The heel of Italy: Puglia, Italy March 2019

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Morningstar’s March 2019 nine-day tour  to a magical place, where…

you will have a private cooking class with a Michelin starred chef, bike through

Puglia’s wine country and slumber in luxury hotels that are converted 500 year

old fortress farms.

March 23 – April 1, 2019

9 days/nights from $1,699

Puglia (poo lee ah)…where:

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Verdant blue waves of crystal blue waters lap onto Aegean shores.

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And deep green Roman – Empire olive trees still thrive and produce.

locorotondo pano s

Ancient hilltop-towns soar above

trulli vinyard s

 vineyards full of  Negroamaro grapes

truli grp flowers s

mingled with 500 year old trullis, hobbit-like houses existing only here.

deb memo sea 2 s

A friendly people with perpetual smiling faces

monopoly boats 2 s

because they know they live in one of the most beautiful regions in all of Italy.

truli flowers s

A land so rich in colors,

lecce col s


gravina aquaduct shistory

ostuni pizza s

and food

sea bike s

it does not appear to be even possible. 

THIS is Puglia (pronounced ‘poo lee ah”)

We will be offering YOU an opportunity to join Skiman and Deb in one of their favorite places in Italy for a 9-day tour.  Check out what is included. It is an  outstanding travel value. Added bonus: Puglia is small and we will never have a drive longer than one hour during the entire 9 days!

 INCLUDED for $1,699*

Click for Puglia  logistics page.

We highly recommend you protect your trip a Trip Insurance policy.  CLICK for details.

9 NIGHTS in 4-star hotels with daily breakfast. 6 nights are in 500 year old Masserias (old farm fortresses) that have been converted into luxury modern hotels. The last two nights are at a 4-star hotel right on an epic sea shore!

Two 4-course dinners at our Masseria’s Michelin restaurants.

Private Italian cooking class at a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Culinary walking dinner tour of Alta Mira’s top local restaurants.

2 half-day-guided bike tours in the countryside. Your choice of regular or electric-assisted bike. The bike tour that ends in Locorotondo has a bonus wine tasting and a paired lunch of local delicacies.  

-Guided walking tours of Alta Mira, Gravina, Matera, Lecce, White City (Ostuni) and Alberobelo 

Cave tour to one of the most beautiful caverns in the world

-A guided tour of a five-centuries-old Masseria that has tombs that date back to 700 B.C.

Olive oil tasting at Roman-era farm amidst 2500 year old trees.  

-Excursion to seaside Roman ruin site, Egnatia.  

ALL ground transportation on our own private chartered bus

-Our luxury Masseria hotels are truly stunning. You can UPGRADE to various levels of suites for an extra cost. You can create your own experience in the Masserias as per your taste and budget.

-As with every one of our tours, Skiman and Deb will be right there with everyone enjoying, eating, and embibing with you all. This is the reason we do this business…Exploring marvelous places with friends old and new… as good as it gets for us!

Note: For those doing the ski week in Trois Vallee who are joining the Puglia trip, you will have to purchase a one-way air ticket on March 23 from Geneva to Bari, Italy.  See the Puglia logistics page for all the details. 

See below for the many exciting details of this Puglia journey.  Take the time to read the descriptions of the itinerary  and BE SURE look at the numerous  linked photo galleries. If you do, you will understand our enthusiasm for this region of the boot!

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: We have very limited space for this exclusive tour.  For the two stays at the 4-star Masseria hotels, there are several upgrade room choices and limited base-level rooms available. Rooms assigned on first-come/ first-served basis. Once the base rooms are gone, it will be necessary to upgrade to another room class at additional cost. The upgrade rooms are assigned on a first-come / first-served basis. It is critical to read the Puglia Logistics page carefully to understand all of these options.

Click for Puglia  logistics page.

For all getting to/fm Bari airport details, UPGRADED room options and costs,                 A breath of fresh air..something completely unexpected… a balm for the spirit…a respite from the crowds …a break from the  touristic… a rabbit hole which transports you back 30 years, to a time of more civility and less craziness.  If any of this sounds pleasing to you, then here’s a tip from Skiman and Deb: Puglia, Italy. Puglia (pronounced ‘poo lee ah”) is the region right above  the boot heal of Italy, the Achilles tendon. And as with any tendon, Puglia connects. For those fortunate few who visit, it connects to simpler times and a natural landscape that is increasingly difficult to find.  No hype, no hordes of tourists… just a landscape full of natural wonders and magnificent history. If you want to experience how Italy USED to be, consider this tour. Skiman and Deb spent two weeks there after our Italy ski weeks last March, and it was superb. We experienced so many wonders, it was difficult to distill it all down to a nine day program.  But we believe we have put together something  that is the best of what we experienced. We guarantee this: You come to Puglia with us and you will be enchanted, mesmerized, and refreshed. It will be unlike any journey you have ever taken.

 How does this tour work?

Our Puglia tour can be done as a post-ski-week trip or for those not skiing with us in France the week prior to Puglia, it can be done as a stand-alone trip. If you are doing this as a post-ski week, you will fly from Geneva to Bari, Italy, the starting point of our Puglia adventure. The airfare is not included in the tour price. We can book it for you.  It will cost @ $150 -$200  for the airfare to Bari, the starting point of our Puglia tour. For those doing this tour as a stand-alone tour and are not doing our ski week prior, you fly  to Bari from your home and meet us there by the night of March 23. Either way, there is no air component included in the package.

For all UPGRADE room options and costs, deposit/cancellation details,

Click  for Puglia Logistics Page.

Day one March 23, 2019   Bari ariival whenever and take a taxi to our hotel.   You will check into HI Hotel in Bari (HI HOTEL BARI , Via about 10 minutes from the airport (taxi cost is minimal, not included).  This hotel is a 4-star property with a full restaurant on premises. 

Hi Hotel Bari
Adress:  Via Don Guanella 15/c 
Tel 0039 0805026815

Day two and three, March 24 – 25:  We are on our way! Our private charter bus and driver will pick us up and take us to our two-night stay at what will probably be your first Masseria experience!  Masserias were farm/fortresses from 500 years ago. Olive oil was produced in caves under the properties. The oil was like gold and they had to have

Deb and Orazio touring the gorgeous stone hall.

Deb and Orazio touring Masseria I Luoghi di Pitti. 

  defensive fortress-like estates to ward off pirate attacks.  On our scout trip our first stay was at Masseria I Luoghi di Pitti a short distance from Alta Mira. We have never seen a restored masseria before, and we were stunned by whatwe saw. A 500 year old ruin had been transformed into a 4-star luxury hotel with some of the most luxurious rooms we have ever stayed in. CLICK for photo gallery of Masseria I Luoghi di Pitti. It is one of the most amazing properties you will ever see. The dining room / kitchen is excellent and the food is exquisite. You will be enjoying a 4-course dinner on the first night at the property, included in the package. The Masseria I Luoghi di Pitti is an UPGRADE property, so there is a small surcharge to have your room here. Best of all: we will be the ONLY people in the Masseria…all ours!  If you prefer, we  offer another beautiful hotel, Hotel Fuori Le Mura ( Regardless of where you stay, everyone will be together for the first night Masseria I Luoghi di Pitti dinner.


This is what Masseria San Giovanni looked like 12 years ago!

This is what I Luoghi di Pitti looked like 12 years ago!i

 Activities day one and two around Alta Mira:

Day 2, March 24, we will go to a nearby ancient town of Gravina for a walking tour of this unique and very historic village. We will visit underground olive oil and wine making facilities that date back many centuries. We will also visit some Roman ruins as well.  Click for Gravina photo gallery. There will be free time to wander and have lunch. We will return to our Masserieas with plenty of time to relax before our 4-course dinner.

Gravina is in a spectacular setting, rich in history above and below the ground. We will tour both.

Gravina is in a spectacular setting, rich in history above and below the ground. We will tour both. 

Day 3, March 25, get ready to be stunned. After some leisure time to relax  this morning, we will travel to the hilltop village of Matera. It is just now being discovered by folks, due in large part to the fact that The Passion of Christ and the new Ben Hur were filmed here. The village is made even more amazing by the existence of 2,000 plus year old cave homes existent under the modern city. We will do a tour of the village and the cave homes. You will have ample free time to explore on your own and do a nice lunch in Matera. Click for photo gallery.  After Matera, we will travel a short bit to Alta Mira. Our new dear friend and head waiter at the Masseria I Luoghi di Pitti is organizing a walking dinner tour of his home town! We will visit numerous restaurants in Alta Mira and eat our way across town. Deb and Skiman have done several of these dinner tours in other cities and they are always fantastic.

Deb sampling some delicious specialties in a Matera cave house. So fun!

Deb sampling some delicious specialties in a Matera cave house. So fun!

Day 4, March 26: We leave Alta Mira in the morning and head to Alberobello, the trulli capitol of the world. Our one hour drive will take us through stunning countryside. This town has more trullis per square foot than anywhere in the world. We will do a guided short walking tour followed

Alberobello is the trulli capitol of the world!

Alberobello is the trulli capitol of the world! 

by some free time to wander and shop on your own. Click for photo gallery of Alberobello. We then drive 20 minutes to Martina Franca, another hilltop village. The back alleys and streets are just made for wondering, and you will have ample time on your own to do just that. Have a lunch in the piazza in front of the beautiful old church. Just  get lost in this amazing old village. Click for photos of our visit to Martina Franca. After this visit, we will head on to our next Masseria where we will be staying four nights. You will be in for a treat with your stay at Masseria Cervarolo. Located in a pastoral country setting and only 10 minutes from Ostuni (The White City), this hotel will captivte you. As with Masseria San Giovanni, this property is a hundreds-year-old farm/fortress that has been beautifully restored. It even has some rooms you can stay in that are old restored trullis!  Replete with a beautiful pool area and a Micheline restaurant, set in a beautiful quiet country landscape, Masseria Cervarolo will delight you.  It has a wonderful full-service spa on the premises. We  chose to stay her for four nights because it is perfectly located and within short driving distnces of many of the sites we will visit. And it is a spectacular place!

Four nights in an historic paradise is what you will experience on our tour. Masseria Cerverola is spectacular on every level.

Four nights in an historic paradise is what you will experience on our tour. Masseria Cerverola is spectacular on every level. 

On our first night at Masseria Cerverola, you will have a double treat in store.  First,  everyone can participate in a fun Italian cooking class in the late afternoon at 4:30pm! Learn some of the secrets of the local cuisine.  Then we will all enjoy a 4 course dinner of the local cuisine (7:30 PM). Skiman and Deb ate there twice. It was one of the best meals we had on our entire 6 week stay in Italy.  The Michelin Restaurant right on the property will offer you a meal to remember, and this first night dinner is  incuded in your package..As with Masseria San Giovanni, we will be the ONLY people in the Masseria…all ours!  Click for photo gallery of Masseria Cervarolo.

Day 5, March 27 will  possibly be your favorite day of the entire tour. We will drive a short distance to the start of our half-day-long bike ride along an easy pathway that winds through vineyards, olive trees, trullis, and panoramas you will never forget. Skiman and Deb did this ride with our new friend and guide, Memo, on our scout mission. We both declared it was our favorite day of our two week trip. The path is mostly level and smooth. It is not technical at all. We will provide all the gear for the ride AND you even have an option of using an electric bike, which means that ANYONE can do this ride!  At the end of the ride, we will arrive in the hilltop town of Locorotondo. It is so fun to ride a bike through the ancient narrow streets to the top of the village. There we will enjoy a 2 hour wine tasting lunch at a restaurant with great panoramic views of the valley we will have just rode through. We will return to Masseria Cervarolo, where you can relax and enjoy another dinner at the Cervarolo. *note: This dinner has been pre-paid by Skiman. Everyone gives him 30 Euros for this second 4-course dinner.   Click for photo gallery of bike ride day.

OUr day ride to hilltop Locorotondo is full of trullis, vineyards, olive groves, and natural beauty. Along a smooth path, anyone can do this ride.

Our day ride to hilltop Locorotondo is full of trullis, vineyards, olive groves, and natural beauty. Along a smooth path, anyone can do this ride. 

Day 6, March 28: This morning we will leave our Masseria and drive a short distance towards Ostuni. We will stop to do a short few hour guided bike ride in the Parco della Dune Costiere.  Deb and Skiman did not do this ride, but discovered this gorgeous regional park near the sea on our way back from Ostuni. We are so excited to do it with you! The paths pass through the Ostuni countryside with no car traffic. Ancient stone walls, trullis, masseria ruins and defensive towers along the coast. It will be an awesome way to start our day.  After our ride we will proceed a short way 

Lots of narrow places to explore in Ostuni.... very fun. Go get lost !

Lots of narrow places to explore in Ostuni…. very fun. Go get lost ! 

to  Ostuni, the White City. Rising above the valley on a hilltop and surrounded by a large defensive wall, it is a gleaming white village with meandering narrow streets. We will get you there and let you go to wonder on your own for half a day, with ample time for strolling, shopping, and lunch. Click for Ostuni photo gallery. We will then return to our Masseria for some relaxation. For dinner, there will be the option to catch a ride to Ciglie Messapica, a nearby village. This little gem is off every tourist radar map and we discovered it by accident. It is the coolest place to see at night, with old narrow streets and ally ways illuminated. You will have the evening to have a stroll and find one of many restaurants for dinner.  Click for Ciglie photo gallery. Of course, if you prefer to stay at your Masseria and have dinner there, that is an option.

Day 7, March 29: We will travel about 1 hour in our charter bus to visit one of the best-preserved baroque cities in the world: Lecce. This old walled city is filled with baroque architecture unrivaled. We will have a two hour walking tour.  It is truly a wonderful place to visit and you will have ample free time to wander around, shop, and have  lunch. Click for Lecce photo gallery. After Lecce, on our way back to our Masseria Cervarola, we will stop for a visit at a very unique place: Masseria Brancati. In the same family for seven generations, we will have a short tour of the olive grove that hosts tress planted in the first century by the Romans.  There is one tree that is 2,500 years old and is still producing. We will have an olive oil tasting after our walk through the groves.  We will be back at ouir Masseria Cerverola in time for some relaxation around the pool or a walk in the countryside. Dinner that evening is up to you.

Roman Empire theater remains in heart of Lecce.

Roman Empire theater remains in heart of Lecce.

 You can dine at the Michelin restaurant on the property or you can catch a cab to one of several nearby villages for a dining exploration of your own. 

Day 8, March 30: We will leave the lovely Masseria Cervarolo after four marvelous nights, but not to worry… We are moving on to more delights, heading for the sea coast. On the way to our lodging for the last two nights in Puglia, we will have a tour of a site that will blow you away: Masseria  Spina.  This Masseria is old, but it sits on top of things that are truly ancient! There are graves carved in the stone that date back to the second century. We will explore the caves where they made olive oil and wine over 600 years ago. The preservation of these artifacts is stunning. At the end of our tour, we will taste more olive oil… why not! Click for photo gallery of Masseria Spina. 

One of the most spectacular settings for a restaurant, the Cave at Pulignano is a marvel.

One of the most spectacular settings for a restaurant, the Cave at Pulignano is a marvel.

After our Spina visit, yet another stunning treat: Polignano a Mare.  Dangling over a high cliff overlooking the sea, this village has panoramic views frames by very old buldings. Home to the guy who wrote  and sang “Volare” (there is a statue of him there) Polignano is there for you to explore on your own.  Have a lunch, shop… do whatever you want to. If you want to come back at night for a dinner in one of the most famous restaurants in Europe, you can do that. There are caves below the village and above the sea that have been transformed into an amazing restaurant. We dined there and it was lovely. It is not inexpensive, but if you want to splurge, go for it!  Click for Pulignano a Mare and nearby coastal region photo gallery. After our Polignano visit, we will carry on a few more miles to the seaside village of  Savelletri. Our Hotel  La Sorgente could NOT be any closer to the sea!  It literally sits a few meters from the shore!  The village looks to be charming as does the hotel, Skiman and Deb did not stay in this hotel or village on our scouting mission, so we look forward to discovering the hotel and  village together with you. You will have the afternoon and evening to enjoy the seaside hotel and village. Click for La Sorgente and Savelletri photo gallery.

eb takes a break on a bike ride with the breathtaking Pulignano a Mare in the background.

Deb takes a break on a bike ride with the breathtaking Pulignano a Mare in the background.

Day 9, March 31  After a seaside breakfast at our hotel in Savelletri,  we will do a short drive to Castellana Grotte (cave). This cave houses what many consider to be the most beautiful underground room in the world: The White Room. This is such a fabulous adventure. We will do a guided  along easy well-lite trails for about 45 minutes, 

Our hotel for our last two nights is literally right on the sea!

Our hotel for our last two nights is literally right on the sea!

viewing spectacular cave formations along the way. The White Room is the highlight of this trek and is well worth the effort. Filled with brilliant white stalactites and stalagmites, it is a sight to behold. Click for photo gallery of Castellana Cave.

monopoly man


After our cave visit, we will head to the charming harbor town of Monopoli. This was one of our favorite spots on our scout trip. Located on a picturesque historic harbor, Monopoli is small enough to thoroughly explore on foot in a few hours, an that is exactly what you can do. You will have ample time to check out this fun little village and have a lunch on your own. Our favorite time of day in Monopoli is night time. The streets and piazzas are all illuminated in light and are just beautiful to see and photograph. You could easily come back and visit again in the night as it is a short taxi ride from our hotel.  Click for Monopoli photo gallery.


Skiman's favorite Monopoli  photo. He passed Go and got $200 for this one!

Skiman’s favorite Monopoli photo. He passed Go and got $200 for this one!

After our Monopoli visit, we will drive 15 minutes to the historical site of Egnazia. This Roman Empire ruin is awesome to wander around it, not only for its historical interest but also for its panoramic beauty. It is one of the

A part of the ancient Appian Way. This Roman highway started in Rome and came all the way down into Puglia. Huge sections of it still exist to this day.

A part of the ancient Appian Way. This Roman highway started in Rome and came all the way down into Puglia. Huge sections of it still exist to this day.

few Roman ruins right on the sea shore. We will have a guided tour led by a local expert followed by a visit to a brand new museum on site. An ancient Roman Empire ruin right on the sea: what better way to end our epic Puglia tour?!  Click for Egnazia photo gallery.

Our last night will be on the sea at our hotel in Savelletri. Hopefully full of lifelong memories of our Puglia journey, we will depart for the Bari airport on the morning of April 1. Some of you may be flying back to the U.S. on flights that originate in Bari. Others will  have to return to Geneva to pick up ski gear that was checked in airport lockers at the end of the ski week and the start of the Puglia tour. Your return flights to the States may not be possible until April 2, which will necessitate a hotel stay in Geneva for the night of April 1. This hotel stay is not included in the package and is your responsibility. We will offer a hotel at a decent rate for those in this situation.  Each person’s scenario  will be different. We will have everyone at the Bari airport on the Morning of April 1  at a time that accommodates the majority of the group. IF you have a flight leaving Bari on April 1 that necessitates a very early airport arrival time, you will have to arrange your own cab ride to the airport and the expense is your responsibility. 


 For all getting to/from Bari airport details, UPGRADED room options and costs, deposit/cancellation details, Click  for  Logistics Page.