Village Stay in Southeast Italy: Apulia
Go off the beaten path to discover Apulia, a region little changed by modern times, featuring delicious Mediterranean cuisine and unique architecture such as the trulli homes and sassi cave dwellings
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The southern Italian region of Apulia offers the curious traveler a chance to explore a unique corner of Italy that is fascinating while away from the beaten path. Over the centuries this remarkably diverse region has witnessed the
ebb and flow of
foreign armies and occupiers including many who stayed to imprint their culture on that of Apulia. The Adriatic sun warms this land of ancient olive groves, bountiful vineyards, fruit orchards and friendly people who will welcome you to charming towns and cities like Bari, Lecce, Ostuni, Matera, and Alberobello. An amalgam of diverse cultures, fascinating history, remarkable art and architecture, splendid wine, and wonderful food coalesce to make this adventure in Apulia a remarkable and enriching travel experience. You’ll settle
in Polignano a Mare a town with a decidedly Greek feel and a spectacular setting high above the Adriatic Sea. On escorted excursions you’ll see Apulia’s architectural treasures from the Sassi cave dwellings of Matera to the conical Trulli, Norman castles and Italian Baroque cathedrals. During your visit it will become apparent why this diverse sun-drenched land has been settled and contended since ancient times.
This program offers an incredible value as it includes international airfare, first-class accommodations, and many meals, plus the services of a Smithsonian Journeys Expert and tour director! Limited to 36 participants.
September 8-9 – Depart the U.S., Polignano a Mare
Depart the U.S. on an overnight trans-Atlantic flight to Bari, Italy. After your flight arrival, clear brief arrival formalities then transfer to the Hotel Covo dei Saraceni located in the charming seaside town of Polignano a Mare. After taking time to relax and unpack gather with fellow Smithsonian travelers for a Welcome reception and dinner at the hotel. (D)
September 10 – Polignanl a Mare/Bari
This morning attend a lecture that will focus on the influence of history, agriculture and beauty on Apulia’s diverse cultural heritage. Later on a walking tour of Polignano a Mare discover the charm of the Old Town fragrant with flowering plants and experience the warm hospitality of the townspeople. In late morning take a scenic drive to Bari a vibrant seaport since ancient times that serves today as Apulia’s regional capital. You’ll tour the historic port and walk though the tangle of medieval streets in the city’s Old Quarter. Admire the carved portal of the Basilica of St. Nicholas that houses the relics of Bari’s patron saint. Inside see the marble episcopal throne and striking mosaic floor. Walk along the seafront promenade where lovely views are revealed with each turn. Stroll through the modern heart of the city designed by Joachim Murat the brother-in-law of the French Emperor Napoleon. Sit down with fellow travelers to a lunch of fresh regional specialties at a local restaurant. After returning from Bari attend a lecture that focuses on two of Apulia’s great architectural treasures of Lecce and Ostuni known for their uniquely different styles. (B,L,D)
September 11 – Lecce, Ostuni
On a morning excursion depart and motor to Lecce famous for its elaborate baroque architecture. Lecce’s baroque style is more fanciful than the more typical European baroque with voluptuous statuary, whimsical garlands, heraldry and lyrical scrolls. Visit the Basilica of Santa Croce and admire the elaborate facade, beautiful rose window and intricately carved capitals of this unique baroque style. Walk to the Piazza Sant’Oronzo to see the Roman Column crowned with a bronze statue of St. Oronzo, the first bishop of Lecce, and the elliptical Roman Amphitheater that once held many thousands of spectators. Enjoy a delicious lunch with your fellow travelers at a restaurant in Lecce. Gleaming in the Italian sunshine Ostuni’s whitewashed buildings cascade over the side of its hilltop perch and are reminiscent of those towns and villages found in Greece. Marvel at the labyrinth of streets and alleyways of the Old Town and visit the magnificent cathedral, the ancient city walls and remarkable vistas of the surrounding olive groves and the Adriatic Sea. (B,L)
September 12 – Castle del Monte
On a morning excursion to Castle del Monte you’ll visit an example of secular medieval architecture located on a hill near the monastery of Santa Maria del Monte. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s a geometric study of unusual and curious symmetries. The eclectic blend of architectural styles is intriguing as is the innovative plumbing system that recycled rainwater. It’s thought the castle may have been used as a hunting lodge and personal retreat. The region of Apulia produces more wine than almost any other region of Italy. You’ll visit a working winery and learn how Apulia’s indigenous grapes are transformed into delightful wines. You’ll sample the wine and sit down to a luncheon featuring Apulian specialties. (B,L)
September 13 – Matera, Alberobello
You’re off on a fascinating full-day excursion to explore Sassi di Matera and its rock-hewn churches and dwellings known as Sassi. Carved into the limestone by ancient people the Sassi are suspected to be the first human settlements in Italy. The caves were homes for the people of Matera until the 1950s, when the population was relocated to more modern housing. The Sassi became designated a World Heritage Site in 1993. After lunch in Matera the excursion will continue to explore the unusual dome-shaped buildings that dot the Apulian countryside. In the remarkable town of Alberobello you will discover the largest concentration of these enigmatic dwellings known as Trulli. Found nowhere else in the world, these whitewashed buildings with conical roofs are pieced together without mortar, their roofs painted with primitive Christian and pagan symbols. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Trulli cluster along Alberobello’s cobblestone streets. Their origins remain a mystery, but it is thought they were built in a way to thwart tax inspectors. The Trulli could be disassembled and reconstructed by the local people as a tax dodge. After returning to the hotel sit down to dinner with fellow travelers. (B,L,D)
September 14 – Bisceglie, Trani
Today, Meet the People during a visit to a local family that runs a traditional olive mill in Bisceglie. You’ll learn about its fascinating history, olive cultivation and the process of olive oil production. After sampling the olive oil you’ll sit down to a buffet luncheon. Afterward motor north along the coast to Trani where you’ll see the Romanesque Cathedral of St. Nicholas dramatically perched at the Adriatic’s edge then explore the former Jewish Ghetto once home to southern Italy’s largest Jewish community. After returning to the hotel attend a lecture focusing on Contemporary Italy, it’s social position, recent politics as well as an overview of Italian life in Apulia. (B,L)
September 15 – Polignano a Mare
The day will be free of planned activities to allow you to follow your own path and explore on your own. As you conclude your visit to Apulia gather with fellow Smithsonian travelers for a Farewell reception and dinner at the hotel. (B,D)
September 16 – Depart for the U.S.
This morning depart the hotel for Bari Airport and flights to the U.S. (B)