We all meet at Rome airport in the afternoon from where we depart in our comfortable private bus and set the compass to South! Destination: Campania. We arrive on the Amalfi coast after approximately 3 hour drive. Welcome dinner.
After breakfast at the hotel we depart for a short drive to visit one of the best wineries of the Irpinia DOC appellation near the town of Avellino and sample a variety of wines. Fiano, a white variety, Falanghina, an ancient white packed with citrus blossom aromas, Greco white, with peach and fresh green foliage notes. Aglianico is the red of the area, a very unique grape variety that is quite difficult to find elsewhere. Afternoon: Anchovies are absolutely essential to the Southern diet; they are rich, fatty, buttery fish packed with flavour. We visit an anchovy processing plant in the town of Cetara to taste the freshly caught as well as the packaged product. Some people think they don’t enjoy the briny, robust flavour of the anchovy, but something tells us they’ve never tasted freshly caught and packed anchovies. Let us know how you feel after you taste the real thing.
Sunny yellow, tart and lush, the lemon is a fitting symbol of Amalfi. In the morning we will tour the town of Amalfi and discover everything about lemons and limoncello liqueur. Lunch will be in the lemon grove with a menu inspired by this regional DOP product. To finish our meal, we enjoy limoncello, served chilled. This aromatic, alcoholic drink is the closest thing to enjoying the pure flavour of the lemon, without the bitter bite. We then spend the afternoon in Pompei. The visit to the ancient city, destroyed by the volcano Vesuvio 2,000 years ago, is led by a local professional historian.
You haven’t really tasted Mozzarella di Bufala until you’ve had it in Campania. A traditional product of the region, it is creamy, pure white, hand cut and delicate. We visit a Bufala farm and Mozzarella producer in the town of Capaccio on our way to the region of Basilicata. Today the star of our lunch meal is ... mozzarella of course. After lunch we stop in Paestum for a guided tour and then depart to go to the region of Basilicata where we check in at our hotel at the foot of the majestic volcano Vulture.
Take in this lesser known region of Basilicata, which is removed and remote, hot and dry. The food perfectly reflects its climate featuring a blend of spice and simplicity. For centuries the local people were reticent to mix with the rest of Italy. The region has preserved a strong and distinct cultural and regional identity due to its lack of roads and physically remoteness. The region borders on Calabria, Puglia and Campania to the west. Basilicata is known as the most mountainous region of Italy, and we have the benefit of seeing how this landscape influences the wines. We visit one of the top wineries of the area growing the Aglianico del Vulture varietal around Monte Vulture, an extinct volcano. After lunch we transfer to one of the beautiful seaside towns of Puglia, our final destination for today.
A lot to discover on this day, fully immersed in this precious landscape. We are in the north part of the Puglia peninsula, in the kingdom of the Nero di Troia, a red grape producing an intense ruby coloured wine, with elegant tannins and a rich, spicy bouquet. A morning visit to one of the prestigious Antinori wineries and tasting is followed by one of the greatest meals I have ever had! The soil here is very rich. Locals eat their food right out of their garden, why shouldn't we do the same? Yes, today after some vino tasting, we will "experience" food from a local family kitchen and visit their traditional 'orto', a vegetable garden full of seasonal goodies! Time to relax at our hotel this afternoon and evening.
After breakfast we head south and visit the UNESCO village of Matera, truly, a city lost in time. The homes are known as Sassi, or houses of stone and were excavated by hand into the side of the gorge, one built one on top of the other and connected by an elaborate system of staircases and alleyways. We visit a typical over ("forno") discover their ancient cooking methods and sample local bread, pizza and focaccia all just coming out from the oven. Then we follow our local guide for a private tour of the "Sassi". We then continue and stop in Alberobello, known for the characteristic Trulli houses. Time on your own in Alberobello. Transfer to the hotel.
Ready for today's challenge? The making of orecchiette, a homemade pasta typical of Puglia! Then tour of the facilities and a traditional lunch. To burn the calories (no worries, Pugliese cuisine is very tasty and low in calories!), we will tour the historical city centre of the nearby city of Lecce, named the Florence of the South due to its ancient romantic beauty and baroque architecture and history. We will learn all about it from our local guide while savouring a true example of the Salento; strong, dry, and rustic.
The Manduria region is currently attracting international attention for its distinct wine and food culture. This hot, dry country is agriculturally abundant and olives, wheat, and grape vines, all grow perfectly here. Because this region is so fertile, there are many diverse varietals that we will taste today. Among the best local grapes are: Pampanuto, Bombino Bianco, Bombino Nero and Nero di Troia. However, you cannot be in Puglia without tasting Primitivo, the king of grapes, known for its powerful intensity and bouquet. The sun gifts this plant with everything needed to transform the grapes into a sumptuous wine, with an opulent red colour and cherry notes on the palate.
Note in the photo: wine is sold 'by-the-liter' at one of the numerous ‘cantine’.
Tour ends with the transfer to the airport
Continue to Sicily on the same bus, for those who are joining the 6-day Sicily tour extension.