Italy: Puglia: Cycling, Culinary & Cultural Immersion
Puglia is the sun-drenched heel of the boot that spans two seas, the Adriatic and the Ionian. An agricultural region with abundant, healthy soil, over 50 million olive trees, and a tradition of fishing that is still very much intact, Puglia produces some of the freshest food on the planet and has endured a colorful history, ranging from Norman to Byzantine occupation, and resulting in an eclectic mix of architecture, cultures and matchless hospitality.
On your arrival in Puglia we will meet you at Bari or Brindisi Airport and assist with your car hire, then lead you to Masseria Gelso Bianco, your delightful home for the next week. You will have some time to relax and acclimatize to the rhythm of life in Southern Italy before we start our adventures of discovery. Our chef will be on hand to prepare an extravagant welcome meal for you to initiate you into the wonders of Puglia cuisine. Buon appetito!
This morning we will take a short ride to the town of Polignano a Mare, which is perched on steep cliffs overlooking the Adriatic Sea. This town was ideally placed for smuggling throughout the centuries. There is also an option to take to the water in pedaloes and see the cliffs from the seas. Sunday is a great day to head to the coast for some entertaining people- watching as the locals enjoy their “passeggiata” For lunch there is a unique chance to indulge in a beach picnic alongside an ancient watchtower. Back at the villa your time is your own to relax or head out to one of the nearby hilltop villages to explore.
Our expert biking guides will meet you at your villa this morning to fit you with your bikes and provide a thorough briefing on the day’s adventure. We will pedal directly from the villa into the nearby countryside, where we will visit a local cheese farm and shop, where artisan Raffaele will demonstrate the art of making fresh burrata and ricotta and show you the room where he ages mozzarella over several days to make scamorza. Next we head to the UNESCO trulli capital of Alberobello itself where we will meet up with local superstar and sommelier, Mimmo. He will take us on a walk through tow and reveal the secrets of these amazing fairytale houses. With our fully equipped support vehicle, we can bike as little or as much as you want – our guide knows hundreds of stunning back roads to show you the best of the Itria Valley by bike. We’ll stop for a delicious lunch on route at one of our favorite local eateries. Evening at leisure.
This morning we’ll head to the local market in the coastal town of Monopoli with our executive chef. We will stop and chat with the vendors to see what is the best pick for our day’s menu. Take some time at leisure to explore this hidden gem on the Adriatic coast – we have plenty of great recommendations for a good lunch spot. Back at Gelso Bianco around 4:30pm, our chef will welcome you into the cooking school for a dedicated class using the ingredients selected this morning at the market. Don’t miss picking the fresh herbs from the villa’s garden to season the dishes and getting hands-on with the delicious, traditional recipes.
Free day. Today you may decide to just relax by the pool. We can arrange for our masseuse to come to villa for some indulgent massage treatments using organic olive oils on request. Or you might prefer to try a chic beach club on the coast and swim in the crystal clear waters of the southern Adriatic.
Today starts with some in-depth bread discovery. We will visit one of famous producers of Italy’s only DOP bread in the town of Altamura. These master bakers will lead us in fully interactive demo so you can make your own dough and get behind the scenes in the ancient bread-making technique. Next we will head to Matera for a light lunch of fresh cheeses and cold cuts at Latteria Rizzi, followed by an afternoon guided walk of the town. Matera (in the Basilicata region bordering Puglia), is a UNESCO heritage site – a striking city perched high on a beautiful hillside and only recently seen by foreign eyes. Our expert guide will lead you on a walking tour of the ‘sassi’, ancient cave dwellings restored for current use as homes, shops and restaurants. The Passion of Christ was filmed here and as you walk around you will truly feel like you have stepped back in time. Evening at leisure.
This morning we get back on the bikes and head to the coast to visit lost city of Egnazia. This prominent Roman site dates back to the Bronze Age and a leading archaeologist will take you on an exclusive tour of the site, including areas that are off-limits to the public. The city is mentioned by Greek geographer Strabo at the end of the first century B.C., and by the Latin poet Horace, who passed through in 38 B.C. during his famous voyage from Rome to Brindisi. After the visit there is the opportunity carry on cycling or to just relax at a chic beach club with a seafood lunch and swim, or to visit a olive oil estate, walk the grounds with the owner and visit the underground mill that has been in use for olive oil production for over three thousand years. In the afternoon it’s back to the villa for some downtime and dinner at leisure.
After your check-out at Masseria Gelso Bianco, you start your drive down to the tip of the heel of Italy’s boot, for the start of your second week. Your destination is the small village of Alessano, just outside Santa Maria di Leuca and your home will be the breathtaking Palazzo Alessano. Evening at leisure to settle in to your sophisticated surroundings.
Today is a free day, so we suggest relaxing around the pool in style or exploring the coast for a fabulous Sunday lunch of fish and seafood overlooking the water.
Gallipoli is your destination today, known as the Pearl of the Ionian Sea and for good reason! Anna Maria, one of our favorite local food experts will meet you for an exciting exploration of this ancient coastal city. Your number one destination is the eclectic fish market, brimming with the freshest produce of all colors and sizes and of course some memorable market characters. We’ll learn how to make a variety of typical dishes using the ingredients we have sourced together, including the famous Gallipoli fish soup. Exceptionally good!
The famous white beaches of the Ionian coast will be quieter today than at the weekend, so we suggest you take some time to explore some of the gorgeous beach lidos for some decadent relaxation. Or explore some little hidden jewels of southern Salento like Galatina and Galatone with their tiny old centers.
For our final day’s biking we have saved the best ride for last. We will shuttle to the most eastern point of Italy, to the small city of Otranto – one part Italian, one part Byzantine and all parts enjoyable for the start of our ride. We’ll head down the coastal road with stunning views across the azure waters, all the way down to Finnibus Terrae or the “end of the earth”. Along the way there are plenty of opportunities for a swim and also a visit to the Zinzulusa caves. Lunch is included along the way. Unforgettable!
No visit to the Salento province is complete without a visit to Lecce, known as the “Florence of the South”. Bursting with baroque treasures, Roman ruins and chic boutiques, this city is must-see. After a walk around the old center Anna Maria will meet us again for another immersion into Salentine cooking. From the famous pasticiotto leccese to the fried pasta and chick pea dishes, there are hundreds of possibilities for adventures in the Puglia kitchen with your expert guide and cook extraordinaire. Buon appetito!
Your last day is free to return to your favorite spots or simply indulge in some more decadent relaxation around the pool. We suggest perhaps some massages or a private chef service to see out the day in style!
Sadly, today marks your last day in Puglia. After check-out from Palazzo Alessano, take the drive back to Bari Aiport (please allow at least 3 hours for this drive). We hope you have enjoyed your time in Puglia and will be back to visit us soon!
*Price is subject to change due to date and time of year of booking as well as to currency fluctuation. The price is only an estimate at this time and an accurate costing will be provided when itineraries are chosen and submitted. Prices are based on double occupancy.
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