Puglia, Basilicata, Campania and Abruzzo
Sunday 7th to Saturday 27th June 2015
Day 1 - Arrive from Bari airport to nearby Giovinazzo, a delightful port town just north of Bari. You stay in a restored monastery overlooking the sea. We meet in the hotel foyer at 5pm for an introductory talk and aperativi in the town's delightful piazza followed by a welcome dinner in a local restaurant.
Day 2 -We drive to Trani by the sea with its beautiful port and impressive Norman cathedral. Trani is known as the 'Pearl of Puglia'. The seaside town has a sophisticated feel, particularly in summer when well-heeled visitors pack the diminutive array of marina-side bars. The marina is the place to promenade and watch the white yachts and fishing boats in the harbour, while the historic centre, with its medieval churches, glossy limestone streets and faded yet charming palazzi is an enchanting area to explore. But it's the cathedral, white against the deep-blue sea that is the town's most arresting sight. After lunch by Trani's pretty port we drive to Castel del Monte, the octagonal castle-hunting lodge which inspired the library in Umberto Eco’s novel “The Name of the Rose”. When the Emperor Frederick II built the castle in the 13th century, he imbued it with symbolic significance, as reflected in the location, the mathematical and astronomical precision of the layout and the perfectly regular shape. A unique piece of medieval military architecture, Castel del Monte is a successful blend of elements from classical antiquity, the Islamic Orient and north European Cistercian Gothic.
Day 3 - Polignano al Mare, is one of Puglia's most evocative seaside town clinging to the cliff faces of the Adriatic sea close to the places we visit. You stay in private rooms and apartments which spread throughout the main part of the seaside town of Polignano and which are part of a bed and breakfast complex. All have completely separate entrances and private bathrooms, and are furnished in a simple, elegant style characteristic of the town. After a seafood lunch overlooking the Adriatic sea we travel to Martina Franca, a gracious town with gems of southern Italian Spanish influenced Baroque architecture beautifully presented in the labyrinthine streets
Day 4 - Today we have only a short drive to the area of the famous Trulli, conical stone structures originally built in dry stone which dot the landscape like hobbit houses. At Alberobello we see a whole town of them, after which we go to a wine tasting and then lunch at a local “Masseria” just outside Locorotondo. We visit the town of Locorotondo in the afternoon. Free time in Polignano this evening.
Day 5 - In the morning we explore the town of Ostuni, known as the “white fortress”. The afternoon we arrive at out new accommodation in the centre of Lecce. Lecce is an historic Baroque city in the heart of the Salento Region of Puglia and is often nicknamed The Florence of the South because of its abundant art and culture, apparent in its extraordinarily elaborate Spanish Baroque cathedral and ambitious public buildings.
Day 6 -There is a guided visit in the town after you have settled into your accommodation in the four star hotel in the town's centre near the main piazza. Free time to wander this delightful town in the afternoon. A characteristic Puglian seafood menu for dinner at the hotel.
Day 7 - A short drive to Otranto (40 mins), and a relaxing day to wander the streets of this seaside resort town. Otranto occupies the site of the ancient Hydrus. Otranto was a town of Greek origin, and in Roman times it was a city of considerable importance. As it is the nearest port to the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, under the Roman emperors it was a point of embarkation for the East.
Day 8 - Transfer to Matera, a Unesco world heritage site and a unique and extraordinary urban landscape. The city is known as “I Sassi” (the stones), and has been tunnelled into the soft calcareous stone of a series of intersecting gorges with the excavated material used to build the house-fronts, some directly on top of others. We investigate at our leisure today after settling into our caves with candles & luxury fittings. We are staying in a boutique hotel in Matera, housed within incredible prehistoric caves that form part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The hotel is located in the Cività neighbourhood, between the cathedral and the stunning Gravina canyon. Late in the afternoon we have an appointment in another cave where we can relax in an underground thermal pool with sauna & spa followed by Aperitivo and dinner in a local restaurant.
Day 9 - In the morning a guided visit of Matera includes a small museum in, you guessed it, a cave which clearly shows how the inhabitants of Matera lived the not so distant past. We continue our exploration of the town including visits to a series of the local churches decorated with frescoes that show the influence of the Byzantines who ruled this part of Italy long after they had lost the north to the barbarians. Free time for lunch. In the afternoon we travel to a site not far away to explore the Chapel of Original sin otherwise referred to as the Sistine chapel of Rupestrian wall painting. The impressive frescoes are from the 8th century, amongst the oldest Christian frescoes in Italy, decorating the walls of what was once a hermit’s cave. Wine tasting and dinner at a nearby cellar.
Day 10 - Paestum is an ancient Greco-Roman city in the Campania region of southern Italy. Near sandy beaches in a region known for its delicious mozzarella di bufula. We settle into a delightful restored family villa not far from the temple area.
Day 11 - Today we explore Paestum's three well-preserved Doric Greek temples, dating from the first half of the 6th century BC. These were dedicated to Hera and Poseidon, although they have traditionally been identified as a basilica and temples of Neptune and Ceres, owing to 18th-century mis-attribution. We also visit the ruins of ancient houses and a museum of artifacts from the painted tombs of ancient Poseidonia. Another delightful dinner at the accommodation tonight.
Day 12 - Herculaneum was once thriving towns in the Bay of Naples. Like Pompeii the city has a rich history influenced by Greeks, Oscans, Etruscans, Samnites and finally the Romans, and both cities are most renowned for their destruction, when they were buried in the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The city's second existence began with its gradual rediscovery in the 18th century. A guided visit by a local expert takes through the history and current dilemmas facing these two places. As the cities were being rediscovered, they began to die their second death. The worst forms of damage are of human origin and the early excavations, carried out over two hundred years ago and again in the 19th century, turned out to be more of a massacre, with statues and inscribed bronze plaques being carried off. All the remains preserved by the catastrophic explosion, were now exposed to the extremes of the weather, vegetation and to man... In the afternoon we drive to Sorrento. The town overlooks the Bay of Naples from its place on the Sorrentine Peninsula opposite Naples, and has many views of Naples itself, Vesuvius and the Isle of Capri.
Day 13 - A day at leisure to relax and explore Sorrento in your own time, or take the ferry to the island of Capri and or the town of Amalfi or Positano. (optional, not included). Marina Piccola is a 10 minute walk with dramatic views across to Vesuvius.
Day 14 - Today we travel into Naples to visit the National Archaeological Museum, a world class museum located in the heart of the city, and housing one of the most important collections of classical archaeology in the world. It has one of the world's best collections of Greek and Roman antiquities, including mosaics, sculptures, gems, glass and silver, and a collection of Roman erotica from Pompeii. Many of the objects come from excavations at Pompeii, Herculaneum, and nearby archaeological sites. There is a stunning collection of frescoes taken from the walls in Pompeii. Covering a period of about two centuries, the frescoes are excellent examples of Roman painting and cover a variety of themes, including mythological, landscapes, and scenes of daily life.
Day 15 -TRANSFER TO OCRE (3.25 hrs) We leave Sorrebto for the drive across to the Abruzzo and arrive at the monastery on a mountain top near Ocre in the afternoon. Time at leisure in the Monastery to enjoy the spectacular views and the clean mountain air. For those interested there is a walk possible uphill to a ruined castle and a small village. Dinner in the monastery dining room.
Day 16 - Today we visit the extraordinary castle of Calascio and the nearby octagonal church in what can only be described as an exhilarating setting. Lunch at Calascio (not included). In the afternoon a visit to Campo Imperatore, a glacier flattened valley in the shadow of the peak of Gran Sasso, continental Italy's tallest mountain south of the alps, and the place where Mussolini was imprisoned prior to his “rescue” by the Germans in 1943. Dinner in the monastery dining room.
Day 17 - A rustic cooking class this morning with some local women. Lunch is included in the day.
In the afternoon we go down to the valley to the Roman ruins of the city of Peltuinum and then visit the picturesque town of Navelli. Farewell drinks and dinner tonight in Sulmona.
Day 18 - We drive to Sulmona and settle into our 4 star hotel in the centre of town. Known in Roman times as Sulmo and hometown of the poet Ovid, Sulmona is a graceful and picturesque town nestling at the foot of the impressive Maiella mountain range. Surrounded by almond forests, it is famous for its brightly coloured almond based 'confetti', exported throughout Italy and the world. After settling into our hotel we explore the town of Sulmona. We head out for lunch to the beautiful gorge of Raiano and the picturesque hermitage built across the gorge where we stop for a picnic. In the afternoon we pay a visit to the nearby ruins of the Roman Temple to Hercules Curino nestled beneath the hermitage of Sant’Onofrio, returning home via another Roman site at Corfinio.
Day 19 - Hidden away in a valley beyond turquoise mountain lakes lies the extraordinary town of Scanno, home to traditions of jewellery and distinctive costume that emerge from a distant past. Once almost inaccessible to the outside it has remained substantially untouched by time, its cobbled streets and picturesque roofs emerging from a primeval forest. Returning we pass a series of other spectacular hilltowns perched on crags overlooking the river Sagittario far below, and then stop in Pacentro (town of origin of the family of the singer Veronica Ciccone - Madonna)
Day 20 - At leisure in Sulmona. Final dinner in Sulmona this evening at a local characteristic restaurant.
Day 21 - On the last day we will transfer the group to Fiumicino Airport on the outskirts of Rome arriving around the middle of the day in time for afternoon flights.
· 20 nights in exclusive, characteristic and varied accommodations
· 12 days half board, plus 1 day full board, and 8 days breakfast only
· a cooking class in Abruzzo
· Guided visits in Trani, Castel del Monte, Polignano, Alberobello, Lecce, Matera, Paestum, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Sulmona,
· Other visits to Martina Franca, Ostuni, Locorotondo, Otranto, Amalfi, Scanno, Calascio castle, Castrovalva, Pacentro, Campo Imperatore, Santo Stefano, Peltuinum and Navelli
· Accompaniment throughout the tour leader & local guides
· Private transfer to Fiumicino airport
The programme may be altered to accommodate seasonal variations and activities, including local festivals. However the essential content of the itinerary will remain the same. B L D means that breakfast, lunch and/or dinner will be included that day.