Spend the week exploring southern Italy's Puglia and Basilicata on this week long self-drive through vineyards and olive groves, across mountainous landscapes and along the stunning coastal roads that hug the cliff edge beside beautifully clear waters below. Follow this suggested itinerary that will give you an insight into the regions deep rooted history as you visit the ancient cave dwellings of Matera, see the famous Trulli houses of Alberobello and explore striking medieval castles stand strong throughout the region.
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Day 1: Fly to Bari or Brindisi Airport and collect your hire car to begin your week long self-guided exploration of Puglia and Basilicata. Make your way to Matera, the capital of Basilicata set high on a rocky outcrop, for your first night’s stay in the area.
Bari Airport - Matera (approx. 70 km / 1 hour 15) or Brindisi Airport - Matera (approx. 140km / 2 hours)
Day 2: This morning after breakfast head towards the border between Puglia and Basilicata to the town of Altamura set on the hillside of the Murge plateau. The town dates back to ancient times and originated as a settlement for the “Peucezi” people. It is known for its ornately decorated cathedral, which dates back to the 13th Century. Move on to Gravina, a town laden with rock cut churches and buildings carved into the stone. Human settlement here dates back to pre-historic times. The town can be explored above and below ground. Make your way underground to see how the natural stone dwellings were constructed. Back in Basilicata, spend the afternoon getting to know Matera. The ancient Sassi district of Matera, with its cave dwellings, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been awarded 2019 European Capital of Culture.
Matera - Altamura (approx. 20km / 25 minutes) - Gravina in Puglia (approx. 13 km - 20 minutes) - Matera (approx. 27 km / 30 minutes) Total: approx. 60km / 1 hour 15
Day 3: Today head to the coast to Taranto, a city distinctly divided between old and new. Thanks to its Greek and Roman beginnings the city is now home to one of the most notable Magna Grecia Museums in Italy, located in the new town. Wander across the lagoon, over the bridge to the centro storico with its striking Aragonese Castle that dates back to the 15th Century. Find a spot to have lunch before making your way to the island town of Galappoli. Wander across the 16th Century bridge that links the mainland to the old town and explore the narrow alleyways and hidden nooks, before stopping for a refreshing drink in one of the local cafes. The 13th Century fortress of Castello Angioino di Gallipoli, built to protect the city from invasion, remains a dominant focal point of the island and is worth visiting. Once you’ve soaked up all the sights, make your way to the Salento area for your overnights stay.
Matera - Taranto (approx. 75km / 1 hour 15) - Gallipoli (approx. 145km / 1 hour 45) - Salento Area (approx. 40km / 40 minutes) Total: approx. 260km / 3 hours 40
Day 4: From Salento drive to the southernmost tip of Italy’s heel to the coastal town of Santa Maria di Leuca. Opulent Art Neaveau villas line the waters edge, harking back to the golden times of the early 1900’s when wealthy Apulians would holiday here. See the octagonal lighthouse stands 100 metres above sea level, marking the point where the clear waters of the Ionian and Adriatic Sea meet. Drive along the coastal road to Otranto, Italy’s easternmost town. On the way stop off at the spa town of Santa Cesarea Terme to admire the panoramic views and the towns beautiful architecture, such as the 19th-century Villa Sticchi with its ornate Moorish dome. Otranto has a tumultuous and colourful past having been subject to brutal attacks throughout history, most notable by the Turks in 1840. Learn about the town’s history by exploring the magnificent Cathedral, medieval mosaic floor, which now pays tribute to the martyrs that fell during the attacks. Take a scenic drive back through the sun bleached Apulian landscape to your accommodation in Salento.
Salento Area - Santa Maria di Leuca (approx. 7km / 10 minutes) - Otranto (approx. 50 km / 1 hour) - Salento Area (approx. 50 km / 1 hour) Total: 107km / 2 hours 10
Day 5: Venture through the olive groves, wooded slopes and vineyards of the Itra Valley dotted with white washed cone roofed trulli houses. Begin with a visit to Lecce, famed for its Roman Theatre and Cathedral. Continue on heading north to the baroque town of Martina Franca. Finally reach Albrerobello the capital of trulli. Overnight in Monopoli area.
Salento Area - Lecce (approx. 85 km / 1 hour) - Martina Franca (apporx. 100km / 1 hour 25) - Alberobello (approx. 15km / 20 minutes) - Monopololi Area (approx. 12km / 20 minutes) Total: 212km / 3 hours 5
Day 6: In the morning, visit Bari, the capital of the Apulia region. Just outside the city centre towards the Alta Murgia National Park you’ll find the beautiful Castel del Monte, set high on a wooded hilltop. The King and Roman Emperor Frederik II designed the octagonal 13th Century structure. Take your time exploring the building, as it’s one of the best-preserved medieval castles in southern Italy and claims UNESCO World Heritage Status. After, drive about 35km/40mins towards the historic fishing port of Trani, set on Italy’s beautiful Adriatic Coastline. Wander through the limestone lanes soaking up the towns historic charm. Stop by one of the marina side bars for a cool drink to enjoy whilst watching the fishing boats in the harbour. You can’t miss the striking cathedral that towers over the waterfront. After you’ve had your fix of this picture-perfect seaside town begin your drive of about 50km/40 minutes back towards your accommodation in the Monopoli Area.
Monopoli Area - Bari (approx. 60km / 55 minutes) - Castel del Monte (approx. 55km / 1 hour) - Trani (approx. 35km / 40 minutes) - Monopoli Area (approx. 110km / 1 hour 25) Total: 260km / 4 hours
Day 7: Visit the spectacular limestone Grotte di Castellana. Explore the otherworldly landscapes of interlinked cave system of caverns and stalactite and stalagmite formations. Next, head for Polignano a Mare, another of Puglia’s enchanting towns that seemingly defy the laws of nature as sun bleached buildings teeter on the clifftops above the glistening waters of the Adriatic Sea. Head to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II in the heart of the old town for a coffee and soak up the buzzing atmosphere of this seaside town. The beach cove of Cala Porto skirts the old town and is the perfect spot to cool off after a morning of exploration. In the afternoon, make your way to the whitewashed old town of Ostuni. See how different cultures have played influence on the region and its architecture by visiting the Cathedral where you’ll see the merging Gothic, Romanesque and Byzantine architecture. After wandering through the narrow cobbled streets and discovering something new at each turn, make your way through the verdant landscape of olive groves to Cisternino where you’ll have the chance to sample some of the locally produced olive oil. Finally, head back to the Monopolli area for your overnight stay.
Monopoli Area - Castellana Grotte (approx. 20km / 25 minutes) - Plignano a Mare (approx. 20km / 30 minutes) - Ostuni (approx. 45km / 45 minutes) - Cisternino (approx. 20km / 25 minutes) - Monopoli Area (approx. 20km / 25 minutes) Total: 125km / 2 hours 35
Day 8: After a final breakfast, say your farewells to the sun kissed lands of Puglia and Basilicata and head to the airport for your flight home.
Monopoli Area - Bari Airport (approx. 80km / 1 hour) or Monopoli Area - Brindisi Airport (approx. 65km / 50 minutes)
- Car hire with unlimited mileage
- 7 nights’ accommodation on a half board basis (optional B&B reduction)
- Detailed driving instructions, maps and suggested itineraries
- Olive oil tasting with a small gift
- Any extras, drinks and personal expenses
- Parking costs (where applicable)
- Tourist Tax
Please note that these are example hotels which are subject to change:
Matera Area (2 nights)
Hotel Sassi prides its self as the first hotel located in the heart of the Sassi di Matera. In 1996 the hotel was formed after a series of the historic cave dwellings were refurbished and modernised, transforming them into comfortable authentic accommodation and a great base for exploring the area. Located in the Sasso Barisano quarter you'll find yourself minutes from the hustle and bustle of the ancient town. From April to September you may even be lucky enough to enjoy a sighting of the lesser kesterl as you relax on one of the panoramic terraces that look out over Matera. Staying in the heart of the Sassi is a completely unique experience. Each room has its own character and is equipped with all comforts.
Salento Area (2 nights)
Hotel Montecallini is located about 8km/10 minutes drive from Santa Maria di Leuca on the far southern tip of Italy's heel. Set in a beautiful location surrounded by olive groves overlooking the sea. The hotels facilities include a swimming pool surrounded by sun loungers and a small spa area (payable locally), where you can relax and unwind after days spent exploring the region. In the evening dine at the hotels restaurant where you can enjoy traditional Salento dishes. The comfortable rooms are furnished in a traditional Salento style decorated with local ceramics and deep wood furnishings set against the white washed Mediterranean walls.
Monopoli Area (3 nights)
Hotel Tenuta Monacelle is set in an estate that offers traditional accommodation about 16km/25 minutes from Monopoloi. Stay in the stone walls of the traditional conical roofed Trulli houses of the Apulia region or enjoy an authentic and unique experience by staying in one of the Masseria (historically restored farm houses). Relax in tastefully furnished rooms equipped with every comfort. Relax by the swimming pool set amidst the gardens of the ancient estate. In the evening enjoy freshly made dishes accompanied by wine selected by the resident sommellier.
- Any day departure (subject to availability)