Bicycle Trip in Puglia Italy
Self-guided tour – 11 days
A bike tour to “get the whole picture” of Puglia – starting from its borders with neighbouring region Basilicata. You will start in Matera, the city of “Sassi” and UNESCO world heritage cite, and through the local canyons, the “gravine”, you will enter Puglia to discover, one pedal stroke after the other, its changing landscapes that flow from one beauty into the next. From Murgia to Salento: architectural and natural wonders, sites of immense historical and cultural interest, and of course, unsurpassable culinary specialties!
DAY 1: MATERA
Arrival in Matera and check-in.
DAY 2: MATERA – GINOSA – LATERZA – SAN BASILIO
+/- 60 km
Your first ride is in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage site: Matera, the Town of The Sassi (literally: “stones”, i.e., the ancient cave dwellings of the old town). It is one of the most scenic and fascinating cities in the world and, at the same time, the perfect synthesis of its surrounding area. Once on your way out of Matera, you will deeply relish such an amazing landscape, entering Matera’s surroundings.
The first stage runs almost entirely in the “Parco Regionale delle Gravine” (Ravines Regional Park), in the middle of wheat fields and wide panoramas. You ride through other towns, whose atmospheres will remind you of the Town of The Sassi. But above all, you have the chance to visit the town of Laterza, famous for the tasty bread and the beautiful pottery. The accommodation is in San Basilio, a hamlet between the “Terra delle Gravine” (Ravines Land) and the Murgia of Trulli.
+/- 550 meters of climbing
DAY 3: SAN BASILIO – CASTELLANETA – PALAGIANELLO – NOCI – PUTIGNANO
+/- 55 km
The second stage could be a trip by itself, because it takes you into two very different landscapes on the same day. You still cycle the first kilometres in the “Terra delle Gravine”: the “Gravine” (ravines) are deep canyons carved by karst rivers over millions of years). You will even cross one of them by bike riding over a big stone bridge, where there’s now a scenic bicycle path in place of the old railway. Before crossing the bridge, your path passes through Castellaneta, the birthplace of the Hollywood legend Rodolfo Valentino. After pedalling through the ravines, you ride past the Murgia of Trulli, surrounded by more and more oaks, dry-stone low walls, masserie (local fortified farmhouses) – and trulli, of course, Puglia’s iconic rural houses with a conic roof built with the dry-stone technique (i.e., without any cement or mortar!). To reach Putignano, the daily destination, you cycle through Noci. The town is like a temple of good food – good to know in case you get hungry along the way!
+/- 650 meters of climbing
DAY 4: PUTIGNANO – GROTTE DI CASTELLANA – ALBEROBELLO
+/- 35 km
We set up the daily route both as a preview and as an in-depth view of the whole tour. The day starts in the beautiful medieval centre of Putignano, a town which boasts Europe’s oldest and most long-lasting Carnival. Take your time to stroll around and then cycle in the lush countryside to reach Castellana Caves after just a few kilometres. It is the main, biggest and most scenic karst site in the south of Italy: it is really worth literally going into it!
Leaving the caves, continue along the rolling lanes of the country, where olive, almond, apricot and cherry trees grow luxuriantly.
The route takes you quite unexpectedly along an amazing never-ending balcony overlooking the Murgia, where you will have a foretaste of the days to follow: hills, sea, century-old olive trees, the scents of the “macchia mediterranea” (maquis shrub land of the Mediterranean region) and the colours of our land.
The daily destination is a UNESCO heritage site: Alberobello, the world capital of Trulli. You head there riding up and down on the hills, through the fields bordered by low stone-walls.
+/- 400 meters of climbing
DAY 5: (LOOP) ALBEROBELLO – LOCOROTONDO – MARTINA FRANCA – ALBEROBELLO
+/- 45 km
Let’s play a game: are you able to cover even a single stretch of the daily scheduled kilometres without spotting a trullo? They are everywhere in the heart of Itria Valley – a unique landscape and worldwide famous destination for those who seek beauty and good living. You will even come across a trullo-shaped church cycling from Alberobello towards Locorotondo, one of the “borghi più belli d’Italia” (most beautiful villages of Italy). Leaving the town, you have the chance to pedal along the main Apulian cycling route: the “Ciclovia dell’Acquedotto” (Apulian Aqueduct cycling route), which runs on the service track of a more-than-a-century-old Aqueduct that is still the second biggest one in Europe. Before riding back to Alberobello, you get to the quaint town of Martina Franca, known for its baroque architecture.
+/- 550 meters of climbing
DAY 6: ALBEROBELLO – BARSENTO – POLIGNANO A MARE – MONOPOLI
+/- 45 km
Today, you will probably wonder if we set all Puglia highlights one next to the other, on your way just for you! You start in the UNESCO town of Alberobello and you head to Barsento, a naturalistic and archaeological site with a lovely 12C little abbey. Other beautiful churches are dotting your itinerary: San Biagio first, at the beginning of a nice tree-lined cycle path; then San Nicola di Genna, another 12C church at the crossroad between 7 “contrade” (country districts). You cycle along sleepy country roads close to Castellana Grotte, catching sight of the sea! You slowly ride down to the Adriatic coast and reach one of its most fascinating spots: the town of Polignano a Mare, perched on the side of a cliff (the incredible Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series take place here!). It is the hometown of the famous Italian singer Domenico Modugno, “Mister Volare”. Enter the old town by bike and pedal next to the terraces overlooking the sea; then stop to taste a delicious homemade “gelato” (ice-cream) or a panini filled with super-fresh fish! Riding further on the coast, you get to Monopoli, an increasingly popular tourist destination thanks to the interesting mix between its beautiful sea and its fascinating history. Your accommodation is in the old town, a few steps away from the harbour and the Castle.
+/- 300 meters of climbing
DAY 7: MONOPOLI – OSTUNI
+/- 40 km
Monopoli will say goodbye to you in an unforgettable way. After breakfast, you start pedalling through the alleys and then through an archway to reach the old harbour. Continue riding only inches away from the water past the Castle of Charles V (16C) and along the old Castle walls and discover the first of the tiny coves that dot a twisting cycle path just outside the old town. Are you sure you want to leave Monopoli?! We suggest you do make this effort if you don’t want to miss all the other enchanting places. Get to the “Abbazia di Santo Stefano” (St. Stephan Abbey) and enter an expanse of olive trees, a sort of outdoor museum full of century- and thousand-old olive trees, a wonderful landscape in perfect harmony between man and nature. Little by little, you will spot a white outline amid the hills: it is Ostuni, known as “the white town” because of its whitewashed houses and walls. To perfectly end the day, indulge a stroll in its old town, a sort of Mediterranean Kasbah of narrow alleys, full of cafes and nice shops.
+/- 350 meters of climbing
DAY 8: OSTUNI – CAROVIGNO – (TRAIN) – LECCE – ACAYA – ACQUARICA – BORGAGNE
+/- 15+30 km
This stage is divided into two stretches. The first one is the shorter one: starting from Ostuni and after visiting the imposing and elegant Castle of Carovigno, you reach the little Carovigno rail station, hidden among olive trees. Here you can take one of the many trains of “Ferrovie dello Stato” (Italian state Railway) to get to Lecce in less than one hour (in Puglia you can bring the bicycle with you on the train for free). Then, you pedal into the Salento capital, visiting one of the most beautiful Italian old towns. Riding away from Lecce, you directly head to Acaya, an enchanting fortified little town between Lecce and Otranto, once an ancient stronghold against Saracens’ attacks. Then you cycle in the most authentic countryside, next to the imposing “pajare” – Salento typical “trulli” with a square base. You are a few kilometres away from Borgagne, a small and nice Salento village, where you will stay for the night.
+/- 200 meters of climbing
DAY 9: BORGAGNE – TORRE DELL’ORSO – OTRANTO
+/- 45 km
You leave Borgagne to explore the most impressive part of the south-easternmost Italian coast. You start riding surrounded by centuries-old olive trees and you reach the coast at the “Grotta della Poesia” (Cave of the Poetry), ranked among the 10 most spectacular natural pools in the world by the National Geographic. A few metres away, you find the Archaeological Park of Roca Vecchia, which has been an important settlement from the prehistory to the Middle Ages. From now on, you follow trails overlooking the sea on the side of the cliffs between Torre dell’Orso and Sant’Andrea. But you will also unexpectedly discover two small coastal lakes, the Alimini Lakes, before getting to Otranto. The town is known as the “pearl of the Mediterranean” and included in the UNESCO Cultural Heritage. Before entering the town, you have time enough to discover a small lake of emerald waters at the bottom of an old bauxite quarry. Your day ends in Otranto, where you can finally enjoy the magic of the Castle and the historical centre.
+/- 300 meters of climbing
DAY 10: OTRANTO – MELPIGNANO – LECCE
+/- 55 km
The last stage is a postcard to say goodbye to – and see you soon in – Puglia! It’s a sort of collage showing you the best of Salento: sea, olive trees, history, Baroque architecture, small villages, bright colours, strong flavours. You start from the easternmost spot in Italy, following the Idro Valley to discover Salento hinterland. You are in the most authentic and unspoiled corners of this land. While riding, you will often come across some megalithic monuments: the menhirs. You cycle along enchanting countryside lanes to head to the “Grecìa Salentina”, an area of Salento where a dialect having its origins in medieval Greek is still spoken. You then ride through the towns of Cursi, Melpignano, Corigliano, Sternatìa. Melpignano and Corigliano will surprise you above all, thanks to their wonderful “palazzi” and castles. From Sternatìa, past olive groves deep in the countryside, you get to Lecce through Porta San Biagio. The elegant Baroque old town will still be waiting for you!
+/- 300 meters of climbing
DAY 11: LECCE
After breakfast, end of services.