On this week long cycling holiday in the regions of Basilicata and Puglia, Italy, we cycle from Matera and follow that stunning southern heel in the deep south of Italy, perfectly located between the Adriatic and the Ionian sea. Cycling for six days out of eight, you will weave your way from north to south, starting in Matera, where traditional ‘sassi’ houses abound. Similar architectural curiosities await us on our tracks through Alberobello, which has gained UNESCO World Heritage status for its conical roofed ‘trulli’ houses.
Heading further south, to the Adriatic coast, one of our littoral highlights is the ‘White City’ of Ostuni, an ancient town with traditional white houses that clambers its way up the hill through myriad stairways and cobbled streets. Surrounded by olive groves and small rural holdings, the nearby coast had stunning offerings for cool downs after a day in the saddle.
Having your bags transferred for you, we stay in 3 and 4 star locally owned hotels, often in traditional, Apullian buildings, reliably restored with classiness in mind - this is Italy after all. Another coastal stop, on the Ionian side this time is Gallipoli, with a new and old town, the latter located on a limestone island which is linked to the main land by a 16th century bridge. As well as its Byzantine castle and Baroque cathedral, it is surrounded by azure sky and water. More Baroque beauty awaits in Lecce, the capital of this Salento peninsula. Which is the perfect finale to a wonderful cycling holiday as we stroll around its myriad churches, palaces and even a Roman amphitheatre.
Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.
The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.
We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!
Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.
Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.
Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.
“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.
“The accommodation will be basic” Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.
“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.
“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson
Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando
Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.
Responsible tourism: Matera to Puglia cycle in Italy
Activity: Few holidays have as little detrimental impact on the environment and local residents as a cycling trip. Erosion on and adjacent to popular paths is a growing problem in certain places and therefore our trip leaders encourage clients to stick to advised routes in order to minimise this. We do believe in leaving no more than footprints although this tour actively encourages guests to talk to local people, visit local cafes and restaurants, and use shops to purchase traditional gifts and crafts. At Basilicata and Puglia fruit markets, for example, clients can lend their businesses to farmers and small vendors selling seasonal fruit: peaches, apricots and cherries in spring; grapes and citrus in autumn.
Water: Water is a really important issue with cycling trips and whilst we must stay hydrated, it is also vital that we have a system for providing clean water without causing lots of waste with plastic bottles. We suggest that instead of repeatedly buying bottled water, guests should re-fill a singular bottle. Our guides can advise where to fill them and where to recycle litter.
UK Office: It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.
Accommodation and Meals: We use a mixture of hotels and spend one night in a typical Masseria (a traditional converted farmhouse) surrounded by olive groves. All of the accommodation we have selected is run by local people, which is good for the community. Where meals are provided, local and organic ingredients are used wherever possible. There will be a range of delicious Italian food on offer over the trip and guides encourage clients to use the large range of local restaurants and cafes at dinner. Regional specialties include Orecchiette served with a sauce of turnip-tops or fresh tomato and sheep's ricotta-cheese, aubergine and parmesan bake, roasted peppers, fresh seafood, burrata (soft mozzarella and cream cheese), mozzarella and Caciocavallo sheep's cheese.
Local Craft and Culture: At Locorotondo we organise a regional wine tasting- which is exceptional in this area and goes towards supporting local production. We also visit a number of religious and historical sites along our route like the Grotta Zinzulusa, the thermal baths of Santa Cesarea Terme and the Baroque city of Lecce, which is home to over 40 churches, palaces and a Roman amphitheatre. By making donations and using businesses which surround these sites, we are ensuring that the community benefits from our tourism.
Charity: Every year we sponsor and support Bicincittà, which is a national Italian bike ride organized every year by UISP ( Unione Italiana Sport Per Tutti). This organisation run several events year round and aims to promote social inclusion for sporting activities all over the country. This particular bike ride is open to all and campaigns for mobility and sustainability of the community and surrounding environment.
Group Size: This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.