Basilicata and Puglia: the Heel and the Hinterland

April 16–23, 2018

From Greeks to Romans to Byzantines, Saracens, and Normans, the waves of diverse peoples who settled southeastern Italy left their mark on its food and culture. Our trip spans parts of two Italian regions, Basilicata and Puglia, and highlights the various legacies of its colonists and conquerors.

Our archaeological itinerary in this part of Magna Graecia will include a stop at the newly restored world-class archaeological museum of Taranto (ancient Tarentum) and a visit to the site of Metapontum, both first settled by Greek colonists when Romans were still living in shepherds’ huts.

We’ll see stunning scenery of Italy’s rugged interior and visit at least three UNESCO World Heritage Sites—Frederick II’s majestic octagonal Castel del Monte; the sassi, rock-cut dwellings and churches, of mysterious Matera (European Cultural Capital in 2019); and the curious conical buildings called trulli in and around Alberobello. The historic center of Lecce, a baroque gem (with a Roman amphitheater), and the cathedrals of Trani and Otranto are also on the itinerary.

The flat and fertile land of central Puglia and part of Basilicata supply the rest of Italy (and not only) with high-quality durum wheat (grano duro) and olive oil, as well as vegetables, fruits, and superb tomatoes. Lamb is the favorite meat, often stewed and scented with wild herbs from the hills and mountains of Basilicata. It follows that there are plenty of wonderful sheep’s-milk cheeses, but also cow’s milk, such as the now-famous burrata, which we’ll sample near its source (Andria and Barletta). The durum wheat that isn’t shipped to pasta makers throughout Italy is used for delicious bread (and we’ll go to Altamura to try its most respected version) and particular local shapes of flour-and-water pasta. But we won’t ignore that long and lovely coast and its seafood. We’ll have the local lamb stews and taste great seafood on Puglia’s Adriatic coast. Wine lovers will want to get to know Aglianico del Vulture, Primitivo di Manduria, Salice Salentino, moscato di Trani, and many more local vintages.