Late Summer in Puglia is magical. As the heat subsides, tropical afternoon storms sweep through as though cleansing and reinvigorating the dry red earth, while creating a fresh reprieve in time for the next day’s warm morning embrace.
A famous saying in Puglia is ‘va dove ti porta il vento’ or ‘go where the wind takes you’. This advice is usually taken on when deciding which beach to go to on any given day, but for our riders on our recent Puglia Cycling Tour, we were fortunate to have the summer breezes behind us most days, allowing us to be taken by the wind to our next and even more incredible destination, regardless of which side of the peninsula we were on.
Guests were treated to a fun experience that required a sense of adventure. Every day we set off into the maze of tiny roads that kept us on our toes as we rolled up, pushed over and coasted down the undulating terrain.
Our first few days saw us immersed in the Valle d’Itria, a landscape dotted with trulli and surrounded by vineyards, olive groves, stone walls and the charming hilltop villages of Locorotondo, Cisternino and Ostuni, amongst others.
Meandering our way through this timeless, yet magical region of Puglia on and off the bike takes you into the very heart of its historic farms and agricultural producers, immersing you in the scents and flavours of times past, with traditional recipes in abundance. This was experienced through every course of our Cena Tradizionale Pugliese or traditional Puglian Dinner where the recipes of this ancient cuisine were demonstrated, practiced and enjoyed by the group.
The Salento at this time of year is a palette of warm colours and the fruits of nature are in abundance; from the prickly pear or fichi d’India cactus adorning every stone wall throughout the region to the many varieties of delicious sweet figs planted amongst the olive trees, and amazingly sweet tomatoes, zucchini, eggplants and fava beans present on almost every antipasto plate, this presented a riding, cultural, food and wine experience to be remembered.
There’s no better time to be immersed in the local food culture and enjoy the bounty of harvest than on our Puglia Cycling Tour in the late summer. Deliciously seasonal dishes and excellent local wines are in order.
While a number of different varieties of white and rosato wines were tasted by guests to accompany the warm temperatures and summer cuisine, we also enjoyed the famous red wine of Puglia, the Primitivo; aptly named given it is made from the first grapes harvested in September.
Arriving to the turquoise Ionian sea on day 5 of our tour after having 3 days inland, is always a highlight. The bright colours, open seas and an amazing lunch of risotto or linguine allo scoglio is the perfect introduction to the Salento and its wonderful seafood and simple flavours.
Riding through Santa Maria di Leuca on the tip of the península of Salento on day 6 and where the Ionian and the Adriatic seas meet, with its crystalline waters below, is one of our favourite ride stops on tour. With incredible views, our ride takes us from the green Ionian to the deep blue Adriatic, with the rocky limestone cliffs and landscapes changing immensely.
Our non riding partners became experts in EVOO or extra virgin olive oil, with a visit to a very special masseria or farmhouse, which is home to some of the oldest monumental trees in Puglia.
Starting with a walk amongst the olive grove of 2000 and 3000 year old trees, or sculptures of nature, to enjoying a tour of a pre Roman cave used in ancient times for olive oil production, and culminating in a tasting where we learned what makes olive oil, EVOO, was certainly a tour highlight on the non riding program.
Used to describe the best quality in olive oil, EVOO must have a very low acidity level which means pressing the olives the same day they are picked from the trees. With Puglia’s fertile red soils, its 60 million olive trees produce a range of different types of olive oil, accounting for approximately 40% of Italy’s total production.
The warm turquoise waters of the Adriatic sea were just perfect for swimming and provided the most wonderful setting for our non riders to enjoy a morning of soaking up the small inlets and limestone caves around Otranto on day 7, as well as providing a refreshing post ride swim, during an afternoon of free time.
Our final ride on our Puglia Cycling Tour took us from the coast on a meandering route through ancient farms and along quiet tiny roads to the sensational baroque city of Lecce, with its cobblestoned centro storico on a stormy Summer afternoon.
After checking in to our Palazzo, guests had time to explore the old town, before enjoying our final aperitivo and dinner, celebrating our adventure over the last 8 days in style.