the itineraries

FASHIONED BY MAN: A MESMERISING ART TOUR

Art isn’t just culture, it is revelation, intuition and profound listening. It is a touching and very personal experience capable of regenerating the spirit and of making man a better person. Contemplating his incredible creations, man acquires an awareness of his own greatness and learns respect and sharing. Art is a path marked by the passage of time and history, bearing witness to peoples near and far, to different religions and cultures.  

A natural bridge with the East, Puglia has been a crossroads of numerous civilisations since the dawn of time, whence its importance for the history of Italy and its outstanding significance for art in Europe and in the world.  This wonderful land will surprise you and charm you with its art treasures fashioned by the admirable hand of man: from the remotest traces of the past, the dolmens of Biscegelie and Corato, the menhirs and the Citadel of Cannae (Canne della Battaglia), the Apulian terracottas, the splendid vases and the statues of the Neoclassical era in the archaeological museums of Ruvo, Altamura, Bari and Taranto will whisk you back into world of the esoteric and the mythological, allowing you to explore great civilisations and epic battles. The Cave Churches of Gravina and Massafra with their Byzantine frescoes will speak to you not simply of religion but of a deep-rooted “Greekness” in the land which has not faded since the days of Magna Graecia. From the Norman era, the dazzling white, majestic Romanesque cathedrals of Trani, Bitonto, Bisceglie, Ruvo, Altamura and countless other towns in this region of Puglia are masterpieces not to be missed. Through the lace of a rose window, a carved stone or a mosaic will show how the fusion of different cultures can be achieved in art, while also offering you moments of intense mysticism and sublime admiration. The imposing Swabian castles and massive Aragonese keeps, or the important Renaissance palazzi will reveal why this land has been so beloved of the emperors, princes and leading aristocratic families who have elected to make it their preferred place of residence. And this, right up to the explosion of the Baroque churches and palazzi in the Salento which, in their free expression of figures, motifs and chiselled ornament, become a stage for the sacred and the profane and a point of encounter between learned scholarship and popular tradition.

There is not a single corner of the places you will visit on this trip where art is not in the forefront, deeply rooted in a tradition that has offered man room to express his genius with boundless sensitivity. Easily reachable from Villa Gioia, which seems amazingly to lie at the very heart of an area rich in art treasures, your tours will enchant you and ensure that you have an absolutely unforgettable holiday.  

NATURE IMMERSIVE SENSORY TRIP

At times harsh, at times fertile, full of colour and nuance, at once silent and deafening, Nature, the great, all-enveloping scenario for every journey of the senses, never fails to surprise us with the power of its atmospherics: a perception of infinity, deep satisfaction, euphoric amazement and inner peace are only some of the feelings that it succeeds in arousing in man. Nature is not simply a spectacle for our eyes, it is also a sensoral experience capable of regenerating our spirit and of recharging us with positive energy.

It has been common knowledge for many years that Puglia is a “feeling” as well as a region to discover, but what is probably still little known in any depth is the landscape wealth of this land that speaks to us of Nature with a capital “N” in every one of its different expressions. Villa Gioia, lying at the heart of an area where, in a radius of only a few kilometres, you can reach sites where nature is queen, becomes your starting point for exploring unique landscapes rich in fascination and authentic wonders. Allow yourselves to be spellbound by the imposing rock sculptures, get lost in the infinite spaces and drink in the intoxicating fragrances of an uncontaminated land. Thanks to the naturalistic itineraries devised by the Parco Nazionale dell’Alta Murgia, adjacent to Villa Gioia, you will be able to discover an area geomorphically rich in carsic cavities that will astonish you with its canyons, gullies, dales and caves where, nestling amid the limestone rock, herbaceous plants and woodlands have put down roots alongside rare examples of flora and fauna.

Or if you would rather breathe in the salty air of the sea and allow yourselves to be bewitched by the spectacle of the waves, head north for about an hour to reach the Gargano peninsula and headland. If you have a few hours to spare, drive right around the headland and you will be dazzled by the white cliffs looming over a clear sea that varies in colour from emerald green to cobalt blue, or explore the Foresta Umbra in the interior of the Gargano, the largest forest of broad-leaved, shady beech trees in Italy, peopled with authentic botanical monuments reaching to over 40 metres in height with diameters of more than a metre, and home to an Aleppo pine over 700 years old.

Some 80 km south of Villa Gioia, another spectacular monument of nature awaits you in Castellana with its famed grottoes, where a succession of tunnels and caves glitters with thousands of stalagmites and stalagtites, alabaster sculptures in their own right, taking you into an echanted world that is guaranteed to leave you speechless..

While a fair distance from the Villa – about an hour and a half in the car – if you are a keen snorkeler you have to only grab your mask and mouthpiece and set out on the SS172 road for the Ionian coast. When you reach Torre Ovo, a suburb of Maruggio, you will find the “Petrified Forest” by the Saracen Tower, only a few metres from the shore and at a depth of a mere seven metres. You will be mesmerised by the beauty of a natural creation several thousand years old, a unique panorama and very possibly the only fossil forest in Europe.

Puglia, an endless discovery of the wonders of nature, is a sensorial journey that you cannot afford to miss. Start your journey with us.i

 

LETTING TASTE MARK THE WAY

We can invert the customary way of doing thing and can allow taste rather than place to mark the stages of our itinerary, to lead us as we follow, as we chase after it. We’ll soon discover that it, too, enshrines the fragrance, the mood, the colour and even the atmosphere of the land of Frederick II.

A trip to explore the gourmet temptations of our region is unquestionably a different kind of holiday, but it also offers you a valuable opportunity to become acquainted with our finest producers, exploring our ancient cultural heritage while stocking up on quality products to enjoy on your return home.  Extra virgin olive oil is one of the mainstays of Pugliese gastronomy and one of Italy’s most renowned oils with an intense aroma and flavour. Ancient and hi-tech oil mills alike dot the territory amid vast expanses of centuries-old olive groves. Burrata, a typical product of Andria first produced in 1900, is a parcel of solid mozzarella enclosing a heart of stracciatella and cream, giving it an unusual, soft texture.  On feast days, the queen of the groaning luncheon table in our region is a home-made pasta called orecchiette, the symbol par excellence of Bari cuisine, concave in shape and furrowed like an ear (orecchio in Italian), made with water and durum wheat flour and seasoned with a sauce made of garlic and turnip leaves or tomato and grated cacioricotta cheese.

The Murgia area is also famous for a mushroom known as the fungo cardoncello or king trumpet mushroom, at its best in Minervino Murge, especially when the town hosts the Sagra del Cardoncello fair.  Lampascioni are small, slighly bitter onions that are superb fried and seasoned with vino cotto, a syrup made from grape must dating back to Roman times, or with eggs and pecorino cheese.  Beans and Chickory, a dish whose origins are lost in the mists of time, consists of puréed beans accompanied by wild chickory and is reputed to have been one of Pythagoras’ favourite foods. Taralli, deliciously fragrant, irresistible little round biscuits with a hole in the middle that make the perfect snack or can be served at the cocktail hour, are a veritable institution throughout Puglia.  Focaccia barese, a soft and thick yet crusty flatbread eaten with cherry tomatoes, olives and oregano, is a sheer delight for the discerning palate.

THE WINE ROAD

The wine road is a sensory journey into history and literature paying tribute to the leading role that wine has always played in accompanying the festivities, the emotions, the joys and the tragedies in the various places and times of our lives. Hemingway once said that “wine is the condensate of a territory, of a culture, of a life style”. A territory can be narrated in many different ways, and wine is most certainly one of them.

To seek out the best vineyards, the best Pugliese wine and the most historic cellars in Puglia, we criss-cross the countryside around Frederick II’s mightly Castel del Monte.

In an area of rare beauty caressed by the wind from the sea in an evocative setting, the vineyards grown “a spalliera” or “ad alberello” on calcareous, stony ground are home to the best of southern Italy’s native grape varietals and to a selection of the most renowned international cépages: Nero di Troia is the chief varietal in this area, producing elegant, fruity wines with a floral and lightly spiced note when made into a single-grape wine, but the area is also known for its Bombino Nero, Aglianico, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon reds and its Bombino Bianco, Pampanuto, Greco and Malvasia Bianca whites.

The native grape par excellence along the coast is Moscato Bianco, which gives us the superb dessert wine known as Moscato di Trani DOP, the flagship product of numerous farms in the area.

The carsic characteristics of the territor confer a fresh, mineral quality on our wines, while the microclimate with its major difference in temperature between night and day allows the grapes to maintain their acidity, giving the wines balance, structure and the ability to age gracefully.