From bike to beach in Otranto, Italy. Flickr:Andrea D'Alba

Pane e Pomodori in Puglia, Italy. Flickr:Caspar Diederik

Heel of Italy

Italy Hiking + Walking Tours

A food and wine hike in Salento, the heel of Italy!

  • Come to the sun-kissed south of Puglia and hike the Heel of Italy! The Salento region has a long and varied coastline, nestled between the Adriatic Sea to the east and the Ionian Sea to the west. Here you will find Italy's loveliest beaches, villages, towns, and cities. Offered with either an 8 or 9-day itinerary this hiking tour showcases not only the extraordinary natural and architectural beauties but also local culture and the cuisine. Puglia's cucina povera (peasant cooking) is legendary, featuring olive oil, grapes, tomatoes, eggplants, artichokes, peppers, mushrooms, olives, cheese, and fresh seafood. And the wine...world-renowned!

    You will have ample opportunity to taste all the regional specialties and can even participate in a cooking class at a local agriturismo.

    Highlights:

    • The seafront jewels of Gallipoli and Otranto
    • Baroque and sophisticated Lecce
    • Apulian landscape and seascape
    • Simple but diverse cuisine and world-famous wines
    • Local wine and product tastings
    • True immersion in local arts, crafts, and family
    • Optional cooking class at local agriturismo

    Interested in seeing all our hiking products? Take a look!

  • Season 1: March 21 to June 16 & September 20 to November 6, 2020
    Season 2: June 17 to July 12 & August 28 to September 19, 2020

    8-day tour:

    Season 1:
    Twin/double: $ 2016 £ 1005 $ 1,738 1116 $ 2080 kr 12459 $ 1,240 Single supplement: $ 316 £ 158 $ 273 175 $ 326 kr 1954 $ 194 Season 2: 
    Twin/double: $ 2233 £ 1113 $ 1,925 1236 $ 2304 kr 13798 $ 1,373 Single supplement: $ 316 £ 158 $ 273 175 $ 326 kr 1954 $ 194

    9-day tour:

    Season 1:
    Twin/double: $ 2303 £ 1148 $ 1,986 1275 $ 2376 kr 14234 $ 1,417 Single supplement: 
    Season 2: 
    Twin/double:
    Single supplement:

    extra options

    Special tour start days:

    Saturday: $ 54 £ 27 $ 47 30 $ 56 kr 335 $ 33 Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: $ 163 £ 81 $ 140 90 $ 168 kr 1005 $ 100

    Extra nights:

    Lecce:
    Twin/double: $ 139 £ 69 $ 120 77 $ 144 kr 860 $ 86

    Cooking class: 

    Transfers:
    From/to Brindisi (min. 2 ppl.): $ 54 £ 27 $ 47 30 $ 56 kr 335 $ 33 From/to Bari (min. 2 ppl.): $ 135 £ 68 $ 117 75 $ 140 kr 837 $ 83  

    please note

    Rates are per person based on double occupancy.

    A non-refundable admin fee of 20 Euros per person is included in the deposit amount.

    Information to read before you book.

    We recommend purchasing bike trip insurance.

    Please see our FAQ.

  • Travel

    One major airport close to your tour start in Lecce is Brindisi - Salento Airport (BDS), 51 km from the center of Lecce. Another option is Bari Karol Wojtyła Airport (BRI) at 166 km distance.

    Local Travel

    Brindisi Airport
    You have a couple of options for arrival to the first hotel.

    • From the Brindisi Airport, air shuttle to Lecce. Upon arrival, you can take a taxi to your first hotel. Cost is about €10
    • Bus from the airport to Brindisi train station and then train to Lecce. Total travel time about 1 h 30 m to 2 h. hour. Cost, €8. Your first hotel is within walking distance of the train station.
    • Private transfer is available. See pricing.

    Bari Airport

    • Direct train from Bari airport to Bari Central station and then train to Lecce. Total travel time is 2 h 30 m to 4 h total, depending on the time of travel and train type (there are high-speed train options.) Once you arrive at Lecce train station, you can walk to first hotel.
    • Private transfer is available. See pricing.

    Rome Airport

    • For those who would like to do some sightseeing in Rome before their tour, there is a direct train from Rome to Lecce that takes about 5 h 30 m and costs from €30 - €70. Your first hotel is within walking distance of the train station.

    Climate

    The region of Puglia experiences a Mediterranean climate. Spring comes early here is with temps around 68 ° F (20 ° C) by the end of April. Summer arrives in May and lasts through to the end of September. July and August are the hottest months with temperatures reaching 86° F. October and November are lovely and temperatures in the 70s remain. Winter in Puglia is mild and therefore, still conducive for cycling. We advise checking local conditions before your arrival. A good website to use to research regional weather including average high/low temperatures, average rainfall is weatherbase.com.

    Documents

    Before you travel, please check your country's passport and visa requirements and the passport and visa requirements of the country/countries you plan to visit. For US citizens, the US Department of State website is a good source of information. The Country Information tab in the International Travel section provides details about passport validity, blank passport pages required, etc. For our other international clients, please be sure that you research your own country's travel requirements. It is each traveler's responsibility to ensure proper documentation.

    *Important note: Beginning July 1, 2021, additional documentation from the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) will be required to visit any of the 26 Schengen-member countries for tourism, business, medical, or transit. This is an additional check on security rather than a visa.


Skill Level

This is an easy self-guided hike through the Heel of Italy. The walking distance each day is between 12 and 24 km on very easy terrain. The area is mostly flat, so you will encounter only a few ascents. You will walk on secondary roads and paths, half of the roads are asphalt, the other half are unpaved, but all will reveal hidden treasures of the territory, like byzantine crypts, or prehistorical sights. For internal transfers, you will use a small local train, which will allow you to go even deeper into the discovery of this wonderful land reaching places off the radar such as small villages full of history and natural parks.

Where You’ll Stay

You will be accommodated in 4-star local establishments during your tour.

What’s Included

  • 7 nights accommodations
  • 7 breakfasts
  • 5 tastings
  • 5 dinners
  • Luggage transfer
  • Pre-loaded GPS
  • 24-hour emergency assistance
  • Local train tickets

What’s Not Included

  • Lunches
  • Dinners not mentioned as included
  • Beverages with included dinners
  • Travel Insurance

Extra Stay

You can request extra nights before, after, or during your tour. I

TourHike + Walk
TypeSelf Guided
SkillEasy
Length8–9 days
From1116 Rates
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Tour Dates

Departures every Friday and Sunday from March 21 through July 12 & August 28 through November 6, 2020
Other tour start days are possible for a supplement. See pricing.

 

Day-To-Day Itinerary

Heel of Italy Map

 

Day 1: Arrival in Lecce
Day 2: The surroundings of Otranto – Valle dell'Idro, 7.5 mi. (12 km)
Day 3: Punta Palascìa, the easternmost point of Italy, 11 mi. (18 km)
Day 4: The Ciolo and the Cipolliane, 7 mi. (12 km)
Day 5: Discovering the cape treasures and the old city of Gallipoli, 6 mi. (9 km)` 
Day 6: Porto Selvaggio, 12.5 mi. (20 km) 
Day 7: A visit to Galatina and Lecce
Day 8: Departure                                    

Day 1: Arrival in Lecce
Arrival to Bari / Brindisi airport and transfer to Lecce (if needed).
In the late afternoon, you will meet the local representatives who will brief you on your trip (in French or English). Then we recommend a short walking tour in the old town of Lecce, the 'Florence of the South'. You will fall in love with its Spanish baroque architecture and its Roman ruins. 

Overnight accommodation in Lecce

Day 2: The surroundings of Otranto – Valle dell'Idro, 7.5 mi. (12 km)
In the morning, you will transfer by train from Lecce to Giurdignano. Walking through old meadows in the middle of beautiful olive groves, you will reach Giurdignano where you can visit the megalithic garden with its Bronze Age dolmen and menhirs. Next on the agenda is  Casamassella where you will visit the ancient looms brought back into production by the ‘Le Constantine’ Foundation, an agriculture education center. This peaceful oasis is enclosed by olive tree groves and Mediterranean scrub. The weaving studio here creates textile products with ancient wooden looms.  Walking through the Idro Valley, you will discover an ancient Byzantine crypt.  As you continue on the trail,  you will arrive in Otranto. Here you will have time to discover this pearl of the Adriatic; the Byzantine frescoes of the church of San Pietro, the ramparts overlooking the sea, and the cathedral with its medieval ‘tree of life’ mosaic floor.

Activities: Wine tasting
Overnight accommodation in Otranto

Day 3: Punta Palascìa, the easternmost point of Italy, 11 mi. (18 km)
Today you will explore the natural wonders around this Idruntina town; the bay of the Orte, the lighthouse of Punta Palascia, and the bauxite quarry. Starting from the Otranto Castle, you will descend to the port through the Porta a Mare. Once you reach the main pier, you immediately enter the coastal area heading to the Snake Tower, easily reachable along wide paths. Imposing cliffs framed by the presence of caverns decorated with stalactites and stalagmites will amaze. You will reach the Lighthouse of Punta Palascia, famous for being the easternmost point of Italy and the place where the Ionian Sea meets the Adriatic.

After a long stretch along the coast you will leave the paved road and a pleasant trail will lead to the Bauxite Quarry (from which aluminum was once extracted but which is now a stunning lake) whose decisive colors present a unique landscape. From the quarry you will head back to Otranto.

Activities: Cheese tasting at a local farm
Overnight accommodation in Otranto

Day 4: The Ciolo and the Cipolliane, 7 mi. (12 km)
In the morning train, you can take a train from Otranto to Gagliano del Capo (1 h 10’). You will get settled into your accommodation and then, when ready, you can start walking towards the Ciolo path that leads to the canals between “pajare” (dry walls), varied flora including bushes of euphorbia arborea flourish and with a stunning view of the sea.

Once you arrive at the bridge of Ciolo, you veer off onto the footpath of the Cipolliane that winds through authentic walls and terraces and a constantly amazing sea view. The vegetation is a mixture of huge ‘fichi d’india’ (prickly pears), imposing agaves, and capers. You will see the stones polished by time, air, and salt, which form the unusual but always harmonious shapes of the walls constructed to protect the small fields from the strength of the sea and the wind. We will visit the caves of the Cipolliane, an interesting complex of caves where you can admire stalactites columns, tunnels, and fossils, and birds colonies. 

Back on the trail you can continue to Novaglie (where you can take a break) or go back to the Ciolo bridge if you’d like to swim. The canal goes up under high cliffs and ancient caves, and after passing a reproduction of the Madonna di Leuca, you will reach the square from which you can continue on to Patù where you will lodge in an ancient restored “Masseria” (manor house). You will have the opportunity to visit the “Bottega Retrò”, where you will have a typical product tasting. 

Activities: Visit Bottega Retrò for typical product tasting
Overnight accommodation in Patù

Day 5: Discovering the cape treasures and the old city of Gallipoli, 6 mi. (9 km)
This day is dedicated to the discovery of the small treasures of the Cape of Leuca and the beautiful city of Gallipoli. Firstly you will cross ancient paths that connect the small villages. The first stop is Patù with its 'Centopietre', an enigmatic monument created with a funerary function and then used as a religious chapel (traces of Byzantine frescoes are visible). In Giuliano, you will visit the ancient “San Pietro church” (XII century) and its amazing castle. In Barbarano, a highlight will be the sanctuary of Leuca Piccola and its hypogeum, an ancient destination for pilgrims and a stop for the faithful people of Leuca. From here you will walk on to reach the station of Ruggiano-Salve to take the train towards Gallipoli.

In Gallipoli, you will discover the old city, a beautiful island surrounded by the sea linked to the mainland by a XVI century bridge.  Get lost in the streets of this ancient fishing village, searching fascinating corners, baroque churches, and beautiful sea views. 

Train to Nardò

Overnight accommodation in Nardò

Day 6: Porto Selvaggio, 12.5 mi. (20 km)
Porto Selvaggio is one of the most striking coastal areas of Salento, which became a regional natural park in 2006. Within the area, there are numerous karstic caves with the remains of communities dating back to the Palaeolithic era. From the old town of Nardò you will walk through ancient cuttings between dry stone walls and olive groves and at the base of the slope of the Alto promontory where, on the upper plateau, you’ll find the Tower of Santa Maria dell'Alto whose construction dates back to 1568. After having enjoyed the wonderful view that unfolds below the ‘Belvedere’, you will move down to the bay of Porto Selvaggio and from there, following a beautiful path between cliff and the famous Mediterranean ‘macchia’ (scrub) with Aleppo pines, olivastri, lentisco, and acacia saligna, you will reach the Grotta del Cavallo, an archeological site (can only view from the outside) known to be a Neanderthal settlement. From there you will go back to the promontory and walking through scenic trails, you will reach the Uluzzo tower. 

The itinerary continues towards the Nova Masseria and from there, continuing along small trails, you will return to the town of Nardò.  Here you will enjoy a wine tasting in schola Sarmenti specialized in Alberello vineyards. You will taste Fiano, Negroamaro, Primitivo - autochthonous wine)

Activities: Wine tasting
Overnight accommodation in Nardò

Day 7: A visit to Galatina and Lecce
This day is dedicated to a visit to two of the most important old towns in the province of Lecce.

Galatina (Transfer by train from Nardò) 

You will visit the town wandering through the streets of the center until you reach the magnificent Basilica of St. Catherine of Alexandria where you can admire the many frescoes of Giotto's influence. Here you will have your last tasting in “Bottega Stifanelli”, a small shop in the historic center that offers the best local specialties.

Lecce (Transfer by train from Galatina) 

You will enjoy a guided tour of the city of Lecce and the monuments that make it 'the Florence of the South': the historical palaces and their 'courts', the amphitheater and the Roman theater, Santa Maria Della Croce, the cathedral, etc.

Overnight accommodation in Lecce

Day 8: Departure
Onward travel (if requested: transfer to Bari / Brindisi airport for your return)

Day 1: Arrival in Lecce
Day 2: The surroundings of Otranto – Valle dell'Idro, 7.5 mi. (12 km)
Day 3: Punta Palascìa, the easternmost point of Italy, 11 mi. (18 km)
Day 4: The Ciolo and the Cipolliane, 7 mi. (12 km)
Day 5: Discovering the cape treasures and the old city of Gallipoli, 6 mi. (9 km)` 
Day 6: Porto Selvaggio, 12.5 mi. (20 km) 
Day 7: Galatone and cooking class
Day 8: Galatina and Lecce
Day 9: Departure 

Day 1: Arrival in Lecce
Arrival to Bari / Brindisi airport and transfer to Lecce (if needed).
In the late afternoon, you will meet the local representatives who will brief you on your trip (in French or English). Then we recommend a short walking tour in the old town of Lecce, the 'Florence of the South'. You will fall in love with its Spanish baroque architecture and its Roman ruins. 

Overnight accommodation in Lecce.

Day 2: The surroundings of Otranto – Valle dell'Idro, 7.5 mi. (12 km)
In the morning, you will transfer by train from Lecce to Giurdignano. Walking through old meadows in the middle of beautiful olive groves, you will reach Giurdignano where you can visit the megalithic garden with its Bronze Age dolmen and menhirs. Next on the agenda is  Casamassella where you will visit the ancient looms brought back into production by the ‘Le Constantine’ Foundation, an agriculture education center. This peaceful oasis is enclosed by olive tree groves and Mediterranean scrub. The weaving studio here creates textile products with ancient wooden looms.  Walking through the Idro Valley, you will discover an ancient Byzantine crypt.  As you continue on the trail,  you will arrive in Otranto. Here you will have time to discover this pearl of the Adriatic; the Byzantine frescoes of the church of San Pietro, the ramparts overlooking the sea, and the cathedral with its medieval ‘tree of life’ mosaic floor.

Activities: Wine tasting
Overnight accommodation in Otranto.

Day 3: Punta Palascìa, the easternmost point of Italy, 11 mi. (18 km)
Today you will explore the natural wonders around this Idruntina town; the bay of the Orte, the lighthouse of Punta Palascia, and the bauxite quarry. Starting from the Otranto Castle, you will descend to the port through the Porta a Mare. Once you reach the main pier, you immediately enter the coastal area heading to the Snake Tower, easily reachable along wide paths. Imposing cliffs framed by the presence of caverns decorated with stalactites and stalagmites will amaze. You will reach the Lighthouse of Punta Palascia, famous for being the easternmost point of Italy and the place where the Ionian Sea meets the Adriatic.

After a long stretch along the coast, you will leave the paved road and a pleasant trail will lead to the Bauxite Quarry (from which aluminum was once extracted but which is now a stunning lake) whose decisive colors present a unique landscape. From the quarry, you will head back to Otranto.

Activities: Cheese tasting at a local farm
Overnight accommodation in Otranto.

Day 4: The Ciolo and the Cipolliane, 7 mi. (12 km)
In the morning train, you can take a train from Otranto to Gagliano del Capo (1 h 10’). You will get settled into your accommodation and then, when ready, you can start walking towards the Ciolo path that leads to the canals between “pajare” (dry walls), varied flora including bushes of euphorbia arborea flourish and with a stunning view of the sea.

Once you arrive at the bridge of Ciolo, you veer off onto the footpath of the Cipolliane that winds through authentic walls and terraces and a constantly amazing sea view. The vegetation is a mixture of huge ‘fichi d’india’ (prickly pears), imposing agaves, and capers. You will see the stones polished by time, air, and salt, which form the unusual but always harmonious shapes of the walls constructed to protect the small fields from the strength of the sea and the wind. We will visit the caves of the Cipolliane, an interesting complex of caves where you can admire stalactites columns, tunnels, and fossils, and birds colonies. 

Back on the trail you can continue to Novaglie (where you can take a break) or go back to the Ciolo bridge if you’d like to swim. The canal goes up under high cliffs and ancient caves, and after passing a reproduction of the Madonna di Leuca, you will reach the square from which you can continue on to Patù where you will lodge in an ancient restored “Masseria” (manor house). You will have the opportunity to visit the “Bottega Retrò”, where you will have a typical product tasting. 

Activities: Visit Bottega Retrò for typical product tasting
Overnight accommodation in Patù

Day 5: Discovering the cape treasures and the old city of Gallipoli, 6 mi. (9 km)
This day is dedicated to the discovery of the small treasures of the Cape of Leuca and the beautiful city of Gallipoli. Firstly you will cross ancient paths that connect the small villages. The first stop is Patù with its 'Centopietre', an enigmatic monument created with a funerary function and then used as a religious chapel (traces of Byzantine frescoes are visible). In Giuliano, you will visit the ancient “San Pietro church” (XII century) and its amazing castle. In Barbarano, a highlight will be the sanctuary of Leuca Piccola and its hypogeum, an ancient destination for pilgrims and a stop for the faithful people of Leuca. From here you will walk on to reach the station of Ruggiano-Salve to take the train towards Gallipoli.

In Gallipoli, you will discover the old city, a beautiful island surrounded by the sea linked to the mainland by a XVI century bridge.  Get lost in the streets of this ancient fishing village, searching fascinating corners, baroque churches, and beautiful sea views. 

Train to Nardò

Overnight accommodation in Nardò. 

Day 6: Porto Selvaggio, 12.5 mi. (20 km)
Porto Selvaggio is one of the most striking coastal areas of Salento, which became a regional natural park in 2006. Within the area, there are numerous karstic caves with the remains of communities dating back to the Palaeolithic era. From the old town of Nardò you will walk through ancient cuttings between dry stone walls and olive groves and at the base of the slope of the Alto promontory where, on the upper plateau, you’ll find the Tower of Santa Maria dell'Alto whose construction dates back to 1568. After having enjoyed the wonderful view that unfolds below the ‘Belvedere’, you will move down to the bay of Porto Selvaggio and from there, following a beautiful path between cliff and the famous Mediterranean ‘macchia’ (scrub) with Aleppo pines, olivastri, lentisco, and acacia saligna, you will reach the Grotta del Cavallo, an archeological site (can only view from the outside) known to be a Neanderthal settlement. From there you will go back to the promontory and walking through scenic trails, we will reach the Uluzzo tower. 

The itinerary continues towards the Nova Masseria and from there, continuing along small trails, you will return to the town of Nardò.  Here you will enjoy a wine tasting in schola Sarmenti specialized in Alberello vineyards. You will taste Fiano, Negroamaro, Primitivo - autochthonous wine)

Activities: Wine tasting
Overnight accommodation in Nardò.

Day 7: Galatone and cooking class, 7 mi. (11 km)
You will take a train to the small village of Galatone and after a short walk (4 km) you will reach Tenuta Mamma Anna, a family-run “agritourism” where a cooking class will
take place. The products used in the preparation are harvested directly from the family garden: pitta di patate  (a kind of potato gateau, with a stuffing of tomatoes, olives, capers, onion, and tuna), and pittule (fried dough balls filled with tomatoes and capers, or empty to taste with honey), hand-made orecchiette (a
typical local pasta, shaped like an ear, prepared with fingers and a knife), and lastly, the pasticciotto cake (a cake made with shortcrust pastry, filled with chantilly cream). Of course you will get to enjoy all of your creations!

Activites: Cooking class
Overnight accommodation in Galatone.

Day 8: A visit to Galatina and Lecce
This day is dedicated to a visit to two of the most important old towns in the province of Lecce.

Galatina (Transfer by train from Galatone) 

After a 5 km walk, you will take the train from Galatone to Galatina. You will visit the town wandering through the streets of the center until you reach the magnificent Basilica of St. Catherine of Alexandria where you can admire the many frescoes of Giotto's influence. Here you will have your last tasting in “Bottega Stifanelli”, a small shop in the historic center that offers the best local specialties.

Lecce (Transfer by train from Galatina) 

Activities:
You will enjoy a guided tour of the city of Lecce and the monuments that make it 'the Florence of the South': the historical palaces and their 'courts', the amphitheater and the Roman theater, Santa Maria Della Croce, the cathedral, etc.

Overnight accommodation in Lecce

Day 9: Departure
Onward travel (if requested: transfer to Bari / Brindisi airport for your return).

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