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Venture into southern Italy on an expedition inspired by National Geographic Traveler's 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 and Paestum.
Stay in a unique hotel housed within the carved grottoes of Matera.
Explore the UNESCO World Heritage site of Alberobello, dotted with more than 1,500
whimsical beehive dwellings called trulli.
Hike among the centuries-old olive trees in
Puglia, the extraordinary rock churches in
Basilicata, and the hillside villages of Amalfi.
Go on an insider’s tour of Pompeii with a
Itinerary - 9 Days
Day 1 — Bari, Italy
Arrive in 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 before our welcome reception and dinner this evening. Torre Coccaro (D)
Day 2 — Valle D'Itria
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
prehistoric times. Torre Coccaro (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Lecce
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)
Day 4 — Puglia/Basilicata
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)
Day 5 — Matera
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. Le Grotte Della Civita (B,D)
Day 6 — Paestum/Sorrento
Today, travel west to the ancient Greek archaeological site of Paestum. Explore its magnificent temples before gathering for lunch at a nearby farm that produces the famous buffalo mozzarella for which this region is known. 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)
Day 7 — Amalfi Coast
A morning drive brings us to the Amalfi Coast, where picturesque towns and villages nestle among cliffs that drop dramatically to the sea. Visit Positano, perched on the cliff face at the water's edge, and enjoy free time to wander the steep streets. Stop in Amalfi, once one of Italy's four great maritime republics, and see its beautiful Romanesque cathedral. Return to Sorrento, and enjoy dinner on your own tonight. Imperial Hotel Tramontano (B)
Day 8 — Pompeii/Sorrento
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)
Day 9 — Naples
After breakfast, transfer to the Naples airport for return flights home. (B)
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.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, or easy hikes, with options for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
What To Expect
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.