Our recent summer edition of our 2023 Tour of Puglia was another superb adventure into the heel of Italy’s boot. Sun-kissed almost all year round and blessed by two seas that surround, and equally enchant, Puglia’s deep agricultural past is still reflected in its character, lifestyle and cuisine today, even if it is fast evolving as one of the tourist hotspots of Italy. Think whitewashed trulli houses, baroque towns, tiny back roads and a sea of ancient olive groves, coupled with juicy tomatoes, delicious burrata and homemade orecchiette. The list goes on, but suffice to say, this ‘humble meets charming’ nature of the region of Puglia, provides the perfect backdrop for an adventure-filled cycling holiday.
For us, there are many elements that contribute to the making of our cycling tours in Italy, and below we share a few of these elements from our recent tour of Puglia that made it yet another experience to remember, and one that we always love to share.
Sun & Sea
We start our Tour of Puglia on the Adriatic sea, then spend a few days inland as we meander our way through the olive-grove laden Valle d’Itria, before riding across to the turquoise Ionian sea, then south to the point where the two seas meet, before we roll back up the coast and return to the Adriatic.
While both seas are mesmerising, it was the near-perfect Summer temperatures and conditions we had that made for sensational riding, hiking, swimming and exploring of the region. One of the elements that we love most about our cycling tour of Puglia is that we have the time to experience all of these activities, and more, across our riding, non-riding and optional experience programs each day – it is a true summer cycling holiday.
Puglia is a region that surprises many with its diverse landscapes and the considerable elevation there is to contend with on some of our days.
As it is a peninsula, this part of Italy can have a little wind, specifically the Maestrale winds that come from the north and also the Scirocco winds that come from Africa in the south, and on this tour of Puglia, we experienced both.
We benefited from the cooler Maestrale winds on a few of the days which were a delight, as we rolled in the same direction.
However, our hardest day on the bike, and in our opinion the best day, saw us plough south into the Scirocco wind until nearly the half way point, where we effectively ‘turned 70 degrees’ and then had this beautiful wind over our shoulder for the next 55km’s, as we followed the road along the coast.
“The beauty of fatigue and the thrill of the conquest” is the motto of L’Eroica and this was the perfect way to describe this day in Puglia, which had a couple of guests saying that it was some of the best riding they had ever done – and they are well travelled. It is our belief also that there is always more satisfaction from a ride after you’ve had to work harder to get to the end.
On our cycling tour of Puglia, there are some harder days and some less challenging days and while the riding overall is only half the elevation of our Tour of Tuscany, it is still a lot more elevation and distance to ride across 8 consecutive days than most people ride generally – so it definitely should not be under-estimated, to be fully enjoyed.
The Salento is a land of natural and architectural beauty and is best known for its beautiful, unspoiled beaches, deep history of Greek and Roman influence, and a cuisine that is rich in amazing seafood, pasta and legumes, vegetables and fruit. Saporito is the Italian word for ‘tasty’ and is used when a dish has an especially good flavour.
When the two words come together, they perfectly describe in our view, the cuisine of the Salento – tasty, very flavoursome and yes, molto saporito.
From delicious cheeses to various pasta dishes with mussels and prawns, to an array of seasonal vegetables with simple flavours that sing and the highly addictive Caffe Leccese, there is a taste sensation every day and a rich diversity of tastes, styles and ways of cooking that we sample across our tour.
Starting from a refined welcome dinner, to a rustic selection of antipasto plates that include only locally grown vegetables prepared with love, and with an array of seafood and meat dishes in-between, there is the opportunity to experience a range of different flavours, which is always a joy for us as guests share and enjoy something new.
Stunning & Diverse Spots
The surprises don’t stop on the road, or with the cuisine.
There are towns, villages and accommodation places that we visit and stay in, that you won’t want to leave. The diversity of Puglia is particularly evident in its differing architecture, culture and lifestyles across the areas we visit – and we are proud of how this diversity is experienced on our tours as we move from one town or area to the next – from beautiful seaside villas to trulli resorts, to restored palazzi from the 15th to the 18th centuries, and finally onto the carved limestone beauty of Lecce.
The stunning range of towns and selection of ‘place-perfect’ and authentic accommodation on our Tour of Puglia is always a highlight for our guests – and this recent tour was no different.
A Sixtieth Celebration to Remember
It’s always great fun sharing birthdays and other significant celebrations on tour, but the 60th birthday celebration on this tour of one of our guests, was extra fun and special. From morning to evening, Steve enjoyed traditional cakes, delicious sparkling wines, local rosato and negroamaro wines, and to cap off the evening, a local Pugliese digestivo….or two….and a limoncello on ice, thrown in for good measure.
With his beautiful wife by his side, his close friend there to share a story or two and a fun group that was always ready to celebrate (birthday or not), the final evening of the tour saw us all celebrating Steve’s 60th birthday in style, and a rewarding 8 day adventure together as a group.