It was very interesting and educational to be in this party of Italy. Our last guided tour was in Tuscany. Alberobello was an amazing town and the Trullia were a wonder to see, even more fun to stay in. The restaurants in the area that we tried were all good. It was also fun to walk around town and see the old churches, museums and parks. Our guide Marco was excellent and spent good time explaining the route and the attractions to us. All the bikes worked fine, and I liked having the panier to store things in. Based on the type of riding we ended up doing the hybrid bikes were very appropriate and comfortable.
The first day of riding from Alberobello to Ostuni was interesting - lots of small roads, not much traffic, lots and lots of olive trees (which the area is noted for). One thing we noticed right away unfortunately was the garbage. Lots and lots lots of garbage, all over the sides of the roads. Single use plastics mostly, but also household trash, construction debris, old appliances, tires, and millions of glass bottles and metal cans. Combined with the large number of abandoned and dilapidated properties in the area (abandoned olive farms) it felt like the next 2 days of riding in many parts was through the apocalypse. The old abandoned buildings were interesting, especially the small farm huts, and we did see lots and lots of the Trullia, and nicer properties that were fixed up closer to towns though. We later learned that this area was very very poor in many parts, and that it wasn't until the EU formed that money started to flow into the area to improve things for people. Depending on who you talked to the trash was from "trash collection being a low priority for the local infrastructure" - to people just being ignorant and not caring about the environment. The towns and cites were a bit better, but for the most part the rural areas felt like a 3ed world country on these part of the ride. It looks like this from Alerobello to Ostuni, Ostuni to Manduria, Manduria to Gallipoli to Santa Maria di Leuca (our favorite town next to Alberobella, the hotel was beautiful and we wished we had two days there). Manduria was pretty much abandoned, as was the hotel. The hotel restaurant was closed, and the only place we could find to eat was a pizza express and the grocery store next door. The saving grace was the wine tour at a local fermenting/processing plant, and the wines themselves from the Primitivo grapes were spectacular as was the tour and museum in the winery. We shipped cases of it home :). The ride to Gallipoli was an adventure. 20-30 mph headwinds and blowing garbage the whole way , however the landscape was interesting - it felt like southern California desert. Fortunately Gallipoli was a great town with lots restaurants open, and shopping. It was raining, but that's OK was was still nice. The ride from Gallipoli to Santa Maria di Leuca was short and uneventful. Threatening rain so we made a bee line to town at a fast pace. We found a great little restaurant by the water/harbor where we had a great meal and lots of the Primitivo wines :).
The ride from Santa Maria di Leuca had to be our favorite of the whole trip. Fantastic scenery along the Adriatic coast, lots of places to stop, the wind at our backs and it seemed cleaner. Swimming in the little beaches and Grottos were so nice. Again, we wished we could spend more time here. Maybe make 2 loops from Santa Maria di Leuca or add another town on this coast. We loved the riding off pavement and along the beaches as well, and that goes for the first part of the ride from Otranto to Lecce. Sadly the latter part of the ride inland to Lecce was more abandoned properties and lots and lots of garbage. Again the feeling like we were riding through the apocalypse. Lecce was great though - what a nice town! Lots to see in the "Florence of the South" in the old town. The surrounding 'modern areas' less so as the roads were very busy. I wrote something for my cycling friends about riding bikes in Italy. I will share it here;
Thoughts on cycling in Italy. Tongue in cheek: If anyone has to take a test to drive (seems not?), these would be the lessons. 1. The person who drives, walks or pedals the fastest has the right of way. 2. No cars in Italy have blinkers/signals. 3. Three point, U turns and parking is allowed anywhere, so is passing. It's especially fun to play chicken when cars are coming from the opposite direction. 4. Traffic signs aren't even suggestions! Traffic lights, sometimes. And signs that say what road you are on. 5. The most common controls pushed are the accelerator and the horn. 6. No problem if you don't have trash collection or an ashtray at home, the car window works fine. 7. If you can squeeze your car in there, you can drive there. 8. Speed bumps are "suspension tests".
With all that being said: People pay attention, they have to! Otherwise the country would be one giant pile up!! No one is on their phone! If you signal a turn on a bike, drivers see and respect you, until it's time to pass. I never felt in danger even though drivers get VERY close to you even at high rates of speed. Cycle confidently, don't wander around in the road... and pay attention! Also being in SMALL groups helps so that cars can pass quickly without hitting the oncoming cars head on.
All in all we had fun and am glad to see another part of Italy. After our riding we went to Greece and on to Munich, Germany. We also had just spent 6 days riding in Catalonia, Spain before this tour in Italy. Germany has by far the best infrastructure for pedestrians and cycling, similar to the Netherlands. Spain was pretty good and has improved since we were there 3 years ago. This part of Italy has a long long way to go, unless thousands of people clean the roads and streets and they develop a different culture. Not something Bike Tours or Giro Libero can affect I am guessing. We would not ride most of these routes again :(