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Italy

Puglia, Basilicata & Calabria: Southern Italy From “Heel” to “Toe”

Program No. 20221RJ
Discover the “sole” of Southern Italy as you journey along the Italian “boot,” learning about diverse architecture, medieval villages and the vibrant culture of this ancient land.

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At a Glance

Journey into the heart of Southern Italy to experience the quaint villages and vibrant cultures whose traditions and landscapes can be traced to ancient times. Investigate the scenic coastline, medieval villages, and Greek and Roman archaeology of Calabria “the toe” and Puglia “the heel” of the Italian “boot.”
Activity Level
Let's Go!
Walking and standing on paved and cobblestone sidewalks for up to four miles per day. Field trips involve walking on uneven ground and some stairs without railings.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

What You'll Learn

  • View the famed bronzes housed at the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia, exploring prehistoric Graeco-Roman and medieval antiquities.
  • Explore the unique trulli constructions of Alberobello and the troglodyte dwellings of Sassi di Matera, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • Discover Romanesque and Baroque cathedrals and monuments in the shade of majestic castles and noble palaces.

General Notes

Due to Calabria's mountainous region and complex road network, driving times can range from 1-4 hours per day between towns & villages.
Featured Expert
All trip experts
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Emanuela D'Andria
Emanuela D’Andria graduated with a degree in interpreting French and English from the Higher School of Modern Languages for Interpreters and Translators at the University of Trieste. She has been creating and leading educational explorations throughout Italy and abroad since 1998, including programs in the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, Germany. and Holland. Emanuela has enjoyed leading Road Scholar programs since 2006.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Emanuela D'Andria
Emanuela D'Andria View biography
Emanuela D’Andria graduated with a degree in interpreting French and English from the Higher School of Modern Languages for Interpreters and Translators at the University of Trieste. She has been creating and leading educational explorations throughout Italy and abroad since 1998, including programs in the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, Germany. and Holland. Emanuela has enjoyed leading Road Scholar programs since 2006.
Profile Image of Gianluca Tonti
Gianluca Tonti View biography
Gianluca Tonti studied Middle Age history at the Università Statale di Milano with a thesis about taxation and politics during the 15th century. After graduating, he attended the Archivio di Stato in Milan. Upon returning to Apulia, he worked with historical researchers in the local archives and teaches local history. Gianluca began working as a travel leader in Puglia in 2009 and became certified in 2012. He currently works with English-speaking groups in Apulia, Basilicata, and Sicily.
Profile Image of Gianluca De Francesco
Gianluca De Francesco View biography
Gianluca De Francesco is a licensed Italian professional guide with twenty years of experience, including leading hiking groups in the Calabrian mountains, working at ski resorts in the Alps and Finland, and leading cultural explorations in south Italy. He has a passion for history, archeology, and geology, which he studied at the University of Bologna. Gianluca’s true love is his Calabrian homeland, which he enthusiastically shares with visitors to his region.
Profile Image of Paolo Maragliulo
Paolo Maragliulo View biography
Paolo Maragliulo has been an exploration leader since 2000. He studied preservation of the cultural heritage, specializing in art and history from the beginning of the XI century to the end of the XVIII century. He now works for travel and bike exploration companies. Tall and theatrical, he is passionate about his region and loves cycling and bikepacking. After so many years of exploration and experiential study, he knows a lot about historical, cultural, and agricultural aspects of southern Italian everyday life.
Profile Image of Fabio Congedo
Fabio Congedo View biography
Fabio Congedo is a professional archaeologist who, after years on international excavation sites in Italy, Egypt, and Romania), has also worked in the travel industry since 2015. He is a licensed group leader who speaks Italian and English, with licenses issued by the regions of Lazio, Puglia, and Sardinia. He specializes in experiential travel, and is a member of ASSOTES (Professional Association of Experiential Tourism Operators).
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Year
2025
  • 2024
  • 2025
Date and Direction
Oct 13 - Oct 29 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Jan 06 - Jan 22 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Feb 10 - Feb 26 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Mar 03 - Mar 19 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Mar 17 - Apr 02 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Apr 21 - May 07 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • May 05 - May 21 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • May 12 - May 28 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Sep 01 - Sep 17 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Sep 12 - Sep 28 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Sep 29 - Oct 15 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Oct 03 - Oct 19 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Oct 13 - Oct 29 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Oct 20 - Nov 05 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Oct 27 - Nov 12 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
Please Note: The program differs on certain dates.
Please Note: The program differs on certain dates.
Select trip year and date
2025
  • 2024
  • 2025
Oct 13 - Oct 29 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Jan 06 - Jan 22 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Feb 10 - Feb 26 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Mar 03 - Mar 19 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Mar 17 - Apr 02 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Apr 21 - May 07 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • May 05 - May 21 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • May 12 - May 28 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Sep 01 - Sep 17 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Sep 12 - Sep 28 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Sep 29 - Oct 15 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Oct 03 - Oct 19 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Oct 13 - Oct 29 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Oct 20 - Nov 05 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
  • Oct 27 - Nov 12 (Lecce to Reggio Calabria)
While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of our published materials, programs are typically advertised more than a year prior to their start date. As a result, some program activities, schedules, accommodations, personnel, and other logistics occasionally change due to local conditions or circumstances. Should a major change occur, we will make every effort to alert you. For less significant changes, we will update you during orientation. Thank you for your understanding.
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17 days
16 nights
32 meals
15 B 10 L 7 D
DAY
1
In Transit to Program
In Flight
DAY
2
Arrival Brindisi, Check-In, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Lecce
D
Best Western Plus Leone di Messapia Hotel

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m. Remember to bring your nametag (sent previously).

Afternoon: After checking in at the hotel and getting your room, take some time to freshen up and relax before our Orientation session. Orientation: 6:00 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Unless specified otherwise, the majority of transportation will be provided via motorcoach thereby necessitating ascending and descending a few steps. All meals include wine, coffee, and water. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Before dinner, we’ll enjoy a welcome cocktail together at the hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know each other, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the full day ahead.

DAY
3
Baroque in Lecce
Lecce
B,L
Best Western Plus Leone di Messapia Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking about 4 miles, approximately 2 hours in both morning and afternoon; flat terrain.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll begin with a lecture at the hotel with our Group Leader focused on discovering the Baroque in Lecce. Afterwards, we will board our motorcoach and ride to the center of Lecce. We will embark with our Group Leader on a walking field trip of Lecce with emphasis on finding examples of the Baroque discussed earlier. We will walk by its iconic Baroque monuments, churches, and even some ancient Roman ruins including the Basilica of Santa Croce, Piazza Sant’Oronzo, the Roman Ampitheatre, Cathedral’s Square, and some Baroque Noble Palaces. We will visit the Jewish Museum. The remainder of the morning will be free for independent exploration of Lecce before meeting back at a predetermined time.

Lunch: At a local restaurant in Lecce.

Afternoon: We will continue our walking field trip of Lecce’s Old City to explore the Roman Theatre, the Church of Saint Matthew, and some less touristy areas of the Old Town. We’ll then return to the hotel.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Galatina, Gallipoli
Lecce
B,L
Best Western Plus Leone di Messapia Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 55 miles with stops for field trips, approximately 1.5 hours total riding time. Walking about 3 miles total, approximately 1.5 hours in both Galatina and Gallipoli on flat terrain.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will board our motorcoach and ride to Galatina. We’ll set out with our Group Leader on a walking field trip in Galatina and visit the Basilica of Santa Caterina to admire its beautiful frescoes. It is regarded by many to be “The Assisi of Salento” in comparison to the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi because of its many frescoes painted by various talents from all over Italy in the early 15th century.

Lunch: At a restaurant in Galatina.

Afternoon: Carrying on via motorcoach, we will continue to Gallipoli where our Group Leader will lead our exploration of the Old Town. We’ll explore the Baroque noble palaces, walk along the city walled overlooking the Ionian Sea. The term “kale polis” means “beautiful city” in Greek, which helps to elucidate the origins of the modern name, Gallipoli. Afterwards, we will also get to see an underground olive oil mill located below the Palazzo. We’ll then return to the hotel.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Otranto, Free Time, Lesson on Italian Gestures
Lecce
B,L
Best Western Plus Leone di Messapia Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 34 miles one way, approximately 1/2 hour riding time. Walking about 2.5 miles total on flat terrain. Walking and other free time activities according to personal choice.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will ride to Otranto, a town of Messapian (pre-Roman origin) which, in the wars of Pyrrhus and of Hannibal, sided against Rome. Now, Otranto is a town and commune in a fertile region in the province of Lecce, situated on the east coast of the Salento peninsula, and famous for breeding horses in earlier times. While in Otranto, we’ll set out with our Group Leader on a walking field trip through its Old Town to see its signature monuments including the Cathedral di Santa Maria Annunziata and its incredible mosaic floor depicting, among other things, The Tree of Life.

Lunch: At a restaurant in Otranto.

Afternoon: We will enjoy some free time in Otranto. This period of time has been set aside for your personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Please note that the period scheduled for free time is subject to change depending on local circumstances and opportunities for independent exploration. We’ll then return to the hotel and our Group Leader will give us a lesson on particular Italian gestures.

Dinner: On your own.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
6
Egnazia, Ostuni
Ostuni (BR)
B,L
Hotel Ostuni Palace

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 81 miles, approximately 1.5 hours total riding time with stop in Egnazia. Walking about 1.5 miles, approximately 2 hours; cobblestone paths; some benches on which to rest.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll stop en route to Ostuni at the archeological site of Egnazia for an expert-led field trip through its museum and ancient Roman and pre-Roman ruins, complete with an on-site lecture. We will then continue our transfer to Ostuni and check into the hotel in time for lunch and a welcome drink.

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: After lunch we’ll explore the town on foot with our Group Leader.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Alberobello, Locorotondo, Cooking Demonstration
Ostuni (BR)
B,L,D
Hotel Ostuni Palace

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 43 miles, approximately 1.5 hours riding time. Walking about 1.5 miles, approximately 1 hour; mostly flat terrain with some steps.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will ride to the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Alberobello, which is situated on the second step of Le Murge, south of the Canale di Pirro. It was born as a farming village near an oak-forest and this is the origin of its name, which was originally “silva arboris belli.” All around Alberobello, the rolling countryside is planted with vines, olives and almond trees and dotted everywhere by clusters of trulli (dry stone huts with conical rooves), which take their name from the Greek tholos (cupola) and give the whole area a social characteristic that is unique to Italy: born following the division of landed property, they constitute the so-called phenomenon of scattered population. Each family group lives on its own land without forming urban centers; these microcosms are based on an estate averaging two hectares in size, all farmed, with a trullo standing in at the center and dominating the land. We will enjoy an on-site lecture on the trulli architecture of Puglia.

Lunch: At a restaurant in Alberobello.

Afternoon: After riding to the small village of Locorotondo, we’ll explore the white town on foot with our Group Leader before returning to the hotel. At the hotel, the hotel chef shows us how to prepare traditional recipes of Puglia in a special cooking demonstration.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
8
Grottaglie, Manduria Winery
Ostuni (BR)
B,L,D
Hotel Ostuni Palace

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; driving about 65 miles, approximately 2 hours. Walking about 1 mile, approximately 40 minutes on uneven terrain.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After riding via motorcoach, we’ll begin our day by visiting Grottaglie with our Group Leader. Grottaglie is the capital of ceramicas and pottery in Puglia. We will visit the "quartiere delle ceramiche" and the Museum of ceramics located in the castle. Continuing on, we will transfer to Manduria, known for the production of the Primitivo red wine and we will visit a local winery with an expert staff member of the winery. We’ll learn about the local wine grape growing traditions of the region, see the cellars, visit the Primitivo museum and hear about the production process, all on site. Afterwards we will be treated to a wine tasting so we can sample the flavors of the region.

Lunch: At a local winery, we’ll have a light lunch enriched by local products and wines.

Afternoon: We’ll then return to the hotel via motorcoach with the remainder of the afternoon free.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
9
Bari
Ostuni (BR)
B,D
Hotel Ostuni Palace

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 100 miles, approximately 2 hours total riding time. Walking about 3 miles total on mostly flat terrain, approximately 3 hours total.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will board the motorcoach and head to Bari for a full morning walking field trip with our Group Leader throughout this picturesque port city and its historical center on the shores of the Adriatic Sea. We will see the Basilica of San Nicola, the outside of cathedral, the outside of the castle, and the main square of the Old City.

Lunch: On your own in Bari

Afternoon: Free time in Bari before returning to the hotel.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
10
Matera, Sassi, Palumbaro Lungo
Matera
B,L
Hotel San Domenico al Piano

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach. Drive to Matera is about 80 miles, approximately 2 hours. Walking about 2.5 miles, approximately 2 hours; Sassi is very rocky; several steps and slopes; be sure to wear comfortable shoes.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Via motorcoach, we will transfer to Matera, where we will embark on an expert-led walking field trip of the Sassi di Matera, the oldest part of the city. This area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is considered to be “…the most outstanding, intact example of a troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean region, perfectly adapted to its terrain and ecosystem.” The first settlements can be dated back to the Neolithic period, approximately 7,000 years ago, while later settlements illustrate a number of significant stages in human history. We will be joined by a local expert for a lecture on what the Stones know. We will check in at the hotel.

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: We will embark with our Group Leader on a walking field trip of the Palombaro Lungo, a spectacular underground cistern dating back to the early 19th century. It held much of the water supply for Matera and was located in the main square just a short distance from the hotel. We will then return to the hotel.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
11
Lecture, Castelmezzano, Free Time
Matera
B,L
Hotel San Domenico al Piano

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 104 miles, approximately 2.5 hours riding time. Walking about 1.5 miles, approximately 1.5 hours on cobblestone streets; hike to the mountain peak requires navigating an inclining stretch of a cobblestone path with several steps. Walking and other free time activities according to personal choice.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will begin with a lecture at the hotel with our Group Leader on the Calabria, a real melting pot. We will then ride to Castelmezzano for a walking field trip through the city nestled into mountain slopes. From the striking sight of Emilio Caizzo’s square, we’ll first learn about its history, cultural customs and curiosities. The village is known as “the pearl of the Dolomiti Lucane” and is regarded as one of Italy’s most beautiful sites, with notable people hailing from it, from skyscraper architects to members of the Knights Templar. The main church of the village, Santa Maria dell’Olmo, contains beautiful pictures and statues, dating from the Middle Ages to the 17th century with various styles from the Byzantine to the Baroque. As part of our walking field trip, we will hike to the mountain summit to overlook the town. Those who do not want to hike may wait below in the village and enjoy time in the park or exploring the quaint streets.

Lunch: At a restaurant in Castelmezzano.

Afternoon: We will return to the hotel. The remainder of the afternoon will be free in Matera.

Dinner: On your own.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
12
Civita, Reggio Calabria
Reggio Calabria
B,L,D
Grand Hotel Excelsior

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; Driving about 243 miles; approximately 4.5 hours. Walking about 1.5 miles, approximately 2 hours; cobblestone paths; some benches on which to rest.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we will board our private motorcoach and transfer to Reggio Calabria. We’ll stop en route to Civita for a walking field trip through the village reaching out the viewpoint overlooking the Canyon of the Raganello river.

Lunch: At a restaurant in Civita.

Afternoon: We will then continue our transfer to Reggio Calabria and check into the hotel in time for dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
13
Lecture, Bronzi di Riace, Free Time
Reggio Calabria
B
Grand Hotel Excelsior

Activity note: Walking about 3 miles, approximately 2 hours total; some steps and inclines.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: At the hotel, our Group Leader will present a lecture focusing on the Italian emigration to America. We’ll visit the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia, or National Museum of Reggio, home to the famed Riace Bronzes, which are among very few surviving examples of Classic Greek bronze statuary.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Afternoon: We will enjoy some free time in Reggio.

Dinner: On your own.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
14
Tropea. Free Time
Reggio Calabria
B,L
Grand Hotel Excelsior

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; driving is about 140 miles, approximately 3.5 hours. Walking about 2 miles, approximately 1.5 hours on cobblestone streets.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will board our motorcoach and ride to Tropea, the jewel of Calabria. It is an impressive seaside village with iconic houses built into the clifftop and enchanting views over the turquoise waters of the ocean.

Lunch: At a restaurant in Tropea.

Afternoon: We will return to the hotel. Free time.

Dinner: Dinner on your own.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
15
Casignana, Gerace
Reggio Calabria
B,D
Grand Hotel Excelsior

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; driving about 141 miles total, about 3.5 hours with stops for field trips. Walking about 3 miles, approximately 2 hours total; some steps and inclines.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will ride to Casignana, and visit the Villa Romana dated back to the 1st century AD, remnants of large Roman baths, with mosaic floors and all the main structures still standing. We will then ride to Gerace, a medieval town known for the large Byzantine-Romanesque-Norman Cathedral and its Crypt.

Lunch: On your own in Gerace.

Afternoon: We will embark with our Group Leader on a walking field trip of Gerace. We will then return to the hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
16
Palmi, Scilla
Reggio Calabria
B,D
Grand Hotel Excelsior

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; driving about 60 miles, approximately 1.5 hour. Walking about 3 miles, approximately 2 hours total; some steps and inclines.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We board our motorcoach and ride to Palmi. We will visit the house of the culture with an impressive collection of artifacts of the peasant civilization. After the museum, we will make a short stop at the "Promontorio di Sant'Elia", from where usually the Eolian Islands together with the Strait of Messina can be spotted. We will then ride to the fishing village of Scilla and visit the old district of Chianalea.

Lunch: On your own in Scilla.

Afternoon: We will return to the hotel. Free time.

Dinner: At the hotel. Share some of our favorite experiences and enjoy camaraderie with fellow Road Scholars.

Evening: Be sure to prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
17
Program Concludes
In Flight
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m. See your program’s “Getting There” information regarding transfers.

Breakfast: At the hotel depending on departure time. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on another rewarding program in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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