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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Go off the beaten path to discover Italy’s southern region of Apulia. Settle into the breathtaking town of Polignano a Mare, your home for seven nights, and immerse yourself in a way of life changed little by tourism or modernity. Here, the region’s history—from Greek settlements to medieval towns and later Baroque architecture—is a part of everyday life, and the traditional cuisine and wines are truly delightful.
Learn about the history and unique qualities of Apulia as you explore the pleasures of Polignano a Mare, the unusual sassi cave dwellings of Matera, and the unique conical, limestone trulli houses of Alberobello, a World Heritage site. In Lecce, visit the large Roman amphitheater and admire the superb Baroque architecture of the basilica. Medieval sites include the octagonal-shaped Castel del Monte, also a World Heritage site, and the cliff-side town of Trani. Experience different regional lifestyles as you tour the historic port of Bari and meander the narrow streets of whitewashed Ostuni. Plus, savor the region’s vintages on a winery tour, meet the owners of a family-run olive mill, and join a discussion about contemporary life in Apulia.
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.
Days 1 & 2 — U.S. to Polignano a Mare, Italy
Depart the U.S. on your overnight flight to Bari, Italy. Upon arrival transfer to Polignano a Mare and the Hotel Covo dei Saraceni. Rising above rocky limestone cliffs and overlooking the luminous Adriatic Sea, this elegant hotel is situated near the historic center of Polignano a Mare, and reflects the authentic character of this quaint coastal town. Your Cultural Director will be with you throughout your journey to handle all program logistics and to assist with additional sightseeing arrangements, dinner reservations, and other suggestions. Join fellow travelers for a Welcome Reception and dinner at the hotel this evening. (D)
Day 3 — Polignano a Mare and Bari
Learn about the history, agriculture and beauty of Apulia. Study the enduring influence of Apulia’s diverse cultural heritage on the region’s architecture, food and languages. Learn how the rocky terrain produces thriving crops, including the ubiquitous olive groves and vineyards. Discover the vibrant fishing village of Polignano a Mare, which rises from limestone cliffs molded by the Adriatic. Weave through Old Town’s village streets, fragrant with flowering plants, and experience the warm hospitality of local residents. Tour this historic port of Bari, Apulia's capital city, and glimpse daily southern life amid the entrancing passages of Old Town. Visit the Basilica of St. Nicholas, Bari’s patron saint, traverse the seafront promenade and walk the Murat quarter, and sample local specialties at lunch. (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Lecce and Ostuni
Today learn about the history and architecture of Lecce and Ostuni. Travel to Lecce and visit the Basilica of Santa Croce, the quintessence of Lecce Baroque. Wander the Roman amphitheater, which once held 20,000 spectators. Conclude your stay in Lecce with traditional cuisine for lunch. Continue to Ostuni, known as the White Town because its whitewashed buildings cascade over the side of its hilltop perch. Lose yourself in the labyrinthine passages of the city’s Old Town, visit the magnificent cathedral, and walk the ancient city walls for wonderful vistas. (B,L)
Day 5 — Andria and Corato
Visit Castel del Monte, the magnum opus of secular medieval architecture commissioned by Frederick II of Hohenstaufen in the 13th century. A World Heritage Site, it’s a geometric study of strange symmetries. Constructed of quartz-embedded limestone blocks, the bastion’s octagonal shape forms eight austere towers of eight equal rooms on each of the castle’s two floors, and symbolizes the transitional phase between Earth and the heavens. Following your visit here, travel to a working winery in Corato. Apulia produces more wine than almost any other region of Italy, so you'll learn how Apulia’s indigenous grapes are transformed into fragrant reds, rosés, and whites. Sample the regional varieties, followed by lunch at the winery. (B,L)
Day 6 — Matera and Alberobello
Explore Matera and its rock-hewn cave dwellings called sassi. This area has been inhabited for millennia and been the setting for many films. Savor southern cuisine for lunch in Matera. When you visit the enchanting city of Alberobello you'll find the largest concentration of the mysterious dwellings known as trulli. Found nowhere else in the world, these whitewashed limestone structures are pieced together without mortar, their pointed fieldstone roofs painted with primitive Christian and pagan symbols. A World Heritage Site, more than 1,000 trulli cluster Alberobello’s cobblestone streets. This evening, enjoy dinner with fellow travelers at the hotel. (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Bisceglie and Trani
During a tour of a family-run olive mill in Bisceglie you'll learn the history and cultivation process of this important crop. Enjoy an olive oil tasting followed by a hearty lunch. Journey north along the coast to Trani. View the Romanesque Cathedral of St. Nicholas dramatically perched at the Adriatic’s edge. You'll also explore the Jewish Ghetto, once home to southern Italy’s largest Jewish community. (B,L)
Day 8 — Polignano a Mare
Join in a discussion about Italy’s contemporary society, its current political status, and Italian life in Apulia. Enjoy a day at leisure for further exploration of the village, caves, and grottoes of Polignano a Mare, or investigate other intriguing areas of the sun-washed southern countryside. This evening, gather with fellow travelers for a farewell reception and dinner at the hotel. (B,D)
Day 9 — Polignano a Mare, U.S.
Transfer to the airport in Bari for your return fight to the U.S. (B)