Venture into southern Italy on an expedition inspired by National Geographic Traveler's September 2011 article "The Towns Italy Forgot." In Puglia, the narrow peninsula that comprises Italy's "heel," discover whitewashed villages surrounded by ancient olive groves. Then visit the rugged landscapes of Basilicata and the famous sassi, or cave dwellings, of Matera. Cap off your adventure by exploring the gorgeous Amalfi Coast and the stunning ruins of Pompeii, Oplontis, and Paestum.
Depart on an overnight flight to Bari, the capital of Italy's picturesque Puglia region. Transfer to our hotel, housed in one of the beautiful masserie, or fortified farmhouses, for which Puglia is so famous. Settle into your room and enjoy free time to explore this fabulous hotel and its waterfront before our welcome reception and dinner this evening.
Torre Coccaro (D)
Spend the day in the Valle D’Itria, traveling through
landscapes of brick-red earth, silvery olive trees,
and trulli—the fairy-tale-like stone dwellings found
in this region. Wander past elegant mansions in
the baroque village of Martina Franca. Explore
Alberobello, a World Heritage site scattered with
more than 1,500 trulli, which offers insight into this
mysterious form of architecture that dates back to
Torre Coccaro (B,L,D)
Travel to the town of Lecce, known for its
elegant baroque architecture and the Roman
amphitheater which remains visible under the present-day piazza. Enjoy free time to explore the town and stop for lunch on your own. Tonight, gather for a wine tasting followed by a feast of Puglia's most typical dishes.
Torre Coccaro (B,D)
Visit the archeological site of Egnazia, where digs
continue to reveal Bronze Age and Roman ruins.
Then take a walk with a local naturalist among the
picturesque olive groves that stretch in every direction
of Puglia. Some of the groves contain trees
that date back a thousand years and are protected
by regional law. After lunch, journey to the mountainous
region of Basilicata, where our destination
is the extraordinary hill town of Matera. This World
Heritage site features at its core a cluster of sassi
(literally the “stones”), ancient dwellings and caves
carved out of the soft rock face by prehistoric settlers
and inhabited until the 1950s. Our remarkable hotel lies within these restored grottoes and retains
the character and integrity of the original dwellings.
Le Grotte Della Civita (B,L,D)
Spend a full day soaking up the unique ambience of Matera. Venture down the steep streets that crisscross Barisano and Caveoso, the two districts of Matera's sassi. Visit a house furnished as it would have been when as many as ten people lived with their animals in one or two rooms. Explore the chiese rupestri, or rock churches, some of which still have their original fresco decorations. After lunch on your own, head out on an easy hike along the opposite ridge of the ravine on which Matera is built and discover some of the rock churches that dot the countryside. Our
expert Massimo will help travelers improve their
photography skills along the way.
Le Grotte Della Civita (B,D)
Today, travel west to the ancient Greek archaeological site of Paestum. Explore its magnificent temples before gathering for lunch in an 18th-century manor house right at the site. Continue to the lively and elegant town of Sorrento, perched on the Bay of Naples. Enjoy an evening at leisure to explore the town.
Imperial Hotel Tramontano (B,L)
A morning drive brings us to the Amalfi Coast, where picturesque towns and villages nestle among cliffs that drop dramatically to the sea. Stop in Amalfi, once one of Italy's four great maritime republics, and see its beautiful Romanesque cathedral. Visit Positano, perched on the cliff face at the water's edge, and enjoy free time to wander the steep streets. Return to Sorrento, and enjoy dinner on your own tonight.
Imperial Hotel Tramontano (B)
Spend the morning in Pompeii, a city frozen in
time when Mount Vesuvius erupted in a.d. 79, blanketing the area in a thick layer of ash and
debris. The site was only discovered many centuries
later, when, in 1748, explorers excavated
dwellings, everyday objects, and the bodies of
Pompeii’s residents, all remarkably preserved in
the volcanic ash. Venture into this splendid and
haunting city, see its frescoed villas, and get a
rare glimpse of daily life nearly 2,000 years ago.
Return to Sorrento for lunch on your own and an
afternoon at leisure. Celebrate your journey at a
farewell dinner this evening.
Imperial Hotel Tramontano (B,D)
After breakfast, transfer to the Naples airport for return flights home.
Born and raised in the south of Italy, Massimo Bassano has traveled, taught, and photographed extensively in his native country. Massimo photographed the September 2011 National Geographic Traveler article "The Towns Italy Forgot," which inspired this expedition. His acclaimed book The Color of Silence detailed the 12 weeks he spent in a little-known Italian monastery, and his work has appeared widely in European publications, as well as in National Geographic Traveler and on the National Geographic website. Massimo will enhance this expedition with his infectious enthusiasm, knowledge, and love for the region.
Massimo will join the following departures:
May 06 - 15, 2014
Sep 25 - Oct 04, 2014
Oct 09 - 18, 2014
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,695. Airfare is not included in the expedition cost. Economy airfare from New York to Bari via Rome and return from Naples is from $1,200 (subject to change).
On this program you should be prepared to walk and/or stand for 2 hours during walking tours, and to climb up and down hills and over uneven, cobblestoned streets in warm to hot weather. Le Grotte della Civita, our hotel for our 2-night stay in Matera, is a truly unique property built into ancient grottoes carved out of the cliff face. This property is reached on foot, and guests must be able to climb several sets of steep, uneven stairs cut into the rock in order to reach the guestrooms. The rooms are different in size, and have uneven footing, low lighting, and stairs without handrails.