Discover the 'heel' of Italy on easy cycle rides through the sun-drenched region of Puglia. Along the way we sample the superb Pugliese cuisine with cheeses from a local 'caseificio', a visit to a family-run bakery and wine tasting. Alberobello and Monopoli - Whitewashed towns with the fairytale-like 'trulli' dwellings Matera - Ancient city 'sassi' cave dwellings, one of Europe's oldest settlements Alta Murgia National Park - Ride through a perfect example of Mediterranean Steppe to impressive castle.
Our trip starts in Altamura - a small town located on the Murge plateau, renowned for its cartwheel size bread, Gothic Cathedral and for the nearly intact skeleton of the Altamura Man that was found here dating back 400,000 years. Our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Bari International Airport - Karol Wojtyla (BRI), which is around 50 minute drive from the Altamura. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up. If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to Explore the old town and maybe try the local PDO-protected bread - perfect for a bruschetta!
After breakfast we have a short (1 hour) bus ride to Castel del Monte - a 13th century citadel situated on a hill, towering over the edge of the Alta Murgia National Park. The imposing castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site and source of inspiration for the novel 'The Name of the Rose'. Around the castle fine wines are produced of the 'uva di Troia' (Troy) grape variety. There will be free time to visit the castle (optional). Our first cycle ride starts from the castle and we make our way along remote roads gently winding through the soft hills lined with ancient stone walls, dotted with small trulli huts and huge abandoned sheep farms. There are not many people around here and the vast open views are spectacular. Our route takes us through Alta Murgia National Park and ends at Poggiorsini, at the outskirts of the National Park. From here we are transferred in the support vehicle to Altamura. For those who want to continue cycling (19km) into town there is this possibility, together with TL, but bear in mind that it will be rush hour in town so there might be quite a lot of traffic on the road. Today's ride is accompanied by a support vehicle. Our total cycling distance today is approximately 34 kilometres (total ascent 380 metres and descent 450 metres).
Before leaving Altamura this morning, we pay a visit to a bakery for a guided visit to learn all about the local art of bread making and to taste their various products. Afterwards we head south into the wide open countryside and on remote roads, crossing grassy meadows and wheat fields as we ride to Matera. On the way we will enjoy marvellous panoramas of endless fields and immense blue skies dotted with small white clouds above. The remote back roads lead us to a natural balcony with commanding views before this grand emptiness subsides and literally the first forms of civilization reappear as we approach Matera. The ancient town of the 'sassi' (stone dwellings) originates from a prehistoric troglodyte settlement that is suspected to be one of the first human settlements in Italy. Roaming through its maze of narrow allies, up and down the stone stairs you will find yourself transported to a distant past. Many of the houses you encounter are really only caverns, and the streets in some parts of the 'sassi' are often located on the rooftops of other houses. Our total cycling distance today is approximately 30 kilometres (total ascent 330 metres and descent 450 metres).
This morning is free to spend at your leisure exploring the magnificent sites of Matera. Your local Leader can arrange a guided tour with a licensed guide for those interested. Until the late 1980s this was considered an area of poverty, since these houses were, and in most areas still are, mostly uninhabitable. Current local administration has become more tourism-oriented and has promoted regeneration with the aid of the European Union, the government, UNESCO and Hollywood with several films made here including Mel Gibson's Last Temptation of Christ. Sit down on a terrace of one of the bars for a cappuccino and soak up this magical atmosphere. Around midday we bid farewell to Matera and drive (1 hour) to Putignano Agri where we visit a local 'caseificio' (cheese factory) for a cheese making lesson. Afterwards we enjoy a light lunch (not included in cost) and can eat the cheese we have produced. We will learn about cheese in its various shapes and sizes such as mozzarella, ricotta, provolone and scamorza. In the afternoon we cycle to our next destination - Alberobello. On tiny hidden back roads bordered by stone walls we cycle through the quiet countryside passing by 'masserie' (fortified farmsteads), grain fields, olive groves, and encounter many 'trulli' as we near Alberobello. These curious dry stone huts with their cone shaped roofs scattered throughout the countryside seem to belong to the world of elves. In Alberobello there are many fine examples of these picturesque dwellings. Our hotel with pool at the edge of town is the perfect place to unwind and explore the town's sites. Our total cycling distance today is approximately 33 kilometres (total ascent 225 metres and descent 385 metres).
This morning we head out by bike once more along quiet back roads that wind through rolling hills dotted by endless olive groves. In the town of Cisternino we take a break to visit the historic centre, before riding in the support vehicle or cycling an optional further 5 km (10 km return) to visit a traditional olive mill to taste some of their 'green gold'. Back on our bikes and nearing the town of Locorotondo, vineyards start to dominate the countryside as this is an area where sublime white wines (both still and sparkling) are produced. The name Locorotondo means 'round place' and this is exactly what the shape of the old town is like. It is listed as one of the most beautiful hamlets in Italy and its heritage includes several beautiful churches and a labyrinth of whitewashed alleys. It is a delight to explore on foot. Finally we continue by bike into the countryside again, following quiet stone wall-lined roads past dozens of 'trulli' buildings scattered in the fields. Finally we make one last stop enjoy a wine tasting at a local masserie (farmhouse), before returning the last 10 km to Alberobello by bus. Today's ride is accompanied by a support vehicle so it is possible to opt out of any of the sections of the ride. Our total cycling distance today is approximately 44 kilometres (total ascent 610 metres and descent 610 metres).
There is free time this morning to explore Alberobello, before we set off on our ride to the Adriatic coast. Our route leads us once more through beautiful scenery of ochre-coloured fields dotted with gnarly olive trees and trulli of all kinds and sizes. We cycle along a panoramic coastal road that is a natural balcony overlooking the beautiful blue waters of the Adriatic. We descend on winding roads, feeling the sea air to arrive at the town of Conversano. The coastal planes are cultivated with a variety of crops and dotted with elegant 'masserie' farmsteads. We cycle on to reach Monopoli - a bustling fishing town, with splendid white-washed houses, narrow alleyways and our charming accommodation positioned in the heart of the old town. Our total cycling distance today is approximately 35 kilometres (total ascent 290 metres and descent 705 metres).
From Monopoli we ride south along the rugged Adriatic coastline and are rewarded with magnificent views of the intensely green vegetation lining the rocky beaches and the deep blue sea waters. It's an easy and pleasant ride to Savelletri and before the quaint little hamlet there is the option to visit the archaeological site of Egnazia, and its museum where finds from the Bronze Age are on display. You can choose to spend some time at the beach or continue this easy ride through the opulent farmland until the lighthouse at Torre Canne. Back at the hotel we enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure before we celebrate the final night of our trip. Our total cycling distance today is approximately 45 kilometres (Total ascent 50 metres and descent 50 metres).
The trip ends in Monopoli this morning after breakfast. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Bari International Airport - Karol Wojtyla (BRI), which is an hour drive from the hotel.
7 Break Fast(s)
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