a fantastic part of Italy - unspoiled. tour is well organized, hotels are good. highly recommended
Good bike tour, great scenery, with caveats and NOT a level 2 difficulty
This tour benefits from some spectacularly gorgeous scenery, two unique and fascinating cities, and the excellent bike support staff (they were prompt in communicating and resolving equipment problems). Cyclists need to be aware of some of the drawbacks, too. The difficulty rating for this trip is misleading. It is NOT a level 2; it is definitely at least a level 3. I did a level 2 ride the week before, and a level 4 ride the week after, and this ride was closer to the 4 than the 2. The elevation maps provided appear to be inaccurate (day 2 was at least as hilly as day 1). Cycling expectations, and therefore preparations, matter. The on-route directional sign postings are usually present (kudos), but quite small and easy to overlook. Then, unfortunately, there were some things that detracted from the experience that cannot be fixed by the tour operator: inconsiderate auto drivers, very rough pavement in many places (patches upon patches and big, deep potholes), and a truly remarkable amount of litter (garbage, discarded washing machines and refrigerators, cans, bottles) that mars large swaths of the route in otherwise very scenic countryside. We cycled in the shoulder season, and some coastal in the far south towns were nearly closed down, but the traffic was also nearly absent. All things considered, it was a positive experience and worthwhile, but it doesn’t compare favorably to other equally beautiful trips.
We were on a self guided trip but wound up meeting several fun people we wound up riding with. Scenery was great, the bikes were excellent and well suited to the ride. The accommodations ranged from good to excellent and we found the locals to be engaging and often very helpful. It seemed as though they were happy we were there. One of the bigger surprises was the quality of the local wines. They were excellent and very reasonably priced. The written directions were sometimes a bit confusing, but frankly that added to the fun and adventure. On some of the longer stretches in the countryside it was difficult to find water so it is a good idea to carry an extra bottle in your pannier.
A Great Experience of the Real Italy
We really enjoyed this trip taken before the start of the high season (mid april).
It really is a great part of Italy with relatively few tourists and quiet roads. Apart from one day when we we battled quite a strong headwind, the touring was really great with many beautiful and/or interesting places to keep us occupied every day.
We found plenty of great places to have lunch and dinner along the way and from time to time enjoyed the company of fellow travellers using the same tour company.
A highlight of our visit to Italy.
Wonderful Adventure of Gorgeous Beaches, Unique History, and Amazing Food
Our adventure through Puglia was unforgettable! This region offers so much history, culture, and beautiful scenery. Every day of the bike tour is unique and different. It's especially nice to explore this amazing region that I imagine most Americans are not familiar with.
To begin, the staff at both Biketours.com and Girolibero (the local operator) are outstanding, super helpful, knowledgeable, and very responsive. Everything was smooth and easy.
Regarding the trip itself, Matera (day one) is just spectacular. Walking through the ancient stassi is a very special experience (we recommend hiring Nadia Garlatti for a guided tour to really get a feel for it (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you are planning on spending an extra night in either Matera or Lecce, we absolutely recommend you do so in Matera (not Lecce). The hotel is also wonderful, and it's just so special staying in the stassi of Matera.
One of the best parts about this trip is how you get to experience so much. Literally every day is very different. From the ancient stassi of Matera, to the trulli of Alberobello, the unique history of Otranto, the gorgeous beaches, lovely olive groves, vineyards and fig trees, this trip really covers a lot. Beyond the highlights, you will also visit very charming towns like Locorotondo and Gallipoli.
The biggest challenge for us was to see and do everything we wanted to do. It may not seem like much to bike 35-45 miles per day, but there is just so much to see and do. Each day was very packed so that we could enjoy the sites along the way, have a great meal in our destination, and have a stroll to explore our destination as much as we could. The nightlife in each bustling town was awesome as well.
The guidebook offered by Girolibero is very thorough and super informative. Their tips on where to stop and where to eat are spot on. All the restaurants, gelateria, beaches and other specific recommendations were great. In fact, the Pugliese cuisine was the best we had in Italy. Every meal was outstanding (and very reasonably priced). In America, "antipasto" is usually not really memorable. However, do yourself a favor and order the antipasto dishes when dining in Puglia -- for a very affordable price, you get a wonderful assortment of very tasty and unique dishes.
We could go on raving about this trip. We also need to mention the hotels were great as well (especially San Martino in Matera). And you have a complete and delicious breakfast included every morning.
Basically, from start to finish, this trip was just perfect. We have no complaints, and look forward to another bike tour in the near future. This was a wonderful way to experience an amazing region of Italy. Grazie!
We had a great time . Hotels were great and charming . Self guide tour was enjoyable . Arrows showing pretty well except the last day. It was not only cycling it was a cultural trip at the same time . Your documentation was excellent . Very satisfied
Pulia heel of the boot Italy
We 4 seniors really enjoyed our bike trip. The second last day was more challenging than we expected. Route was well signed with small arrows except into Lecce. Bikes heavy but reliable and comfortable.
Apulia: Cycling the Heel of Italy’s Boot
We had a great trip to Apulia (Cycling the Heel of Italy’s Boot), loved the tour, would do it again and recommend to others. All 7 hotels had excellent service and all-round excellent accommodations. Our luggage was always waiting for us, breakfast was always very good and the bikes served us well. The guys at the bike shop where we picked-up our bikes were friendly and helpful, and made adjustments to the bikes before we left.
The locals we met along the way were always very friendly, warm and treated us like rock stars. Even though we do not speak Italian, we never had trouble communicating - there was always someone within the vicinity who spoke English and eager to help translate. Sometimes there would be 1/6 dozen locals all translating at the same time.
The first hotel in Matera, Locanda Di San Martino, was our favorite and wished we could take the spa, pool, steam-room, and hot tub with us to the other hotels.
The 2nd hotel was cool getting to stay in a Trulli.
The 3rd hotel in Ostuni, Relais Sant’Eligo, was special because of the service we received from Tonia and Abbes – they went “above and beyond” to make our stay enjoyable. I was having technical difficulties with my iPhone charger, and thought the outlet in my room was not working. I took everything to the front desk and Abbes examined all the components (charger, adapter, cord, and phone) determined my cord was not working. He then called several electronic stores trying to find a cord, and said he would drive me to a store to buy a new one.
The 4th hotel in Gallipoli, Hotel 33, was very nice and we were treated like royalty. When we arrived - hot, thirsty and tired - the staff had ice-cold lemon-aid, and water waiting for us in the lobby, plus a bowl of fresh olives to snack on. They told us to just leave the bikes by the door and they moved them to the garaged. Our luggage was already in our room. We received an excellent local restaurant recommendation that served the best fresh fish I had the entire trip. The next morning our bikes were waiting by the front door. Fantastic service.
The 5th hotel in Santa Maria Di Leuca was good and had a nice pool. The only draw-back was the hotel is located outside of town about 1 mile from the nearest restaurant and we would have to walk in the dark on a road to get to another restaurant. Luckily, the hotel had an ok restaurant.
The 6th hotel in Otranto, Hotel San Giuseppe was nice with good service. The location made it easy to walk to restaurants in the area.
The 7th hotel in Lecce, Hotel EOS, was very nice, and modern.
The only route we found hard to follow was the route between Alberobello and Ostuni. There are many turns, and a few more directional arrow stickers might have been helpful, but maybe not. I believe we missed some turns because we were too interested in seeing the sights and not paying close attention to the guide book.
The routes on the other days were easy to follow and guided us through some amazing areas, with many sights to see. I was very surprised to find the roads practically vacant of cars and glad of it. I was expecting more traffic especially alone the coast. I guess traffic picks-up in the summer - we toured in early May.