The Heel and the Hinterland:
Sights and Pleasures of Basilicata and Puglia
Meal key: B = breakfast L = Lunch D = Dinner S = Snack or tasting
Introduction to Puglia
We’ll pick you up in Bari or Brindisi at the airport or train station, or your hotel if you’ve arrived early. (Both cities have international airports and are about the same distance from our first stop.) We’ll drive (about an hour) to our base for two nights, a masseria, or large working farm, with an excellent hotel and restaurant, at the top of the Salento peninsula, Italy’s “heel.” After a light lunch, we’ll explore the area. L, D
- An unjustly ignored archaeological site and museum, Egnazia, an ancient city with massive walls built by its original Messapic occupants before the arrival of the Greeks and Romans.
- Alberobello, a charming town with the greatest concentration of trulli, traditional structures with curious conical roofs. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage monument, and the single most touristed place of our entire week.
- Get-acquainted aperitivo and dinner at the masseria.
The many splendors of Lecce and Otranto
Deep into the heel to the two most famous cities of the Salento, Lecce (“the Florence of the Mezzogiorno”) and Otranto. B, L, S
- Museo Archeologico Faggiano, Lecce, a grandiose name for a very interesting warren of underground rooms discovered by a local restaurateur trying to fix his plumbing.
- Lecce’s impressive amphitheater, excavated and exposed beneath street level in the center of town.
- The fanciful limestone baroque facades that animate Lecce’s streetscape.
- Lunch al fresco in a beautiful restaurant about halfway to Otranto and its cathedral, famous for its unsurpassed 12th-century mosaic floor.
- An olive-oil tasting and lesson at the masseria. Anyone who wishes may have a bite afterwards in the dining room.
From the Salento to the Sassi
We leave the masseria and head westward, ending the day in Basilicata. We’ll spend three nights in Matera.
B, L, D
- The National Archaeological Museum of Taranto, one of the great archaeological museums of Italy, recently renovated, displaying splendid jewelry, ceramics, and architectural sculptures
- Wine tasting (primitivo di Manduria) and lunch in Manduria; a bonus is a visit to the winery’s little museum of peasant life.
- Matera, famed for its unique sassi, cave dwellings occupied from Paleolithic times until well into the 20th century. Afternoon free to explore or visit a small museum illustrating the life of the peasant farmer in this region as it existed for centuries up until relatively recent times.
- Dinner at a local restaurant and overnight in Matera.
Magna Graecia and its cities
Today visits to the extensive remains of two ancient cities introduce us to Magna Graecia (“Great Greece”), the Greek colonies founded in southern Italy from the 7th century BCE on. B, L
- Metapontum and Heraclea (one site in the morning and the other in the afternoon), which preserve tombs, houses, temples, and other structures, enabling us to envision a once wealthy and cultured society.
- A very special lunch in nearby Bernalda
- Late afternoon and evening free in Matera (our hotel has beautiful thermal baths)
- Overnight in Matera
Our stay in Matera concludes with a special tour, then some more of the region’s dramatic landscape as we climb into the mountains near the Calabrian border. B, L
- Unique rock-cut churches of Matera
- Lunch in the town of Terranova di Pollino in Pollino National Park; our host is a chef and culinary anthropologist of the region
- Evening free; overnight in Matera
Frederick II, Stupor Mundi
Today we return to Puglia to two spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites and taste one of Italy’s favorite breads. B, L, D
- Castel del Monte, the favorite hunting lodge of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (13th century), whose imposing octagonal shape has made it the region’s most characteristic monument
- Museo Jaffa, Ruvo di Puglia, which reminds us how much we love that old 19th-century style of displaying antiquities. The collection features some very fine Apulian pottery (and we’ll learn what that is).
- Lunch at a traditional bakery in Altamura; many people consider its durum wheat bread the most delicious in all Italy. But that’s not all we’ll eat … (Did Spartacus eat it when he traversed the fields of what is now Puglia?)
- Dinner and overnight at a beautifully restored and converted masseria, or large farmhouse, surrounded by almond and olive orchards. It’s located in the magnificent countryside near Andria, home of the genuine (most delicious!) burrata, and yes, of course we’ll have plenty to taste.
The Adriatic coast
Our last day takes us back to the coast to explore something of Roman and Romanesque Puglia in a trio of towns. B, L
- Barletta to see a colossal Roman statue, a marvel in bronze
- Trani, a charming small city on the Adriatic dominated by a Romanesque cathedral, where we’ll have an elegant seafood lunch in a restored 11th century fort by the harbor
- A walk through the old city of Bari and a visit to the celebrated Romanesque Basilica of Saint Nicholas
- Overnight at the masseria
Departures for Bari airport or train station.