Experience the culture of the unspoilt 'heel' of Italy
Immerse yourself in culture on the unspoilt 'heel' of Italy, a rugged, rural and breathtakingly beautiful area. We tour the ancient city of Rome before traveling through the olive groves, vineyards and almond trees of a region referred to as 'the breadbasket of Italy' on a wonderful adventure exploring Puglia & Basilicata.
We meet our Tour Manager at Great Rail Journeys' Dedicated Departure office in London St Pancras today, departing by Eurostar for Paris. On arrival in the French capital, we cross the city by coach and join our onward high-speed rail service to Chambéry, where we spend the night.
On Day 2 we continue our scenic journey south to Italy, traveling via Milan to Rome. Our hotel is the 4-Star Hotel Universo, located close to the railroad station and Rome's historic center. We enjoy dinner together this evening in a local restaurant - a fitting way to start our explorations of the 'Eternal City'.
On our guided tour of the ancient city of Rome we explore some of the many fantastic sights and monuments in this remarkable city. Rome's architecture charts the passage of time as clearly as anywhere in Europe; with preserved monuments from the early Romans and buildings with medieval, Renaissance and Baroque features. We pass the incredible Colosseum, Italy's most famous classical sight, and the Roman Forum, the ancient power center of Rome, as well as Piazza Venezia and the Pantheon, a former Roman temple. This afternoon you are free to savour Rome's seductive beauty at your own pace.
Leaving Rome, we travel across Italy by high-speed rail - a fantastic journey which takes us through Foggia and along the gorgeous Italian-Adriatic coastline. We travel into Puglia, the 'heel' of Italy - a wonderful, rustic, rural region which has an incredibly undiscovered feel. Puglia is known as the 'wine cellar of Italy', where the railroad lines run through the middle of vineyards and among the olive groves which produce more than half of Italy's olive oil. You will soon find yourself drawn into the fashion for long, lazy lunches and gentle evening strolls, thanks to the appeal of the local atmosphere, climate and cuisine.
We arrive in the town of Lecce in southern Puglia. Home to a quaint, compact Old Town, and boasting elaborate Baroque architecture, Lecce has been dubbed 'the Florence of the South'. Our early afternoon arrival gives you time at leisure - the city center's narrow alleys are ideal for exploring on foot.
This morning we enjoy a guided walking tour of Lecce, the principal town of the Salentine peninsula, which has been dubbed 'the Florence of the South'. We visit the decorative Chiesa di Santa Croce and the Piazza del Duomo, the main square dominated by the bell tower of Lecce's cathedral before stopping to sample 'pasticciotto', a traditional local sweet pastry. In the afternoon you are free to continue exploring. Perhaps visit Lecce's Roman amphitheatre - an archaeological treasure only excavated in 1938.
This morning we travel to Otranto, a town which lies at the most easterly point of the Italian mainland whose 15th century walls surround a tightly packed, carfree center. Otranto has long since expanded beyond its walls, creating a lovely seaside resort with a small fishing harbor and palm tree-lined promenade. We enjoy a guided tour of the walled town before enjoying free time to explore. Later we continue into the countryside to sample one of Puglia's most renowned products - olive oil. We take a tour of an olive mill, gaining an insight into how the famous oil - used all over the world - is created. Following the tour, we enjoy a tasting of authentic local produce.
Our full-day coach tour takes us first to Matera, located in Basilicata. The town sits in a small canyon and is most famous for its 'sassi', a collection of ancient cave dwellings that have UNESCO World Heritage status. Inhabited until as recently as the 1950s, the sassi have become a site of fascination for visitors, drawn by the elaborate maze of winding streets, Paleolithic-era abodes and delightful frescoes, some of which date back to the 8th century. Used as a backdrop for the 2004 film, 'The Passion of the Christ', the town has a timeless, rugged charm.
We continue to Alberobello, an enchanting town packed with as many as 1,400 'trulli' - peculiar cone-shaped houses built from limestone. Whilst the history of these incredible structures goes back as far as the 14th century, the current examples in Alberobello are thought to date from the 18th to the 20th century. After time to explore this UNESCO World Heritage site, we return to our hotel by coach in time for dinner this evening.
Day 8 is free to spend as you wish.
We leave Lecce, traveling along the picturesque Adriatic coastline to Foggia. From here we transfer by coach to the old town of Vieste, located on the Gargano Peninsula. On Day 10 we visit the Gargano Peninsula by boat - a fantastic opportunity to see this stretch of coastline and national park from a different perspective. We also see many of the picturesque villages that are perched on the cliff tops.
We transfer to Turin today, where we spend the night. On Day 12 we travel by rail to Paris. Here, we connect with the Eurostar service to London St Pancras, where your tour concludes upon arrival.
For this tour, we recommend arriving to, and departing from, London Gatwick or London Heathrow airport (LGW or LHR). London Gatwick is approximately 30 miles from your start and end point, and London Heathrow is approximately 19 miles from your start and end point.
It is your responsibility to check and fulfil the passport, visa, health and immigration requirements applicable to your itinerary. We do not accept any responsibility if you cannot travel, or incur any other loss because you have not complied with any passport, visa, immigration requirements or health formalities. You agree to reimburse us in relation to any fines or other losses which we incur as a result of your failure to comply with any passport, visa, immigration requirements or health formalities.
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.
An escorted experience and travel during your tour
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
of travelers would recommend this tour
based on 3 verified reviews
An excellent company to deal with
Some of the rail journeys were too long but necessary. Food was ok but not generally very good. Enjoyed Lecce and Vieste. Vieste was the real Italy. Hotel at Lecce was a bit dated. Vieste’s hotel was good.
Very interesting and enjoyable visit.
Enjoyed everything except the food which was poor for vegetarians and the lack of swimming pool in the 2 main hotels.
The food in the Vieste Hotel was not vey good and we felt we needed more meals out. The journey home was too long and neede to be broken into a further day
Extremely well organized, good hotels, excellent itinerary, first class rail travel and excellent tour manager
Puglia day out to basillicatta and arborello to much traveling time although I enjoyed both. Would have enjoyed longer on the Gargano. Separate tours?
Lots of varied and interesting places and activities, good hotels - a surprise that as new Gold Customers we were treated a little bit - thank you! Colin was an excellent tour manager - very efficient and well researched but also very pleasant and sociable. Organised an extra trip to Galatina and Gallipoli which was excellent. Passing through Rome an extra treat and three days on the coast towards the end very enjoyable.
Great vacation fantastic locations, gtear courier,
Excellent tour leader and tour. Am using this company again....
Experience the culture of the unspoilt 'heel' of Italy