A leisurely exploration of the isolated and little-known, but scenic and fascinating “heel” of the Italian “boot,” the province of Puglia (a.k.a. Apulia), offering fabulous coastal and mountain scenery, Ancient Greek as well as Roman, Medieval, and Baroque historical towns, sites and monuments - and delicious food and fine wines! Tour escorted by Sandra Pauwels.
Late evening departure on Alitalia’s non-stop flight from Toronto to Rome.
Arrival in Rome in early afternoon, and short connecting flight to Brindisi, one of the major cities in the Italian province of Apulia, known as Puglia in Italian. A private coach will be waiting to take us immediately to Lecce, an Apulian city famous for its baroque churches and palaces. Check into the centrally-located 5-star/deluxe Hotel Santa Chiara and free time to settle in. Welcome drink and dinner in the hotel’s fine restaurant.
Morning walking tour of Lecce. Known as the “Baroque Florence,” this city features countless buildings and monuments in the Baroque style typical for its “golden age,” lasting from the 16th to the 18th centuries, such as Santa Croce Basilica and other churches with exuberant exteriors as well as interiors, the palaces along elegant Via Palmieri, and harmonious Piazza del Duomo, one of most beautiful squares in southern Italy. In the afternoon we enjoy a leisurely drive around the tip of the “heel” of the Italian “boot,” a region known as the Salento. Stops will be made in Otranto, the most oriental of all Italian cities, overlooking the narrow stretch of water between the Adriatic and the Ionian Seas, known as the Strait of Otranto, and Gallipoli, an ancient town on an offshore island. Return to Lecce. No group dinner this evening.
Full-day excursion to the Adriatic seaport of Brindisi, in Antiquity the terminus of the famous Appian Way, still marked today by two Roman columns; and the hilltop town of Ostuni, an architectural jewel commonly referred to as “the White Town” for its mostly white-painted architecture. We will also be introduced to the fine wines of Puglia during a visit to Castel di Salve, one of the province’s leading wineries! No group dinner this evening.
Morning sightseeing tour of Bari, with as highlights the impressive Romanesque Basilica dedicated to the immensely popular Saint Nicholas with his Turkish-Greek connection (to be explained by your tour guide), the Cathedral, the castle built by German Emperor Frederick II, and the rest of the attractive, labyrinthine old town (Bari Vecchia) as well as the monumental waterfront. Afternoon free to shop, explore the city on your own, and/or visit museums like the Archaeological Museum and the Pinacoteca, featuring Byzantine icons as well as paintings by Italian masters such as Tintoretto, Bellini, Veronese, and De Chirico. No group dinner this evening.
Departure from Bari after breakfast. We motor inland and visit Castel del Monte, a mighty medieval castle in a lonely but scenic setting, built by Emperor Frederick II and a unique blend of Cistercian and other occidental as well as oriental, i.e. Byzantine and Islamic, architecture. Return to the Adriatic Coast via the area that witnessed the 216BC Battle of Cannae, Hannibal’s most famous victory against the Romans, a perfect excuse for your tour guide to talk about the Carthaginian Wars. We pause in the town of Barletta, an important seaport in Antiquity and in the Middle Ages, to view the “Colossus,” a huge bronze 4th-century statue of a Roman emperor. Then we continue along the coast to the mountainous and forested Gargano Peninsula, the “spur” of the Italian boot, one of Italy’s most unusual and scenic regions. Dinner and overnight in the 4-star/first-class Forte Hotel, centrally located in the picturesque coastal town of Vieste.
A full day of sightseeing on the Gargano Peninsula. We experience the Bosco d’Umbra, a majestic “Black Forest” of beech, maple, chestnut, oak, and other trees generally found in more northern regions, but thriving here because of the altitude, over 1,000 meters above sea level. Visit to Monte Sant’Angelo, a famous hilltop centre of pilgrimage, as the Archangel Michael reputedly appeared here in a cave around 490AD; like Rome and Santiago de Compostela, this site was the terminus of a famous trans-European pilgrims’ road, the St. Michael’s Way, which started in Cornwall and reached Italy via a string of other famous sanctuaries devoted to the Archangel, such as the Mont St. Michel. And we finish with a scenic drive along the peninsula’s magnificent coast, dotted with fabulous beaches, rocky promontories, and offshore rocks known as faraglioni, plus quaint resorts such as Vieste, where we return in late afternoon for some individual exploration and shopping, followed by dinner again in the restaurant of our hotel.
Morning exploration of “Imperial Rome,” featuring the still very impressive ruins dating back to the time of the Roman Empire and rulers such as Caesar, Augustus, Nero, and Trajan. Highlights will include the Colosseum, the Imperial Forums and the Roman Forum (flanked by the over-the-top Monument to King Victor Emmanuel, known as the “Wedding Cake”!), the Circus Maximus, the triumphal arches of Constantine and Titus, and Trajan’s Column. In the afternoon, leisurely walking tour to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Group dinner in our hotel or in a neighbouring restaurant.
This morning we focus on Vatican City, with thorough visits to St. Peter’s Basilica with its huge central altar, papal crypt, treasury, massive dome and Michelangelo’s evocative Pietà, as well as the Vatican Museum, featuring frescoes by Raphael, paintings by Giotto, and antiquities such as the celebrated Hellenistic sculpture, Laocoön. But the absolute highlight will of course be the Sistine Chapel, venue of the papal elections, with Michelangelo’s superb paintings. In the afternoon, leisurely exploration (on foot) of the picturesque district around Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. No group dinner this evening.
Your last day in Rome is at leisure, except for this evening “arrivederci” - dinner in a typical ristorante!
After a leisurely breakfast, transfer to Fiumicino Airport and return flight from Rome to Toronto, departing around 3 and arriving around 7PM.
Return flights on Alitalia including airport taxes; Overland travel in a private coach; Accommodation in first class/4-star hotels, in double occupancy (the single room supplement is $725); Daily breakfast and seven dinners (or occasionally full lunches); All sightseeing as indicated in the itinerary, including admission fees; Gratuity for the coach driver; Services of a tour escort as well as local guides.
All items of a personal nature; Beverages with dinners, and meals other than those outlined above; Travel Insurance, available upon request.