TOUR OVERVIEW / HIGHLIGHT
Our 12-day tour begins with a visit to incredible Herculaneum – the smaller, wealthier neighbour of Pompeii – and three nights on the unforgettable Amalfi Coast. Ravello, once home to ancient Roman villas, was later the second city of the powerful Amalfi maritime republic with a population of 40,000. Spectacular views, wonderful semitropical gardens, a grand open square and 11th-century cathedral highlight this small piece of Italian paradise. In more recent centuries Ravello has played host to many famous composers and writers like Richard Wagner, D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf and Gore Vidal.
A boat cruise will take us to picturesque Positano and we’ll visit the maritime museum at ancient Amalfi. We’ll have a taste of limoncello at Sorrento and experience the famous Amalfi Coast drive.
Crossing the southern peninsula we’ll discover Italy’s most impressive Greek Temples at Paestum. The region of Basilicata offers the absolutely unique experience of the gorge and cave dwellings at Matera. One of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited (and poorest) cities, Matera has transformed itself into a 2019 European Capital of Culture. Apulia, also called Puglia, is the less traveled and treasured heel of the Italian boot. This region hosts mysterious castles and cone-shaped Trulli homes while providing the country’s best food and excellent Primitivo wines.
WHAT TO EXPECT?
DAY 01: ARRIVAL - ROME / HERCULANEUM / AMALFI COAST
Welcome to Rome of Italy!
You are met on arrival and transferred towards Naples in the south. Our first stop is for a fascinating afternoon guided tour through the streets of Herculaneum, an ancient Roman city that remained buried for 1800 years underneath the lava flow from the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 CE.
Late afternoon arrival to Ravello. A noted resort during ancient Roman times and later part of the Amalfi Republic, Ravello has in the last few centuries been home to famous writers and composers. It has much to enjoy with its sea views, wonderful gardens, pedestrian-only lanes, and enormous town square.
Our three-night stay will begin with aperitifs and welcome dinner on the hotel balcony overlooking the stunning Amalfi Coast.
DAY 02: AMALFI COAST
Have a leisurely morning and soak in the views of the seas.
This afternoon, depart for a boat cruise to colourful Positano, dramatically perched on a cliffside overlooking a deep blue sea.
Continue to Amalfi, the most intriguing city of this whole amazing coastline. The Amalfi city-state, unlike the rest of Italy (Venice excluded), didn’t disappear into the so-called Dark Ages, but maintained a continuity of wealth and influence from Roman times until the 11th and 12th centuries when it suffered sackings first by Normans, then twice by Pisa. Its decline was completed in the 14th century when an earthquake caused most of the city to slide into the sea.
Today it is a beautiful small town that hugs the harbour with winding pedestrian lanes and 5,000 inhabitants. Our guided tour will take us through the tiny squares and alleyways, the Arsenal (medieval shipyard), and the Norman cathedral.
Return to Ravello for the night.
DAY 03: AMALFI COAST
Sorrento, our morning destination, sits atop a cliff looking down on the Bay of Naples. Narrow, winding lanes, artisan shops, wisteria hanging from terraces and the smell of citrus flowers all add to the charm of this historic resort town.
Mid-afternoon we’ll take the famous Amalfi Coast scenic drive back to Ravello.
DAY 04: AMALFI COAST / PAESTUM / MATERA
Leaving the Tyrrhenian coast we will cross the Italian peninsula to eventually reach the Adriatic Sea.
Paestum, an ancient Greek and Roman town founded in 720 B.C., is home to three of the best-preserved Greek temples in the Mediterranean. Paestum was abandoned during medieval times and its existence was forgotten until the 18th century. Our local guide will walk us through the archeological complex and museum bringing this powerful town of Magna Graecia back to life.
Afternoon transfer to the “Sassi” of Matera, a spectacular agglomeration of cave dwellings built into the soft tufa stone of deep ravines. Our hotel for the next three nights is located in the heart of the Sassi historic district.
DAY 05: MATERA
Inhabited since prehistoric times, there were 18,000 resident Sassi cave dwellers as recently as the 1950s when they were forcibly evacuated for inadequate sanitation. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the area has been repopulated, the homes renovated, many transformed into elegant hotels and restaurants. This morning we will have a fascinating guided tour through these antique lanes including a visit to the Peasant Culture Museum.
On the plateau above the gorge, just 100 meters from your hotel, the more modern Matera offers an architectural gem of a city center with open squares, fountains and inviting shops.
DAY 06: ALTAMURA & CASTEL DEL MONTE EXCURSION
Altamura is a lovely hilltop, medieval hamlet well known for making the best bread in Italy. As part of our guided tour of the historic district, we’ll visit the Museo del Pane. The museum, formerly a bakery dating back to the 13th century, reveals a fascinating story of the importance of bread in our past and the oven, antique utensils, and processes involved.
Not long ago, the oldest complete skeleton of a Neanderthal man was discovered in a nearby cave. Dating as far back as 180,000 years ago the remarkably well-preserved skeleton has been one of the most important finds in unlocking pieces of our genetic code. We’ll complete our morning at an excellent small museum that has been created around our distant origins called L’Uomo di Altamura.
Today's lunch is included in a rural farmhouse.
Afternoon guided visit to Castel del Monte, the enigmatic octagonal castle erected by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in the 13th century.
Meals: Breakfast & Lunch
DAY 07: MATERA / MANDURIA / LECCE
Today our first stop is Manduria, where we’ll visit a local winery for a tasting of their excellent “primitivo” wines and a visit to their Wine Culture Museum. Light lunch is included.
Afternoon transfer to the historic district of Lecce, where we will be staying for two nights.
Lecce presents an architectural feast. An ancient settlement of the Messapii tribes, it is the principal Baroque city of Puglia. Baroque, in architecture, is a theatrical style begun in late 16th century Italy as a statement of the power of the Catholic Church in response to the Protestant Reformation.
The evening is yours to experience one of the best passeggiata in all of Italy.
Meals: Breakfast & Lunch
DAY 08: LECCE & OTRANTO
Enjoy a walking tour of Lecce this morning.
After lunch, proceed to the ancient Roman and Byzantine town of Otranto, the easternmost point on the Italian peninsula. Our guide will take us through the 1000-year-old walled hamlet and the 11th century Norman cathedral with the best-preserved mosaic floors in southern Italy.
DAY 09: LECCE / GALATINA / BRINDISI / OSTUNI
The morning begins with a visit to the medieval town of Galatina to see the 14th century Santa Caterina d’Alessandria Cathedral where there are frescoes so vast and magnificent that you might imagine yourself to be in Assisi.
Our next destination is Brindisi, the famous Adriatic Seaport of the ancient Romans and the terminal point of the Appian Way.
Later, continue to Ostuni, one of the most beautiful hill towns in Puglia, is white, all of it – the houses, shops, churches, streets – set under a deep blue sky and perched on a hill overlooking the Adriatic Sea. The upper historic center is a maze of twisted lanes and staircases, homes constructed one on top of another, and arches that seem to hold it all together before spilling out into an enormous square full of bars, shops and restaurants that is the lower town.
Inhabited at least since 1000 BC by native peoples, Ostuni was destroyed by Hannibal during the Punic wars, rebuilt by the Greeks, taken over by Romans, sacked by Gauls, and revived during medieval times.
You’ll have the evening on your own to further experience the wonderful local Apulian delicacies.
DAY 10: TARANTO EXCURSION
If there were any one place to best detail Italy’s ancient history that place would be Taranto. Originally an island located on Puglia’s Ionian coast, Taranto was colonized by Greek Spartans way back in the 8th century B.C. and within 200 years had an enormous population of 300,000 inhabitants and was the most dominant city in southern Italy. In the 3rd century B.C, it was eventually overcome by the might of Rome and its economic influence declined with the construction of the Via Appia to Brindisi on the Adriatic Coast.
Our local guide will walk us through these centuries and what remains of them in a delightful tour of the historic center.
After lunch, we’ll have a guided tour of one of Italy’s most important archaeological museums, the MArTA.
Return to your hotel, and spend the remainder of the evening at leisure.
DAY 11: OSTUNI / LOCOROTONDO / ALBEROBELLO / MASSERIA / SAVELLETRI
Today, explore central Puglia, beginning in crown-shaped Locorotondo, among the most beautiful villages in Italy. Perched majestically atop a hill overlooking the countryside, the town is stippled with whitewashed, flower-adorned houses with stone staircases and balconies.
Proceed to the town of Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dotted with distinct, cone-shaped trulli dwellings. Constructed as immigrant domiciles in the 15th century, they were built without binding materials so they could quickly be demolished to avoid property taxes.
Continue to the 11th century Masseria (fortified farmhouse) with a tasting of olive oils from their ancient olive trees. Seasonally, you can also visit the breathtaking medieval village of Polignano a Mare, enjoying a seafood aperitivo accompanied by local wine at a traditional restaurant overlooking the sea.
Thereafter, we transfer to Savelletri where you will arrive at the gorgeous Borgo Egnazia for a one-night stay.
DAY 12: SAVELLETRI / BARI / ROME - DEPARTURE
There’s still time for a last taste of Apulia before heading to the airport for your flight home. Safe travels!
ACCOMMODATION WE LOVE:
12D11N - 3N Amalfi Coast, 3N Matera, 2N Lecce, 2N Ostuni, 1N Savelletri