cycling in Puglia - off-the-beaten track

Journey - at a perfect speed - past old stone churches, dramatic coastlines, quaint farms, trulli and oil mills still in use today just as they were centuries ago. The ravines and ancient ruins of Puglia tell the story of the many civlisations that have passed through this little known region - the Messapians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Swabians and Aragonese rulers. Featuring the extreme south-east of Italy, this is Around The Sun's only tour in this little known region. And it's a gem!

This cycling tour is best suited to regular cyclists and is graded easy to moderate. The route is often undulating but the slopes are never too daunting.

It is a well paced tour so therefore adaptable for everyone. The overall distances are moderate and broken up by stopovers which allow you to recharge whilst enjoying points of interest along the way. This is NOT an ironman competition! Most of the route is on quiet country roads with only a few unavoidable sections on roads that can be occasionally busy.

trip runs over multiple dates 2018 but prices vary. Contact us for more detail.

All dates from March to July, and in September and October. Prices vary. Contact us for more detail.

Off-the-beaten path - cycling in Puglia

Day 1 - arrival in Locorotondo

Upon your arrival, the dazzling white Locorotondo welcomes you from the top of its terrace, one of the most beautiful of the Murgian area. From the lookout there are breathtaking views - a collage of small vineyards contoured by dry-stone walls, patches of Mediterranean woods and silvery olive groves that surround ancient farms and thousands of trulli dotted in the districts. The small old town of Locorotondo is enclosed in its magical atmosphere, between dream and reality: the washed-out colour of its buildings wrap round  every angle and its baroque architecture enhances the intense colours of flowering balconies.

This area is also famous for orecchiette pasta, the most well known fresh pasta of Apulian cuisine, and for its centuries-old viticultural local tradition which has encouraged the production of high quality wines, such as the famous White Locorotondo Doc: fresh, light, dry, delicate bouquet, ideal for aperitivi, excellent with fish and seafood.

Overnight: Boutique hotel in Locorotondo 

Day 2 - Locorotondo - Cisternino Trullo Sovrano - Seppunisi - Ceglie - Locorotondo (long option Martina Franca add 5km)                                        Cycling 52km

This round trip touches the magnificent Itria Valley, the heart of Murgia and of Trulli. Cisternino, Ceglie, Martina Franca, the villages that overlook the valley are positioned over gently sloping hills with natural viewpoints.
The alluring and harmonious landscape is lined by old rural trails enclosed by the typical dry stone walls. There are picturesque stone churches and buildings along the trails.

 Riding up and down the rolling hills you are drawn right into Trullo Soprano in the district Pascarosa, a wonderful model of typical local structural design, one of the most majestic and monumental trulli of all Murgia. A real treat is also to stop by a typical farm and taste delicious dairy products such as mozzarella cheese and a variety of different soft cheeses produced only in this area.

Then allow yourself to succumb to getting lost in alleys, courtyards and arches in the old town of Cisternino, a beautiful little village famous for woodand stone handcrafts.
Not to be missed is Ceglie, a gastonomic hotspot where there are numerous restaurants, wine cellars and taverns. Ceglie is renowned by the  Slow Food Presidium for its biscuits.

The bike ride continues touching Martina Franca with its striking Baroque architecture and many churches and is home to the locally produced wine Martina Franca doc, and typical capocollo (a delicious cured meat) and salami.
Overnight: Boutique Hotel in Locorotondo 

Day 3 - Ocorotondo - Grotte di Castellana - Putignano - Barsento (Noci) - Alberobello- Locorotondo                                                                 cycling about 50km

Caves, trulli, farms and churches built in the typical local style and clear stones ... This and much more waits for the cyclist visiting Castellana, a town nestled in the green of the olive trees and known for the mysterious atmosphere of its underground caves. The journey goes on through Putignano, a bustling town also rich in cultural traditions and monuments. The ride goes through the historic centre of the village famous all over Italy for its Carnival.

The trip continues along the forests of Fragni , dry stone walls take you to the fascinating Barsento Abbey, with the annexed farm that was once a convent, which lies in a dominant position on a hill overlooking the Canale di Pirro, a valley characterised by woods, vineyards and pastures. Noci enchants the traveller in the alleys of the old town heading into the gnostre, typical squares often sets for festivals and cultural events. Finally Alberobello, a charming UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site: known throughout the world for its trulli, the typical buildings that dot the rolling, lush hills of the area. It is the only town in Puglia with an historic centre composed of a multitude of trullis. The places deserves a town walk to observe the coned roofs, embellished with decorations of various shapes, depicting religious or zodiac symbols.

Castellana Grotte with its caves is considered the most important complex of caves in Italy and Europe. There are truly extraordinary stalagmites and stalactites, including the White Cave, the Cave of the Altar, the Cave of the Dome and the Passage of the Nativity.

In Putignano there is the opportunity to visit the Borgo Antico with its palaces and ancient monasteries - typically medieval structures epitomised by a main square, Piazza Plebiscito, which is overlooked by the Mother Church, the Palace of the Bailiff (base in the Middle Ages, of the Order of the Knights of Malta) and the Seggio (the house of city government, currently occupied by the Pro Loco) with clock and coat of arms on the facade.

Overnight: Boutique Hotel in Locorotondo 

Day 4 - Locorotondo - Ostuni - San Michele - Latiano - Mesagne                                                                                                                         cycling 62 km

Today a pleasant ride takes you right down to the plains of Salento in the land of Messapians. After having reached Ostuni, the “white city”, whose appeal lies in the characteristic washed-out walls of all houses in the old town, the track heads toward the rolling hills of Murgia turning gently and gradually into the vast plain of Upper Salento, the land that the great Emperor Frederick II called “Filia Solis”: the daughter of the sun. Here the countryside is characterised by orchards, vast olive groves, vineyards and crops. Most of the villages often hide baroque and medieval treasures in their historical centres.

San Michele Salentino, a small rural village, produces unique gastronomic delights dating back to the ancient times: “figs with almonds”. From Latiano, home of a rural museum, the ride takes you to Mesagne pedalling along the Via Appia, the most important Roman road also called the “Regina Viarum” . This town represents an interesting example of Apulian Baroque in this province. Its charming heart shaped old urban centre is surrounded by massive walls completed by the imposing Norman-Swabian castle which over the  centuries became a fascinating cross between a sophisticated military fortress and a renaissance residence.

Overnight: selected B&B in Mesagne 

Day 5 - First option - Mesagne - Casalabate - Lecce                                                                                                                                                         cycling about 55km

The ride today takes you through an interesting tour into the south-east area of the region along fascinating ancient pilgrims trails, retracing some sections of the old Via Francigena. From Mesagne to Lecce, through Casalabate, Santa Maria di Cerrate and Santa Maria d'Aurio. Here silence envelops you as you cycle through majestic olive trees that protect the pace and provide shaded shelter during stops. Passing by the farms along the way: some fortified with high towers and defence walls, some others more bucolic and rustic.

The highlights of the day are the Abbey of Cerrate, which in the past was an important place of worship, nowadays its mill has been set up as the Museum of Arts & Popular Traditions of Salento. The other 'must see' is the elegant Romanesque church of Santa Maria of Aurio.
From here you can easily reach the city of Lecce, a real gem, whose architectural style and history never cease to amaze visitors. A stroll through the historic centre of Lecce provides the opportunity to admire its churches and its cathedral, a triumph of Baroque style with its refined and noble palaces along the shopping streets.

The gastronomy of Lecce features the pasticciotto, a sweet pastry filled with cream and cherry; the rustico, salty baked bread with mozzarella and tomato and the delicious pizzo, a kind of bread with olives, onions and tomatoes.

Second option - Mesagne - San Pietro Vernotico - Squinzano - Trepuzzi - Lecce                                                                                               cycling about 41 km

Today the ride combines the pleasure of discovering art and cultural treasures with the joy of wine tasting. Starting from Mesagne the ride goes towards the Limitone of the Greeks reaching the lands of Primitivo, Negroamaro and Malvasia, grapes grown almost exclusively in Puglia, land of excellent world renowned wines. The Limitone of the Greeks was a legendary defensive line built by the Byzantines against the Lombards. Later it was used as a shortcut to reach Lecce instead of using the Via Appia. There are many sites that can be seen on this stretch: rock-hewn churches, cemeteries, hot springs, Roman villas, fortified farms, all nestled in a picturesque rural landscape made of olive trees and vineyards that starting from September are rich in heady scents making it a very pleasant ride to the city of Lecce. 

Do not miss The Parco del Negroamaro: all villages inside the park are part of a territory of excellence for the production of wines. In each location you will find a wine cellar where you can stop by and taste their products.

Overnight: selected B&B in Lecce 

Day 6 - Lecce - San Donato - Soleto - Galatina - Soleto - Calimera - Castri - Lecce (grecia)                                                                                       cycling about 55 km

Kalòs ìrtate stin Greek Salento - Welcome to the Greek Salento.
A gorgeous bike trail takes you through the places where the Greek-Byzantine influence is very strong and most of the locals speak a dialect known as neo-greek, gricanico or griko. An intriguing mix of language, history, culture, traditions and folk music, ancient settlements, dolmens, menhirs, crypts, oil mills, court houses, churches. And above all the importance in the local cuture of music and dance of the tarantula pinch, a sensual dance of courtship, made of slow movements, close looks, fascinating rotations during which the woman expresses her femininity - fascinating if you get a chance to see it in action!

Overnight: selected B&B in Lecce 

Day 7 - Lecce - Acaya - Le Cesine - Lecce                                                                                                                                                                              cycling about 35 km

Today you ride through history and nature, starting from Lecce, continuing along quiet and calm minor roads reaching Acaya; the only example of a fully intact fortified medieval town in all of Southern Italy. The access to the villages is possible through the trapezium shaped portal that opens along the walls of the castle. The town has a distinctive road system that dates back to 1500, six main roads, parallel to each other, from south to north, all have the same width of 4 metres, equal distance of 17 metres and almost all measure the same length.

After visiting Acaya the tour continues to the remnants of the ancient coastal swap on the Adriatic. The Park of Gesine is without doubt one of most important wetlands in Italy. The two ponds fed by rainwater are separated from the sea by a strip of sand dunes and here with, some luck, you may get to see egrets and herons.

After a great day, the bike tour ends in Lecce.

Overnight: selected B&B in Lecce 

Day 8 - departure

Your trip ends after breakfast.

Inclusions

Inclusions:

  • 3 nights in Locorotondo
  • 1 night in Mesagne
  • 3 nights in Lecce
  • 7 breakfasts
  • detailed route notes and maps
  • luggage transfers on day 4 and day 5
  • emergency phone contact

Items not included:

  • visas, airfare & airport taxes
  • travel insurance (compulsory)
  • tourist taxes to be paid locally
  • drinks
  • other meals not mentioned in 'inclusions'
  • train, bus, ferry tickets
  • entrance fees
  • bike hire *
  • anything not mentioned in 'inclusions' 

You can rent the bikes which come equipped with a rear rack and trunk bag or a handlebar bar, spare inner tube, patch kit, pump, lock and helmet if you don't bring your own. We will facilitate this for you but it is an additional charge. Most of the route is on asphalt with occasional sections on well levelled roads. You will need cycling gear, a waterproof jacket as well as casual clothes for the eveings. Your info pack will have a detailed equipment list.

 

Puglia is starting to find its way onto the ‘thinking tourists’ trail. Puglia (known as Apulia in English) encompasses the spur and heel of the Italian boot. The Promontorio Del Gargano (the spur) is made up of limestone mountains, ancient forests and beautiful beaches – beautiful even by Australian standards!

The ancient beeches and oaks of the Foresta Umbra make up one of Italy’s last remaining original forests.

The Promontorio has two important religious sanctuaries: San Michele Arcangelo at Monte Sant’Angelo and the burial place of Padre Pio at San Giovanni Rotondo. For centuries the isolated mountain town of Monte Sant’Angelo has been the last stop on a gruelling religious pilgrimage from Normandy, France.

The Penisola Salentina at the tip of the heel of Italy is breathtakingly beautiful with shades of turquoise water that you will find simply mesmerising!

The beach resorts of Vieste and Peschici are now very popular with all types of sun-seekers. The best beaches to explore lie between Vieste and Peschici, particularly in the area known as La Salata. Peschici has the feel of a Greek island with its stunning whitewashed houses and cobbled alleyways. Its sandy beaches fill up quickly but you will love taking in the crowds and soaking up the holiday atmosphere before escaping back to your accommodation.

Norman, Swabian, Angevin and Spanish rule have all left their mark in this region. There is a vast heritage of monuments, churches and fortresses. Of note are the Romanesque cathedrals at Trani, Ruvo di Puglia and Barletta. The village of Troia also has a beautiful Romanesque cathedral. The bronze doors are of particular note. 

Trani, 40 km north-west along the coast from Bari, was important in the Middle Ages and is known for the modern world’s earliest written maritime code - the Ordinata Maris, drawn up in 1063.

The drive through the countryside around Alberobello is a unique experience unlike any of the clichéd tourist images of Italy. The town of Alberobello has over a thousand trulli – curious beehive-shaped dwellings, standing against azure skies, whitewashed with pinnacles of crosses and bizarre stone markers which are said to have magical significance. Some say they can be traced to the end of the 9th century when the Byzantine Empire conquered Puglia and Jewish and Middle-Eastern communities settled here. Whatever their origins, they are unique, extremely functional buildings - warm in winter and pleasantly cool in the baking Puglian summer.

Nearby Locorotondo a completely circular town perched on a hill above the Valle dei Trulli about 8 km from Alberobello – another photographic highlight to add to your developing collection!

The capital of Puglia, Bari, was badly bombed during WWII but the old city (città vecchia) is still worth exploring. The 11th-century Basilica di San Nicola is a splendid example of Romanesque architecture. The imposing façade, made of white limestone is flanked by two towers and on the north side, The Porta dei Leoni (Lions’ Door) is richly decorated with bas-reliefs and sculptures of chivalric scenes. On the outskirts of the old town, the imposing castle, Castello Svevo, was built in 1233 over the foundations of earlier Norman and Byzantine buildings. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flight plans

The best way to get to Puglia is to fly to Bari.

From Bari airport you can get to the railway stations by local bus which takes about 30-45 minutes and costs 90 euros.

Or you can get a shuttle bus which takes about 25-30 minutes and costs 4.15 euros. From Bari station you get the local train to Locorotondo (http://www.fesonline.it). The trip takes about 1 hour, 45mins and the ticket costs 5.60 euros.

You could also choose to fly from Naples or Rome to Bari.

Private transfers from Bari airport to Locorotondo can also be arranged for you.

Best time of year to do this trip:

This cycling tour is available from March to end of June, and in September and October. July and August are best avoided due to the heat and excessive local holiday crowds.

Single travellers:

This trip is available to solo cyclists but there is a single supplement payable to cover the additional costs of baggage transfer and a single supplement to cover the cost of single occupancy rooms. This also applies to those travelling as part of a group who prefer to have their own room. Subject to availability, there is a single supplement payable.

Meals:

A hearty breakfast is included each morning. Lunch and dinner are not included so you are free to choose from the available options. Some of the accommodation providers will be happy to provide you with a packed lunch on request and this can be booked on arrival. Dinner is always available either at your accommodation or nearby restaurants. We will guide you as to the best options.

Baggage transfer:

Your bags will be transferred from your accommodation as per the itinerary and moved onto your next overnight accommodation. We ask that you limit your luggage to one bag of up to 15kg per person.

Bikes and equipment:

Most of the route is on asphalt with occasional sections on well levelled dirt roads. You will need a helmet, waterproof parka, cycling gear as well as casual clothes for the evenings. Your info pack will have a detailed equipment list.

Bike Hire:

We have a reliable bike hire arrangement if you need to hire a bike. We use good quality hybrid bikes equipped with a rear rack and trunk bag or handlebar bar, spare inner tube, patch kit, pump, lock, and helmet should you need one.

Cycling in Puglia - Off the beaten track in Southern Italy

Days:8 days/7nights
Luxury:
Type of Tour:Cycling
Experience: Cycling
Challenge: Easy to moderate
Cost: POA