We are extremely excited to be offering a new six-day bicycle adventure in Puglia, May 2-7 next year.
Puglia (pronounced without the “g”) is the heel of the boot of Italy. Although it is considered southern Italy, you can tell from the map on the left it is actually southeast Italy, bordered on the east by the Adriatic Sea and on the south by the Ionian Sea, an arm of the Mediterranean.
It is this proximity to the Mediterranean that gives Puglia a very different feel from northern Italy or from the beloved provinces of Tuscany and Umbria where we have been running biking and hiking tours for years.
Puglia is sunny, with frequent blue skies and few clouds. It is maritime, with big influences from the Adriatic Sea where we spend one night on our tour. It feels more like Greece than Italy at times, with whitewashed houses and acre after acre of olive trees, each field lined with stones. And it is full of history, ranging from small medieval streets in the towns we visit to Roman and pre-Roman ruins in the area. Puglia can be magical.
But I must be honest and admit the first two days I was in Puglia, I was not sure it would work for a Zephyr tour. We know other companies run tours there but we have also found our criteria for “small side roads” seems to be stricter than that of our competitors, perhaps due to our inline skating roots where dealing with cars is not only no fun, it is not safe. We love quiet roads and for two days in Puglia last month, I was not finding them.
Part of the difficulty was there are no better maps than the large 1:200,000 maps of the entire province of Puglia. No matter how hard I looked, I could not find the 1:40,000 scale we have used to set up tours in Tuscany, Provence, and The Netherlands. As Devon and I drove on the smallest roads the map listed, I was unhappy with the traffic and, just as much, with the density of houses along the roads.
It was then we found Vito, a local guy who just started running his own mountain biking day tours in the area. Vito doesn’t speak much English but we hired him to take us on a bike ride. In a mixture of Spanish, Italian, and English it took awhile (and a few kilometers) to convince Vito we were really only interested in routes on pavement and we wanted the smallest, most scenic roads possible. Once he understood his charge, Vito came through with flying results.
There ARE fantastic roads in Puglia, it is just that the only people using them live in the local village. As Vito said several times, “my friends where I live in Cisternino have never been on this road”, talking about a road only a few kilometers from his home town.
Once we biked several days with Vito, everything changed. The long stretches of empty road bordered only by groves of olive trees, the quaint small villages where nothing was moving at mid-day, and the small, whitewashed “trulli” huts dotting the landscape were all amazing when seen from the seat of a bicycle. There are rolling hills but nothing dramatic, so this is a good tour for all ability levels as well.
If you have already visited Italy but never been to the southern part of the country, you’ll fall in love with Puglia. Come join us on our May 2-7 Puglia Biking Adventure.