Puglia, Italy – 2013

Italy is a favorite … pretty much everybody’s been-there, done-that. But there’s a relatively undiscovered region that was the target destination for WOW’s first foray to Europe. The “heel” of Italy’s boot, Puglia is charming, beautiful and compelling. The pace is slower. It’s like Italy used to be before every American tourist and college student discovered it. No Starbucks. No gypsies. No styrofoam gelato containers. No crowds.

Instead, we explored cities with some of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Italy, mysterious caves and monuments and a landscape dotted with ancient Greek and Neolithic archaeological sites. Plus, centuries-old olive trees and miles of sandy beaches.  . . . aaaaahhhhhhh Italy!

Highlights:

Sorrento

  • We started in Sorrento – easily reached from the gateway airports of Rome or Naples, which was a great base for visits to Amalfi, the island of Capri and Pompeii
  • We made (and devoured) pizza in the city where it was invented (Naples), and followed that up with limoncello gelato

Matera

  • Remote, little-known Matera is one of the most interesting and unusual destinations in Italy, but it’s directly on the route from Sorrento to Puglia. Matter is a UNESCO world-heritage site, where we enjoyed lunch in a “Sassi” cave restaurant, originating from a prehistoric (troglodyte) settlement of 9,000 years ago

Itria Valley

  • We enjoyed exclusive occupancy of uber-chic Cimino Masseria, an old farmhouse
  • Daily excursions took us through the valley to see the rural landscape, iconic “trulli” houses, labyrinth of whitewashed village streets in Cisternino, Alberobello and Ostuni
  • We took a cooking lesson with Mama Julia, making the ear-shaped Orecchiette pasta that is iconic in Puglia
  • We did an olive oil tasting, learning how to “slurp” and aerate the oil like the experts

Lecce

  • We stayed two nights at the 5-star Risorgimento Resort, in the heart of this pedestrian-friendly Baroque city
  • We visited a family-owned firm, where we harvested ripe olives in a grove of 800-year-old olive trees and had a picnic with an unexpected visitor – the Mayor of the town of Squinzano and his entourage (just like out of a movie set!)
  • We did a tasting of Primitivo wines
  • A “pillow gift” was a bottle of freshly-pressed olive oil – from the fruit of our labors – with a WOW! Travel Club label

What our WOWees have to say:

Les & TeresaLes & Teresa Whitney:
“Marilyn, leave it to you to find something new and wonderful in Italy. We’ve been all over that country (one of our favorites), but the experience we enjoyed in Puglia and Matera was out-of-this-world . . . just like you promised! But a picnic on a beautiful sunny day in the middle of an olive orchard with the Mayor and his entourage was definitely a WOW experience!! You truly are the ‘creative queen.'”
Kathleen Barry:
“You showed us the best of southern Italy: ancient olive orchards and vineyards, amazing trulli houses and cave dwellings, the uncrowded streets of Lecce … all a big ‘wow’!  Making orecchiete with Mama Julia in her farmhouse kitchen and harvesting olives which were then pressed and bottled just for us – unforgettable!”