The Puglia Culinary Tour
Small group tours of Italy
This tour combines the key sights of Puglia with a progressive exploration of the food and wine specific to the region. The cuisine of Puglia is based largely on the superb vegetables, local cheeses, and seafood from the extensive coastline. Puglia has the quintessential Mediterranean diet, and can be considered a “foodie heaven” such is the quality of the fresh produce here. During this week you go in depth into the provenance of the ingredients, the dishes that are prepared, and in a series of hands on sessions with a local chef you make the meals the same as the locals do. We have a series of gastronomic visits: to food producers, markets and wineries. We also see the key sights of Puglia, such as Alberobello, Lecce, Ostuni and Polignano a Mare.
Note that this tour has appeal for keen amateur cooks but is also suitable for those without a background in food preparation – as long as you like good food and good wine, this tour is for you.
ON THE PUGLIA CULINARY TOUR YOU WILL EXPERIENCE:
- How to cook like a local - with a series of hands-on cooking sessions with a Pugliese chef.
- Making classic Pugliese pasta shapes - such as trofie and orecchiette.
- Forage for wild greens and herbs - incorporating these into our meals.
- Market shopping - to buy fresh local produce for the meals we prepare.
- Traditional ‘cucina povera’ ingredients - such as grano d’arso and fave beans.
- Prepare seafood meals with our chef - a key part of Puglia cuisine.
- Make desserts based on local ingredients - such as ricotta cheese and almonds.
- Mozzarella making demonstration - by a ‘casaro’ cheesemaker.
- Dine in a Michelin star restaurant - and enjoy the region’s cuisine at its best.
- Winery and vineyard visit with the winemaker - you’ll see what makes these local wine varieties so special.
- Accommodation in a Masseria - a traditional farmhouse from the 1700's.
- Lecce - famous for the ornate 16th century baroque buildings carved from the local stone.
- Alberobello - where we see the distinctive trulli, conical houses built centuries ago and still in use today (UNESCO World Heritage site).
- Martina Franca - one of the Baroque towns of Puglia where you are immersed in authentic Italian culture.
- Locorotondo - voted one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
- Ostuni - the ‘white town’ with a commanding hilltop presence.
- Polignano a Mare - perched above the turquoise waters of the Adriatic.
- Optional Add On: Visit Matera - a town built into a hillside where caves and houses merge together (UNESCO World Heritage site).
- Optional Add On: Visit Trani and Castel del Monte - the unique octagonal castle (UNESCO World Heritage site).
ON THE PUGLIA TOUR YOU WILL TASTE:
- Winetasting - tutored by a sommelier introducing the region’s wines.
- Wines made from indigenous grapes - such as minutolo and susumaniello, rarely seen outside this part of Puglia.
- Olive Oil - from trees that are centuries old, with a tutored degustation of several types of olive oil.
- Local Cheeses - such as caciocavallo, burrata and pecorino.
- Pasticceria pastries & sweets - including the famous pasticciotto, eaten at the source in a bakery in Lecce.
- Latte di mandorle - the sweet almond drink.
- Focaccia & taralli - the bread snacks often baked with fennel seeds.
- Seafood caught fresh from the Adriatic - such as stuffed calimari and scampi.
- Local foods such as lampascioni - a small root vegetable, and cardoncelli mushrooms.
- Italian Liqueurs - such as amaro and limoncello.
- Meals showcasing the best of Puglia - enjoyed each day with menus designed to cover the ranges of foods available here with a focus on regional specialities… every meal will be different and specific to the places we visit.
As well as the items listed above, the Puglia Culinary Tour Includes:
- 'Italy With Pleasure' provides a Tour Manager for the duration of the trip, who will coordinate all activities and accommodation.
- All accommodation is included.
- All breakfasts are included with the accommodation, plus main meals included as listed in the itinerary. Main meals are all 3-4 courses with wine included.
- All costs/entry fees for the activities listed in the itinerary are included.
- All transport during the tour is included. Transport is in our van/minibus with a professional driver.
Living the local lifestyle:
During this tour you stay in the Valle d’Itria, the area famous for trulli houses. This area is dotted with charming towns such as Locorotondo and Alberobello. The historic centres of these towns are lined with historic dwellings, evocative lanes amongst the whitewashed buildings, and piazzas with the traditional ‘passeggiata’ in full swing each evening.
You stay in what is known as a ‘scattered hotel’, this is a new concept that is becoming very popular in some Italian historical centres.
With a central reception (& free wifi, rooms serviced daily, etc.), the rooms are in tastefully renovated historic buildings. The rooms are well presented, spacious, with high vaulted ceilings and the ubiquitous limestone paving adding to the sense of history.
For this week, you live amongst it.
Staying in the historic centre of town also aligns with our responsible tourism charter; being supportive of local and historic initiatives.
Here you can feel immersed in the local lifestyle, and it is easy to wander out in the evening for dinner and gelati.
By the end of the week, you’ll be greeting your neighbours with a ‘buongiorno’ every morning!
Day 1 - BUONGIORNO PUGLIA!
We meet in Bari, and from here we start our culinary discovery of Puglia.
Our first stop is at Ostuni, known as “la città bianca” (the white town). Ostuni is a cluster of whitewashed buildings on a hilltop overlooking the coast, with a maze of narrow streets and steps. The fortified citadel dominates the surrounding areas, looking out over an expanse of olive trees.
Towards evening we reach our accommodation in a masseria near Ostuni. ‘Masseria’ is the name given to large historic farmhouses. These were fortified, largely self-contained rural centres.
By staying in the masseria you will be directly experiencing Puglia’s history. Set amongst olive groves and fig trees, the buildings were constructed in the 1700’s. Around the grounds you will see numerous aspects of times gone by, giving an insight into the lifestyle here in centuries past – you are immersed in history.
The masseria where you will stay has been tastefully renovated as a boutique accommodation provider. And while it is a historic building, we don’t forget the needs of the present! Their masseria offers all you would expect during your time here, such as wifi and a swimming pool.
Tonight we dine together in the masseria’s own excellent restaurant which serves food grown right there in their own organic farm. Our first taste of Puglia.
Meals: Dinner (three courses with wine included)
Day 2 - Cooking Pugliese Style plus Locorotondo
This morning, after a relaxing start to the morning, we have a special experience, taking a cooking lesson from a local chef. The focus will be on cooking typical Puglia dishes, first taking you through the types of ingredients used and their provenance.
The cuisine of Puglia is based on the produce at a very local level, so is different to the food from other Italian regions. Seasonal vegetables, as well as focaccia and other breads, dominate this cuisine. All these are based on the abundant fresh ingredients as well as the ever-present extra virgin olive oil - a simple and effective cuisine. Recipes have been handed down through the generations and are truly expressive of the Mediterranean diet. The purity of flavour expressed in this cuisine is gaining it a reputation internationally, such that you’ll now find Pugliese dishes in top international restaurants.
The session is hands on and we are all involved in making a series of dishes, and we finish off the session by dining on the lunch that we’ve prepared.
After lunch we visit a winery, where some of the wines we taste are unique to the Valle d’Itria subregion of Puglia. The winery is family run, and focussed on making quality wines expressive of the area. The traditional varieties that are grown include fiano minutolo and susumaniello. We are taken through the vineyard. The terroir provides the basis for these excellent wines – deep limestone soils combined with cooling breezes. We taste their range of wines following our visit.
Later in the afternoon we visit Locorotondo, voted as one of the “Borghi più belli d'Italia” (one of the most beautiful villages of Italy). The town is perched on a hilltop overlooking the Valle d’Itria, a broad fertile valley. The historic part of town - the centro storico - is circular with little lanes lined with historic buildings, including some impressive baroque details.
We have dinner in Locorotondo, in a restaurant that is keeping alive the traditions of the area. From ‘slow food’ cured meats and preserves, through to roast lampascioni and zucchini flowers.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch (three courses with wine included) and Dinner (three courses with wine included)
Day 3 – Alberobello and Polignano A Mare
We depart in the morning for our first stop, Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Alberobello is the only town with streets lined with the unique 'trulli', in fact it is known in Italy as the “Capital of trulli”. Trulli are small houses with a distinctive conical roof. They are made from limestone dry-stone walls, and often have several roof cones joined to form one dwelling. By walking along its narrow streets, you will be fascinated by the magical and fairytale atmosphere of this place. Most of these trulli are 300-400 years old. We explore this town together, and learn about the history of these buildings and about the cryptic symbols painted on the roof-cones.
Before lunch you have some free time to browse the shops of Alberobello and to wander around.
We have lunch on the nearby coast in a town called Polignano a Mare, an impressive town clinging to a promontory suspended above the Adriatic’s turquoise waters. With a history spanning back to the 4th century BC as a Greek settlement, Polignano a Mare is a charming town centred around the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. The town was on the ancient Roman Trajan’s Way, and you can still see the remains of this route. Polignano a Mare encircles a pebble beach, nestled in a cove between rocky cliffs. The beach is suitable for swimming.
Our meal here is in a stunning location right on the seafront. This meal is focussed on cuisine from the Adriatic, as befits our coastal location.
In the evening we return to Ostuni for an evening wandering the hilltop town. The evening is ‘free time’ – you can look around independently and take things at your own pace. Ostuni is quite different at night, with the whitewashed lanes all lit up. Those that wish to are able to remain at the masseria accommodation for a quieter evening.
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch (three courses with wine included)
Day 4 – Food from the Markets
This morning we visit the local markets. The weekly market is a key feature of life in small towns here. With our chef we work our way through the market purchasing a range of produce for using in today’s lunch preparation. All fresh, local and in season – the term here for the most locally grown produce is ‘kilometro zero’.
Back at the masseria we work with the chef to develop a lunch fitting for our final day celebrations. And as well as the ingredients sourced at the market, we also go foraging in the nearby fields for wild greens and herbs. In Puglia there are a wide range of plants that grow naturally on the fields and rocky borders that add a unique touch to dishes. Often these wild foods have excellent health giving properties.
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch (three courses with wine included)
Day 5 - The Marvels of Elegant Baroque
In the morning we travel to Lecce, a city that flourished in the 17th century when extravagant baroque buildings were built by the ruling classes. The baroque style features ornate decorations covering the building facades, carved from the local cream coloured limestone.
We take a private tour around Lecce with a local expert guide to have the key sights explained to us. As well as the architectural and historical features, Lecce is an elegant town to indulge in more modern pleasures – there are many interesting boutiques and cafes, and piazzas full of life in this important southern Italian centre. We stop in at one of the best pasticcerias in Lecce to sample the pasticiotto, an almond flour pastry made in Lecce - a wonderful place specialising in these delicious treats.
After some free time we have lunch here in the historic centre of Lecce, at a restaurant that showcases the local produce. We dine on foods such as ‘ceci e tria’ (a type of pasta dish only made in Lecce), and of course we finish with the delicious ‘caffe leccese’ (espresso on ice with sweet almond syrup). We return to the masseria late afternoon
In the evening we are joined again by our chef for a session focussed on seafood. We produce the traditional dishes made in coastal Puglia. You will be involved in the preparations of both the fish and the accompanying vegetable based dishes.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch (three courses with wine included), and Dinner (three courses with wine included)
Day 6 - Olive Oil, Wine and the Michelin Star
This morning we visit a farm that produces organic extra virgin olive oil from trees that are many centuries old. This land has been worked for thousands of years - we are shown the remnants of the ancient Roman agricultural production here, along with items from habitation from the middle ages through until modern times. After seeing the ancient trees, we enjoy a degustation of a range of olive oils. This allows us to compare the different tastes from the olive varieties grown here.
Following our visit to the olive grove we travel on to another masseria. Here we first have a tour of this 400 year old fortified farm, which features a historic ‘agrumeto’ citrus garden. We find out about how this historic garden operated, including an ingenious irrigation system.
Next we will have a demonstration of mozzarella making by a ‘casaro’, a cheesemaker. In fact the cheese will be made with milk from his herd of cows that live nearby.
We move into the masseria to have a tutored tasting of wines from Puglia presented by a sommelier. This serves as an introduction to the wines of this region, many of which may be unfamiliar varieties. Along with tasting of a range of cheeses from Puglia, we have a relaxing lunch here in the masseria.
After this bucolic afternoon, we depart the masseria and make our way back to our accommodation.
After a lazy afternoon at our masseria home base, we head out for our final meal. This meal is at a highly respected restaurant (with a Michelin star). The restaurant focusses on taking the local Pugliese ingredients and presenting them in a modern manner. Our final meal is a fitting end to this discovery of the food, wine and lifestyle of Puglia.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch (three courses with wine included) and Dinner (four courses with wine included)
Day 7 - Arrivederci Puglia!
Today is our last day in Puglia, we organise transport for you to your departure point in Bari.
And while we bid you ‘arrivederci’, your week will have provided such richness that a piece of Puglia will always be with you. Memories are the most beautiful pictures our minds can paint.
The tour finishes in Bari at 11 a.m.
Note: Ask us about the optional additional days available:
- Addition A: Visit Matera, a town built into a hillside where caves and houses merge together (UNESCO World Heritage site).
- Addition B: Visit Trani and Castel del Monte, the unique octagonal castle (UNESCO World Heritage site).
Puglia Culinary Tour Price:
€2400 ( GBP£2100 / US$2800 / AUD$3500 / NZ$3800 / CAD$3550 )
* Price is denominated in Euros
* Prices listed are based on twin share
* Single supplement of €150 for solo travellers
Puglia Culinary Tour Dates 2018:
9 - 15 May 2018
14 - 20 September 2018
Also see our Best of Puglia Tours, with numerous departures from April to September.