Off the Beaten Track in Puglia

Puglia is a feast for the eyes, the taste buds and the intellect. We could think of no better destination for an escorted group tour led by our knowledgeable and passionate Italian specialist Sharon Kivity. 

UNESCO has had a field day in the Puglia region, and the two designated World Heritage Sites that we visit on this tour will fill your culture cup to the brim. However, once the intellect has been satisfied, the stomach can also revel in a holiday here.

Alberobello

The prehistoric building technique that originated in Alberobello inspired UNESCO to inscribe its dwellings called ‘trulli’ on the World Heritage list. These distinctive buildings are mortarless and are constructed from limestone boulders. They traditionally have conical roof tops.

While you tour the streets of this ‘capital’ of the trulli, you  will be regaled with the eccentric mythology of these buildings (it is believed that the local peasants were forced to build their homes in this manner as these structures were exempt from the taxation imposed on the landowners by the king for any new urban buildings).

In the evenings you’ll get to sleep in one – we’ll be putting you up in some delightful guest trulli right in the historic centre of Alberobello.

The Trulli Districts

We’ll make sure that you see both the popular Rione Monti – where the trulli have been appropriated for cafes, restaurants and shops – and the Aia Piccola, which is a far less visited area of residential trulli. We’ll lead you off the beaten track to explore its quiet streets and mingle with the locals.

Matera

You don’t need UNESCO’s seal of approval to recognise the monumental achievement of men that is on display in The Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera. This is an intact and functioning troglodyte settlement that dates back to the Palaeolithic period. Today you’ll be touring through the complex of dwellings, churches, monasteries and hermitages that are built into the natural cave system.

Matera has seen a renaissance over the last few years and is becoming more of a feature on the tourist map. However, it’s not there yet and we are delighted to be able to take our group to this as yet unspoilt, fascinating area.

Filming in the Caves

The natural drama of the caves has provided an ideal backdrop to manmade drama – several film directors have filmed there and you may recognise it from The Passion of the Christ or Ben Hur.

Gastronomy

On this tour, the gastronomic angle is all about bread, cheese and olive oil. Not only will you return home with your cultural and historical repertoire expanded, we will do our best to send you back with your waistline expanded! In Massseria Aglio-Poltri we’ll be learning how to make mozzarella, and in a bakery in the Matera caves you’ll be shown how the locals make their renowned bread. To top it all off, we’ll be stopping at a medieval farmhouse in the Valle d’Istria to sample some of the Puglian olive oil that they produce.

Dining on the Tour

One of the highlights of joining these escorted tours is the conviviality of the meals that we have together. We’ve arranged for you to have several dinners at the Trattoria Terra Madre in Alberobello.

The restaurant embodies the farm-to-table philosophy, so everything on the menu is prepared with their own organic ingredients. The flavours are simple, strong and intense. If you’re joining the autumn tour then you can expect to taste the aubergines, peppers, tomatoes, courgettes, thyme, rosemary, basil, sage and mint from the Summer Organic Garden. Sown in May, this produce will be ripe and ready by the time you get to Alberobello in October.

With themed dining rooms, alcoves and even tables, guests can have a different experience at each sitting – so you’ll have a chance to try out a few settings.

Here are just a couple of the dishes we’d recommend you try at one of the meals:

  • Cavetullucci with legumes
  • Orecchiette with sausage, rosemary, bread crumbs and mashed potato

Don’t forget to sample the digestive Rosolio made from bay leaves, rosemary and walnuts. It’s certainly different!

Puglia and Basilicata are regions that reward joining a specialist tour that will take you Off The Beaten Track to see some of the lesser known but equally spectacular sights in the area. If you’re interested in being part of the small friendly group heading out to the area in October, then please give us a call to book your place.