit location on your bucket list ...
DAY 1 : Departure to BRINDISI
You will fly to Bari or Brindisi and pick up your rental car. You will head towards the interesting 'Valle d'Itria' for a three-night stay in one of our conveniently located hotels in the region. Here, you can opt for a stay near the coast or for a typical stay in the countryside near picturesque villages.
DAY 2 : THE LAND OF THE 'TRULLI'
You will discover the magical 'trulli' region, a region where rich red clay soils occupied by swaying wheat fields and shimmering olive trees are interspersed with typical whitewashed houses and beautiful small towns. Not to be missed are touristy Alberobello, the 'trulli' town par excellence, the beautiful 'white city' of Ostuni, fascinating Martina Franca and charming Ceglie Messapica.
The area is named after the multiple, white houses with conical grey roofs, sometimes painted with mysterious signs (such as sacred and profane symbols, stars, half moons, crosses, astrological signs...) of which the exact meaning is unknown. The construction technique of the 'trullo' is said to have originated in the 15th century to avoid the tax levy that the King of Naples imposed on all homes built on his territory. By building cement-free houses, these 'trulli' could be demolished in a short period of time in the event of an inspection by the monarchy.
DAY 3 : CASTEL DEL MONTE - BARI
Today you will visit the fascinating Castel del Monte, the octagonal castle of Frederick II, situated on a hill overlooking the surrounding plain. Passing picturesque Trani, with its beautiful cathedral and cosy old fishing port, you'll head to the region's capital, Bari, and visit the old town, which includes the castle, cathedral and St Nicholas Basilica.
DAY 4 : LECCE - OTRANTO
Discover the beautiful baroque city of Lecce, also called the 'Florence of the South', where richly decorated facades and numerous sculptures of angels and saints adorn the golden yellow streets and cozy squares. Besides a visit to the magnificent 'Santa Croce' basilica, which took no less than 150 years to build, it is great to stroll along the lively Piazza Sant' Oronzo, the meeting place of Lecce's inhabitants, guarded by the city's patron saint standing on a metre-high column, and the dazzling Piazza del Duomo, surrounded by theatrical buildings. Then drive to the fishing town of Otranto, where you'll admire, among other things, the beautiful 12th-century mosaic floor of the cathedral or enjoy a pleasant wander around the narrow cobbled streets of the old town. Here you will spend two nights in one of our boutique hotels.
DAY 5 : SANTA MARIA DI LEUCA - GALLIPOLI
Past the sea caves of Romanelli and Zinzulusa, you will continue to Capo Santa Maria di Leuca, the tip of the heel of Italy, where jagged rocks majestically plunge into the clear azure waters. On to Gallipoli, a walled city that seems to rise out of the sea. The charming old town centre sits on an islet, surrounded by numerous fishing boats, and is connected to the cosy modern town by a bridge.
DAY 6 : THE BAROQUE APULIA (ABOUT 150 KM)
From Otranto, you will head towards Taranto today. In the 16th century, Apulia became the cradle of baroque art, thanks in part to its soft and easy-to-use tuff. You will visit the baroque town of Maglie, the birthplace of politician Aldo Moro, and via the attractive Nardò, with a beautiful 'masserie' on route. You will drive to the area around Taranto where you will stay for two nights.
DAY 7 : THE SASSI DI MATERA
Today you will temporarily cross the border into pristine Basilicata. Via Massafra, built on the edges of a ravine that divides the city in two, you will head to fascinating Matera, with its numerous cave dwellings protected by UNESCO. These ancient dwellings, still occupied by about 2000 people, and dozens of cave churches, are scattered in the 'Sasso Barisano' and 'Sasso Caveoso' districts on either side of the Gravina gorge. Not surprisingly, this enchanting setting appealed to many film directors: Mel Gibson chose Matera to shoot 'The Passion of the Christ' and Daniel Craig sped through the streets as James Bond here. In the afternoon, visit Taranto's old town and its interesting archaeological museum.
DAY 8 : Return home
Don't feel like going back yet? You can stay in one of our charming Italian hotels for a few more days.
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