Explore Matera, the Lucan Dolomites and Polignano a Mare on this Southern Italian Trip
The editors of Travel + Leisure have teamed up with Black Tomato—a company known for securing insider experiences—on a series of one-of-a-kind journeys around the globe. Plus: the must-see experiences and sites in each destination that are so unique we’ve designated them our new wonders of the world.
Matera is a 2019 European Capital of Culture. On this trip, you’ll see the vast collection of caves and houses carved into the hillsides of our New World Wonder, Sassi di Matera. You’ll also visit the Lucan Dolomites, a mountain range dotted with medieval villages, and stay outside Fasano at Masseria Torre Maizza, a Rocco Forte Hotel, set in a 16th-century watchtower and church surrounded by olive groves. Plus: At a farm in Bari, help produce caciocavallo podolico, a semi-hard cheese that’s made using milk from the Podolica cow, native to southern Italy.
Read the full trip outline below, and when you're ready to speak to an expert, get in touch with our luxury travel partner, Black Tomato.
Day 1: Matera
Arrive in Bari and check-into your hotel, the Aquatio Cave Luxury Hotel & Spa in Matera. Opened in 2018, the property is home to 35 rooms that are carved into the side of a cliff and offers one of the most unique hotel experiences in Italy. Of special note is the spa, which includes Turkish baths and a heated swimming pool that’s embedded in natural rock.
Day 2: Matera
Today, you’ll take a guided walking tour of the Sassi di Matera. Made of houses stacked one on top of another and linked by tiny, narrow streets and wide stairways, Matera has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1993. During the tour, you’ll meet with a local artisan who creates objects in papier-mâché—you’ll get to bring one home as your own personalized gift.
Day 3: Matera
Get an early start this morning and set off to visit a local farm that produces the regional specialty, caciocavallo podolico, a semi-hard, pear-shaped, pasta filata (pulled curd) cheese. It’s made using milk from the native podolica cow breed. After the tour, partake in a cheese tasting before visiting the abandoned, medieval ghost town of Craco. The settlement occupies a rock formation above the surrounding hills, with architecture that’s neatly built into the landscape. Perched strategically on top of a 1,300 ft-high cliff, it overlooks the arid countryside of southern Italy and provides panoramic views and a mysterious atmosphere.
Day 4: Castelmezzano, Pietrapertosa
Today, take a short drive that will bring you to the imposing Lucan Dolomites. It stands out as giants from the sea, and reaches the small village of Castelmezzano, one of Italy’s most beautiful and charming villages with a typically medieval urban structure. Then move on to the village Pietrapertosa where, weather and season permitting, you can try the “Flight of the Angel.” It’s a steel cable suspended at an altitude of 2,624 feet between the peaks of two villages. The experience allows you to feel as if you’re flying through the air. In Pietrapertosa, stop at one of the local restaurants that seem suspended over the breathtaking valley and landscape.
Day 5: Cisternino, Alberobello, Savelletri di Fasano
Depart for Cisternino to visit a family-run farm that produces the typical Capocollo of Martina Franca, a traditional pork coldcut. Take a guided tour with a local producer (along with your guide) to learn about the process before ending with a Capocollo tasting. In the afternoon, continue to Alberobello, declared a World Heritage Site in 1996. The buildings here are mostly trulli, the white dry-stone huts that are topped with a conical roof. They were created as field shelters and storehouses and are still in use today. Walk through the winding alleys to reach Trullo Sovrano, the largest one, which spans two stories.
Your hotel for this part of the journey is the recently renovated Masseria Torre Maizza. White-washed and rustic exteriors mix with cool, contemporary interiors and it’s all surrounded by ancient olive groves and the rolling Apulian countryside. It was once an 18th-century watch-tower and church, and its fortified walls and vaulted ceilings were used as a refuge by pilgrims and monks. Today, they continue their sanctuary-like protection, albeit for those seeking a sunnier type of seclusion. The bougainvillea-draped pool area, a cookery school and beach club complete the picture.
Day 6: Valle d’Itria
Rise early this morning and arrive at the heart of the Valle d’Itria for a private yoga session among the ancient olive trees. It’s a relaxing prelude to an afternoon spent horseback riding (instructor included) which will shed new light on this natural oasis, an enchanted world of the Apulian countryside. Enjoy a picnic lunch before heading back to Masseria Torre Maizza for an afternoon at leisure.
Day 7: Polignano a Mare
After a morning poolside or partaking in Masseria’s epic breakfast spread, discover the striking cliff-top town of Polignano a Mare, renowned for its panoramic views. You can take a private afternoon yacht excursion (weather, sea conditions and season permitting) to explore the sea caves hidden in the cliffs beneath the town, as a guide shares stories of the many centuries of smugglers who used the caves to stash their contraband. Back on dry land, wander the town’s charming streets and indulge in a delicious seafood farewell dinner at one of the world’s most spectacular restaurants: Grotta Palazzese. It’s an enchanting place with a terrace that sits inside a natural cave. The next day, transfer to Bari airport for your flight home.
From $12,350 per person for seven days. To enquire about this trip with Black Tomato, click below.