Day One – Air Transfer from Rome to Bari. Once you have grabbed your bags and depending on your car arrangements, you zoom off to your hotel “base camp” in the southern part of Puglia.
You will enjoy five-star accommodations at my favorite “Masseria” (old fortified farm houses) or Villa. Settle in and relax or grab a nap followed by a superb dinner at the hotel.
Combined with your private hotel beach club, hotel pool, golf course, spa, and cooking classes, select “day trips” to see wonderful Puglia and perfectly compliment your lazy days at the hotel.
Day Two – After settling in, explore the property and take a day just to relax and wind down. Lounge by the pool, enjoy a chef’s lunch at your private beach club, play a round of golf, take a massage at the spa, and study your itinerary to see what happens tomorrow! Our friend, the Owner, will gladly fill you in on the latest and greatest……he has lived his entire life in Puglia and he is quite the magician!
Day Three – Once you are ready to venture out, get your wheels on with short day trips that are close to your hotel. Arm yourselves with a local map from the front desk and set out to explore this fascinating and varied region of Italy (is it Italy, or is it Greece, or is it Morocco?).
By now, you have probably read about the unique conical building called the “Trulli”. The best place to go trulli-hopping is up the road in Alberobello. Take a meal here and try those fried fava bean snacks. Next on the circuit is Martina Franca which is another of those white hill towns that is almost more Greek than Italian, and definitely picturesque. Keep going on to Locorotondo and take time to see the beautiful local handmade lace works and other great shops. Head back “home” for some relaxation and a restful evening.
Day Four – Up for more exploring? Small and charming, the village of Cisternino is another likely spot to walk around and soak up the atmosphere. Half to three quarters of day, it’s just right for an outing to see what living is like away from the coast. It’s no wonder that Cisternino is a secret second home choice.
Day Five – Ostuni is yet another white town facing the sea. It is quite elegant with antique shops and unusual architecture……the town is lit up beautifully at night. If you are tiring of “cucina povera” you will find a change of pace at Ostuni’s Osteria Piazzetta Cattedrale, with great atmosphere, excellent food, and a wonderful wine list. Try the burrata cheese with figs and prosciutto, a yummy pasta course in between, and then let the waiter tempt you (and win) with the warm hazelnut cake.
There is a cute little town called Polignano a Mare with a famous restaurant offering spectacular views; unfortunately the food does not match up to the views. The town is quite picturesque to walk around in, and we had a wonderful dinner at a very atmospheric locals’ restaurant, L’Osteria di Chichibio, right in town…… the view is over a parking lot. But never mind, the atmosphere is a riot and the seafood is not to be beat. Polignano is known for its ice cream – try it; you’ll like it.
Optional Days (6,7,8,9) – On one of your “toss up” days, journey north to visit Castel del Monte. Frederick II’s masterpiece – geometric/octagonal, sophisticated, and most unusual – it stands alone on the summit of a hill. In nearby Minervino Murge there are some great lunch opportunities as the locals whip up the traditional country food with a vengeance. Go for a good variety of small plates or go where the locals go for an amazing menu offering antipasti that are baked in terra-cotta dishes that easily become meals unto themselves.
Northern Coastal Towns (Optional): You can easily spend a couple of days in this endeavor. Head over and up to the coast starting perhaps in Barletta. See the Basilica of San Sepolcro and the Colosso (the big guy). Then perhaps splurge on a one-star meal at Baccosteria – we had a terrific lunch there. There are archeological excavations at nearby Canne if that is of interest.
Continue along the coast to Trani with its gorgeous Romanesque cathedral by the sea, and if you haven’t eaten yet, lunch at the terrific Caffe Nautico. I have also had good reviews for Torrente Antico in Trani. We love Trani. Rumor from a local friend has it that George Cluny has a secret love in Trani, a lady Pharmacist. I went to several pharmacies but didn’t find a likely candidate.
Next, you come to Molfetta, a major fishing port with a great cathedral, the Duomo Vecchio, overlooking the sea.
In the mood for shopping? Then, another side trip for a few hours on a free day would take you south to Grottaglie, the ceramic center of the region. The town itself isn’t much to report on but there is shop after shop selling the local ceramics, and they SHIP!
Southern Coastal Towns (Optional – Day 10 and 11): I would definitely dedicate a day or two to the southern part of Puglia, to visit Otranto and Lecce. Otranto would come first. Farthest away from your hotel, Otranto was one of the Roman Republic’s leading ports for trade to the East. This charming port city is literally a shadow of its former self. But it is a charming shadow with a wonderful castle and the most interesting primitive medieval mosaics in the 11th century Duomo – on the FLOOR. You will need to park and walk up into what looks like just the castle, but in fact is the medieval city with its hidden gems intact.
Lecce: This golden baroque city is made for walking! There is much here that is worth your attention. The Duomo and Palazzo Vescovile are beautiful. There are gorgeous buildings and shops everywhere. A Roman amphitheatre that is nearly intact with orchestra and seats was excavated in 1938. Lovely shops and wonderful restaurants. Try my recommendation for lunch at our secret “Momma and Daughter” place…..it’s a “knockout”!
And, in case you get to it, Bari is a much-overlooked city. First of all, it has incredible shopping in the pedestrian zone. And of course you can’t miss the old city with its fabulous castle, the Cathedral, and the Basilica of San Nicola. There are some excellent restaurants in Bari that serve traditional cuisine and, of course, because Bari is Italy’s largest port, the seafood is second to none.
Last Day – Today you have a very early start. Please allow an hour to get to the airport and turn in your car. You will likely have to use the drop box for your key and contract. Don’t worry; I do it all the time with little or no problem.
Contact Ada King for details of your trip