Apulia, Lecce and Vieste - Undiscovered Italy
“The cathedrals of Lecce are beautifully ornate and a sight to behold.”
- Andrew Graham-Dixon
Apulia is one of the most fertile regions of Italy producing more olive oil than the rest of the country combined, most of its fish, 80% of Europe’s pasta and more wine than the whole of Germany. We mention this because this very fertility and resultant wealth has attracted attention from a host of envious invaders from throughout history, with all leaving remarkably evident footprints and it is this which makes Apulia delightfully different. Colonised by the ancient Greeks in the 8th century BC; then came the Romans, Byzantines followed by the Saracens, Normans, Spanish and Bourbons before finally becoming Italian in 1861. As you may know, in Italy, ‘dialect’ – almost entirely different languages are still in everyday use and here in Apulia the language is full of Greek expressions. During our tour of Bari, the tall narrow streets, lined by a host of traders whose wares spill onto the ancient cobbles, carry a huge Moorish influence.
In Lecce an imperial column marks the end of the Appian Way, one of the greatest of Roman roads and at nearby Cannae the empire suffered its greatest ever defeat, courtesy of Hannibal and his Carthaginians. Every town seems to boast a Norman cathedral, and they are some of the most beautifully ornate you will ever see, decorated with intricate stonework, colourful medieval frescos and fine art. Huge Spanish-built castles dominate the rolling countryside whilst picturesque, now peaceful fishing ports once hummed with activity as devout Crusaders embarked for the Holy Land. This history has of course all blended together and today you will see some of the most fascinating cities, villages, unusual sights and stunning scenery you will find anywhere and most importantly it remains genuinely unspoilt. Lecce, a gem of a baroque city, boasts 100 churches ranging from Romanesque and Gothic to Rococo. Its centre is a labyrinth of tiny alleys where Romans, rich medieval merchants and finely clad bishops once roamed.
Today despite its stunning classical architecture, staggeringly the city remains almost devoid of tourists. Around Alberobello is a huge number of Trulli - unique houses whose instantly recognisable shape has become Apulia’s unofficial symbol. Moving on, we visit Matera where an entire medieval town was hewn from solid rock and remains inhabited to this day. Wander round Bari’s old town and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Moorish times, so intense is the sense of history. As we explore Apulia, it is evident this is not the Italy of the north, the tiny villages studding the olive tree carpeted countryside are flat roofed and white, resembling Greece or Crete from where the first settlers of this biscuit coloured land once came. All this makes an eclectic mix, but Apulia is not just about the past; the Gargano peninsula provides one of Europe’s most unforgettable seascapes, standing comparison with the Amalfi coast and the sheer natural beauty of its forest equally so.
- Return flights
- Seven nights four-star half-board accommodation
- A journey discovering a fascinating and unspoilt collection of cultural and scenic gems
- Guided tour of Lecce, one of Italy’s finest baroque towns - often compared to Florence
- Visit to Alberobello, home to the unique ‘trulli’ houses, set amid stunning countryside
- Guided tour of Matera, the amazing cave village and UNESCO world heritage site
- Visit to Bari’s old town, once home to ancient Greeks, Saracens and Normans, with an amazing Romanesque cathedral, final resting place of St Nicholas – Father Christmas!
- New Inclusion - Day 7: Enjoy a pasta making demonstration and light lunch in Apulia
- Visit to Castel del Monte, one of Italy’s finest medieval castles
- Stay in ancient Vieste’s delightful old town, beautifully situated on one of Italy’s most inspiring coastlines
- Drive along the Gargano coast, one of Europe’s most stunning seascapes
- Tour the beautiful national park and Crusader church of Monte St Angelo, where the Archangel St Michael appeared and one of Europe’s most important medieval pilgrimages
- Escorted by our experienced tour manager
- The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are subject toavailability at a supplement of £165per person. The price includes seven nights with breakfast and dinner,alltours as mentioned, return flights, airport departure taxes, guided tours of Lecce, Bari and Matera, pasta making demonstration in Apulia, and the services of a Riviera tour manager throughout.Where hotels feature a swimming pool, this will be open during the summer months -weather permitting.
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