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      our holidays > Cycling Holidays > Italy & its islands > The South > Pedalling through Puglia

Pedalling through Puglia

Salento, the heel of Italy
Extend your stay
For a 10-night holiday, add on two nights at the luxurious Masseria Montenapoleone and cycle to Alberobello to see the unique trulli (iconic cone-roofed houses).
Starting point:

Masseria Copertini, a stone farmhouse set amid ancient olive groves near the village of Vernole.

Day 1
Vernole to Otranto: 54km

Begin by following quiet lanes to the walled village of Acaya (whose castle is worth a visit), then cycle through Le Cesine, an important wetland habitat for birds, to reach the sea. Roca Vecchia provides a good opportunity to get off your bikes briefly for a wander along the low cliffs to admire caves and some spectacular seascapes. Passing abandoned watchtowers and freshwater lakes, you continue south along the jagged coastline to reach the historic port of Otranto, where you can stop for a wander and refreshments. Then, pedal along a panoramic road above the coast to reach the wonderfully secluded Masseria Panareo, where you stay for two nights.

Day 2
Circular route via Poggiardo: 35km

If you can tear yourself away from the pool, we recommend an easy and delightful circuit exploring a number of villages and sights of the interior, including the Baroque town of Poggiardo and the botanical gardens of La Cutura. You cycle mainly along quiet country lanes among the extensive olive groves and simple but colourful farming country that characterises this corner of Puglia.

Day 3
Otranto to Gagliano del Capo: 42km

Today you continue south along the wild coastline, which is honeycombed with caves, rock arches and grottoes. Stop off for morning coffee at the elegant spa town of Santa Cesarea Terme, characterised by Art Nouveau and Moorish style buildings, then take our recommended short detour to visit the spectacular Zinzulusa Cave, where there is also a panoramic restaurant for lunch. Later on, pause to admire Castro Marina, a harbour which still has a castle, a 12th-century cathedral and most of its 16th-century ramparts intact; and the small harbour and natural inlet at Tricase Porto, with its tiny beach. Continue along to the coast, eventually turning off to reach Masseria Alcorico, a short distance inland just outside Gagliano del Capo, with its palm-shaded pool.

Day 4
Circular route via Santa Marina di Leuca: 31km

Today’s circuit is a varied and very enjoyable one. First you cross the bottom of Italy’s ‘heel’ along country lanes through olive groves via the interesting town of Patù (whose narrow streets you can explore in seeking out the fascinating Centopietre – a tomb of a ‘hundred stones’), en route to the beaches of Torre Vado on the Ionian coast. We recommend stopping for a delicious seafood lunch here, or perhaps delaying until you reach the port of Marina di Leuca close to De Finibus Terrae (Italy’s ‘Land’s End’). Here you can visit the iconic lighthouse and remarkable basilica, located on the very tip of Puglia where the Ionian and Adriatic seas meet. From here, it’s just a short ride – again inland across colourful agricultural land characterised by deep-red earth and dry-stone walls – back to your hotel.

Day 5
Gagliano del Capo to Gallipoli: 58km (recommended option)
To Gallipoli, starting with a transfer: 19km

Although lengthy, today’s route around the coast to Gallipoli could scarcely be any simpler (or flatter), and makes for a very enjoyable ride. Pause at inviting beaches and interesting coastal towns before reaching the wide arc of Baia Verde (‘Green Bay’), where we recommend a dip in the sea from the extensive golden sands before continuing to Gallipoli for an overnight stay at Al Pescatore Hotel & Restaurant. Alternatively, you can start with a transfer, leaving you with just a short distance to cover to reach your destination. Whichever route you choose, it’s a joy to explore the Old Town (where your hotel is situated), connected to the mainland via an arched bridge and perched on a limestone islet. Known as Kallipolis (‘beautiful city’) in Greek, Gallipoli’s walls, ramparts and towers once defended the city from foreign raiders, and now shelter it from rough seas, as well as lending it a very special allure.

Day 6
Gallipoli to Sternatia: 39km

Today, you head north-east via the 'Grecia Salentina', a group of sleepy towns and villages where traces of the Greek-Byzantine civilisation linger on and Griko, the idiom or dialect that is close to modern Greek, still survives. Eventually you pass through the small town of Sternatia to reach your final base, the elegant and stylish Masseria Chicco Rizzo, located amid its own olive groves.

Day 7
Explore Lecce

On your last day, you may wish to do no more than relax by the pool or pootle around locally on your bike. However, our suggestion is to take the train (Monday to Saturday only) to Lecce, the ‘Florence of the South’. It is the most complete Baroque town in southern Europe, whose sumptuous architecture, enhanced by the pale honey-coloured local stone and featuring elaborately sculpted gargoyles and animals, lends it great charm. We provide detailed notes for a city walk taking in the Roman amphitheatre, parts of the old walls, and several of its wonderful churches.

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  - Easy pedalling - Grade 1-2 Cycle
Local Map
More about your rented bike
Type: hybrid
Gears: 27
Tandem? yes (subject to availability)  
Helmets? yes (request at time of booking)
Accessories: waterproof map case on handlebars; panniers/saddlebags; pump; puncture repair kit; lock
GPX tracks
If you would like to follow your route on your smartphone or dedicated GPS device, we will provide GPX tracks for this holiday prior to departure.
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