Puglia cycling trip with Andrew Morris in the hot seat

This stage is divided into two stretches. The first one is shorter, starting from Otranto and after visiting the imposing and elegant Castle of Carovigno, you reach the little Carovigno railway station, nestled amongst ancient olive trees.

Welcome to Puglia. In the saddle. 

It’s day 5 of our 8 day ‘Giro di Puglia’ cycling adventure, exploring the countryside and coastline of the southern part of this intriguing, hidden heel of the Italian boot.

We thought up an itinerary to achieve the very difficult goal of showing you the most beautiful corners of our region, riding on the most revealing paths. You will see a varied and surprising landscape, and meet Apulian architecture, art, culture, traditions, food and wine.

And where better to start the adventure than in Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage site and world capital of the iconic Trulli. Our first two nights are even spent under the cooling, honeycombed roof of a Trullo, originally designed centuries ago to be demolished with ease, but now charmingly repurposed for modern-day living. There are an estimated 1,500 Trulli in Alberobello, and in the warm glow of evening sun the town looks like an over-stuffed box of walnut whips.

Six days are spent cycling, covering 40-50 km each day. The terrain is generally flat, with the exception of the medieval hilltop towns we need to reach for lunch or overnight stays. We cycled on quiet rural lanes, fringed by dry-stone walls and ancient olive groves, or occasionally on off-road tracks, including the Ciclovia dell’Acquedotto, a 500 km cycling and hiking route on the service track of an aqueduct constructed more than a century ago.

It’s all very manageable within a leisurely Italian day, but e-bikes are readily available for Silver Travellers in need of an occasional turbo-charge. Our self-guided group of five had sturdy self-propelled bikes, armed with Garmin gizmos loaded up with the daily routes, and a capacious bag by the handlebars for extra layers, sun-tan lotion, energy bars, a pump and tyre levers. All you have to do is jump on the saddle each morning, pedal a bit and enjoy the excellent itinerary.


Historic villages and towns, some built for more affluent times, await you at every turn. Dive into the cooling embrace of an old Baroque church or grab a morning macchiato on a pavement café. Pedal gently along quiet lanes or tracks, swifts warbling and swooping high above you, wild flowers swaying gently in the Apulian breeze by the roadside.

On the Adriatic coastline, have a seafood lunch in Polignano a Mare, perched on the side of steep cliffs and birthplace of legendary singer Domenico Modugno, ‘Signor Volare’. And enjoy your night spent in Monopoli, its fishing harbour just a few steps away from the captivating old walled town, with narrow labyrinthine streets and an imposing Castle.


Considered the Gateway to the Orient since Roman times, Puglia represents even now a bridge to Greece and the Levant. The ports of Bari, Brindisi and Otranto offer easy passage to Albania, Turkey and Greece and as a result Apulian culture is shaped noticeably differently from other regions of Italy.

Listen out for a distinctive Greek dialect of Italian in Salento, and Albanian influences in Lecce. And it’s not hard to imagine you are in North Africa when getting lost in the enchanting medina-like mazes of the walled old towns of Monopoli, Lecce, Bari and Ostuni.


Apulian food is an example of ‘cucina povera’, cuisine of the poor. Traditionally, its main constituents were bread, vegetables and pasta, and very different to that of the country’s carnivorous, more affluent north. With the improving tourism picture in Puglia, I suspect meat is more readily available here these days, but why not stick with what the locals enjoy?

We were given a very useful guide to some regional specialities. Here are just a few…

Orecchiette’ – probably the best known local dish, handmade pasta shaped like little ears. Often offered with ‘cime di rapa’, literally turnip tops but usually something more palatable like broccoli.

Frisella’ – a twice-baked ring-shaped bread, briefly soaked in water before serving, topped with tomatoes, olive oil and salt.

Panzerotto’ – fried half-moon shaped leavened dough filled with tomato and mozzarella.

Leave room for ‘pasticciotto’, a typical oval-shaped pastry found in Lecce and Salento, filled with custard. And don’t worry, you’ll be cycling off all those calories.

And after a day pedalling, indulge in an Aperitivo, perhaps the ubiquitous Aperol Spritz, the bright orange cocktail with Aperol, prosecco and soda. You’ll probably also receive a few nibbles, perhaps some plump local olives and ‘taralli’, crunchy little bagel-shaped bits of boiled and baked dough, made with flour, olive oil and white wine.

Talking of wine, do not leave Puglia without guzzling a few bottles of Primitivo, a rustic and punchy red grape grown largely in the Manduria region, that will undoubtedly help with your overnight recovery.

Hopefully this has whetted your appetite for a cycling adventure in this fascinating, lesser-known region of la bella Italia. We went with local company Puglia Cycle Tours but Silver Travel Advisor partners Cycling for Softies offer two of their own holidays, with different self-guided itineraries.

In terms of timing, I can highly recommend going at the end of April or the beginning of May. The temperature will hopefully be perfect for cycling and the abundant wild flowers – including vibrant red poppies, yellow meadow calendulas, purple echium vulgare, startling goldenfleece and wild orchids – were an undoubted highlight.

‘You may have the Universe if I may have Italy’ – Giuseppe Verdi

6 people found this helpful

Share Article:

Andrew Morris

Travel writer

Leave a comment


Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Explore China with our guide tailored for travellers over 50. Discover ancient wonders, vibrant cities, culinary adventures, and landscapes…
Rich in exotic wildlife, tropical forests, white-sand beaches and lost civilisations, Belize really is a diverse pocket of overlooked beauty….

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.