Southern Italy Bike Tour – Puglia & Basilicata
Come explore the rich history and beautiful scenery of Southern Italy on our Puglia and Basilicata bike tour. The “heel” of the Italian boot, Puglia has been home to ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Normans, Saracens and the royal Spanish court of the 1600’s. Today it is asserting itself as home to some of Italy’s best food, most innovative wines, and most interesting landscapes. We also visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Matera, a dramatic city carved into the cliffs and gorges that cut through the town. The landscape and architecture is completely different from that of northern Italy. Vast olive groves stretch to the Mediterranean, white-washed baroque villages perch on hillsides overlooking the sea. Traditional ”Trulli,” houses dot the landscape, their charming forms make for a fairytale landscape.
The biking is more moderate than our Tuscany bike tour, but there are plenty of optional extension rides for those who want something a bit more strenuous! The hotels have been chosen to let you to experience Puglia’s countryside and village life. Our first night is in Bari, the capital of Puglia, where you can explore the city’s beautiful medieval center as well as the broad 19th century boulevards lined with majestic date palms. Our next two nights are at a wonderful boutique hotel in a converted 16th century convent in the charming baroque village of Conversano. Then we spend two nights in a lovely resort near the sea, and we finish at a 4-star hotel in the heart of Matera. (Luggage is transferred by van. 1 night Bari, 2 nights Conversano, 2 nights near Fasano, 2 nights Matera.)
Southern Italy Bike Tour – Puglia & Basilicata itinerary
Transfer to the Palace Hotel in Bari. Formerly the domain of smugglers and brigands, http://www.palacehotelbari.com/en/Bari’s quaint and atmospheric historic center has been revitalized during the past ten years. Cafés, wine bars, and trattorias are found around every corner of the labyrinthine medieval streets, all of which eventually lead to the remarkable Romanesque architecture of the 12th-century Basilica di San Nicola. Depending on your arrival time, you may have time for sightseeing or just relaxing after your journey. Dine independently tonight in one of the many local restaurants. Hotel included.
Meet your guides in the hotel lobby this morning for a 30-minute van transfer to the village of Conversano for our first ride. We'll get you set on your bikes and then head out on our first ride amongst the ancient olive groves and whitewashed “trulli” houses that fill the Pugliese countryside. Sample some of the fabulous cuisine for lunch at a local trattoria and then return to Conversano, where we can explore the town and then meet again for an aperitivo before dinner at a colorful local pizzeria. Overnight at the beautifully restored Corte Altavilla. (Mileage: 55 km/35 mi) Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
Today begins with a gentle ride to the stunning cliff-side town of Polignano a Mare. Here, the vertical cliffs surmounted by 16th-century palazzi plunge dramatically into the Adriatic. We stop for lunch at a beach-side taverna in the shadow of the 17th century monastery of San Vito. The afternoon ride takes us back up to Conversano past whitewashed “masseria,” the imposing fortified manor houses that are the legacy of dangerous medieval times when corsairs raided the coast. You have free time this afternoon to wander through Conversano’s maze of cobbled streets and shop or simply enjoy a chilled glass of wine in the piazza before a special dinner at a family-run farm in the countryside just outside of Conversano. (Mileage: 50 km/30 mi). Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
After breakfast we ride to the village of Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage site for its trulli houses (almost 1,500 of them!), the squat stone buildings with conical roofs that are only found in this part of Italy. We have lunch and then take time to explore the streets and architecture of this amazing town. We then bike to our next hotel, a beautifully restored and luxurious masseria with swimming pool. (Mileage: 30 km/19 mi). Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
Today we ride down to the seaside and visit the beautiful whitewashed town of Monopoli. It lies on a quiet harbor and has elegant Renaissance palazzi throughout the medieval streets. An imposing castle built by Charles V to protect the town in the days of piracy and Turkish corsairs still quietly guards the port. Return to the hotel to enjoy a dip in the pool before dinner at the elegant restaurant. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
Bike to the hilltop village of Locorotondo this morning, and enjoy its lovely Baroque center and a stop at a local cafe serving up fresh cannoli and other delicacies. In the afternoon we say goodbye to the bikes and transfer by van to Matera, another UNESCO World Heritage site. Matera is one of the most visually stunning towns in Italy, as its inhabitants carved their homes, shops and churches right into the cliff-side of a dramatic gorge. Abandoned in the 1950′s, the old town has been reborn as artists, restaurants, and local citizens have rejuvenated and restored the area. It is one of our favorite towns in Italy, for its unique architecture and aesthetic, but also for the fantastic food! We also love the hotel, the Basiliani, much of which is carved directly into the rock supporting the city. Tonight is a free night dinner so you can choose to eat light or go lavish. Overnight in Matera. Hotel and breakfast included. Dinner not included
Begin the day with a guided visit of Matera’s fascinating ‘Sassi’, then you can take an adventurous walk down into the gorge where we discover ancient rock-hewn churches. You can also take the rest of the day off to explore Matera on your own. We have one final epic dinner to conclude a great week. Overnight in Matera. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
We offer a morning transfer to the Bari train station for the most convenient train to Rome. Transfers to the Bari airport can also be arranged for an additional cost. Breakfast and transfer included.
The Biking in Puglia is mostly rolling, with gentle hills, long stretches of flat, and a few short but steep climbs. We normally ride between 40 – 65 km a day, with optional extensions as well as van support, which allows you to ride as much (or as little) as you like. We have designed the trip to allow for free time in the late afternoon so you can relax or explore the towns we stay in. Breakfast is included every day, and dinners reflect the excellent traditional food of the region.
Puglia tourism: general introductory site on the region of “Apulia,” including links to weather forecast, train schedules, and local events
Trullo houses: short site on these traditional houses
Bari: basic information and history on the city by Wikipedia
Locorotondo wine: a short article on the local white wine
UNESCO World Heritage Site: check out all the wonderful places in Italy!
Activity rating: 2-3 out of 5 = Moderate. A mix of flat and gently rolling terrain with the occasional sustained climb of up to 4 kms with some short, steep ups and downs. Daily activity is 4 to 5 hours Max distance up to 60 kms. Note: most of the riding in Puglia is easy. The "3" rating is because there is a coastal escarpment that is relatively long, about 6 kms, that we ride up on two occassions. It can be avoided with a simple van transfer if needed.
Trip Cost Includes: 7 nights accommodations (1 night Bari, 2 nights in Conversano, Fasano, and Matera in 3-4-star hotels); 7 breakfasts and 5 dinners, bilingual guides for the duration of the tour; support vehicle; guided tours as noted in the itinerary; pick up from Bari, transfer to Bari train station at the end of the trip; and bikes (quality 27-speed hybrid-style touring bikes with map readers, front handlebar bags and rear racks). All departures are accompanied by two guides.
Booking: e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a booking contract (or use the 'Contact Us' link at the top of this page), or click on the 'Book Now' button to the right.
Insurance: We highly recommend the purchase of Trip Insurance. We recommend “Travel Guard” to our North American clients, just click on the logo below. Australian, New Zealander, and British travelers, please consult your insurance brokers.
Getting There: Make your way independently to our pre-booked hotel in downtown Bari, which is easily reached by direct flight or else by train from other cities in Italy.
Air: The Bari Airport is well connected with other Italian cities and there are a bunch of low-cost flights from European hubs such as London, Paris, Brussels, Barcelona, Frankfurt and Munich with carriers such as EasyJet, RyanAir and Vueling. For a complete list of Italian airports and a selection of low-cost airlines, see our "Transport Info" page.
Train: There are several trains a day to Bari from other Italian cities. Travel time from Rome and Milan by Eurostar train is about 5 hours and 8 hours respectively. The hotel is a 5-minute cab ride from the train station (a taxi is advised), and should cost no more than €10. See the Trenitalia website (in English) at this link. For alternative high-speed rail travel, see the Italo website.
For complete information on using the Italian train system, see our blog post.
Getting Away at the End of the Trip: the trip ends on Saturday morning with a group shuttle to the Bari train station. Transfers to the airport can also be arranged.
If you should book a trip with us you will receive detailed information about how to get to the start of your trip. Please e-mail us with any specific travel questions.
Puglia is amazing, with more (and older) olive trees than you'll ever see anywhere else. The trip features seafood caught hours before dinner; everything is fresh and local. One hotel was a bit starkly modern, but all of the accommodations are conveniently located for the trip. You bike into towns you'd be unlikely ever to visit without expert guides.