Puglia, the heel of Italy, is a jewel in the Ionian sea and certainly one of our much loved locations for hosting an Italian cycling tour. Still rustic and authentic, it’s a beautiful location to explore on a bike. We’ve hosted cycling tours in Puglia for some years now and look forward on each new occasion to sharing what we consider to be the best of the region with our guests. From the Valle d’Itria with its trulli and olive groves, to the Salento with its turquoise seas and limestone cliffs, we enjoy a grand adventure over 9 days in a region that has only just been discovered by non-Italians in recent years – it still is somewhat of a secret gem. However, as with all of our Italian cycling holidays, there are some favourite spots and experiences which guests tell us they love about our Puglia cycling tour, and here we share them with you.
Polignano a Mare. A warm welcome to quintessential Puglia.
Possibly one of the most photographed spots in Puglia, Polignano a Mare, and more specifically its famous small pebble-stone beach, Lama Monachile, are at the heart of quintessential Puglia. Picture a small cove encapsulated by limestone cliffs and locals enjoying the bliss of summer; a historic town of whitewashed houses, vibrant piazza’s and stylish bars and restaurants perched over the most stunning aquamarine blue sea. This is Puglia and it’s the perfect way to start our adventure together. On tour, we explore Polignano’s tiny backstreets, enjoy aperitivo in one of its beautiful piazza’s or laneways, and an incredible welcome dinner in an ancient limestone dining room with Fabio and his team, with whom we have dined and shared this special experience with for years. Of course, a stroll along the avenue dedicated to Domenico Modugno, a Polignano local who brought to us one of the most recognised Italian songs, Volare, is a must and nearly always has us singing along. Polignano is fun and guests love starting our tour here.
A trulli resort. A place to truly relax.
Arriving to our beautiful trulli resort on day 2 of our tour continues the theme of experiencing quintessential Puglia. If there is an image that most people dream of when they think about a cycling holiday in Puglia, it’s rolling past the iconic trulli of the Valle d’Itria, before arriving to a beautiful resort complete with swimming pool, sun beds and a poolside bar to relax post-ride. Imagine yourself soaking up the southern Italian sunshine, taking a stroll through organic fruit, vegetable and herb gardens where you can enjoy the sweetness of fresh strawberries or figs, or enjoying a massage, indoors or out surrounded by the luxurious scents and sounds of nature. After you’ve had time to relax, it’s time to enjoy our very unique and traditional Puglia food and wine experience, where the main word you’ll hear on arrival to our table is Wow! It’s one of our favourite experiences on tour.
Ancient Olive Trees. The Spirit of Puglia
In Puglia, olive trees are everywhere – and they have been for thousands of years. In fact, they are as important to the landscape and culture, as they are to the economy. With an estimated 60 million trees across the region, seeing olive trees on tour of all different shapes and sizes becomes part of our every day. However, it is the extraordinary ancient trees in the Itria Valley that really take you back in time as we ride past them, or in the case of our non-riding partners, stop in for a guided tour and olive oil tasting. Strolling through the ancient grove amongst trees that are often 2000 and 3000 years old, and still planted 60 feet apart in respect of ancient Roman rule, is a highlight of the tour. The gnarled bases of these trees each tell their own story and each year, as they continue to produce olives for making olive oil, the belief amongst the Pugliese people that they are immortal, becomes further validated.
Arriving to lunch by the turquoise Ionian Sea
Our first long day on the bike sees the group heading for the beach. There is however a beautiful 100k’s of undulating twists and turns that eventually open up to wide flat plains, which help create a strong appetite. The excitement builds as the landscape changes, the breeze becomes cooler and a slight smell of salt lingers in the air. The short glimpses of shimmering blue turn into long stretches riding by the water before we roll to a stop at the waters edge. It’s an absolute delight to be off the bike and stretch the legs but also marvel at this beautiful seascape. While we await the arrival of a sensational local dish of pasta with mussels cooked in tomatoes, it provides the perfect opportunity to rest and soak up the soft sea breeze and vista of the colourful boats, bobbing on the Mediterranean’s many shades of blue. This ride and lunch are a highlight for riders on tour, and definitely a day to look forward to.
A superb art hotel. Our special tour surprise.
While many of the towns and areas we stay in on our Puglia cycling tour are in or around the ‘top 10’ lists of places to visit in Puglia, there is one that is absolutely off the beaten track – and we love it. Just inland from the sea, and boasting a vibrant food and wine scene thanks to its surrounding vineyards and olive groves, guests are always pleasantly surprised by the beauty and tranquility of this town – and how special our beautiful art hotel is. We won’t say too much more here as we do love to keep this very special surprise up our sleeve, just for our guests who are joining us, but suffice to say that following a long ride, this town and the beautiful wine tasting we enjoy here at a very special local winery, is definitely one of the spots on tour that guests tell us they love.
Otranto. The pearl of Puglia.
Riding along the coastal road, we first see Otranto’s collection of white washed buildings tumbling down to the water’s edge from approx 30km’s out. On arrival, it’s a feast for the senses to roll into the very heart of its cobbled centro storico, which is filled with activity, buzz and warmth on our way to our hotel by the sea.
Picture yourself waking up to the sounds of the sea and being able to explore the town’s beautiful little streets, which are almost deserted in the early morning. Breathe in the fresh sea air as you stroll along its promenade and watch the colourful old wooden boats sway as the sun rises over the crystal clear water, before meandering back to enjoy a leisurely breakfast on our hotel terrace. A breakfast of seasonal produce and local Puglian pastries accompanies an Italian espresso and fresh juice as you look out across tranquil vistas of turquoise seas and yachts of all sizes gently moving with the ebb of the tide and flow of the breeze. It’s the perfect way to start the day.
Seafood delicious. Traditional fare at its best
Some meals are special and our seafood dinner in one of the oldest (if not the oldest) and most traditional osteria’s in Otranto, is up there amongst the best. After a morning coffee ride (or coastal hike for our non-riding partners) and then a free afternoon enjoyed on a boat cruise to visit seaside caves, at a local beach club to enjoy some time out, or a shop in the town’s wonderful boutiques, sitting down to this meal prepared by owner, Giancarlo is a delightful way to cap off a day. Our antipasto plate of local fish and fruits of the sea, cured and marinated, coupled with a cold, crisp glass of the delicious local wine, Falanghina, is a guest favourite.
The Trulli of Alberobello. A fairytale land.
The trulli of Alberobello are certainly a highlight of the region of Puglia and our adventure through its land. On the first sighting on tour of these small ancient dry stone buildings dotted across the hills with their stone conical roofs rising above the landscape, a smile is brought to everyone’s face. A smile of joy for finally being here in Puglia and experiencing them with your own eyes, and a smile from the heart for how history and tradition has been restored of these limestone homes that many called home for over a thousand years – and today are still very much part of the local culture of Puglia. It’s a beautiful to be on the bike, spinning along the quiet back roads with their rock lined walls, but it’s the many trulli dotted everywhere, that keeps you smiling, with the thoughts that one of the seven dwarfs will be tending their garden around the next corner.
If you would like to experience these wonderful spots and a whole lot more on our cycling tour of Puglia, click here for more details, and for tips on how to spend 5 days post our adventure in Puglia, you can read more on our blog.