Puglia & Matera - From Mediaeval to Baroque art and the picturesque scenery of the Salento coast

Prices from £2,525


15 Sep 2020 - 21 Sep 2020
Duration: 6 nights
Ref: 20PUGI
With: Anthony Majanlahti


Prices from £2,525
Single Supplement: £340
Deposit: £200

Book now

Availability: In stock

From: £2,665.00

To: £5,050.00

Your Total Price: £0.00

* Required Fields

Your Total Price: £0.00

Secure your holiday with a
deposit today?

OR CALL TO BOOK: 01280 820521


The south of Italy is still largely, and unjustly, unknown. Come with us as we explore the sun-drenched region of Puglia, from Trani south into the Salento, the tip of the heel of the Italian boot, a land rich in history, full of treasures of art and architecture. Our journey will, in some senses, have a companion: Frederick II, king of Sicily and southern Italy as well as Holy Roman Emperor (1194-1250), who built many of the spectacular sites we will visit. Our first base will be Trani, where Frederick built the city's castle and prayed in its magnificent cathedral. From there we will make a visit to see Frederick's most magnificent castle and residence, Castel del Monte, one of the jewels of the 13th century. Our path next takes us out of Puglia and into neighbouring Basilicata, across the “murgia” or plain to Matera, one of the oldest cities in the western world, with continuous human habitation from the late Paleolithic era onward, with its fascinating “Sassi” or dwellings cut out of the rock of the ravine that defines one of the city's edges. Then we make a visit to Bari, capital of Puglia, with another castle built by Frederick, to pay our respects to St Nicholas in his great basilica before moving south to Lecce, our second base of exploration. We will begin with Lecce itself, with its astonishing Baroque decoration, but the Salento area has more to show us, from Otranto with its 12th century mosaic floor and its streets running down the hill to the sea, to the landscape of the interior, where Frederick II went hawking, and Gallipoli where we will walk along the edge of the Ionian Sea. Our visit ends with a trip to the Puglian town of Martina Franca with its characteristic trulli or conical domed buildings, and all through our journey we will be sampling the variety of food and wine that come from this most extraordinary and unexpected region.


"Our excursion through Puglia, with a short incursion into Basilicata, is really a trip into the distant past, into the world of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (1220-1245), who passed much of his life in this beautiful region, where he built Italy's most beautiful castle, Castel del Monte near Andria. Our journey will follow in his footsteps and on the way we will discover an extraordinary world of art and culture, food and wine."

Anthony Majanlahti is a historian and writer specialising in Rome and other Italian subjects. He has taught for the University of Toronto, the Università di Roma "Sapienza", and various American universities, as well as publishing three books, the first one, The Families who Made Rome, a bestseller in Canada and translated into Italian and Portuguese. He is currently writing a single-volume history of the city of Rome for the Oxford University Press. He has reported on papal elections for National Public Radio and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and has participated in several documentaries.

DAY 1:

Morning flight from London Heathrow to Brindisi. Drive to Bitonto to visit one of the most striking cathedrals in the region modelled on the basilica of Saint Nicholas of Bari; its crypt dates from the pre-Romanesque period. Continue to Trani where the first of three nights will be spent.

DAY 2:

Trani is famous for its cathedral perched on the tip of a promontory, a jewel of the Pugliese/Romanesque style and for the dazzling whiteness of its historical centre, which stands out against the deep blue of the sea. The 12th century church of Ognissanti is a former Templar church that is still intact. Drive to Andria for lunch at an organic farm. Continue to Castel del Monte to visit Frederick II’s unique octagonal fortress from the 12th century situated on a hill top.

DAY 3:

A day excursion to Matera, the European Capital of Culture for 2019 and a UNESCO site since 1993. Walk through the centre and “I Sassi” to visit the Romanesque Cathedral and the Crypt of the Original Sin, located in a rocky cavern on the edge of a ravine, painted inside with scenes from the Old and New Testaments, dating from the 9th century.

DAY 4:

Bari is the principal city of Puglia and its capital. The old mediaeval city is situated on a walled peninsula stretching out into the sea. The Basilica of Saint Nicholas is the first and most impressive Romanesque basilica of Puglia. Inside, the Cathedra and the Ciborium of Saint Eustace are superb works of mediaeval sculpture dating from the 11th century. Continue to Lecce where the last three nights will be spent.

DAY 5:

Lecce lies in the easternmost part of the “heel of Italy” and it is renowned for its joyous and exuberant interpretation of the Baroque and Rococo styles, enhanced by the creamy-coloured stone of the facades of both churches and palazzi. The Cathedral and the Church of Santa Croce are the finest examples of the “Barocco Leccese”. In the main square of the city lie the remains of a Roman theatre.

DAY 6:

Day excursion into the heart of the Salentine Peninsula, a ‘natural bridge’ stretching towards the East, where various populations settled over the course of its history. The Byzantines, Normans and Aragonese have all left traces in the architecture, food and languages, which are still perceptible today. Otranto is the easternmost town in Italy. Enclosed within its Aragonese walls, it has a Norman cathedral with a remarkable 12th century mosaic floor. Galatina is a charming agricultural centre, where the church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria is decorated inside with 15th century frescoes of the school of Giotto. Continue to Gallipoli on the Ionian coast of the Peninsula.

DAY 7:

This morning we visit Martina Franca, set in the Valle d’Itria, famous for its white conical constructions called “Trulli”. The façade of the church of Saint Martin has a splendid bas-relief of the saint. We then continue to Brindisi airport for our mid-afternoon Alitalia flight to London Heathrow via Rome Fiumicino.


Twin/double share: £2525 per person
Double room for sole use supplement: £340
Price of the tour without flights: £2325 per person
Deposit: £300 per person


  • Flights with British Airways from London Heathrow to Brindisi and return with Alitalia from Brindisi via Rome Fiumicino to London Heathrow
  • Private coach transfers and excursions
  • Three nights’ bed and breakfast in the 4* Hotel San Paolo al Convento in Trani and three nights’ bed and breakfast in the 4* plus Hotel Patria in Lecce
  • Three dinners and three lunches
  • Guided visits to monuments and museums listed in the programme
  • Services of the lecturer and a tour manager
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes, and gratuities for coach drivers and waiters

Hotel San Paolo al Convento, Trani

The rooms of the historic Hotel San Paolo at the Convent of Trani have been completely restored respecting the original layout of the monastery from which it stands. The stay here is a unique experience thanks to the scenery that this hotel is able to offer: on one side the deep blue sea, on the other the historic cathedral and the green of the belvedere gardens. Rooms are fully equipped with air conditioning, TV, safe, Wi-Fi, mini fridge and hairdryer.

The Patria Palace Hotel, Lecce

The Patria Palace Hotel offers a unique stay in the most spectacular location in Lecce, in front of Santa Croce Church. Nestled between palaces, squares, churches, alleys but also faces, sounds and tastes, it is the ideal choice to discover the capital of Baroque, beautiful and elegant, sumptuous and charming. Rooms are fully equipped and feature tea and coffee making facilities and a TV.