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Puglia & Basilicata

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10 days From $2,295 per person
4.3 stars(4 reviews)
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Whitewashed villages and sparkling coastlines welcome you to Southern Italy on this journey through Puglia and Basilicata, featuring time in Rome, Lecce, Monopoli, and fascinating towns that beg your exploration.

Travel among a group of like-minded travelers led by a professional tour manager

Mobility Rating 3

2024 Tour code: PBS24

About the tour

Overflowing with history and coastal allure, Southern Italy hosts this exciting expedition featuring big-city attractions and small-town charms. Enjoy time in the Puglia region, nestled in the heel of the boot, as well as in Basilicata, beloved for its rugged terrain. Each charming locale renews your spirit for adventure, opening your eyes and heart to the delights of Italy's southern half.

Begin your journey in Rome, where a guided tour introduces you to the Eternal City's most significant sites. The journey proceeds across Italy, arriving at Santa Maria al Bagno on the Adriatic Coast. Using this quaint beach resort town as a base, enjoy day trips to Lecce, Galatina, and Gallipoli, each with unique histories and features to keep you on the edge of your seat. Continue further north in the heel to seaside Monopoli; Alberobello, with its prehistoric Trulli; and Matera, where you will see UNESCO World Heritage-designated cave dwellings. A journey through the ages by way of Italy's idyllic landscapes, this tour is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Highlights

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 – Rome

Arrive in Rome and transfer independently to your hotel, where you will meet your Tour Manager and fellow travelers. Once the largest city in the world and the center of the powerful Roman Empire, the city's architecture charts the passage of time through its wonderfully preserved Roman monuments and buildings with distinctive medieval, Renaissance and Baroque features. Overnight Rome. 

Includes
  • Dinner
Day 2 – Rome

We discover the many famous sights of Rome on a guided tour. We pass the incredible Colosseum, Italy's most famous classical sight, and the Roman Forum as well as Piazza Venezia and the Pantheon. Later, you're free to savor Rome's beauty at your own pace. The city is rich in world-class museums and galleries, though simply walking through the atmospheric streets is a treat. Overnight Rome. 

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 3 - Santa Maria al Bagno

Leaving Rome, we travel across Italy by rail - a scenic journey which takes us along the gorgeous Italian-Adriatic coastline. We travel into Puglia, the 'heel' of Italy - a rural region with an undiscovered feel. We arrive in the town of Lecce in southern Puglia then transfer by coach to our seafront hotel in the fishing town of Santa Maria al Bagno, our relaxing base for the next four nights. There's free time to get to know our lovely surroundings, possibly take a refreshing swim in one of the hotel pools, visit the private beach or spend some time on the sun terrace which overlooks the sea. Overnight Santa Maria al Bagno. 

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 4 - Lecce

We visit the town of Lecce today on a guided walking tour. With an interesting Old Town of elaborate Baroque architecture, Lecce has been dubbed 'the Florence of the South', and the city's narrow alleys are ideal for exploring on foot. We visit the Chiesa di Santa Croce, with its intricately carved rose window and grand chandeliers, and the Piazza del Duomo, the main square, in the shadow of Lecce's cathedral. Our guided tour ends in a traditional café, where we sample a Leccese coffee, made with almond milk and poured over ice and 'pasticciotto', a Southern Puglian dish. We then have a free afternoon to explore the town. Overnight Santa Maria al Bagno. 

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 5 –Santa Maria al Bagno at Leisure

You have a day at leisure to explore the town of Santa Maria al Bagno or relax at the hotel. Due to its beautiful coastline and good swimming beaches, the town buzzes with vacationers during the height of summer. There is an attractive promenade overlooked by elegant estates and palazzos. The traditional town center is just a short walk from the hotel, and above is the 'Tower of the Galatena River' a set of four medieval fortress towers known locally as 'the four columns'. The town was the site of a 'displaced persons camp' after World War II, and a small museum tells the moving story of refugees who were given temporary homes in Santa Maria al Bagno and how they were welcomed by the local population. Overnight Santa Maria al Bagno. 

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 6 - Galatina & Gallipoli

We set off for a full day of sightseeing, first to Galatina - one of the region's hidden gems, off the well-worn tourist track with an impressive domed cathedral. After some free time here, we continue to the historic town of Gallipoli which we explore with our local guide. Overnight Santa Maria al Bagno. 

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 7 – Monopoli and Alberobello

Today we're transferred by coach to Lecce train station where we travel to our next enchanting base, Monopoli - a vibrant town on the Adriatic coast, with a maritime history and a characterful harbor. After checking into our hotel for three nights we are taken on a guided excursion to the unique whitewashed town of Alberobello. This magical UNESCO-listed town is packed with hundreds of 'trulli' - cone-shaped, limestone houses built in a unique style with an interesting history. The original houses date back to the 14th century and were constructed from small stones gathered from the land, and designed to be easily dismantled to avoid taxes!

We have a little time to get to know the town before meeting our knowledgeable and friendly guide, Mimmo Palmisano - affectionately known as Mr Alberobello - who hosts us at a delicious lunch in his family's restaurant before taking us on a fascinating guided tour. Our exploration of this beautiful area continues as we travel to the hill town of Locorotondo, a few miles away. Here we are free to wander the labyrinthine streets of the beautiful historic centre, among whitewashed buildings and some impressive stone churches. The town is renowned for its sparkling white Spumante wine, and the countryside around has an abundance of vineyards, olive groves and 'trulli' settlements. Overnight Monopoli.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Day 8 - Monopoli

This morning we head into the extensive streets of Monopoli with a local expert who guides us on an introductory walk, to get to know our surroundings. In the charming old quarter is a grand Baroque cathedral, pretty painted houses, faded stone palaces and several ornately carved churches. The Old Port is overlooked by a stunning 16th-century fortress castle, and striking whitewashed houses, including some of Venetian origin, which contrast with the translucent blue Adriatic Sea. The sleepy fishing harbor comes to life at dusk and dawn, when wooden blue and red fishing boats cast off and fishermen return with their catch.

After our morning tour the remainder of the day is at leisure, and you could visit one of several sheltered coves or sandy beaches before a slow lunch in one of the old town's inviting restaurants, taverns or outdoor cafés, where you'll find a tempting variety of fish dishes. Siesta time is respected here, but the colorful, flower-filled streets become livelier in late afternoon, when artisan craft shops, small boutiques and specialist grocery stores reopen. Overnight Monopoli.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 9 – Matera

We visit Matera in Basilicata, which sits in a small canyon and is famous for its 'Sassi', a collection of ancient cave dwellings that have UNESCO World Heritage status. We explore the maze of winding streets and Paleolithic-era abodes, some of which date back to the 8th century and were inhabited until as recently as the 1950s. Matera has flourished in recent years and there are many boutiques, craft shops, bars and cafés to discover in your free time after our tour. Overnight Monopoli. 

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 10 – Return Home

Your tour of Southern Italy concludes after breakfast where you are free to continue your onward journey.

Includes
  • Breakfast

Additional information

Departure times

Departure times vary based on selected rail vacation. This information will be provided in your final documents. For more information please speak with your rail specialist.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular vacation with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Reviews

4.3 stars4.3 / 5 · 4 reviews

  1. 5 stars
    (2)
  2. 4 stars
    (1)
  3. 3 stars
    (1)
  4. 2 stars
    (0)
  5. 1 star
    (0)

Diane Hooper

5 stars

Submitted 28/May

Wonderful trip to an unknown, for me, part of Italy. Only disappointment was that I was only aware of the Rome-Monopoli portion of the trip and had no idea it actually began in London for European guests.... would have been nice to make decision on my own about where to begin tour.

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David Y

3 stars

Submitted 07 Nov 2023

Tour provided what I expected. HOWEVER communication with me prior to departure was WOEFUL. I booked with Vacations by Rail in Chicago and paid in USD. At no time was I told my booking had been transferred to Great Rail Journeys out of York in the UK. I therefore missed the opportunity of flying to Gatwick with the group. The US tour ended in Monopoli so I organised my onward journey from there. Most inconvenient and expensive compared with the UK tour group. The first I knew that I was travelling with a UK group was when I received a txt from the Tour Leader suggesting I meet the group for dinner in the group hotel in Rome.

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Rose Valenti

5 stars

Submitted 24 Oct 2023

An area that was heavily marketed in the US as the next go to area. It was a definite once in a lifetime trip. Some of the cities were great, two I could have passed on. But overall, a nice trip. I stayed behind in matera. It must be seen at night. Pics are alberbello, matera and santa maria al bagno, which I enjoyed immensely.

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Jan Corwin

4 stars

Submitted 18 Jun 2023

I liked that we stayed 3 or 4 nights in each city and took trains and buses to other locations. I loved the hotels in Puglia. The Rome hotel was ok but the location was not optimum. The hotel food was excellent in every location and outstanding Santa Maria al Bagno. I applaud our tour guide, John Cockerill, who was always a friendly and brilliant problem solver in any situation. I loved the smaller group size. I loved the free time included and free days. Most of the local guides were excellent. My only complaint was organizational. Advance info was confusing. The app for Great Rail Journeys was not accurate. Great Rail Journeys and Vactions by Rail need to integrate and coordinate their information more effectively. I wish we had known we could have started the rail journey in London instead of Rome. Suggestion-allow people to request and pay for room upgrades before travel.

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