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Puglia: Italy’s Undiscovered Coast

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20242025
11 days From £2,495 £2,395 per person
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Join us on an unforgettable tour, discovering the epic history and dazzling treasures of Rome, and the extraordinary gems of Italy’s unspoilt southern regions.

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Save £100pp on selected Europe 2024 last-minute holidays, when you book by 30th June 2024.

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No Single Supplement

No Single Supplement subject to availability on selected departures. 

Mobility Rating 3

2024 Tour code: PBS24

About the tour

A holiday which combines history, culture and coastal relaxation, we explore the iconic sites of ancient Rome before discovering wonderful Puglia and Basilicata in Italy's southern heel. Admiring unique architecture, including UNESCO-listed limestone cave dwellings in Matera, we see through the eyes of a local on a guided tour of Alberobello's cone-shaped 'trulli' houses, and taste delicious local produce.

Unforgettable experiences

Visit Matera and its intriguing 'sassi' cave dwellings
Visit Matera and its intriguing 'sassi' cave dwellings
Inhabited since the Palaeolithic period, these ancient natural caves are found in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Matera, a breathtaking rugged setting for ‘the jewel of Basilicata’.
See the unique 'trulli' houses of Alberobello
See the unique 'trulli' houses of Alberobello
We explore this enchanting area with an engaging and entertaining local expert who takes us on a fascinating guided tour after a hearty lunch at his family’s restaurant.
Stay in two centres - at a relaxing coastal hotel, and in the heart of a lively fishing town
Stay in two centres - at a relaxing coastal hotel, and in the heart of a lively fishing town
We experience both sides of Italy’s intriguing southern heel, spending four nights in the peaceful surroundings of a spa hotel on the Ionian Sea and three in a lively fishing town on the Adriatic.
Experience the vibrant historical cities of Rome and Lecce
Experience the vibrant historical cities of Rome and Lecce
Walk among Rome’s wondrous ancient monuments and discover the Baroque wonders of Lecce on insightful guided tours.
Explore Galatina, one of Puglia’s hidden gems, and historical Gallipoli
Explore Galatina, one of Puglia’s hidden gems, and historical Gallipoli
We take the road less travelled to the beautiful baroque town of Galatina, and explore the atmospheric fishing village of Gallipoli, set on a narrow peninsula, surrounded by sea on all sides.

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 – London and an overnight stay in Basel

Our holiday begins at London St Pancras, when we board the Eurostar service for a morning journey to Paris, travelling in spacious Standard Premier Class with a light meal served at our seats. From Paris we continue by First Class rail to Basel - a delightful Swiss city near the border of France and Germany. Arriving this evening, we check into our 4-Star hotel near the station for the night, before enjoying our first group dinner together at a local restaurant.

Some departures dates will have a different itinerary on this day due to Italian engineering works - click here to see affected dates

Includes
  • Dinner
  • Eurostar light meal
Day 2 – Two nights in the Eternal City of Rome

Leaving Basel after breakfast this morning we walk to the train station to travel to our first exciting Italian destination, the 'Eternal City' of Rome. Our relaxing rail journey takes us through the Swiss and Italian Alps in First Class to Milan. From this stylish city, we continue south by Standard Class rail to Rome. Arriving in Italy's dynamic capital this evening, we check into our central hotel for two nights and enjoy a three-course dinner.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 3 – Exploring Rome, on a guided tour and at leisure

After breakfast this morning we discover some of Rome's spectacular sights on a guided tour. We pass the awe-inspiring Colosseum - Italy's most renowned classical site - and the impressive remains of the Roman Forum, once the powerful governing centre of ancient Rome. We also see the elegant Piazza Venezia and the extraordinary Roman Pantheon. Our tour ends in Piazza Navona - a lively square with a fabulous Baroque fountain and a border of ochre-hued buildings, cafés and restaurants - where you're free to experience Rome's beauty at your own pace for the whole of the afternoon and evening.

The city has a wealth of history, Renaissance art and ancient monuments to explore, although simply walking through Rome's atmospheric streets is a treat. Just across the historic Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II which spans the River Tiber is St Peter's Square and the Vatican. Within 15 minutes' walk of Piazza Navona you'll find the iconic Trevi Fountain or a little further from there, the wonderful Spanish Steps. Walk up the steps of this delightful locale, and you'll reach Pincian Hill and Villa Borghese park - a vast green area where you can relax in landscaped gardens or see stunning art and sculpture in the Borghese Gallery.

When you tire of sightseeing Rome offers endless places to eat, often alfresco - maybe find a trattoria to enjoy a bowl of delicious pasta or a slice of crispy pizza al taglio with a glass of wine, or watch the world go by from a café or gelateria.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 4 - Santa Maria al Bagno, our peaceful base on the Ionian Sea

Saying 'Arrivederci Roma', this morning we set off on a scenic rail journey to the unspoilt southern 'heel' of Italy. Our route takes us directly south, then east along the gorgeous Adriatic coastline on our way to Lecce. From here we transfer by coach to the west coast, or 'inner heel' of Puglia, to the relaxed fishing town of Santa Maria al Bagno and our lovely seafront hotel which overlooks the brilliant blue Ionian Sea.

We spend the next four nights in this beautiful environment, a peaceful contrast to the buzzing streets of Rome. 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. There's also a pleasant walk along the promenade from the hotel to the town. This evening we dine at our hotel.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 5 - A day in the Baroque town of Lecce

Today we are taken by coach to the historic town of Lecce for a guided sightseeing 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, served with 'pasticciotto' - a southern Puglian pastry filled with custard or ricotta.

We then have a free afternoon to explore the town. You could visit the Roman amphitheatre, a partially buried archaeological treasure which was excavated in 1938, below the ground level of the Piazza Sant'Oronzo. The streets are lined with cafés, bars and restaurants, and - equally enticing - shops offering local produce such as olive oil, wine and ceramics. We return to Santa Maria al Bagno and dine at our hotel this evening.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 6 – Free time in Santa Maria al Bagno

Today you have a full day at leisure, either to explore the peaceful fishing village of Santa Maria al Bagno or to simply relax and enjoy our hotel's excellent facilities, sea views and private beach. With a beautiful rocky coastline on the Ionian Sea, inviting swimming bays and sandy beaches, Santa Maria buzzes with holidaymakers at the height of summer but remains unspoilt. The traditional town centre is just a short walk along the promenade from our hotel, and seafront cafés and restaurants are dotted around the bay.

Above the old town is the distinctive 'Tower of the Galatena River', a set of four medieval fortress towers known locally simply as 'the four columns'. During World War II the town was the site of a 'displaced persons camp', 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. When you're ready for dinner, there are several highly rated restaurants to choose from, set around the turquoise bay.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 7 - Gorgeous Galatina & the fishing town of Gallipoli

After breakfast this morning we board a coach for a full day of sightseeing. Our first destination is to one of Puglia's hidden gems, Galatina, a beautifully preserved Baroque town away from the well-worn tourist track. With some free time in this laid-back, friendly town you could visit the lovely Basilica di Santa Caterina and see its exquisite frescoes (entry is free) or enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and a refreshing drink in the piazza.

Our tour continues to the charming town of Gallipoli, known for its fortified historical centre. Set on a narrow promontory which stretches out into the Ionian Sea, this ancient fishing town is surrounded by water on all sides. With free time to explore independently, you might like to visit the 13th century castle, or find an atmospheric seafront café to enjoy lunch beside the colourful port. In the afternoon we head back to our hotel in Santa Maria al Bagno where we dine this evening.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 8 – To Monopoli, then lunch and a tour in 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 harbour. 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.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Day 9 - Guided tour of Monopoli and free time to explore this coastal gem

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 harbour 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 colourful, flower-filled streets become livelier in late afternoon, when artisan craft shops, small boutiques and specialist grocery stores reopen.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 10 – Guided tour of otherworldly Matera

Today we enjoy a highlight of our tour, an excursion to the rugged hilltop town of Matera in Basilicata, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognised for its ancient 'sassi' cave dwellings. This evocative town is favoured among directors as a film location over the decades. Director Pier Paolo Pasolini set the story of Jesus' life here, in his 1964 classic, The Gospel According to St Matthew, and the James Bond movie 'No Time to Die' was also filmed here.

Our guided tour takes us through the maze of winding streets and fascinating Palaeolithic-era abodes, some of which were inhabited until as recently as the 1950s, and we enter one of the 'sassi' caves. We're then free over lunch to explore this incredible location at our own pace. Matera has flourished in recent years, it was European Capital of Culture in 2019, and there are many boutiques, craft shops, bars and cafés to discover.

We return to Monopoli for our last night on the Adriatic coast, dining this evening in our hotel.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 11 – Fly home or choose to return by rail.

This morning, you say farewell to your Tour Manager at our Monopoli hotel and transfer to Bari airport, from where you fly home. On the journey, you can reflect on the experiences of our Italian tour and the unusual places we have visited, before our holiday draws to a close as the plane lands. Those who have opted to return by rail join the Tour Manager as we begin our journey north through Italy. We transfer by coach to Bari then travel by rail along the picturesque Adriatic coast and onwards to Bologna where we change trains to the cultural city of Turin, close to the French border. We check into our overnight hotel in Turin and have dinner.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 12 – Turin and homeward bound (return by rail option only)

Early this morning we start the final journey of our holiday, boarding a comfortable coach through the Alps from Turin to Chambéry. Passing through beautiful river valleys lined by towering, alpine peaks, we stop enroute to admire the gorgeous scenery. In Chambéry, we board to train to Paris in First Class, changing trains in the French capital to join the Eurostar service to London St Pancras. Travelling in spacious Standard Premier Class, we are served a light meal served at our seats. During our journey there's time to reflect on the unforgettable experiences we have enjoyed, share stories with fellow travellers and new friends before our holiday draws to a close as our train pulls into St Pancras.

Please Note - If you opt for the return by rail option there is a supplement of £300pp

Includes
  • Breakfast
  • Eurostar light meal

Additional information

Departure Information

Some departures dates will have run a different itinerary due to Italian engineering works - click here to see affected dates

Departure times

Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.

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 holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Hotels

Palazzo Indelli, Monopoli

Palazzo Indelli, Monopoli

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Bettoja Hotel Massimo D’Azeglio, Rome

Bettoja Hotel Massimo D’Azeglio, Rome

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Bettoja Hotel Mediterraneo, Rome

Bettoja Hotel Mediterraneo, Rome

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Republic Hotel, Rome

Republic Hotel, Rome

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Grand Hotel Riviera, Santa Maria al Bagno

Grand Hotel Riviera, Santa Maria al Bagno

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Hotel Traiano, Rome

Hotel Traiano, Rome

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DoubleTree by Hilton Rome Monti, Rome

DoubleTree by Hilton Rome Monti, Rome

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Trains

Eurostar
TGV

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Upgrades

Upgrade to a double room at the Palazzo Indelli in Monopoli
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Europe Holidays 2024

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