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A journey across three southern regions of Italy stacked with surprises and pleasures. After a 5 night stay at whitewashed Ostuni on the Adriatic Coast we’ll find ourselves immersed in the Sassi, troglodyte cave-like dwellings inland at Basilicata, then a few nights in the awesome Pollini mountains to explore Calabrian culture returning to the Tyrrhenian coast for a 5 night stay at Calabrian Tropea.

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Preliminary Itinerary

Day 1 Sunday 08 October – Arrival in Bari, Puglia

We meet in Bari today. Some guests will arrive by train, and others may fly into Bari, which has good European flight connections. Please let Isabella know your arrival plans. The airport is 8 klm from the city centre.

Once considered the Bronx of Italy, Bari’s old reputation is beginning to wear thin because an anti-mafia mayor is making headway and attracting business and tourists. With deep roots in the past, a history of more than 3,500 years, Bari has a long and involved story to tell. We will meet in the hotel bar this evening at 6 pm. Some people may not arrive until later in the evening, so we will delay our welcome dinner until tomorrow. Those who have arrived early in the day are invited to join Isabella for a light meal. Tonight is the first of 3 nights in our hotel in Bari.

Overnight ****Grande Albergo delle Nazioni, Bari
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Day 2 Monday 09 October – Bari – Capital of Puglia

The day will begin with a fascinating walk through the alleys of Bari and a street food experience with the locals, we do need to visit at least one cathedral on this journey, and that is the Cathedral of Saint Nicolas, a remarkable example of Romanesque architecture – no points for guessing who the Saint it was named in honour of happens to be, commonly known as Father C. We’ll visit the magnificent Swabian castle built during the reign of the Normans and refurbished by Frederick II. The rest of the day will be yours to explore Bari at your own pace. This evening we’ll gather for our first taste of Pugliese cuisine at dinner.

Overnight ****Grande Albergo delle Nazioni, Bari. Aperitivo and Dinner with wine included.

Day 3 Tuesday 10 October – Castel del Monte – Trani

Castel del Monte is an intriguing and puzzling monument, constructed by the Emperor Frederick II in the 13th century. Perhaps he built it as a hunting lodge in the Murgia because of the wide horizons and somewhat lunar landscape, or perhaps not, for he never seems to have slept a single night in his castle. The detail is, in itself, decidedly puzzling, built on the octagonal shape, with repetitive symbols and geometric and astronomical precision which continues to baffle architects and historians. Following our visit we return to the coast, to one of Frederick II’s imperial towns. Trani is a fishing town and a bustling port where, hundreds of years ago, pilgrims and crusaders set out to reach the Holy Land, trudging down to the port along its cobbled streets between the same stone houses you’ll pass today. You’ll be free to wander, soaking up the atmosphere, and finding a special place to lunch. Trani is a picturesque and photogenic village, and a stroll along the waterfront offers magnificent views leading you to….you got it! Another Romanesque cathedral dedicated to the good Saint Nicolas! In the later afternoon we return to Bari.

Overnight ****Grande Albergo delle Nazioni, Bari.

Day 4 Wednesday 11 October – Lost Messapii at  Egnazia – Polignano a Mare – Ostuni

Our destination for 5 nights is Ostuni, only about 60 klm from Bari. Ostuni is a cluster of white washed buildings on a hilltop overlooking the coast. But along our way we visit, with a guide, the archaeological excavation of Egnazia to learn a little of the Messapia people who, during the Second Punic war between Rome and Carthage, gambled their survival on Hannibal, exposing them to the wrath of the slaughtering Romans. The Messapii, probably originating from Illyria, built a thriving culture in Puglia that lasted a thousand years, and although only remnants remain, it is a captivating history. Is Egnazia where they worshipped ancient gods at a sacred altar? The language is extinct and few inscriptions remain, but we’ll explore the archaeological site and find the partially excavated ditch tombs where the Messapii people lay dead in a crouched position. Lunch will be at beautiful Polignano a Mare, in a grotto with the smell of the sea in our nostrils. After lunch we head for Ostuni. Once into our rooms, after a short break, we’ll begin to explore our stunning surroundings in one of the most beautiful white villages of Puglia.

Overnight ****Hotel La Terra, Ostuni   Lunch with wines included.

Day 5 Thursday 12 October – Ostuni – Puglian Olives and a Masseria – Cisternino

The early part of the morning is free for you to explore Ostuni, wandering among the cobbled streets which run concentrically around the top of a hill, capturing some wonderful views, sitting with a coffee participating in local life or exploring cultural monuments. In the late morning we drive a few kilometres to a Spanish Masseria, a fortified farm, which has been in the family for hundreds of years. Here we will learn more about Puglian olive oil produced from trees planted many hundreds of years ago, meet the family, taste the oil and lunch on farm products. Once we tear ourselves away from lunch we return to Ostuni for a break, and in the early evening we go to Cisternino, not just because it is another of Puglia’s stunning white villages, but to meet up with a local butcher; a unique experience where the butcher, in his own shop, bbq’s for you whatever you want to eat! It is rustic and fun – we’ll buy wine and let the locals cook for us over the bbq.

Overnight ****Hotel La Terra, Ostuni. Light farm Lunch and BBQ Dinner with wine included.

Day 6 Friday 13 October – Lecce – Galantina

We have a full day excursion, so we’ll set off a bit earlier than normal and drive to the splendid city of Lecce. We’ll meet up with our Archaeological guide who will lead us through pre history to Greek, Norman, Medieval and Baroque Lecce. On reaching Lecce, after morning coffee where we’ll taste Lecce’s famous Quarta coffee, our English speaking guide will help us explore from the ancient to the baroque sites of Lecce. After a morning exploring our guide will take us to lunch on traditional Leccese cuisine, and then we’ll travel the few kilometres to the small village of Galatina, a gem far from the beaten track where we learn about the Tarantella dance which has its origins right here in Galantina, and before we leave, we’ll taste a local speciality at the pasticceria, the pasticciotto – a day of learning and exploration way down in the deep south of Puglia.

Overnight ****Hotel La Terra, Ostuni. Morning coffee, Lunch with wines, and Pasticciotto included.

Day 7 Saturday 14 October – A day to restore your vitality

Yesterday was a full day of learning, and, on our 7th day on tour, today you are free to make your own discoveries. You may decide to relax or shop in Ostuni, settling in like a local, or perhaps you’ll take the local bus to the sea and indulge in a seafood lunch, or maybe a walk in the countryside. Maybe you want a slow sleepy morning, a late breakfast, skip lunch and come for an aperitivo in the evening before we sit down to an exquisite meal in a star rated restaurant – this will be a gorgeous dinner of exemplary cuisine, and bring us all back together after our free day so we can relate our tales of adventure – or not!

Overnight ****Hotel La Terra, Ostuni. Dinner with wine included.

Day 8 Sunday 15 October –  Locorotondo – Alberobello – Martina Franca

First stop today is to the whisper quiet heart of Locorotondo, voted one of the most beautiful villages in all of Italy.. As with all these villages, we cannot take our transport into the heart of the village, but you will enjoy meandering, finding family shops and bars, and maybe sitting in the piazza with a cappuccino is exactly what appeals to you. Probably the most visited town in all of Puglia, now we need to tackle our visit to Alberobello! OK, we are going to find lots of other people, but that is because of the unique Trulli, conic shaped houses which seem to rise out of the stones in the countryside, built with strong bare hands and born of a life of simplicity, but in Alberobello they were built in amazing suburban avenues. In the approach through country roads we’ll see trulli in humble surroundings, and you may prefer to see them like that, however it has to be said that to see Alberobello with its avenues of Trulli really is quite unique. It is hard to take the smile off ones face, even in the face of how tourism has changed Alberobello, after all, we are tourists too! A short drive will take us to Martina Franca which still exhibits stunning ramparts and a bustling heart bordered by 17th century palazzi. Martina Franca is the last of our villages, but one where the pleasure of strolling along Baroque palaces is not equalled.  Tomorrow we head to Basilicata for 2 nights.

Overnight ****Hotel La Terra, Ostuni.

Day 9 Monday 16 October – Oria – Ceglie Messapica – Matera

Oria, in classical times, was known as Hyria or Hyrium, an ancient Messapii city, and thought to have been the capital of Messapia. Though dismissed by the following Greek settlers as barbarians, the Messapii were present in Ostuni, Manduria, Otranto, Ceglie Messapica and Oria, which is the fifth of Puglia’s so called white towns. The Messapii were farmers, and according to Pliny the Elder, peerless at the cultivation of olives, and the first to cultivate Puglia’s Primitivo grapes, as well as making trozzella pottery with sharply angled handles. The myth of Frederick II, who was particularly fond of Oria, is strongly linked to his castle hovering over the town. We are off to lunch at Ceglia Messapica – cementing our connection with these mysterious peoples. Then we cross the border into Basilicata, still one of the least known regions of Italy. It will be a couple of hours to Matera, our home for 2 nights. Matera was selected among a short list of 5 to be the European Capital of Culture in Italy in 2019, which means money to bring Matera in from the cultural backwater, changing its image and providing money for restoration and tourism. We’ll experience Matera before changes take place!  Once settled into our various cave rooms in the heart of the Sassi, the troglodyte dwellings of Matera,  you will be free to explore.

Overnight ****Hotel Le Dodici Lune/Hotel Agora, Matera. Lunch with wine included

Day 10 Tuesday 17 October – Matera

Today will be spent in Matera. A handful of decades ago Matera represented quintessential poverty. If you have the chance to read the book Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi before your visit, you will see why he said: the houses were open on account of the heat and as I went by I could see into the caves. Some had no entrance, but a trapdoor and ladder. These dark homes were cut out of the earth…on the floor lay dogs, sheep, goats and pigs…this is how 20,000 people lived. In the 60’s and 70’s vast amounts of government money eradicated malaria and put a stop to starvation for the thousands who lived in the caves of Matera. People who were once cave dwellers were moved to modern concrete apartment blocks, and many have never returned, not even to visit the Sassi, while others have returned, benefiting from the visitors who come to have a glimpse into life in the Sassi…and where The Passion produced by Mel Gibson was filmed. This will be an astonishing day as we discover the Sassi as well as Rupestrian churches. This evening we will gather for dinner.

Overnight ****Hotel Le Dodici Lune/Hotel Agora, Matera. Dinner with wine included.

Day 11 Wednesday 18 October – Monte Pollini – Morano Calabro

This morning we depart Matera and travel through the corner of Basilicata, an unpolluted region, surrounded by huge National Parks. Not at all contaminated by fast food or mass tourism, the landscape changes from the lunar like landscape of the ‘calanchi’ or badlands, from where we have come, to the impenetrable woods of the Lucanian Apennines. Infrastructure is badly needed, not just for hotels, but also for roads and bridges. We have to stick to secure roads, and we will break our journey into Calabria and have lunch.  By mid afternoon we should reach our destination, a mountain retreat surrounded by flowering gardens against the dramatic backdrop of Pollino’s swooping mountains. We’ll get ourselves into our rooms, and remember, this is an agriturismo, more like a huge country farm house than a hotel, so we’ll unpack for the next 3 nights, and maybe a glass of wine to celebrate our arrival in Calabria. In the evening we’ll stroll to a medieval town, perhaps another glass of wine (!) before we enjoy our welcome to Calabria dinner.

Lunch with wines, pre dinner wine and welcome dinner included. Agriturismo La Locanda del Parco, Calabro.

Day 12. Thursday 19 October – Civita – Calabrian Wines – Albanian Dinner

Zoterote flini arberisht? That is a surprise, we are surrounded by Calabrian Albanian culture and are off for a guided visit of an Albanian town in Calabria! In the afternoon we will taste the local wine at a vineyard – Calabrian wines – and at the end of the day we are going to feast on the cuisine of Albania, which often includes sweet paprika, still commonly used in all the villages around about. It is a day to begin to savour a very different region of Italy, with a unique history and cuisine.

***Agriturismo La Locanda del Parco, Calabro. Calabrian Wine tasting and Albanian Dinner with wines included.

Day 13 Friday 20 October – Rossano –  Ionian Sea

For something different, we are off to visit a Licorice factory with records of licorice making dating back to the 1500’s – possibly the world’s oldest continually operated family run business. We are going to tour the factory, and follow that with a rustic lunch in a home style trattoria where we’ll have an array of antipasti just as the locals make it. This evening, our hostess at our farm-agriturismo, Adriana, will prepare our meal, and you can help if you like, getting into the cooking and preparation, or maybe you’ll help with instructions from behind a glass of wine. She has signature dishes which have won her first place in national culinary competitions, and this one she made famous from the town of Morano. We may have a surprise visit this evening – still being investigated.

***Agriturismo La Locanda del Parco, Calabro. Rustic Antipasto Lunch and Dinner with wines included.

Day 14 Saturday 21 October – Pizza Calabro – Vibo Marina – Tropea

It is time to say goodbye to new friends in the Pollino mountains, especially to our hostess Adriana, and take the road towards the aquamarine waters of Calabria’s west coast. We’ll pause for morning coffee on the way, and at the village of Pizzo Calabro we’ll take a walking tour of the town. This a is a 14th century fishermans’ village and worth the time to explore, especially the sand sculptures , a tradition dating back to the 16th century. By now we’ll be hungry, so we’ll stop at a fantastic seafood restaurant at Vibo Marina, and after lunch taste the famous Tartufo di Pizzo gelato. Vibo is an industrial port, not a sweet fishing village, but this is where the best seafood restaurants are situated. We finish our journey and arrive at our destination for the next 5 nights, Tropea. Here you will be allocated into one of our  Bed & Breakfasts. They are of equal quality, very tastefully furnished, and there is a roof terrace at one B&B where we can all gather for a drink. We are all situated in the historical centre of Tropea with plenty of eating and drinking places nearby.

Morning coffee, Seafood lunch with wines and Tartufo gelato included.

***S Bed&Breakfast Il Barone/Ercole/Apartment, Tropea.

Day 15 Sunday 22 October – Tropea – Capo Vaticano

Time to explore Tropea with our own artist and interpreter, who will lead us on a guided walk around Tropea. Francesco really is a local artist with a deep knowledge of Tropea’s history and architecture. You will be free to find your own lunch in Tropea, but we suggest you not over indulge because tonight a local friend and chef, Antonella, is welcoming us to her home for dinner and it is likely to be a feast. First we will take a drive to admire the night views of Capo Vaticano, from where you can see the volcano, Mt Etna, on the island of Sicily, and then we make our way to meet Antonella, who hails from Catanzaro, hence we have the chance to taste dishes from another part of Calabria.

***S Bed&Breakfast Il Barone/Ercole/Apartment, Tropea. Dinner with wines included.

Day 16 Monday 23 October – Fishing and Sailing to Capo Vaticano.

We have to divide into two groups, the first group taking the fishing and sailing trip in the morning, and the other group will go in the early evening. You will soon understand why, as you sail along these waters, it is named Costa degli Dei – The Coast of the Gods. Crystal clear waters and granite cliffs fascinate geologists. Francesco will teach you his fishing technique, if you wish, or you can sit back and enjoy magnificent scenery. Each group will have a meal on board, prepared by Francesco, who has his own vegetable garden and who will include Prosecco and fresh seafood from the morning catch. Whether you are on the morning excursion or the late afternoon excursion, the rest of the day will be yours to relax in Tropea, or on the beach, or with a spot of shopping.

***S Bed&Breakfast  Il Barone/Ercole/Apartment,Tropea. Fishing Lunch with wines included.

Day 17 Tuesday 24 October – Bronze dei Riace, Reggio Calabria – Scilla – Bagnara

Today is a full day trip for everyone. We do not want to spend a lot of time in Reggio Calabria; it is not the most salubrious city of the south, and hence we will drive straight to the Museum because we cannot miss the chance to see the bronze sculptures, two specimens of ancient Greece, discovered in the depths of the Ionian sea near the town of Riace in the 1970’s. Having done justice to these magnificent sculptures, we head out of the city to Scilla and a walk among delightful buildings standing proudly in the quaint neighborhood of Chianalea, where pastel houses are built into the cliffs. Later in the day we will meet up with another friend, Fulvio, and he will take us to his acclaimed restaurant in the town of Bagnara, characterised by narrow and charming arched streets, which will introduce us to Greek infused Calabrese cuisine.

***S Bed&Breakfast Il Barone/Ercole/Apartment, Tropea. Dinner with wines included.

Day 18 Wednesday 25 October – Free morning – Cooking with Chef Peppe at the Farm

Yesterday was a full day excursion, so this morning you can sleep in, go for a late cappuccino at the local bar, wander down to the beach or  finish exploring Tropea. Some of us might join together and find a gorgeous place overlooking the sea for drinks and a light lunch…then maybe a nap…because in the later afternoon we will be having a cooking class at a family run farm, followed by our farewell dinner with plenty of wine, dessert and home made liqueurs! First we’ll tour the farm and olive groves, then the vineyards,  tasting the reds and whites, and we’ll examine the chilli pepper production which plays a major role in Peppe’s home made Nduja – a local spicy sausage. The farm is also home to pigs, goats, donkeys and horses, and it is rather like coming home to the warmth, generosity and enthusiasm of an Italian family on their private farm. We might have to gather our own ingredients from the organic vegetable and herb garden, and Chef Peppe will teach us how to use the sweet cipolla rossa, or red onions of Tropea. This will be an evening of hands on fun! Hands on cooking, or hands on the wine glass, whichever you wish! If the weather is nice we will eat under a canopy surrounded by vineyards and lush green fields of Tropea.

***S Bed&Breakfast Il Barone/Ercole/Apartment,Tropea. Chef Cooking Dinner with wines included.

Day 19 Thursday 26 October – Departure from Lamezia Terme airport

Our travels through Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria are at an end. This morning we will transfer to the airport for departure. Please make sure you co-ordinate your departure, particularly the time you need to be at the airport, with Isabella, as there will only be 1 group transfer from Tropea to the airport.  If you need an early or later transfer, this can be arranged with Isabella.

Inclusions

Deep South of Italy – 18  NIGHT TOUR

18 Nights – 3 nights****Albergo Grande delle Nazioni, Bari,  5 nights ***Hotel Hotel La Terra, Ostuni,  2 nights***Hotels/B&B in Sassi, Matera, 3 nights*** Agriturismo at Calabro Marano Calabria,  5 nights*** B&B/Apartments in town of Tropea. A detailed hotel schedule will be forwarded to you prior to departure. Hotels have not yet been confirmed. Any hotel changes will be notified.

18 meals – lunches or dinners – as set out on the itinerary. Each meal includes local wines. Meals not listed on the itinerary are at your own expense.  Breakfast included daily.

Entry fees for all events scheduled on the itinerary, and all food, wine tasting and historic monument visits are included.

Travel throughout the tour, included in your tour price:  Air conditioned touring coach

Gratuities – to coach drivers, guides and at group meals is included.

Porterage: Where possible we have arranged for your main baggage to be brought from the hotel foyer to your room, and vice versa, and this generally works in some of our hotels, but it is a service that we cannot guarantee will work perfectly every time – patience! You may need to manage your own baggage from room to foyer, but we will find help if you need it.

Baggage – one piece of main baggage per person. Please ensure baggage is on wheels and boldly labelled. You are responsible for your own hand baggage and personal belongings at all times.

Exclusions

Deep South of Italy Tour 2017

Travel Insurance – please note personal travel insurance is mandatory on all tours and it is essential for you to insure your travel and tour holiday in case of cancellation due to sickness or any other cause. It is your responsibility to ensure you have adequate insurance and your attendance on tour will only be confirmed once you have signed and returned the Booking Form and Terms & Conditions.

Visas and passports, meals other than those specifically noted on itinerary, personal expenses, excess baggage, telephone, laundry, room-frigo-bar, and anything not listed expressly as included are all at your expense.

IMPORTANT NOTICE:  Your Tour Price in Euro has been established well in advance and at the time of preparing this itinerary.  The tour price will be adjusted depending on currency fluctuations at the time of your final payment. The quoted tour price may vary due to supplier increases however we will make every endeavour to honour the price quoted.  We retain the right to make practical itinerary alterations deemed necessary. Any alterations are generally of a minor nature and you are assured of an equal quality tour in both value and content.[/optinlocker]