Best of Puglia
Southern Italy Tour | Small Group Tour
Puglia is a region in Southern Italy with so much to offer even seasoned travellers. Puglia offers unique sights, such as the trulli conical stone houses, and the nearby cave town of Matera. Stunning landscapes, such as the very photogenic town of Polignano A Mare which is poised on the rocks high above the turquoise sea. Amazing food – the creamy burrata cheese, the ripe figs. Each day includes organised activities, visits to all the key sights and a progressive discovery of the local Puglia cuisine. We enjoy long lunches, taking time over the multiple courses to enjoy the atmosphere and to relax. Check out our Southern Italy Tour reviews on Tripadvisor.
- The UNESCO World Heritage sites of Alberobello (with its conical trulli houses) and Matera (with its cave houses)
- Key locations such as Ostuni, Polignano A Mare, Lecce, Trani, Monopoli, Egnazia and Locorotondo
- Discover how the range of civilisations that have settled in Puglia have all left their mark. For example, within walking distance you can find a Spanish palazzo, a Byzantine church and a Roman amphitheatre
- A culinary focus - we try recipes handed down through the generations and allow you to connect with this ancient wisdom. Match this with Puglia’s wonderful burrata cheese, and with wines found only in this part of Italy – this is a food-lovers’ dream. Later in a masseria (a 16th century farmhouse), a chef helps us cook a fantastic final meal together
- Experience ‘living traditions’, such as visiting a 4th generation olive oil producer, and a convent where the nuns make biscotti in a centuries' old manner (which we sample of course)
- Our tours are a balance between being informative (historical details, examples of the culture and lifestyle) as well as having everything that makes for an enjoyable trip (long lunches in good restaurants, a relaxed pace, free time in places we visit)
- We stay for the week in one place, the town of Monopoli. Here people have the time to share a smile or a chat in the piazza – and by the end of the week you’ll be greeting the locals too!
- Our Small Group Tour has a maximum of 14 people
- You have our tour manager with you throughout the week, available to provide support and assistance when you need it. Many people appreciate having someone to turn to who is familiar with the local area, whether it be for help getting something from a pharmacy / drugstore, or simply where to find the best gelato!
- This is the trip that you’d design for yourself. We are Italy... with pleasure
- Our 7-day tour starts and finishes in Bari
his was just fantastic. Thoroughly recommend. Plenty of spare time and wonderful personal touches. A rare treat.”
“Everything was perfect! They packaged the hotel, all meals, daily tours to a variety of very special and interesting sites, and handled all of the myriad of details seamlessly. The agency is very customer-service focused and was a pleasure to work with.”
“This was our first time in Puglia, and we were looking for a small group tour that catered to our love of architecture, history, scenery and food/wine.”
“Believe all that they say in their brochure... family run, hands on and very professional. Their standards are high and they are very responsive to everyone’s needs.”
“The itinerary was well organized and done at a comfortable pace: touring in the morning followed by mouth-watering lunch featuring the specialties of the area as well as fine wines of the area. All of the restaurants were excellent as was the food.
Puglia is a beautiful area of Italy and offers a wide variety of exceptional scenery and beautiful towns. We visited a number of UNESCO world heritage sites, did some wine tasting and olive oil tasting in a masseria and a cooking lesson.
It was a wonderful week and I will have many fond memories of my stay.”
See these and other reviews on TripAdvisor
In Puglia we stay in the seaside town of Polignano A Mare . The historic centre is lined with elegant old buildings, evocative lanes amongst the whitewashed buildings, and piazzas with the traditional ‘passeggiata’ in full swing each evening.
We base our tours at either of two hotels:
Hotel Covo dei Saraceni, right on the coast looking over the Adriatic
Giovi Relais, a boutique hotel with a personal touch
Both are 4 star hotels situated in the centre of Polignano A Mare.
Polignano A Mare offers many opportunities for eating out, swimming, wandering through the back streets and finding stunning sea views.
We find that people very much appreciate that the tour is based in one place for the week, meaning that there is no need to pack/unpack, and you really get to know the town where you are staying.
We meet in Bari at 2 p.m. Bari is the main city of Puglia, and from here we start our discovery of the region.
Our first stop is Monopoli, a vibrant town on the coast. Here we get our first chance to experience the lifestyle of small town Puglia. Monopoli is centred around a fishing port, with small wooden fishing boats heading out each day, and then selling their catch on the pier.
Towards evening we reach the town of Polignano A Mare, where we stay in for the next six nights. We stay in the historic centre of town, where the piazzas have the traditional ‘passeggiata’ in full swing each evening. Over the next few days you'll have plenty of time to explore the town at your own pace.
Polignano a Mare is situated on the coast, 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.
Tonight we dine together, having our first introduction to the cuisine of Puglia. Throughout the week meals are in restaurants designed to showcase the region’s cuisine, with the specific venues all carefully selected by us. This is in order to provide a variety of food styles over the duration of the tour.
Meals: Dinner (4 courses including wine)
We depart for our first stop, Alberobello.
The picturesque Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a unique town with streets lined with 'trulli'. In fact it is known in Italy as the “Capital of trulli”.
Trulli are small stone houses with a distinctive conical roof, built 300-400 years ago.
By walking along its narrow streets, you will be fascinated by the magical and fairytale atmosphere of this place. We explore this town together, and learn about why and how these dwellings were built, 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 then move on to the town of Ostuni, known as “la città bianca” (the white town). Ostuni is a cluster of whitewashed buildings perched on a hilltop overlooking the coast. Walking through the narrow streets of Ostuni is like being in a forgotten time, evocative and ancient, looking out over an expanse of olive trees. We advise keeping your camera at the ready!
After our lunch in Ostuni we visit a 'masseria'. A masseria is a historic farm estate, originally with all the estate's workers living in the fortified buildings. Nowadays some of these estates are still agricultural enterprises, while others have been converted into boutique lodges. The masseria that we visit still 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.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch (3 courses including wine)
Today we travel to Lecce, a city that flourished in the 17th century when extravagant and elegant baroque buildings were built by the ruling classes. The baroque style features ornate decorations covering the facades of churches and palaces.
We take a private tour around Lecce with a local expert guide to have the key sights explained to us. The baroque style here is distinct from that in other parts of Italy, both stylistically and in the use of the beige coloured local stone. As well as the architectural and historical features, we make a point of interacting with locals - artisans in their studio creating the local papier mache figures, nuns baking in their convent in the way they have since medieval times. Lecce is an elegant town in which to indulge in more modern pleasures. There are many interesting boutiques and cafes, and the piazzas are full of life in this important southern Italian centre. After some free time in central Lecce we have lunch in a local restaurant, where we dine on the food specific to this part of Puglia, called 'the Salento'.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch (3 courses including wine)
This morning we travel to the town of Matera in the neighbouring Basilicata region. Visiting Matera, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is like a step back in time. In fact this is one of the oldest continually inhabited settlements in the world. The oldest cave dwellings go back to the Bronze Age. The town consists of houses carved out of the rock face along the side of a steep ravine. We meet with a local guide here who gives us an interesting insight into life in Matera, both now and in the past. In fact his grandparents lived in these caves. We visit the 'sassi' cave area, and enter one of the typical houses built into the rock, showing the difficult existence in these conditions. We also visit a cave church hewn out of the rock, featuring Byzantine frescoes and with interesting histories as their usage has evolved and adapted to the conditions over the years. Matera was used for the filming of Mel Gibson's “The Passion of the Christ” - you'll see why it is so easy to imagine Matera as being completely removed from the modern age. Since we are in the Basilicata region, our lunch here focuses on the specialties from this inland region.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch (4 courses including wine)
Today we have a day of two parts - history in the morning, followed by relaxing in a lovely coastal town in the afternoon.
Our first visit is to the ancient Roman site of Egnazia. This was a key stop on the Roman road Trajan's Way, well used in ancient times as a route to the Near East. Egnazia was a significant town, and today we can see many reminders of its past importance - wandering through the town we see where bakeries, gymnasiums and temples were located. The Roman road runs through the town, the rut marks left by the carriage wheels provide a direct connection to the past. Looking out to the coast we see where the local boats docked, having loaded up with olive oil and grain.
Continuing on we reach the town of Trani, a key summer destination for Italians and it is invariably one of the most loved visits for people on our tour. We start outside the stunning Romanesque cathedral perched right on the waterfront, and go on firstly to one of the key locations for the Knights Templar. We see the site where this fascinating order based themselves, originally the final point for their missions to leave these shores to head to the near east. Moving through the old Jewish quarter of town reveals much about how the way life in Trani was conducted, in particular seeing how the synagogues have evolved through the eras.
Today the harbour in Trani is a fishing port ringed by waterfront restaurants. Each morning the fishermen sell their fresh fish from the pier where they dock. Lunch is in a seaside restaurant making the most of this fresh catch.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch (4 courses including wine)
This morning is the weekly market day in Locorotondo, we get to see how the locals do their shopping – rows and rows of stalls with cheese, seasonal fruit, vegetables, and other fresh produce. We take the time to look around Locorotondo, an absolutely gorgeous town, in fact voted as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy ("Borghi piu belli d'Italia").
After browsing the market we depart to visit a family run winery, focussed on making quality wines from the traditional varieties that are grown in this area such as fiano minutolo and susumaniello. The winemaker takes us through the vineyard, and we taste a range of wines. Some of these wine varieties were so rare that they were not made commercially up until a few years ago.
Today we take the opportunity to show you a local folk dance called the ‘pizzica’. This is a fascinating experience, as it reveals much about the culture and traditions of Puglia. The pizzica dance is specific to this area, and many people who visit Puglia do not get the chance to see it. You’ll love this private performance, while relaxing with a glass of prosecco.
In the evening we have a special touch for our final evening, taking a cooking lesson from a local chef. Since you’ve been with us for a week now you will all be Puglia food experts. 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 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 meal we’ve prepared.
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner (4 courses including wine)
Note: pizzica dance performance is based on availability/group size.
By now you know the local barista by name and he knows which coffee you order - but we must say 'arrivederci'.
We organise transport for you to your departure point in Bari and bid you “buon viaggio”.
The tour finishes in Bari at 11 a.m.
Best of Puglia Tour Dates 2023:
30 April - 6 May
7 - 13 May
14 - 20 May
21 - 27 May
11 - 17 June
9 - 15 July
3 - 9 September
10 - 16 September
17 -23 September
24 - 30 September
1 - 7 October
8 - 14 October
Tour Price: €2500
* Price listed is based on twin share
* Single supplement of €300 for solo travellers
Tour Price Includes:
- All Accommodation is included
- Meals as listed in the itinerary: breakfast every morning, plus a main meal each day of 3-4 courses including wine
- All costs/entry fees for activities listed in the itinerary are included
- All transport during the tour is included. Travel is in our van/minibus with a professional driver
- 'Italy With Pleasure' provides a tour manager for the duration of the trip on hand to provide any support that you need