For people that don't like large groups and extensive coach touring but don't want to do an independent holiday, Back-Roads Touring Co’s small group regional tours may be just the answer. With a maximum of 18-20 people, the specialised local itineraries give travellers the best of both worlds.
You still have a driver to do all the navigating, cope with foreign road rules, provide door to door service and worry about parking, and your guide is an expert in the history, able to choose restaurants and knows all the things to see and do. Plus, they can personalise the day’s itinerary to match the needs of the group (within reason). Your guide can introduce you to the destination, show you hidden gems and are there to make sure itineraries run smoothly. They know all about the hidden secret areas plus many things only known to locals.
We were lucky enough to experience the Back-Roads Slow Food Tour of Puglia and everything about the trip was fabulous. Our guide had a degree in archaeology and had an abundant knowledge of the area we travelled in, from the history to local knowledge, such as the best place to buy local specialties. By the end of the week, she knew most of our interests, so she was able to highlight things that appealed to the members of the group.
All Back-Roads accommodation is hand-picked with plenty of character, outstanding locations and never a large hotel with group tour buses. Often you stay in country inns or even a chateau – our accommodation reflected the local area and was often unique.
Being a culinary tour, we got to taste lots of regional foods which were a product of the places we visited. We got to view cheese making and did a cheese tasting - Puglia has so many varieties of cheese - wine tasting, olive oil tasting, and pasta making. The trip also involved unscheduled visits to local bakeries to try things like the towns bread rolls or desserts that can only be found in a certain place. Each day often involved an authentic local experience and we met the people that worked in the facilities we visited who were eager to introduce us to their produce and allow us to try different foods and ask questions.
Our food intake was balanced out with lots of walking as we explored the charming towns of Matera (the site of many medieval movies), Alberobella (with the many cone roofed “trulli” buildings), pretty Ostuni (one of the white villages of the region), the university town of Lecce, the Italian town of Gallipoli (not to be confused with the one in Turkey), Otranto (with its lovely seascapes and cobblestone streets), the caves at Martina Franca and local churches and village squares of Nardo, Bari and Trani. Puglia really is Italy’s best kept secret. The attractions are close together so there was not much travelling from place to place, but every destination was quite different from the last and all well worth a visit.
So many people head to Tuscany or the Amalfi Coast when in Italy, but the Region of Puglia is an excellent alternative, there are not as many tourists and it is a wonderful area to explore and enjoy. So, if you are after scenic roads, beautiful coastlines, winding country passes and a journey that is part of the adventure as well as the destination, then Puglia and Back-Roads Touring Co are the perfect holiday choice!