For many years, the region of Puglia—commonly referred to as the “heel to Italy’s boot”—has been frequented only by sojourning Italians seeking sand and sun. Discover the full range of Puglia’s hidden treasures, from the Baroque beauty of Lecce and fortified island town of Gallipoli to the unique conical-roofed homes of Alberobello—and explore an unspoiled region where few American travelers have been before.
- It's Included:
- Airfare from Brindisi to Palermo
- Accommodations for 2 nights in Matera, 3 nights in Lecce
- 9 meals—5 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 2 dinners
- 7 small group activities
- Services of a resident OAT Trip Leader who speaks English and the native language
Depart from the U.S. on an overnight flight to Bari, Italy.
Today we arrive in Bari and transfer to our hotel in Matera. Upon arrival, we enjoy an orientation briefing, followed by a walking tour of the area.
Later this afternoon, our small group visits the Museum of Peasant Culture in Matera. Here, you'll discover the ancient history of this city, once known as the Sassi district, and learn about what life was like for the people who for centuries called this area home. You’ll witness intricate renditions of the stone-carved homes along with some of the authentic furnishings and tools used throughout the ages. Today's visit is an introduction to tomorrow's hike through the traditional Sassi di Matera, or cave dwellings—carved from calcareous rocks—which are believed to be among the first human settlements in the country over 9,000 years ago.
This evening, we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
This morning, we enjoy breakfast at the hotel before departing for our hike along Churches Road, so called for the stretch of the ancient stone houses of worship we’ll discover in Sassi di Matera—a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We explore a path from the city to one of two original Sassi districts in the valley. We go back in time as we journey past quarries, ravines, and sculptured gardens, toward a network of small cave churches, crypts, and fortifications. During our trek, you may see the churches of San Pietro Barisino, Sant’Agostino, and Santa Maria de Idris, which overlooks scenic Sasso Caveoso valley. You’ll want to keep an eye out for medieval paintings executed in fresco on many of the church walls.
The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure before dinner on your own tonight.
After breakfast, we depart our hotel for Alberobello. During our visit, you’ll marvel at the town’s conical-roofed homes, or trulli, which make these dry-stone dwellings a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll gain an insider’s view of an authentic trullo, whose limestone architecture (built without cement) dates back as far as the mid-14th century but remains remarkably well-preserved.
We’ll stroll through the town’s narrow streets, lined with quaint cafés and produce markets. For lunch, we dine at a local restaurant before heading to Lecce—stopping en route to walk along the medieval streets of Ostuni, or La Città Bianca, so named for its white buildings perched high above the Adriatic Sea.
Tonight, we arrive in Lecce and check into our hotel. Dinner is on your own.
Today begins our day of discovery in Lecce, a town storied to have been around since the Trojan Wars. The modern-day city, however, can trace its history as far back as the 3rd century BC during the Roman takeover. The early 17th century introduced a Baroque influence that is still evident in the architecture today. The artistic styling of buildings such as the Piazza del Duomo, The Basilica di Santa Croce, and The Church of Saints Niccolo and Cataldo are major draws. You'll discover many of these treasures and more during a walking tour around Lecce.
Enjoy lunch on your own this afternoon. Perhaps you'll decide to dine al fresco at one of the many cafes and restaurants in the Lecce’s Old Town Centre. After lunch, the rest of the afternoon is free for you to explore Lecce at leisure. It’s a perfect opportunity to stroll through the piazza (squares) and palazzi (buildings), observing life as locals do. Dinner is on your own this evening in Lecce.
After enjoying breakfast at our hotel, you may enjoy a day at leisure in Lecce, or join our full-day Salento’s Way optional tour. This tour begins in Otranto—in the far eastern corner of Italy’s boot heel. Once a strategic port during Roman times, today Otranto is known for its white, sandy beaches, famed Aragonese Castle, and 11th century Romanesque cathedral. We’ll take a discovery walking tour of town highlights, including a visit to the entrance of the castle.
We pause en route for lunch at a local restaurant before heading westward to Gallipoli, a town whose name means “beautiful city.” After discovering the charms of this town on the Ionian coast on a walking tour, we return to Lecce to meet up with the rest of our group.
Dinner this evening is at a local restaurant.
We rise for breakfast and enjoy time in Brindisi—Southern Italy's so-called gateway to the east—before transferring to Palermo where we join the rest of the group and begin Sicily's Ancient Landscapes & Timeless Traditions.