Puglia small group tour, Italy

“A week long, guided, small group cultural tour of Puglia, Italy’s most elegant heel, staying in a fine mix of traditional and gorgeous places en route. ”

Highlights

Lecce | Salento | Otranto | Ostuni | Agnano | Alberobello and Trulli dwellings | Bari | Castel del Monte | Matera

Description of Puglia small group tour, Italy

This stunning part of Italy is the 400km long heel that is laden not only with coastal but also cultural gems, meaning that Puglia holidays have never a dull moment.

We spend eight days working our way up the ‘east’ coast, although Italians call this side of the peninsula ‘la Costa Adriatica’, starting in the Baroque town of Lecce and working our way up north and finally inland to our final point at Matera. Not that it ever feels like ‘work’ traversing this stunning part of Italy, travelling from one Baroque beauty to the next, including the ‘White City’ of Ostuni and the church filled delight of Otranto, where bells echo out over the Mediterranean.

Puglia is packed with UNESCO World Heritage Sites too. These vary greatly, from unique conical roofed houses, or trulli, in Alberobello, the magnificent Castel del Monte to the aforementioned Matera, where we tour around a wonderfully intact troglodyte or cave dwelling settlement overlooking Gravina canyon. Such natural delights are also a feature of our tour, with a couple of walking trails thrown into this pretty Puglia package, along the stunning Salento coast and through the vineyards and olive groves of the Ostuni countryside. Reminding us that local produce is not thin on the ground in Puglia either, which is why we include a couple of wonderful culinary experiences along the way.

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Responsible tourism

Puglia small group tour, Italy

Carbon reduction

Your holiday will help support local people and conservation. We must also reduce CO2. Learn about the CO2 emissions of this holiday and how to reduce them.

Environment

Accommodation & meals: During this trip we stay in accommodation that is locally run (sometimes family run) and staffed with people from the surrounding areas, which has a positive effect on employment levels and economy in the region. Most lodgings are located in proximity to the town centers and the UNESCO historic site we visit, which reduces further the need for carbon producing transfer vehicles on the trip. The majority of lunches and dinners are not included on this trip, this benefits the local economy; clients can enjoy various local authentic dishes and at the same time support numerous local businesses.

Community & Culture: There are plenty of opportunities for clients to support local enterprise while discovering the heel of Italy. In Lecce on day three we visit one of the last remaining laboratories where papier-mâché artwork is still created; money spent here directly supports and maintains this very traditional industry. We continue to support traditional industries, in the afternoon we have a tour around an old olive oil mill which concludes with an olive oil tasting. The following day we visit a ‘Masseria’, a typical Apulian farm, here we try their organically farmed produce in a converted Apulian farmhouse. Afterwards a pasta making class lesson is led by a local chef in a traditional trattoria in Ostuni allowing clients to practise and taste traditional recipes. On day 5 we visit a winery in Alberobello and sample the wines from the region.
 
When visiting Otranto and Matera we further support the local tourist industry by having specialist local guides as well as the local leader, this benefits the local community by providing employment opportunities whilst clients have the advantage of in-depth insight of the country.

Social responsibility: Our local partner is an active member of Addiopizzo; a grassroots organisation established by local businesses and private citizens who refuse to pay the ‘pizzo’ – mafia extortion money.

Environment: Buying bottled water has detrimental impacts on the environment; we can make a conscience effort to reduce plastic waste by not buying water. On this trip, water in all the accommodation we stopover in is drinkable. Clients who bring their own water bottles will be able to refill them daily, when out and about the local guide will be able to point out places where they can top up their water bottles, for example, this is possible in a lot of the main squares.

Regional cooking in Puglia has strong links to the land and sea; very little is imported from abroad therefore having a positive impact on the environment.

Group size: This small group tour has a maximum of 18 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people.

Activity: We try to operate on a ‘leave no trace’ basis, which involves being vigilant with proper disposal of waste and being sure to leave any flora, fauna and historical sites undamaged. By using local drivers for transfers, local restaurants and small shops, we make daily contributions to the economy and the community.

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.

6 Reviews of Puglia small group tour, Italy

4 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed on 29 Sep 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Matera. What a turn around for this town. Loved the buildings, narrow (car free) streets and paths. Something new at every turn.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Take good NON SLIP footwear as the limestone slabs are slippery plus there is some walking (particularly along the costal path) where the gravel/stone
underneath are uneven and loose. If you are a little unsteady, take a walking pole. I think a Vegan would find this trip challenging.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Difficult to say as I don't know if the hotels are part of chains/groups. The guide certainly introduced local family run restaurants which were of a good quality
and reasonably priced. I was surprised the Masseria Morrone cookery/lunch visit used so much throw away/one use plastics. Water on arrival in a plastic glass - binned. Making the meat dish a throw away plate for each person - binned. Making Bruchette another plate per person - binned. Such time another plastic glass per person - binned. I hope you will be able to address this terrible waste of resources before next season.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Had a fabulous time. The guide worked exceptionally hard to ensure everyone enjoyed the trip.

Only the obvious unnecessary use of plastic (at Masseria Morrone) and throw away plates were of concern. Just multiply that out by the number of lessons a
week and you'll quickly add to land-fill. This was also a B&B possibly also adding to un-necessary waste of the planets resources. Their carefree attitude to
damaging the environment was a grave disappointment.

Read the operator's response here:

We would like to thank Lynda for her review, although we are sincerely sorry that she experienced instances of plastic waste during her trip. Our Responsible Tourism policy is very important to us and we take the issue of plastic waste very seriously, so we would like to thank Lynda for bringing this to our attention. We have passed her constructive feedback on to the product manager for this trip who will be addressing this with our local team.

Reviewed on 18 Jun 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Most memorable: Castellana Caves for their enormity and age. Then the 3000 year old olive tree still bearing fruit. And the mosaic floor of the cathedral in Otranto. But then there were those fantastic Trulli houses and the Sassi in Matera. Too hard to choose. Every day had something special in store.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


It really was pretty hot in early June. Temperatures were up in the thirties so loose, cool clothing was a must.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Our guide was local to Puglia and very loyal to the area and enthusiastic. She used a local guide in Matera, thus spreading the benefits of tourism. She always recommended restaurants that she'd previously tried and she really emphasised local food. Not sure how our holiday reduced environmental impact other than that we used a small minibus when travelling. We walked a lot. Conservation? I guess that by visiting places such as Matera, we are helping the local people to preserve and improve their town. If we'd only visited for the day, we'd have spent less money there and it was a great place to start (we were on the reverse tour).

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


It exceeded my expectations. Puglia was far more interesting than I'd imagined and the fact that we were part of a very small group made the whole thing quite intimate: like a normal sized family on holiday really!

Read the operator's response here:

We would like to thank Julie for her review of this holiday and we are very pleased to read that overall she had a fantastic time. We are aware that she was not sure how the holiday reduced environmental impact and we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight this. There is a conscious effort to reduce single use plastic bottles on all our trips; our guides will locate water refill points and safe drinking water is readily available in Italy. Walking allows easy access and flexibility for clients to interact with locals, visit local cafes and bars, buy local produce and crafts and our small group size allows us to support small and unique establishments and businesses that do not usually benefit from mass tourism.

Reviewed on 20 May 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Visiting Lecce and Matera.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Arrive early in Lecce and stay an extra day in Marera. Prepare yourself a bit in advance to allow you to discover the destinations - I found the information provided to be light. I also booked separate tours in Lecce and Matera. I should have done the same for our free day.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Not really other than by encouraging local communities.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


I had a great time! I will go back to this part of Italy!

Read the operator's response here:

We would like to thank Mylene for her feedback, whilst we were pleased that she had a good holiday overall, we are sorry that she was left feeling that her trip had only a slight benefit to the local communities. On this trip there are many activities that engage with local communities and industries, directly supporting their businesses and local production. In Lecce, for example, there is an optional visit to a local laboratory for its famous papier-mâché and we also stop by a traditional Masseria (a typical Apulian farmhouse) to visit an ancient underground oil mill which and have an olive oil tasting. Throughout the trip we try to choose accommodations that are locally owned or at least employ local staff and uses local produce. Most of them are small scaled accommodations as we try to reach out to these small local businesses that cannot benefit from mass tourism.

Reviewed on 30 Oct 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The visit to Metera was the most memorable because it is such an unusual place with a powerful atmosphere, very sensible to do this visit last as it is an absolute highlight.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


This is a busy and rewarding holiday but you do need to be prepared for a lot of walking and for some variable accommodation. Take some sturdy footwear and be prepared to walk even in towns. In Lecce the hotel was 15 minutes from the town centre and no bus. All the cities involved walking tours. There was a 5 hour walk from Ostuni and 3km of rather hard work walking in the caves. All this was enjoyable and better than too much coach travel which was kept to a minimum, but if you are of a certain age and not too able to walk, this isn't a good holiday. Also learn a bit of Italian - not much English in cafes etc.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Not hugely. Staying in local hotels was the only option as big chains weren't there. I suppose it helped local businesses to use local hotels. We ate in local restaurants (where else could we eat?) I felt that tourism was eroding some of the places and we added to that a bit - the fine mosaic at Otranto didn't benefit from our walking on part of it and more tourism will rather diminish the authenticity of Matera.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Great region - full of character if no important buildings or historical connections. Still under its spell and highly rewarding. Varied programme - and only one feeble activity - the pasta making- but helped by some nice wine. Pity the pasta was like eating soggy cardboard. Lecce a beautiful Baroque city; Otranto a nice resort and not its fault that it poured with rain; Ostuni looked good; walk to the Masseria though olive groves was nice; Alberobello - well not all that gripping but nice to visit; Free day saw us in lovely town of Martina Franca using the bus; Matera an absolute must. Warm and helpful guide. Choice of suggested restaurants a bit variable - one disaster two very nice and very reasonable. First hotel had dark uninviting bedroom; 2nd at Ostuni more acceptable 4 star; the Trullo was interesting but not very comfortable (no kettle for instance); the cave hotel at Matera had super town view but not much comfort. The free day at Alberobello was not great - nothing to do for so long a time in the town so a bus ride to two other towns which seemed a rather limited option though both were nice and there was a good walk suggested between them but Albeobello transport wise is problematic as no trains for 2 years and only buses which are difficult to use for non Italian speakers. Suggested excursion to sea side depended on enough sharing 80 euro taxi. 5 star for region - don't hesitate. However a bit less for quality of accommodation and a rather cop out 'free day'

Reviewed on 09 Sep 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


My time in Polignano

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


If you are worried about comfort and quality of the hotels, don’t book this tour!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Very disappointing and think the holiday was over priced.

Read the operator's response here:

We would like to thank Verity for her feedback, although we regret that she did not enjoy her tour in Puglia and that it did not meet her expectations. We are very sorry that she was disappointed with the accommodation; the hotels used on the trip are usually seen to be of a good standard by our clients and we have not received feedback of this nature in the past and we feel this is reassuring.

We are, however, genuinely sorry that Verity's experience was not so positive; at the beginning of each season use client and staff feedback is used to review each property used on this tour, and if any concerns are raised, these will be addressed and dealt with accordingly.

Reviewed on 24 Oct 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The varuety of the programme. Towns like Ostuni, Otranto, Matera were fascinatingly different. Also the local experiences of food and wine tasting.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


There's a lot more walking than is indicated in the brochure. Not really suitatble for anyone with walking problems.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Hard to tell, but probably.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Very good. Excellent guide. Nice mixed group. Great taster for an underrated part of Italy.

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