Puglia Bike Tour Overview
When we decided that we wanted to run a ‘relaxing’ bike tour in Italy we only really had one destination in mind – Puglia. Situated in the far south of the Italian peninsular the region has all the ingredients you could ever wish for when designing a tour.
With a tangled history of colonisation that has left its mark with an eclectic mix of cultures, architecture and gastronomy the challenge with designing this tour is what elements to include. Such is the richness of ‘highlights’ in the region you are truly spoilt for choice.
Situated between the azure waters of the Adriatic and the lush greenness of Basilicata, Puglia offers a landscape of beguiling views, ancient olive groves and a seeming overabundance of UNESCO sites to visit.
Our tour takes in two of these UNESCO sites – Alberobello and Matera. The former is the home to the enchanting conical houses known as trulli whilst the latter is known for its cave dwellings built into the calcareous rock. Both places have to be seen to be believed.
In addition to the UNESCO highlights the charm of Puglia lays with the people themselves whose hospitality is renowned throughout Italy. This is married with a truly unique gastronomy that is rightfully revered.
Come and ride the road less travelled in Puglia on a tour that allows all abilities to be entertained. The ‘regular’ ride will average 40km and with the absence of any great undulations on the route we are confident of accommodating all abilities. The daily extra loops will keep any riders looking for more miles happy too.
Day by Day
Ride:11 mi or 17 km (longer option available)
Meals: L, D
We’ll meet you at the Bari airport at 12 pm for a transfer to the first hotel (approximately 1 hr). We will gather at the hotel for introductions, bike fitting and a short ride. On this first ride, we pass through ancient olive groves and pedal down to the coast to the Greek ruins of Egnazia, the ancient Messapian town of prehistoric origins. We will enjoy our first dinner together at the hotel restaurant.
Hotel: Tenuta Monacelle
Where: Selva di Fasano – Ostuni
Ride: 37 mi or 60 km (longer option available)
Meals: B, D
We will ride to Ostuni, an area that has been inhabited since the Stone Age. Bike to one of the loveliest towns along the Mediterranean where white houses, piled like sugar cubes against an azure sky, remind you of the Greek Islands. The brightness of its whitewashed houses, set against a sea of stately olive trees, provides a spectacular perspective of this rich seaside farmland. On the way back, we ride by centuries-old olive trees that are like amazing natural sculptures. We’ll have a close look at those monumental trees during a visit planned at an olive oil producer. Pass by dry stone walls and more olive groves, and pedal along the coast before going back inland to Selva di Fasano. Dinner is a seafood lover’s delight right by the water.
Hotel: Tenuta Monacelle
Ride: 28 mi or 45 km
Meals: B, D
Today’s ride makes a stop at the famous grottoes of Castellana (it’s a great underground tour but it’s not recommended if you are claustrophobic). We will then continue on to Alberobello, which takes its name from the forests that once covered the area. Nowadays, this is where more than 1,000 trulli (conical-shaped houses) can be found. This is a must-see, one of the most emblematic sights in Puglia. A walk through the town is followed by a dinner that will feature the typical, flavorful dishes of the region.
Hotel: Grand Hotel Olimpo
Where: Alberobello – Valle d’Itria
Ride:25 mi or 40 km (shorter option available)
Meals: B, L
Today we ride through a fantasy land of trulli via tiny roads that roll through Valle d’Itria (Itria valley) to arrive in Locorotondo, where we will have a picnic lunch. We will then continue our ride onto Martina Franca where we’ll get to enjoy some of the best examples of Italian Baroque architecture. Back in Alberobello, you’ll have free time to continue exploring this magical city on your own. Dinner is on your own.
Hotel: Grand Hotel Olimpo
Where: San Basilio
Ride: 35 mi or 57 km
Meals: B, D
Today we say goodbye to Alberobello and pedal to our lunch spot in Mottola, a charming Pugliese town. Mottola is located on a hill above the sea and has a view of the Gulf of Taranto and the green mountains of the high Sila; for this reason, the town is also called “the Balcony of Southern Apulia.” In the evening we’ll enjoy an interesting, hands-on mozzarella making demo and an exquisite dinner at the hotel, a restored Ducal villa built in honor of Isabella de’ Medici.
Hotel: Casa Isabella
Ride: 33 mi or 53 km (shorter option available)
Meals: B, D
We spin along the Murgia plain through a bucolic terrain of rolling fields of “grano duro” (the wheat used for pasta) and shady oak groves. We climb to Matera, the city of caves and one of the most extraordinary spots on Earth. UNESCO lists Matera as one of its Official World Heritage sites for its Sassi cave dwellings. In the rock churches, the mystic past is palpable, and in the afternoon we will discover even more of Matera’s secrets on a guided visit. This evening we will have a pizza dinner and you can choose between regular dough or toasted grain (grano arso) dough – an ancient recipe. Our hotel is a unique site that you will not forget.
Hotel: Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita or Il Belvedere
Ride: 14 mi or 22 km (longer option available)
Meals: B, L, D
Today’s ride takes us to the countryside in the fertile Metaponto Valley where we’ll stop at a beautiful organic farm where our host Cinzia will proudly serve vegetables grown on their land. In the afternoon, you can opt to climb back or to take advantage of our van for the ride back to Matera. You will have some spare time for shopping before dinner at I Baccanti with typical Lucanian delicacies (Lucania was the ancient name of Basilicata).
After breakfast, we will arrange a transfer that will take you to the Bari Airport in time for your connecting flights.
Puglia Bike Tour Highlights
> Spend the night in the ‘Sassi’ of Matera, classified by UNESCO and known as the ‘Subterranean City’
> Sample some of Italy’s finest red wines and familiarise yourself with the grape varieties Primitivo, Negroamaro and Bombino Nero
> Visit the ancient town of Egnazio and view the stunning mosaic of the Three Graces in its archeological museum
> Watch how they make Mozarella the traditional way – a tasting is obligatory
> Learn about the conical trulli on a walking tour of Alberobello – another UNESCO site
> Ride through ancient olive groves on the road less travelled
> Taste the wonderful home made pasta dishes and organic fare for which the region is renowned
Puglia Bike Tour Dates & Prices 2022
|Tour||Start Date||End Date||Days||Cost (Euros)|
|Puglia – The Best of Southern Italy||7th May||14th May||8 days (7 nights)||€3725|
Puglia Bike Tour Food & Wine
For thousands of years Puglia has been mainly an agricultural region, producing a large proportion of its wine and around 40% of Italy’s olive oil. Enormous tracts of the region’s land are given over to farming, be it for livestock or crops, and many Puglisi continue to grow their own produce. The region is, for good reason, famed for its organic produce.
This agricultural focus has meant that the cuisine of Puglia is locally inspired – a bona fide Slow Food destination well before the idea was even conceptualised. Staples of this cuisine are durum wheat, artichokes, fava beans, courgettes, tomatoes, fennel, peppers and onions which are found in abundance.
Linked to the production of durum wheat is the pride they place in the pasta dishes they produce. Of particular note is their orecchiette, little ear-shaped shells that are still freshly produced each day across the region. Interestingly eggs, once considered a luxury, are not used in their traditional pasta-making. Another favourite is maccheroni al forno which has to be tasted to be believed – the mix of meat balls. boiled eggs and pie crust is a heady combination!
On the meat front the rocky interior of the region means that lamb reigns supreme. Any time there is a village feast the fragrances of roasting lamb can be scented wafting through the streets. Pork and horse meat are also traditionally eaten but the latter much less so in recent years.
Linked to the pre-eminence of sheep in the Puglisi diet is the predominance of cheeses of ovine origin. Pecorinos and ricottas are found in abundance across the region and are always of fantastic quality. We must also talk about the existence of the truly indulgent burrata di Andria. When we have our mozzarella demonstration and tasting we’ll talk more about how this is made. It truly is a ‘bomb’!
We should also talk a little about the importance of fish in the Puglia diet given its long coastline on the Adriatic Sea. The region has a strong fishing tradition and many restaurants base their fare on freshly caught fish. Anchovies, gilt-head bream, sea bass and cuttlefish are particular favourites.
What to say about the wines? The quality of the wine that Puglia produces has come on in leaps and bounds in the last 20 years. Previously known more for its quantity than quality the tide has definitely turned in this regard. It now boasts 25 different DOC areas which is both testament to the scale of the production in the region and the recognition it now holds.
The most widely grown grape variety is Negroamaro which is almost exclusively cultivated in Puglia. It is used to produce some truly fine wines including the famed Salice Salentino. In terms of true renown though the title has to go to Primitivo, whose wines are known for their full bodied characteristics. A perfect accompaniment to a Puglisi lamb feast!
White wines account for less than 20% of the regions production but are slowly growing in importance. Local grapes like Bianco d’Alessano and Verdeca are blended with international varieties such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon to produce some excellent results.
Puglia Bike Tour History
Thanks to Lonely Planet for the concise overview of Puglia’s history below –
At times Puglia feels Greek, and certainly its history is partially Greek: the Greeks founded a string of settlements along the Ionian coast in the 8th century BC. Their major city was Taras (Taranto), settled by Spartan exiles who dominated until they were defeated by the Romans in 272 BC. Fewer than 100 years later, in 190 BC, the Romans completed Via Appia, the road from Rome to the south.
The long coastline made the region ripe for conquest. The Normans left their fine Romanesque churches, the Swabians their fortifications, and the Spanish bold baroque buildings. A form of Greek dialect (Griko) is still spoken in some towns southeast of Lecce. No-one, however, knows exactly the origins of the strange 16th-century, conical-roofed stone houses, the trulli, unique to Puglia.
Apart from invaders and pirates, malaria was long the greatest scourge of the south, forcing many towns to build away from the coast and into the hills. It only came under control after WWII.
After Mussolini’s seizure of power in 1922 following WWI, the south became the frontline in his ‘Battle for Wheat’. This initiative was aimed at making Italy self-sufficient when it came to food, following the sanctions imposed on the country after its conquest of Ethiopia – Puglia is now covered in wheat fields, olive groves and fruit arbours. In recent years immigrants have increasingly supplied much of the agricultural workforce, and there have been scandals about their treatment in the tomato farms around Foggia.
Our tour takes in two outstanding UNESCO sites – Alberobello and Matera. The former is mentioned in the passage above in relation to the conical roofed houses that are known as trulli. Matera has its origins as a prehistoric troglodyte settlement which is now considered to be the first human inhabited dwellings in Italy. The subterranean churches came later during the Middle Ages and serve to remind us of just how rich and varied the history of this region is. This is emphasised by our visit to the archaeological site of Egnazio where we’ll see the amazing Three Graces mosaic.
Tour at a Glance
Puglia Tour Dates
Distance: 251km I 155 miles
Elevation: 1950m I 6397ft
Dates: May 7-14 2022aa
Puglia Tour Dates