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Puglia, Lecce and Vieste - Undiscovered Italy

8days from
£1,249*per person


8 Days - Classic Escorted Tours

Puglia, little-known, ruggedly beautiful, fringed by the sea – where the magnificent architecture of Lecce and Bari, coastal charm of Vieste, ‘hobbit’-like conical trulli and local cuisine offer a delightfully different experience of Italy. Blessed with abundant sunshine and fringed by the bountiful waters of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, Puglia is a land of plenty. One of the most fertile regions of Italy, it produces more olive oil than the rest of the country combined, most of its fish, 80 per cent of Europe’s pasta and more wine than the whole of Germany. Unsurprisingly, its natural riches have attracted a host of invaders throughout history – ancient Greeks colonised the area in the 8th century BC, then came the Romans, Byzantines, Saracens, Normans, Spanish and Bourbons, before Puglia became part of unified Italy in 1861. Each culture has left a distinct footprint, from the local dialect peppered with Greek expressions to the Moorish ambience of the narrow streets of Bari, where traders’ wares spill out onto the cobbled streets. It is this melding of cultures that makes Puglia – the ‘heel’ of Italy’s great ‘boot’ – delightfully different. Overlooked by many who prefer to head to Italy’s better-known attractions, Puglia echoes with its own history. In Lecce, an imperial column marks the end of the Appian Way, one of the greatest Roman roads, and Hannibal dealt Rome its heaviest defeat at nearby Cannae. A gem of a baroque city, Lecce also boasts around a hundred churches of myriad styles, ranging from Romanesque to Rococo. Its centre is a labyrinth of alleyways, and it’s easy to imagine Roman officials, medieval merchants and richly clad bishops going about their lives. Every town seems to have a Norman cathedral, decorated with intricate stonework, colourful frescoes and fine paintings. Huge Spanish-built castles overlook the rolling countryside, while the ports that once thrummed with crusaders embarking for the Holy Land now have a relaxed feel. As you explore, it becomes evident that Puglia is not the Italy of the north. Its rugged limestone landscape is carpeted with olive groves and dotted with villages of white, flat-roofed houses resembling those of Greece and its islands, while the beauty of the forested Gargano Peninsula stands comparison with the more famous Amalfi coast. But there are many features unique to this area, none more so than the trulli, the cone-shaped houses that have become unofficial symbols of Puglia. Here in the deep southeast of Italy, nature and history are powerful influences, the locals still wink cheekily at authority and the relaxed and communal way of life is in harmony with the sunny climate. Famed for its passionate embrace of life, simple cuisine, flavoursome wines, historic cities and charming coastal villages, it’s a delightful place to get away from it all.


  • Arrive at the airport for your flight. On arrival, we transfer by coach to the four-star Hilton Garden Inn in Lecce for two nights. This fine modern hotel is a short walk from the Old Town and features a restaurant, bar, outside terrace and spa. Its elegant rooftop swimming pool (open in the summer months, weather permitting) has panoramic views over Lecce.
  • Lecce is known as the ‘Florence of the South’ for good reason – its architecture is outstanding and around every corner are buildings of beauty and interest waiting to be discovered. Our walking tour begins at the imposing Porta Napoli gate, where we meet our local guide, and from there we explore the vibrant Jewish quarter before taking in the Basilica di Santa Croce. A remarkable example of creativity, this Baroque church has an intricate facade, and there are so many beautiful details in the stonework you could lose hours gazing at them.  The tour continues through the Old Town, rich with history, and we pause at a bank that has more to its history than money – it was once used to store olive oil. Another surprise awaits at the picturesque Piazza Sant’Oronzo, a bustling square set on the site of a partially exposed Roman amphitheatre. Built in the 2nd century, the amphitheatre seated over 25,000 people and it’s possible, looking down across the sweeping bleached stone seating, to envisage crowds gathering two millennia ago to enjoy all sorts of entertainment. We then amble down shop-lined streets to the elegant Piazza Duomo, where Lecce’s cathedral awaits. Built in 1144, its imposing exterior is only matched by its breathtaking interior featuring 12 side chapels containing paintings by a variety of artists.  This afternoon you are free to explore. Lecce hums with life with a distinctly southern Italian feel, so soak up the ambience of its streets, relaxed cafés and refi ned boutiques while taking in all its baroque magnificence. In the evening we dine in an excellent restaurant, once a Roman granary, where you can enjoy the local cuisine. Signature Experience: Experience the real Lecce on a morning’s walking tour with a local guide who will provide a fascinating insight into local life, customs and history – from the morning coffee ritual to the ‘pasticciotto’, the local custard-filled pastry typical of Lecce traditionally eaten in the morning. Plus, you’ll sample some of Lecce’s very best local delicacies, with our tour culminating in an authentic coffee shop where you can relax over a ‘café leccese style'.
  • Puglia is renowned for its olive oil production and we see olive trees everywhere in the region when travelling, so we explore a small, family run olive oil mill and find out more about olive oil production and enjoy a tasting (Classic Tours only). As we continue our drive you’ll begin to notice whitewashed stone huts with conical roofs – these are trulli, Puglia’s signature dwellings. In this corner of Puglia, the countryside blooms with patches of oak forest bisected by dry stone walls – almost reminiscent of rural Tuscany. We arrive in Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Remarkably, some parts of Alberobello are almost exclusively composed of trulli, creating an otherworldly feel – no wonder some compare it to a ‘hobbit’ town. For many, this is a highlight of the tour and we have time to explore, discovering how trulli were built, their intriguing origins and why many are adorned with Christian, pagan or celestial symbols.  We then continue to Matera, where we stay two nights with breakfast and dinner at the four-star MH Matera. Signature Experience: On our drive to Alberobello, we call at a historic masseria, one of Puglia’s traditional farmhouses, once a stable, and after the history of this beautifully restored ancient building is revealed, you’ll be served a selection of delicious local dishes, all created with ingredients (including the wine and olive oil) produced directly on the farm. Please note guests on our classic tour will enjoy an oil tasting at a traditional olive oil mill.
  • This morning we have a guided tour of Matera, which is notable as one of the first permanently inhabited places in Italy and also a UNESCO World Heritage site. At its heart are the original troglodyte cave dwellings dating back over 9,000 years; astonishingly, people still live in them today. Everything you would expect in a conventional town is here, with churches, shops and artisan workshops all hewn from the naked rock. Is there anywhere else you can walk along a street that is the roof of the house below?  This afternoon you can return to the hotel to relax – the perfect opportunity to sun yourself by the pool. Or if you wish you can explore Matera further. This gives you more time to visit its many fascinating buildings – the 13th-century Romanesque cathedral is well worth your time. This evening, we complete a memorable day enjoying regional dishes at our dinner in a restaurant in Matera’s Old Town.
  • Nestling on the Adriatic, Bari was a thriving walled port even before the Romans arrived and was briefly the capital of Byzantine Italy. During Norman times it was thought to be as significant as Venice. This morning we have a guided tour of the Old Town where there is so much to discover, such as the imposing medieval fortress and the massive Romanesque cathedral with its 11th-century frescoes, while opera lovers may know that Bari is home to the magnificent Teatro Petruzzelli. For many, though, the focal point is the Basilica di San Nicola, whose 900-year-old vaulted crypt is the final resting place of Saint Nicholas, Patron Saint of Russia – better known to us as Father Christmas.  As we explore Bari’s tightly knit streets, look down its side streets to take in other aspects of traditional life, from shops displaying freshly caught sea bass, cuttlefish or lobster to stalls creaking under the weight of locally grown olives, tomatoes and peppers, and families eating meals with their windows and doors open. Here and there, you may come across chattering matriarchs sitting outside their doorsteps making, hand-rolling and cutting different types of pasta, a practice unchanged through time.  Leaving Bari, we call at the picturesque fishing port of Trani, then the landscape changes as we climb the Gargano peninsular coastal road. The warm air is heavy with Mediterranean aromas of pine and wild flowers, as we head towards the coastal town of Vieste. We stay for three nights with breakfast and two dinners at the Hotel Degli Aranci.
  • Phoenician in origin, Vieste is one of Italy’s most attractive coastal towns, situated on a rocky promontory overlooking turquoise waters with beaches either side. An enchanting jumble of white, flat-roofed buildings perched on cliff edges and dominated by its simple 13th-century cathedral, it’s an ideal place for your free day to relax. You may choose to amble through ancient alleyways, walk barefoot along the beach past the giant chalk stack – a remarkable geological landmark – enjoy a lunch of local seafood or just find a quiet spot to wile away the hours with a book. Signature Experience: Sit back and soak up the dazzling seascapes, glistening water and bracing air as we cruise along the scenic coastline of the Gargano National Park, home to magnificent UNESCO-protected ancient pine forests. Explore the spectacular caves nestled amongst sheer white limestone cliffs and golden sands and savour the views as we enjoy some refreshments and antipasti.
  • This morning we take drive to nearby Peschici, a small fishing village located on a promontory overlooking the Bay of Peschici. The walled old town, with its whitewashed buildings, is a maze of narrow streets lined with small shops, perfect for a leisurely stroll. The Medieval Castle, dating back from 970, has panoramic views over the surrounding coastline. We have free time here to explore and perhaps have a coffee whilst enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. We will then continue to a rural restaurant located just outside Peschici, where we will enjoy a light lunch of rural specialities typical of this part of Puglia, and discover the art of hand making pasta in a short demonstration by an expert. We return to Vieste in the afternoon with the rest of the day at leisure. 
  • Transfer to the airport for your flight home.

What's Included

Holiday Highlights

  • Guided tour of Lecce, one of Italy's finest baroque towns, often compared to Florence
  • Visit Alberobello with the unique trulli houses, set amidst stunning Tuscan-like countryside
  • Guided tour of Matera, the amazing medieval cave village and UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Guided tour of Bari’s old town, once home to ancient Greeks, Saracens and Normans, with a remarkable Romanesque cathedral
  • Learn the fascinating craft of pasta-making and enjoy a light lunch at a family-run osteria
  • Seven nights in conveniently located 4-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, plus breakfast, one lunch, and six dinners (two dinners at carefully selected local restaurants)
  • The Signature Tour option includes all of the above as well as:
  • Explore Lecce like a local through an insightful expert’s eyes stopping to enjoy typical specialities along the way then soaking up the authentic ambience of a traditional café over a real Italian coffee
  • Relax on a cruise along the dramatic shores of the Gargano National Park, soaking up the spectacular sea views over a refreshing drink and antipasti
  • Visit a beautiful traditional Puglian farmhouse for a delicious lunch showcasing the region’s most typical dishes with fresh ingredients sourced directly from the farm

Our Price Includes

  • The price of this multi center European holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement. The price includes: 
  • Return flights
  • Seven nights’ accommodation
  • Daily breakfast, one light lunch, and six dinners (including two at local restaurants)
  • All local taxes
  • Transfers
  • All tours as mentioned
  • The services of a Riviera Travel tour manager
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August 2024
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4* Hilton Garden Inn - Lecce -


This modern hotel is located in a residential area approximately a 20-minute walk from the Old Town and features a restaurant, bar, outside terrace and spa. Its elegant rooftop swimming pool (open in the summer months, weather permitting) has panoramic views over Lecce.  Please note the use of air-conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to mid-September), depending on the temperature.

4* Palace Hotel Vieste - Vieste -


The Palace Hotel Vieste is a four-star rated and fully air-conditioned, situated about 250 metres from the beach. The Palace Hotel Vieste, located in the atmospheric old town, is a tasteful conversion of a 15th Century noble’s house in to a lovely classic hotel. With high ceilings and plaster coving throughout creating a wonderful atmosphere of yesteryear, coupled with the comforts of an elegant and modern hotel. All rooms have a TV, safe, mini bar, telephone and hairdryer. There is a bar and restaurant plus free use of the private beach with two sun beds and an umbrella per room.  Please note: Where hotels feature an outdoor swimming pool, this will be open summer months, weather permitting. Please note the use of air-conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to mid-September), depending on the temperature.

UnaHotels MH Matera -


This contemporary hotel is located in the quiet Borgo Venusio area, a short coach or bus ride from the centre of Matera, with its intricate cave dwelling system only accessible on foot. The hotel is set in landscaped gardens with views over the surrounding countryside and features an indoor pool, a relaxing spa (local charges may apply) as well as an outdoor pool (generally open between June and September, weather permitting), in addition to comfortable patio and lounge areas.    Please note the use of air-conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to mid-September), depending on the temperature.

4* Hotel Degli Aranci - Vieste -


The Hotel Degli Aranci has been the lifelong project of its owners; it boasts a homely atmosphere thanks to the genuine warmth of its staff. The rooms are simply furnished and air conditioned. There is free use of the hotel’s private beach plus two sunbeds and an umbrella (June to September) per room. The Palace Hotel has been converted from a 15th-century noble’s house into a classic town-centre hotel. All rooms are traditionally decorated and air-conditioned. There is a bar and restaurant, plus again free use of the private beach with two sunbeds and an umbrella (June to September) per room.   Please note the use of air-conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to mid-September), depending on the temperature.

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BOOK WITH CONFIDENCE: This holiday is sold and operated by Riviera Travel (ABTA V4744, ATOL 3430). These ABTA and ATOL bonds mean that, when you book a Riviera Travel holiday, you can be 100% sure that your money is safe.

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