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Italy

Winter in Italy: Puglia’s Hidden Gems

Program No. 23004RJ
Discover the vibrant history and cuisine of Puglia — a coastal region located on Italy’s “heel” — during the winter months when the weather is mild and there are fewer crowds.
Length
8 days
Rating (4.94)
Activity Level
Starts at
2,299
Flights start at
900

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Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jan 20 - Jan 27, 2023
Starting at
2,299
Feb 3 - Feb 10, 2023
Starting at
2,299
Feb 24 - Mar 3, 2023
Starting at
2,299
Nov 3 - Nov 10, 2023
Starting at
2,299
Dec 1 - Dec 8, 2023
Starting at
2,299
Jan 22 - Jan 29, 2024
Starting at
2,399
Feb 5 - Feb 12, 2024
Starting at
2,399
Feb 19 - Feb 26, 2024
Starting at
2,399
Nov 4 - Nov 11, 2024
Starting at
2,399
Dec 2 - Dec 9, 2024
Starting at
2,399
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jan 20 - Jan 27, 2023
Starting at
2,639
Feb 3 - Feb 10, 2023
Starting at
2,639
Feb 24 - Mar 3, 2023
Starting at
2,639
Nov 3 - Nov 10, 2023
Starting at
2,639
Dec 1 - Dec 8, 2023
Starting at
2,639
Jan 22 - Jan 29, 2024
Starting at
2,749
Feb 5 - Feb 12, 2024
Starting at
2,749
Feb 19 - Feb 26, 2024
Starting at
2,749
Nov 4 - Nov 11, 2024
Starting at
2,749
Dec 2 - Dec 9, 2024
Starting at
2,749

At a Glance

Located on Italy’s “heel,” Puglia boasts the longest stretch of coastline of any other mainland region in the country. Explore Puglia’s idyllic coast from the Baroque city of Lecce to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Alberobello, all while learning about its rich history, tantalizing cuisine and local life. Brush up on your Italian during session with your Group Leader and try your hand at creating local dishes during a hands-on cooking class. You’ll experience the very best of Puglia during the mild winter months when all the tourists have gone home!
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Walking up to a mile and a half; some uneven ground and cobblestones. 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.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Discover the Baroque beauty of Lecce — the “Florence of the South” — on an expert-led walking exploration of the Old City.
  • Learn the vast history of the Sassi de Matera, a troglodyte settlement and one of the oldest cities in the world.
  • Marvel in the unique trulli houses of Alberobello, historic homes built during the 16th century that are now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
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.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Masserie: The Italian Farmhouses of Puglia, 2011
by Mark Roskams and Diane Lewis
Pan' E Pomodor - My Passage To Puglia 2011
by Ian R. McEwan
Before the Normans: Southern Italy in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries (The Middle Ages Series) 1996
by Barbara M. Kreutz
Romanesque Churches of Puglia (Italy)
by Approach Guides, David Raezer and Jennifer Raezer
Venturing in Italy: Travels in Puglia, Land between Two Seas
by Connie Burke and Barbara J. Euser
Puglia: A Culinary Memoir (Italy's Food Culture)
by Maria Pignatelli Ferrante, Natalie Danford translator, Polly Franchini and Maria Galetta consultant
Christ stopped at Eboli
by Carlo Levi
21 Reviews
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4.94 Average
This reviewer did not give a star rating. Review left 11/27/2022

Our tour guide, Gianluca Tonti, was a patient, companionable, and overall knowledgeable and friendly guide. He greatly enhanced the tour experience and made the tour as good as it was. My fellow road scholars seemed to appreciate him as well. It was a nice group of like-minded travelers and it was fun to tour with them. The only downside to the trip was some of the food at our lunch or dinner stops. Mostly it was exceptional except for the preponderance of seafood and lack of pasta dishes. One dinner at the hotel in Martina Franca, the Park Hotel San Michele, was really bad as it had meats included that were inedible to most of us. Gianluca had to have the kitchen staff bring more amenable food for us. I know that local dishes are important but so is the taste of most Americans on these tours. Overall this is a minor issue and the tour was very good.

(5) Review left 11/18/2022

An outstanding trip to see the heel of Italy - Puglia. A great balance of seeing churches and art and amazing small towns and sea views! Also, you can participate - hands-on making Italian (Puglia-specialties) food. And, a terrific knowledgeable guide - Gianluca Tonti.

(5) Review left 11/14/2022

This was a well organized and executed trip to Puglia. Learned so much, and we also had fun. Went in early November. Weather was excellent to walk around comfortably.

(5) Review left 2/12/2022

This was a very interesting program and I enjoyed it very much. February is the perfect time to visit Puglia as we did not run into any other tour groups and could explore easily. Our guide was fantastic; very knowledgeable and personable. We visited several towns that were unlike any others I had visited. The food and wine were fantastic.

(5) Review left 3/28/2020

I have visited Italy about a dozen times & thought I "knew" Italy. However, Puglia's Hidden Gems was my first visit to Puglia and it certainly won't be my last. What a true "hidden gem". Our guide, Emanuela, is a native of Lecce and her love of and knowledge about the region was apparent upon first meeting her. She captured our hearts with her passion for the history of the region, baroque architecture, food and customs. Emanuela was most accommodating and patient with all of our group and no request was too difficult or no question too silly. She balanced the educational part of the tour with humorous stories about customs, foods and language. The accommodations in both Lecce & Martina Franca were very central and offered very clean, modern rooms and friendly staff. (The Patria Palace in Lecce was exceptional). There was just the right amount of free time vs touring/sightseeing and the variety kept everyone engaged and interested. The highlights for me were the truli of Alberobello & the sassi of Matera (both are "not-to-be-missed" sites) and of course, the food and wine. We indulged in every regional speciality accompanied by the delicious local wines. The pace of life in southern Italy is so much more relaxed than the more well known regions. I highly recommend this trip!

This reviewer did not give a star rating. Review left 3/11/2020

A good trip. The hotel in Alberobello (Grand Hotel Olimpo) was not up to the usual Road Scholar standards. Besides being a mile from town and looking like an old Holiday Inn, the food was not very good. While I don't expect gourmet food with RS this was below normal. Note food and hotel in Oaranto were very good. Good guide - lots of knowledge and passion about southern Italy. Hope she is on your use often list.

This reviewer did not give a star rating. Review left 3/07/2020

We enjoyed this brief visit to Puglia. Emanuella was a nice and patient group leader. As someone who grew up in the area, she knew all about the area's culture and history, and her running commentary was interesting and informative. Most interesting were the rock city of Matera, the Truli buildings in the town of Alberobello, and the visit to the vintage olive grove with trees dating to Roman times. A good trip overall.

(4) Review left 1/05/2020

Truly a hidden gem, Puglia is a beautiful and vibrant area easily overshadowed by some of the more well-known sites.

(5) Review left 12/27/2019

Your understanding of Italy is not complete if you have never traveled to Puglia or beyond the southern borders of Rome. I highly recommend this trip.

(5) Review left 12/27/2019

The December trip to Puglia was our first group tour, although we have travelled much the world on self-organized trips. We were worried about being trapped in a group we couldn't relate to. Turned out that it was quite the opposite: a wonderful and diverse group of people who we got to know and enjoy, and an outstanding instructor who was knowledgeable and full of good humor. She could make it as a standup comic and has a PhD in art and architectural history was well. Only to be outdone by the cooking instructor's good humor. We saw six marvelous places, touring with the group and wandering on our own. December was the ideal time to visit, when all the towns are decked out for Christmas, and largely free of the crush of international tourism that we learned flocks to Puglia in the warmer seasons. We learned about the culture of the places, how they came about and the issues they currently face. I learned a lot, and city design is my field of study and work. We will look for other Road Scholar adventures in the future. Gary Hack, retired faculty member.

(5) Review left 12/26/2019

Outstanding guide, Daniela, and an outstanding variety of experiences and fun - special mention goes to the cooking experience in Lecce, the visit to the olive oil mill, and Matera. The weeks leading up to Christmas come with an extra bonus of holiday lights and decorations - a beautiful time to visit Italy. This was my second Winter in Italy trip in two years. Italy during the quiet off-season is a real treat.

(5) Review left 12/11/2019

Beautiful and interesting area of Italy. Variety of experiences and excellent guide.

This reviewer did not give a star rating. Review left 12/09/2019

I thoroughly enjoyed this trip. Highlights were: Emmanuela and her preparation and knowledge for each location, the cooking class in Lecce, the olive grove visit at a Masseria and olive tasting. I learned so much everywhere. Suggestions for improvement: definitely include tickets for going into the churches in Lecce. Now that there is a charge to go into 4 of the churches, we didn’t do that as part of the group tour. I did it on my own during free time and it was so worth the 9 euros; staying in Alberobello for 3 nights was a bit long.....there is not much to do there and it’s very touristy. Bari, on the other hand, which was a short morning visit, would have been a great location to stay, do day trips out of there, and have access to more museums, restaurants, activities. And the airport is right there so no super early morning alarm. It was my first group tour and I really enjoyed all of it.

(5) Review left 3/20/2019

Wow What a wonderful week. Loved everything about this tour. This far exceeded my expectations.

(5) Review left 3/11/2019

I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing Italy's Salento region for the first time including all of the cities and landmark areas included. The weather the first week of March was mild and sunny. We were able to enjoy eating at an outdoor cafe on our last day. The almond trees were in bloom too. All in all a great adventure.

(5) Review left 3/02/2019

It works quite well and where I had trouble on one occasion, I received excellent help by phone.

(5) Review left 3/02/2019

Our week in Puglia was an absolutely fabulous experience! Every day was varied and different from the one before. And the fact that we did it in the off-season meant that there were no crowds to deal with anywhere! This is a trip you don't want to miss!!

(5) Review left 2/17/2019

'Winter In' Puglia was fantastic, highly recommend. Lesser traveled area with excellent local guide. Spans smaller villages, seaside, olive groves with thousand+ year old trees, 2 UNESCO sites, and larger towns such as Lecce and Bari. Architecture and history were very interesting and presented in an engaging way. Fun cooking class. A tremendous value. Go if you can! (While January and February can be rainy, it was fine with all weather jacket and shoes).

(5) Review left 2/10/2019

I knew little about Puglia before the trip, but my experience with the Road Scholar tour gave me an understanding or the area that I will never forget.

(5) Review left 2/03/2019

If you have ever heard of a "trulli" or the term "Sassi" and want to learn more and see a unique part of Italy in the process, this is the trip for you.

(5) Review left 1/29/2019

The Winter in Italy: Puglia’s Hidden Gems truly exceeded my expectations....But be advised: “winter in...” generally means that it will be cold and not the high tourist season. So layer and dress appropriately!! I LOVED IT!!






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