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Puglia Cycling Guide

Introduction

Cycling through Puglia, Italy is a superb way to explore a region rich with stunning coastline, whitewashed villages, and a broad historical legacy. At various times, Puglia was colonized by the Greeks, Romans, Germans, and Normans, and on this tour you will be able to see remnants of a large variety of related remaining architecture. Beyond the Adriatic and Ionian coastline combining with the unique architectural attributes of the area, you are still in Italy, and that means you will sample exquisite cuisine and local wines.

The following guide is a compilation of  background, safety and day-by-day routes of the area. Complete with restaurant suggestions and “Points of Interest,” this guide will provide you with thorough, applicable travel information for your next cycling tour through Puglia.

The Day-by-Day section of the guidebook will preview each days route and scenery or points of interest along the way. It’s suggested that you read this before you head out on the day’s ride. Typically, there are three levels of riding each day: easiest, intermediate and challenge.

We are passionate about cycle touring and believe there is no better way to experience the sights, sounds and scents of an area than on two wheels.

Enjoy!

Background on the Area

Highlights

The Puglia (Apulia in Italian) region of Italy is one of the southern regions and borders the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Otranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. Its southernmost portion, known as the Salento peninsula, forms a high heel on the boot of Italy.

The region comprises 19,345 square kilometers (7,469 sq mi), and its population is about 4.1 million. It is bordered by the other Italian regions of Molise to the north, Campania to the west, and Basilicata to the southwest. Across the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, it faces Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, and Montenegro, The Puglia region extends as far north as Monte Gargano. Its capital city is Bari.

Puglia covers over 19,000 square kilometers (7,336 sq mi) in a succession of broad plains and low-lying hills. The central area of the region – where our bike tours are centered – is occupied by the Murge, a vast karst plateau (a landscape formed from the dissolving of rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum), and the Itria Valley.

Puglia is said to be the least mountainous of all the Italian regions though it is by no means flat.

A Little History

Puglia is one of the richest archaeological regions in Italy having been occupied by many ancient peoples. There are several Neolithic and bronze-age sites that have been excavated in the area. From 1700 BCE, Puglia was populated by Mycenaeans and Minoans. In the 8th century BCE, the Ancient Greeks expanded until they reached the area of Taranto and Salento in Magna Graecia. In the 5th and 4th centuries BC, the Greek settlement at Taras produced a distinctive style of pottery known as Apulian vase painting. In the 3rd century BCE, the Romans defeated the Greeks and occupied the region.

In the 6th century CE, the Roman Empire splits and Puglia is controlled by the Byzantine (Eastern) Empire. In the 11th century, the Normans gain control of Puglia and establish a kingdom in Sicily. After 1282, when the island of Sicily was lost, Puglia was part of the Kingdom of Naples (confusingly known also as the Kingdom of Sicily), and remained so until the unification of Italy in the 1860s.

This kingdom was independent under the House of Anjou from 1282 to 1442, then was part of Aragon until 1458, after which it was again independent under a cadet branch of the House of Trastámara until 1501. As a result of the French–Spanish war of 1501–1504, Naples again came under the rule of Aragon and the Spanish Empire from 1504 to 1714. When Barbary pirates of North Africa sacked Vieste in 1554, they took an estimated 7,000 slaves, and the coast of Apulia was occupied at times by the Turks and at other times by the Venetians.

In 1861 the region became part of the Kingdom of Italy, with the new capital city at Turin (later Rome), making the highest government authority remote. In the words of one historian, Turin was “so far away that Otranto is today closer to seventeen foreign capitals than it is to Turin”.

The Economy

The region’s contribution to Italy’s GDP is 4.6%, while its population is 7% of the total. The per capita GDP is low compared to the national average and represents about 68% of the EU average. In comparison with the country as a whole, the economy of Puglia is characterized by a greater emphasis on agriculture and services and a smaller part played by industry. Puglia’s 800 kilometers (497 mi) of coastline is studded with ports, which make this region an important terminal for transport and tourism to Greece and the eastern Mediterranean.

Between 2007 and 2013 the economy of Puglia expanded more than that of the rest of southern Italy making it the wealthiest of the “poor southern states.”

Cuisine

Cuisine plays an important role throughout Puglia. Even other Italians (a country with strong regional pride) will typically praise the quality of the food and the cooking in Puglia.

Locally produced ingredients include olive oil, artichokes, tomatoes, eggplants, asparagus, and nuts. Puglia also produces a significant proportion of Italy’s wheat and so pasta. Local pasta to watch out for is orecchiette (lit. small ear). Cheese making is also important with more sheep- and cow-milk cheeses than buffalo-milk. Noci, in particular is famous for its mozzarella and burrata. At the coast, of course, the seafood is exceptionally good.

Restaurants in Puglia are justifiably proud of their antipasti – generous spreads of mixed starters. It is in the antipasti that you will often find the most flare and creativity in the cooking.

There is a great tradition of fornello pronti in the region where butcher’s shops will grill the meat you buy from them. Many have added seating areas and will also serve bread and wine accompaniments.

Wine

Puglia produces more than 15% of Italy’s wine. That is quite an achievement in a country that produces a lot of wine. Until recently, however, Puglia’s wines did not attract a lot of attention outside of the region. Often the Puglian grapes were used to add body to wines produced in other regions. This is changing and Puglia now boasts 4 DOCGs and 29 DOCs and has some excellent vintages of its own.

NOTE: DOCG stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita and is the highest classification for Italian wines. It denotes controlled (controllata) production methods and guaranteed (garantita) wine quality. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata and is a quality assurance label for Italian wines though typically denotes lower quality wines than DOCG.

Traditionally the area has produced red wines but white wines and rose wines are now growing in prominence as well as some sparkling wines. Broadly, there are two distinctive viticultural sectors – the temperate, undulating north and the hot south.

North of Brindisi and Taranto (the area of our tours), wines tend to be fruity and fragrant with good acidity. Commonly used grapes include the red Bombino Nero, Montepulciano and Sangiovese, and the white Verdeca. Malvasia, Trebbiano, Bianco d’Alessano and Bombino Bianco also contribute to the white wines of the north. The north is better known for its reds from DOC appellations like Barletta, Rosso Canosa and Rosso di Cerignola. The best known DOC is Castel del Monte. These red and rosé wines have gained internationally recognition. Indeed, Castel del Monte Bombino Nero, Castel del Monte Nero di Troia Riserva and Castel del Monte Rosso Riserva have now achieved DOCG status.

Towards the center of the region there is more of a focus on white wines made from Verdeca and there are also some recent plantings of international varieties such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Further south, you find some excellent red wines – primarily around Salento where the Negroamaro and Primitivo grapes dominate.

Climate

The Southern-Mediterranean climate means that it is possible to ride in Puglia throughout the year. However, the best months to visit are April through mid-July and September through to the end of October, when the temperatures are pleasantly warm and the risk of rainfall lower. For some, August is a little too warm though there is usually a cooling sea breeze. Early spring and late fall are also great times to ride as there are few other tourists but you do need to be prepared for some rain. Winter temperatures are similar to those in San Francisco.

The charts below show the monthly average temperatures (in Fahrenheit) and rainfall (in inches) for Ostuni.

Average Monthly Temperatures in Fahrenheit
Average Monthly Rainfall in Inches

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Towns & Cities

Alberobello

Overview

Alberobello (in Italian literally “beautiful tree”) is known as the Capital of the Trulli. The trulli (sing. Trullo) are the round buildings with conical roofs constructed using the local limestone without the use of mortar. Trulli are found throughout the Alberobelloregion but are particularly concentrated in Alberobello – there are some 1,500 trulli in the town. It was this concentration and the uniqueness of the buildings that lead the UN to designate Alberobello a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996.

The greatest concentration of trulli are in the two trulli districts (Zona dei Trulli) called Rione Monti and Rione Aia Piccola. Some of the trulli are now used for stores, restaurants, and lodging but many are still inhabited by locals. There are a lot of tourists in the core of the trulli district but you do not need to wander far to get away from the crowds and even outside of the trulli districts Alberobello is a pleasant town in its own right.

The town is also the center of an annual pilgrimage to the Basilica dedicated to the martyr saints Cosma and Damiano.

Eating & Drinking

Ristorante Pizzeria Il Pinnacolo is popular with both locals and tourists. Food is well prepared and, in the evenings, they have pizzas. The roof terrace overlooking the trulli is a bonus. The only downside is that it can get busy and servers can be a little stretched. In the heart of the trulli district address: Via Monte Nero 30, Alberobello. Open Thursday to Tuesday from 12:00PM – 3:30PM and 7:30PM – 12:00AM. Closed on Wednesdays. + 39 80 432 5799. www.ilpinnacolo.it

For one of the best meals in town, head to La Cantina. The chef says he “honors” local ingredients in dishes that are based on local recipes but with added innovations that let the food really shine. The cooking is great and the service is attentive. The low, vaulted ceilings and the proximity of the kitchen add to the atmosphere. However, it is only a small restaurant so booking is essential. An unassuming entrance in the trulli district at Vico Lippolis, 8 (angolo C.so Vitt. Emanuele), Alberobello. Open Wednesday to Monday from 12:30PM – 3:00PM and 8:00PM – 11:30PM. Closed on Tuesdays. +39 80 432 3473. www.ilristorantelacantina.it

If you are staying at the Hotel Silva (and maybe even if you are not) Trattoria Terra Madre is a great choice. This is a charming, small restaurant that serves vegetables from the garden you dine in. The atmosphere is casual and informal. The other dishes are competently prepared but you really come for the tasty, simply-prepared vegetables. Reservation is highly recommended. The Trattoria is an old trulli house northwest of the town center, address: Piazza Sacramento, 17, 70011 Alberobello. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 12:45PM – 2:45PM and 7:15PM – 9:45PM. Closed on Mondays. +39 327 445 9979. www.trattoriaterramadre.it

If you get to Tratorria Terra Madre and find it is full, the nearby Evo Ristorante over the road is also very good at Trullo Sovrano, Via Giovanni XXIII 1, Alberobello. While you don’t sit in the garden where your vegetables were grown, the food is a little fancier and the service a little more predictable. Reservation is highly recommended. Open: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 12:30PM – 2:30PM and 7:00PM – 9:00PM, Sundays from 12:30PM – 2:30PM. Closed on Wednesdays. +39 320 848 1230. www.evoristorante.com.

Wine Tasting

Trulli e Puglia Wine Bar is a restaurant but also a great place in Alberobello to taste some wine. Located in a 500 year old basement cellar of a Trullo House. They also serve artisan beers in a frozen glasses. Open: 10:00AM – 5:00PM and 7:00PM – 10:30PM every day. Address: Piazza Gabriele d’Annunzio 3 (150 meters from the Saint’Antonio Church), 70011, Alberobello. +39 347 553 8539.

Sites and Things to Do

Sites

There are two main areas for seeing trulli:

  • Rione Monti is a mass of more than 1000 whitewashed trulli on a hill on the southern side of the city. This photogenic area has more than 1000 trulli that are now a mix of restaurants, tourist shops and residential homes. Despite the number of visitors, it is not hard to get away from the crowds as you wander the small alleyways.
  • Rione Aia Piccola is the quieter of the trulli districts and is mostly residential but with a few nice restaurants. Most trulli here are not white-washed but rather natural stone. You will see fewer tourists here and in the afternoon it is very quiet.

Locals and shops often allow tourists to look inside their trulli and climb up onto the panoramic terraces. Many of these places have a basket for donations.Alberobello

If you walk north along Corso Vittorio Emanuele and pass through the modern center of town, you reach the majestic Basilica Santi Medici and beyond that, Trullo Sovrano. Trullo Sovrano (literally Sovereign Trullo) is the only two-story Trullo in Alberobello and was built in the early part of the 18th century by the family of a wealthy priest. This building is now an interesting museum. Inside, is an example of a conventional domestic dwelling. Piazza Sacramento. www.alberobellocultura.it. 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM.

Market Day

Thursday is market day in town. The market has fresh produce as well as multiple other things for sale – from shoes to pots and pans. You will find the market stalls in the center of town along Largo Martellotta and Via Balenzano and up as far as Corso Vittorio Emanuele.

Useful Contacts

Tourist Information Office (Turismo Pro Loco): The tourist office is located at Via Monte Nero 1. +39 (0) 80 432 2822 / +39 345 485 6393 / www.prolocoalberobello.it. Follow signs to “i informazione”. Staff at Italian tourist offices typically speak good English and can be a good source of local knowledge and town maps.

Stores: There is a nice small food supermarket (Alimentari) in the center of the “new” town at Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 76. +39 080 432 2164.

A Little History

Alberobello was first mentioned in the early 16th century when the first 40 families got land to farm in the area. The abundance of calcareous sedimentary material in the area lead to the building of houses with dry stone without the use of mortar. These houses were the first trulli which contributed to the expansion of the settlement.

The story goes that building the houses of dry stone was a requirement of Count Giangirolamo II to help him avoid paying duty to the Bourbons for them as they could easily be dismantled in case of a royal inspection. Over the years the discontent grew as people did not like having to dismantle their homes and they still needed to pay taxes to the Count. Discontent grew to the point when, on May 10th 1797, seven citizens of Alberobello met King Ferdinand of Bourbon and asked for full independence from the Counts of Conversano. Convinced by the citizens – and likely for his own ends – the king ended the subjugation of the town under the Count of Conversano and Alberobello became a royal city.

Ostuni

Overview

OstuniOstuni is a sparkling white city on a hill commonly referred to as La Città Bianca (“the White Town”). It is surrounded by ancient olive groves and has expansive views down to the Adriatic 8 kilometers away. The setting alone is enough to make it one of the most stunning cities in southern Italy. Inside the old city walls, however, it is just as impressive: the city is built on multiple levels all linked together by staircases and cobbled alleyways. At every other turn there are spectacular views across the surrounding countryside and down to the sparkling Adriatic. An impressive 15th Century cathedral sits at the center of the old town. The town’s other prominent buildings are the Bishop’s Palace and a number of palaces built for aristocratic families.

The town has a population of about 32,000 during the winter, but this increases threefold in the summer thanks to tourists and sun seekers from northern Italy and northern Europe. There is also a large number of permanent expatriates from Britain and Germany. Indeed, Ostuni is the fifth city in Italy by percentage of British residents. Some locals have coined the term, “salentoshire” to describe this phenomenon; similar to “chiantishire”, that characterized the number of Britons moving to Tuscany some years ago.

The olive groves surrounding Ostuni are some of the most ancient in the world. Some are claimed to be more than 2,000 years old. Unfortunately, these gnarled old trees are under threat from the xylella fastidiosa bacterium as well as from people who have them uprooted and transported to their homes – despite this practice now being illegal. As you would expect, the local olive oils are excellent.

Ostuni is also the city that marks the transition from the fertile trulli region to the hot dry south.

Eating & Drinking

If you are anything of a foodie, we would highly recommend eating at Cielo the restaurant in the hotel Relais La Sommità. The food is outstanding, the service is great and, to cap it all, there are lovely views. The restaurant also lacks the air-and-graces sometimes found in other Michelin starred restaurants however they do require an elegant / casual dress code, with closed toe shoes and long trousers for gentlemen. Reservations essential. The restaurant is located in the old town in the Relais La Sommità hotel at Via Scipione Petrarolo 7. Open: 1:00PM – 2:30PM and 8:00PM – 10:30PM. +39 0831 305925. www.lasommita.it

Near to Cielo but at the other end of the spectrum is La Gilda. Good for something on the lighter side or if you fancy a beer as a change from all the wine. The small terrace has nice views if you’re able to get a table there. Open: 8:00AM – 10:00PM every day. Addres: Via Gaetano Tanzarella Vitale, 58, 72017 Ostuni. +39 349 858 6683.

Somewhere between the two (though not physically) is Osteria Monacelle. The antipasti (mixed starter) is a great way to get a taste of the many flavors of Puglia. Other courses are great examples for Puglia home cooking. Aimed more at visitors than locals but still family run and makes great food. Located in the heart of the old town: as you walk uphill towards the cathedral on Via Cattedrale look for a small lane on your left just before a tunnel. Address: Via Pietro Vincenti, nei pressi del Museo delle Civiltà preclassiche, 72017, Ostuni. Open: 12:00PM – 3:00PM and 7:00PM – 11:00PM. +39 0831 334212.

Sites and Things to Do

Sites

Piazza della Libertá is the vibrant heart of the town – just outside of the old town proper. It is lined with cafes and bars and a great place to sit and watch the world stroll by. It is also where our rides start and end.

Via Cattedrale is the main route from Piazza della Libertá to the cathedral at the center of the old town. The road is lined with souvenir stores and restaurants but is still charming. The highly polished stone is testament to the number of feet that have passed this way before you – they can also be perilously slippery, even when dry.

Towards the top of the Via Cattedrale, you pass Museo di Civiltà Preclassiche della Murgia Meridionale (The Museum of Pre-Classical Civilization). The museum is housed in a former 13th century convent. Its star exhibit is a 25,000-year-old skeleton nicknamed Delia but there are also other interesting exhibits from local excavations of Neolithic to bronze-age sites. Open: 10:00AM – 1:00PM and 6:00PM – 10:00PM. Address: Via Cattedrale 15. +39 0831 303973. www.ostunimuseo.it

Via_CattedraleAt the top of Via Cattedrale is, unsurprisingly, the Cathedral (Assumption of the Virgin Mary / Concattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta). Prior to 1000 CE there was a church on the site practicing Orthodox rites. In 1228-1229, the present Romanesque church was erected by Frederick II of Swabia. Damaged in an earthquake in 1456 it was rebuilt in a Gothic style between 1469-1495. The rose window was added in the 15th century. The interior has a number of impressive artworks covering the ceiling and altars. The cathedral archives hold nearly 200 parchments dating to the 12th century. In 1986 it became a co-cathedral of the Archdiocese of Brindisi-Ostuni, and in 2011 was granted the status of a minor basilica. Address: Piazza Beato Giovanni Paolo II, 72017 Ostuni. +39 0831 301177.

Olive Oil Tours

7km outside Ostuni is Masseria Brancati, a typical Apulian farmhouse found in the middle of centuries old olive trees located inside the Agrarian Reserve. Tours are €20 per person and include blind tastings of 4 olive oils with explanations of what are the positive and negative attributes of olive oil. Reservations required. Open Monday to Saturday all day. Address: Contrada Brancati, snc, 72017 Ostuni. +39 330 822 910. http://www.masseriabrancati.it/index.php/en/

Useful Contacts

Tourist Information Office (Turismo Pro Loco): The tourist office is located at Palazzo San Francesco at Piazza della Libertà 67. Staff at Italian tourist offices typically speak good English and can be a good source of local knowledge and town maps. +39 0831 307000. www.comune.ostuni.br.it

Stores: There are small food stores dotted around the old town but the larger supermarkets are towards the outskirts of town such as De Spar at Via Armando Diaz 17. +39 0831 34 1509.

A Little History

The region around Ostuni has been inhabited since the Stone age. The town is reputed to have been originally established by the Messapii, a pre-classic tribe, and destroyed by Hannibal during the Punic Wars. It was then re-built by the Greeks, the name Ostuni deriving from the Greek Astu néon (“new town”).

Sacked after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, in 996 AD the town became part of the Norman County of Lecce. The Normans built their medieval town around the summit of the hill (229 m), with a castle (only remains can be seen) and city walls with four gates. From 1300 to 1463 it was part of the Principality of Taranto and from 1507 (together with what is now the frazione of Villanova and Grottaglie) passed to Isabella, Duchess of Bari, wife of Gian Galeazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan. Under Isabella’s rule, Ostuni thrived during the Italian Renaissance. Isabella protected humanists and people of art and letters, including bishop Giovanni Bovio. She died in 1524 and Ostuni passed as a dowry to her daughter Bona Sforza, wife-to-be of Sigismund I of Poland. During Bona Sforza’s government, Ostuni continued to enjoy a stable rule. In 1539 she had towers built along all the shoreline as protection against anticipated attacks from Turks who controlled the Balkans. These towers (that still exist, include Pozzella Tower, the Pylon, and Villanova), were communicated with using fiery beacons.

In the 1679 the city was sold to the Duke of Giovanni Zevallos and so began a period of tyranny for the city. After the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo the Bourbons came to power and Ostuni got rid of the Zevallos. In the 1860, when Garibaldi united Italy, Ostuni became part of the new nation of Italy.

Monopoli

Overview

Monopoli is a medium-sized city and lies on the Adriatic Sea 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of Bari. It has a population of 50,000 and is important mostly as an agricultural, industrial and tourist center. Monopoli

The name of the city derives from the Greek “monos polis” which means “the only city”. Archaeological finds have dated settlement back as far as 20,000 years. In Roman times the town started to become a flourishing commercial port located on the Trajan Way (Via Traiana: a roman road that dates back to 244 BCE and connected Rome with Brindisi).

Today it is still a bustling port town with broadly three parts. The old town by the harbor is a dense network of small lanes opening occasionally into ancient piazzas with a mix of palaces and more simple whitewashed houses. The smell of the sea mixes with that of the laundry hanging above the lanes and the food cooking in the houses. The main sight is the cathedral: Cattedrale Maria Santissima della Madias. Originally built in the 12thcentury, it is now mostly rebuilt in the more a flamboyant style of the 18th century. On the waterfront, there is also the Castle of Charles V.

Circling the old town is the 18th century “new town” with its grid system centered on the pleasant Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. This is the modern-day heart of the town and makes for a pleasant visit in its own right.

As with many cities, the outer layer of Monopoli is a little more prosaic – a mix of residential neighborhoods and commercial areas. There is not much to see here but it is hard to avoid as you leave and enter the city. The most pleasant approach is along the coast, from the south.

MonopoliThere is still an active fishing fleet in Monopoli – part of which still use the traditional wooden boats painted in bright colors. The catch from the fleet can be found in many of the restaurants in town. By contrast, the land around Monopoli is relatively arid: dotted with olive trees, fortified farmhouses and isolated churches.

Unusually for this part of Italy, Monopoli has a bike-share scheme called MonopoliBike. Your rides start at one of their main stands in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II.

Eating & Drinking

A great choice for seafood (and other dishes) is Il Guazzetto. Nothing overly fancy but the food is great and prepared with a little more of a modern twist (creativity) than Il Cavaliere. Open: 12:30PM – 3:00PM Thursday to Tuesday, and 7:30PM – 10:30PM on Tuesdays, Thursday, Fridays, and Saturdays. Closed on Wednesdays. Address: Via dell’Erba, 39, 70043 Monopoli. +39 080 4107175. www.ristoranteilguazzetto.it

A Spanish restaurant in Italy may not sound like the best choice, but if you want a change from Italian or you are more interested in meat than seafood, Hostaria de Don Juan is a nice option. Meat is something of their specialty but they also have great seafood and vegetable tapas dishes. Service is friendly and there is seating outside as well as inside in a vaulted dining room. Deep in the lanes of the old town at Via Sallustio 15, 70043 Monopoli. Open: 7:45PM – 11:45PM Tuesday to Saturday and 12:30PM – 3:00PM on Sundays. Closed on Mondays. +39 080 747470. http://www.ristorantedonjuan.it/

For something hipper and more casual in the heart of the old town (right on Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi) try Vini & Panini for nice sandwiches and snacks. Not high cuisine but friendly and tasty. Open: 11:00AM – 11:30PM every day. Address: Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, 34, 70043 Monopoli. +39 080 967 3612. https://viniepanini.business.site/

Down the coast and popular with locals and tourists, Trattoria Il Cavaliere is a solid, good value choice for seafood. As a consequence, lunchtimes in this cozy restaurant with vaulted ceilings are busy and the service is efficient and perfunctory rather than overly friendly. Located approximately 6km down the coast in Capitolo. Open: 12:30PM – 3:00PM and 7:30PM – 11:00PM Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Mondays. Address: Contrada Lamandia, 15, 70043 Capitolo. +39 080 9303106.

Sites and Things to Do

Sites

The principal sight in town is the Cathedral: Cattedrale Maria Santissima della Madia. The cathedral was erected near the site of a Roman temple and burial site. Work began on the cathedral as early as 1107 but was halted for the lack of roof beams. The story goes that a miracle occurred in 1117 when a raft carrying an icon of the Madonna drifted into the harbor. The beams from this raft were used to construct the roof. A series of four paintings (1732) in the Chapel of the Martyrs by Michelangelo Signorile recount the Miracle of the Raft. The Romanesque structure was not complete until 1442. Two of the three bell-towers were damagedCattedrale_Maria_Santissima_della_Madia during the siege of the Marquis Del Vasto in 1528. The remaining tower collapsed in 1686, killing forty townspeople. By 1693, a new campanile had been erected. In 1738, an endowment by Bishop Giulio Sacchi called for a refurbishment. The old church was razed, and a new church begun in 1742. The new church is in the neoclassical style and was completed in 1772. In 1986, the dioceses of Monopoli and Conversano were joined, making this a co-cathedral. Open: Weekdays from 8:00AM – 7:00PM, Sundays and public holidays: 7:30AM – 9:30AM and 11:00AM to 7:00PM. Closed on Saturdays. Located at the southwest corner of the old town at Piazza Cattedrale 1. +39 080742 253. www.cattedralemonopoli.net

Useful Contacts

Tourist Information Office: The tourist office is located at Via Garibaldi 8. +39 080 414 0264. Follow signs to “i informazione”. Staff at Italian tourist offices typically speak English and are a source of local knowledge and town maps.

Stores: There is a small fruit and vegetable store and grocery at Alimentari Piazza xx Settembre located at Piazza Alessandro Manzoni 3. +39 347 213 1280. 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM.

A Little History

The area was first settled in about 500 BC as a fortified Messapian city. In 108 CE, the Emperor Trajan ordered the construction of the Via Trajan to improve communication with the East. Monopoli was a significant city on this route that linked Rome with Brindisi and on to the Balkans, the Orient and Greece.

After the destruction of Enazia by the Ostrogoth king Totila in 545, its inhabitants fled to Monopoli, from which it derives its modern-day name as “the only city”. In the following centuries the area would be controlled by the Byzantines, Normans and Hohenstaufen, and was a starting point for several naval Crusades. This was one of the most prosperous times for the city. Later it was a fief under Angevine and Aragonese feudal lords and fell a little into decline.

In 1484 the city came under Venetian control and saw an economic upswing as a seaport on the Adriatic Sea and as a base between Bari and Brindisi, as well as through trading its own agricultural goods. It was frequently attacked by pirates in the following decades. These continuous threats forced Monopoli to build strong fortifications which allowed them in 1529 to resist against the Armada of Charles V for three months, forcing the Spaniards to abandon the siege. However, the next year, Monopoli passed under Spanish rule, but remained a free city. It became part of the newly unified state Kingdom of Italy in 1860.

The city enjoyed economic development during the 1960s thanks to the opening of a Tognana (an important Italian ceramic manufacturer) industrial plant. Similarly, the closure of this plant in the end of the 1990s worsened the city’s economy. Monopoli’s economic recovery in recent years has mostly been due to new industries (the most important is the MerMec, which produces railway material) and the development of tourism.

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Day-by-Day

Polignano a Mare to Alberobello

Overview

AlberobelloToday you ride to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Alberobello. As this is your start day, you can vary the distance you ride simply by choosing where you are dropped off. The regular option (Option 2 below) starts in Castellana Grotte. This is a relatively short ride, which can work well for the first day. The extended option (Option 1 below) starts in Polignano a Mare and climbs up from the coast before joining the regular route from Castellana. Option 1 also require a little more navigating as it follows small lanes up from the coast.

Option 1

Those that start in Polignano a Mare will start out riding across a dry, flat, coastal plain; past miles of olive groves planted in the rich red soil that is typical for the area. As you cycle along the small, wall-lined lanes, you understand why this region produces more olive oil than any other region in Italy. The route is on small, single-lane roads that can be a little rough in places. You will also need to check your directions as you navigate this web of small lanes. The benefit is that you will see very few cars.

After a few kilometers you start to climb and the terrain becomes a little greener – though still dominated by olive trees. After 15 kilometers of rolling climbs, you reach the town of Castellana Grotte. The town is pleasant, if unremarkable, but it has been put on the map because it is close to the largest cave system in Italy. Discovered in 1938, these limestone caves are a multi-kilometer network of underground tunnels complete with spectacular stalagmites and stalactites.

This ride option joins up with Option 2, below, to continue to Alberobello.

Option 2 (and Option 1 continued)

The caves of Grotte di Castellana are the typical starting location for those looking for a slightly easier first day. The route starts out across open farmland: vibrant green fields in spring, golden grass in the summer, and rich red clay in late summer and fall. Navigating this network of tiny byways requires regular stops to check directions – or a positive attitude to getting lost! While the total amount climbed is not excessive, there are a few short-and-steep challenges before you reach Noci.Noci

For most people, Noci is a good lunch stop. Don’t be put off by the unpromising outskirts. Like most towns in Puglia, Noci is surrounded by ugly tenement buildings. However, inside this Soviet-style exterior is a charming old town (Centro Storico) that is little-changed since medieval times; a maze of winding cobbled streets and small courtyards. You won’t find Noci in the guidebooks, which means it is quiet and unspoiled with more locals in the restaurants than tourists. But, make sure you arrive before 2:30 PM as they still take siesta seriously here and the town will be deserted (and closed up) by 3:00 PM. Noci is also famous for its mozzarella and there are several good cheese shops in the town.

From Noci, the route is on slightly larger roads and the navigation gets a little easier. You will start to see vineyards and arable crops as well as the ubiquitous olive trees. As you get closer to Alberobello, you will also pass whitewashed cottages and small clusters of distinctive trulli – iconic round cottages with conical roofs. However, nothing quite prepares you for the bizarre wonder of the Zona di Trulli – a UNESCO World Heritage Site at the heart of Alberobello. See Alberobello in the Towns and Cities section of this guidebook for more details about Alberobello.

To shorten your ride: If you want to shorten your ride, just ask to be dropped nearer to Alberobello.

For easier navigation: If you want to avoid the smaller, rougher roads that require more navigation, ride SP 120 from Polignano to Castellana Grotte. This is easy to navigate – following the main road and signs to Castellana Grotte – but carries more traffic (depending on the time of day). Similarly, the SP 239 is the more direct (but busier) route from Noci to Alberobello.

For a longer ride: The best way to enjoy a longer ride is, arriving into Alberobello to take one of the loop rides out of Alberobello either to Fasano/Savelletri or to Locorotondo/Martina Franca (see Alberobello Loop Day).

Route Options

The two routes options described above – and in your turn-by-turn directions – are:

Easy Route

From Castellana Grotte to Alberobello is 26 KM (15 miles) with 300 meters (990 feet) of climbing. From Castellana the terrain is flatter but, like most of Puglia, the terrain is always rolling and peppered with short-steep sections.

Intermediate Route

From Polignano a Mare to Alberobello is 44 KM (30 miles) with 640 meters (2,100 feet) of climbing. There is a steady climbing up from Polignano to Castellana – though the climb is rolling so you get plenty of relief.

Lunch

The obvious place for lunch today is Noci. There are also options in Castellana (and Grotte di Castellana).

In Castellana Grotte: Terre Di Puglia is a nice local restaurant and surprisingly good given that it is right next to the entrance Terre_Di_Pugliato the grotto. Traditional lunch as well as pizza. Located at Piazzale Franco Anelli. Note: it is a little difficult to read their name on the sign. Open: 12:00PM – 3:00PM Friday to Wednesday. Closed on Thursdays. +39 804 963 692.

In the town of Castellana Grotte (rather than at the caves themselves): Osteria Caroseno adds a creative flare to traditional Puglianese cooking. The passion for their food shows through and a great choice if you want a longer sit-down lunch. From the rail crossing on your route, turn left down Via Conversano. As the main road turns right (and there are no entry signs straight ahead) turn left down a small lane and you will see the restaurant on RHS. Address: Via Santomagno, 18, 70013 Castellana Grotte. Open Wednesday to Monday from 1:00PM – 3:00PM. Closed on Tuesdays. +39 080 496 1381. www.osteriadelcarosenobeb.com

In Noci: PiazzAntica is a nice restaurant in a nice, central location with tables inside as well as outside on the piazza. Traditional Puglia cuisine and some of the best cooking in this small town. Great burrata – see below. Typically, they do not make pizza at lunchtime. Located in the center of the old town at Piazza Plebiscito 28, Noci. Open: 1:00PM – 3:30PM every day. +39 080 3215246. http://www.piazzantica.it/

A simple alternative to PaizzAntica is Dama Dore Caffe. A no fuss pizzeria and restaurant popular with locals. Food is good and there is a small outdoor area on the street. Open all day every day. Address: Via Calvario, 14, Noci. +39 080 321 8176.

Sites

Grotte di Castellana: The caves were discovered in 1938 and consist of a limestone cave system that is 3.3 kilometers in length and reaches to a depth of over 100 meters. The temperature within the caves is about 18 °C. There are two itineraries. The first is 1-kilometer-long and lasts about 50 minutes while the second is 3-kilometers-long and lasts about two hours.

There are many caves in the network with descriptive names given to them by the early exploders including the Grave (100 m in length, 50 m wide, and 60 m in deep), the She-Wolf, the Monuments, the Owl, the Little Virgin Mary, the Altar, the Precipice, the Desert Corridor, the Reverse Column, the Red Corridor, the Dome up to the last and the most dazzling one, the White Cave. Many of the caves have spectacular stalactites, stalagmites, curtains and crystals.

There are both long and short tours in English. Times vary by month but they are typically on the hour and half-hour. You are asked to arrive 30 minutes before your chosen time. You will need good shoes and a jacket or light top. +39 080 499 8221. Detailed timetable at www.grottedicastellana.it/en/timetable

Stores: The largest store on route is a Euro-Spin Supermarket in Castellana Grotte. Your route passes it just before you reach the town as the route joins SP 237. +39 080 496 5814.


Mozzerella, Burrata and Stracciatella

Puglia is famous for its cheeses – especially mozzarella, burrata and stracciatella. In this region, cows’ milk is more commonly used than buffalo milk. Noci is one of the local centers of production for this family of cheeses.

Mozzerella is the traditional, tennis-ball-sized, cheese that is used in pizzas and salads. Traditionalists would say that real mozzarella must be produced using buffalo milk. It is made by kneading and stretching the milk curds in hot water, and shaping chunks of the cheese into balls the size of a fist or a little larger.

Stracciatella is made of small shreds of mozzarella curds – hence its name, which in Italian means “a little shred”. The curds are stretched and shredded using the pasta filata technique. As well as using it as the creamy center of burrata (see below), you will see it drizzled (cold) on the top of pizzas (with tomato and basil) as well as in soups and sauces.

Burrata is a fresh cheese made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella, while the inside contains stracciatella and thick cream, giving it a soft, buttery texture. It is usually served fresh and at room temperature. The word “burrata” means “buttered” in Italian.

None of these cheeses keep well – even in a refrigerator – and are best consumed fresh while they are still soft and melty!

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Alberobello Loops Rides

Overview

You could spend several contented days in and around Alberobello. Both the Trulli District (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the town more generally are interesting to explore and everything is within walking distance. The surrounding countryside also has interesting and less visited towns and villages. You have two options for bike rides: one inland and one down to the coast. If you only have time for one of these rides, we recommend Option 1 to Locorotondo and Martina Franca – especially if your itinerary includes a day riding from Ostuni to Monopoli.Chiesa_Madre_San_Giorgio

Option 1

Today’s inland ride is to the spectacular towns of Locorotondo and Martina Franca.

To reach Locorotondo you ride past vineyards dotted with whitewashed trulli. Many of the grapes you see are used to produce a sparkling white wine (spumante) that is a specialty of the area. The literal meaning of Locorotondo is round place. The reason for the name becomes obvious as you glimpse the white city perched atop a conical hilltop. Inside the town is even more beautiful. The traffic-free old town is a lovely place to wander with polished white stone streets lined by whitewashed houses. The pink and red geraniums add the perfect accent. With blue skies the norm here, it is not hard to take iconic photos. If you need a destination to justify your wanderings, the baroque cathedral (Chiesa Madre San Giorgio) in the center of the old town is well worth a visit. At 10 kilometers, Locorotondo is the perfect stopping point for a mid-morning latte before riding south to Martina Franca.

To get to Martina Franca you ride on small, wall-lined lanes across open countryside. The riding is easy and pleasant until you are within a few kilometers of the city when the road pitches up steeply as you climb up to the historic center – the highest in the region. But it is well worth the effort; Martina Franca is one of the most elegant towns in the area (once you ride through the soviet-style tenements on the outskirts of the town).

A short walk through the town of Martina Franca will take you from an elegant square, past a ducal palace and a baroque church and onto a peaceful piazza where there are several good restaurants. Travel a little deeper into the old town and you will see hundreds of wrought-iron balconies typically draped with flowers.

Martina Franca was founded by refugees fleeing the Saracen invasion of nearby Taranto (on the west cost of the heel) in the 10th century. It then flourished under Philip of Anjou who granted the town various tax exemptions. Each summer, the town hosts an opera festival.

The ride back to Alberobello, is relatively simple to navigate but there are no towns en route so we suggest filling up your water bottles in Martina Franca as the afternoons can be hot and the route includes a a five-kilometer rolling climb.

Option 2

The coastal ride is hillier and longer. The riding starts out easily enough, with a gentle descent across arable farmland dotted with vineyards. You then climb up to Santa Lucia and once again enjoy a rolling ride across farmland before starting a precipitous descent past an amusement park into Fasano on a steep, tight-twisting road with ten switchbacks. If you can take your eyes off the Fasanoroad, you will enjoy wide, open views down to Fasano and the Adriatic coast.

Fasano feels like a seaside town yet is inland from the coast. Behind the small-but-elegant town square is charming-but-small old town. Nothing exceptional but well worth a wander and a great place to stop for a morning coffee.

From Fasano you ride across the flat coastal dunes down to Savelletri on the coast. Depending on your mood and the weather, Savelletri can look like a slightly rundown seaside resort or a charming fishing hamlet huddled around two small harbors. Either way, it makes a great lunch stop with a couple of great restaurants and some more casual cafes.

The real work begins on the return ride. It starts out gently enough with a ride down the coast before heading inland across the dunes back to Fasano. However, after Fasano, you have a five-kilometers climb up the cliffs that separates the coastal plain from the rolling farmland of the Valle d’Itria. Once up this wall, the riding is again pleasantly rolling along country lanes as you take a more southerly route back into Alberobello. On the ride back you will glimpse Locorotondo – a classic white city on a hill – but that is for another day.

Route Options

There are two routes described above – and in your turn-by-turn directions:

Option 1

This route is 30 kilometers (20 miles) with 290 meters (950 feet of climbing). The ride is gently rolling until a few kilometers from Martina Franca where you start a relatively steep climb up to the center of the city. There is also a rolling five-kilometer climb on the way back Alberobello.

To shorten this ride: Turn around in Locorotondo and return to Alberobello the way you came. This makes for a 20-kilometer ride with relatively little climbing.

Option 2

This route is 60 kilometers (40 miles) with 690 meters (2,300 feet of climbing). The two main challenges on this ride are the precipitous descent into Fasano and the precipitous ascent out of Fasano. Apart from these – and a manageable climb up to Santa Lucia, the riding is relatively benign.

To shorten this ride: To shorten this ride, you could have lunch and turn around in Fasano. This would save you 20 kilometers of riding but not save you very much climbing.

For a longer ride: The best way to get a longer ride is to combine the two options into a 90-kilometer figure-of-eight ride.

Lunch

Where you lunch today will depend on the route options you choose.

In Locorotondo: U’Curdunn is down a small lane in the heart of the old town. They serve traditional food in a lovely setting. Simple, affordable and tasty. Open Wednesday to Monday from 12:30PM – 3:00PM. Closed on Tuesdays. Address: Via Dura, 19, Locototondo. +39 080 431 1433. www.ristoranteucurdunn.it

LocorotondoQuanto Basta Pizzeria is in a similar location but also serves pizza – though it is not always open for lunch. Closed Mondays. Address: Via Morelli 12, Locorotondo. +39 080 431 2855.

Just inside the gates of the old town, Caffe Della Villa is the perfect place for a morning coffee and to sit and watch the world pass by. Address: Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, 22, Locorotondo.

In Martina Franca: In Martina Franca your choice is between eating in the scenic center or navigating the alleyways to get off the beaten track. In the center of the old town – clustered around the Basilica and the Piazza Plebiscito – are a number of pleasant restaurants with tables on the pedestrianized square with its shady arcades.

If you want to be on the square is Garibaldi Bistrot. Right in front of the church, this restaurant serves some extremely tasty dishes – pastas, seafood as well as the traditional antipasti. On the RHS of the square as you pass the basilica. Address: Piazza Plebiscito 13, Martina Franca. Open from 11:00AM every day. +39 080 483 7987.

Nearby, Nausikaa, just off the Piazza probably has better food – traditional Puglian including nice seafood. There is also outdoor seating clustered around couple of twisting lanes. Located down a small lane on LHS, at the end of the Piazza. Address: Via Arco Fumarola 2, Martina Franca. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 12:00PM – 3:00PM. Closed on Mondays. +39 080 485 8275. www.ristorantenausikaa.com

If you want to stray further afield – and enjoy a walk down lanes with wrought-iron balconies bedecked with flowers – head to Coco Pazzo da Stefano. This is a great place for a leisurely lunch including a bountiful antipasti and nice pasta. The owner/chef (Stefano) often serves at the tables and will tell you tales of his time in New York. The restaurant is located on a small square on the “other” side of the old town at Via Arco Mastrovito 18-19, Martina Franca. Open for lunch from Friday to Monday, and Wednesdays 12:30PM – 2:45PM. Closed for lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays. +39 080 483 8299. http://www.cocopazzo.it/

In Fasano: If you don’t plan to ride all the way to Savelletri, you can also enjoy nice seafood in Fasano. Locanda di Martume is one of the nicest in the old town with great langoustines and zucchini stuffed with cheese and shrimps. Vito, the owner, speaks good English and is a good host – he also ran a restaurant in London before returning to Puglia. The only downside is that they are only open for lunch on Sundays, from 12:30PM – 2:30PM. Address: Via Santa Teresa 36, Fasano. +39 080 332 4666.

Slightly less of a treat but still great food in Fasano old town is at Pizzeria del Portico. As the name implies, there are tables under the arcades and this is a popular place to eat and watch the world go by. More locals than tourists and offering more than just pizza – pasta, meats and antipasti. Indeed, they do not always fire up the pizza oven at lunchtime. Located on the edge of the old town. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 12:30PM – 3:00PM. Closed on Mondays. Address: Piazza Mercato Nuovo, 72015 Fasano. +39 339 396 2668.

In Savelletri: We have had some of our best seafood meals in this slightly unpromising looking town. At Osteria del Porto, the outdoor terrace (complete with a tank of lobsters and the catch-of-the-day on ice) is a great place to enjoy a delicious and Savelletrilingering lunch. Having the fishing boats bobbing in the harbor behind you just completes the scene. Located in the center of town by the harbor at Piazza del Porto,19, Savelletri. At weekends it can get busy, so arrive early or make a reservation. Open from 11:45AM every day. +39 338 280 5468. www.osteriasavelletri.it

Saporedisale, next door, is also a great seafood restaurant with a similar setup with a little more of a modern flare rather than being quite so traditional. Open: 12:00PM – 5:00PM every day. Address: Piazza Del Porto, 13, Savelletri. +39 080 482 9289. www.saporedisalesavelletri.it

Continuing around the seafront on Via Fiume you will find several cafes and bars – as well as more restaurants – these make a nice stop for coffee and gelato.


Martina Franca DOC

The commune of Martina Franca produces a white Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) wine that can be made in a still or sparkling Spumante style. The wine has a tendency not to age well, often turning from a light white color to a darker amber color and losing its fresh fruit flavors after only 3 to 4 years in the bottle.

All grapes destined for DOC wine production need to be harvested to a yield no greater than 13 tonnes/ha. The wine is made predominantly (50-65%) from Verdeca grapes. Bianco d’Alessano grapes can make between 45-40% of the blend. Additional grapes are permitted up to a maximum of 5% including Bombino bianco, Fiano and Malvasia Toscana.

The finished wine must attain a minimum alcohol level of 11% in order to be labelled with the Martina Franca DOC.


Useful Contacts en Route

Stores: There are supermarkets in:

Locorotondo: Shop Market. Open Monday to Saturday from 7:30AM – 2:00PM, and 5:00PM – 9:30PM and Sundays from 8:30AM – 2:00PM. Address: Pezzolla, Piazza Antonio Mitrano 1. +39 080 431 1053

Martina Franca: Simply Market. Open Monday to Saturday from 8:00AM – 9:00PM. Closed on Sundays. Address: Via Alessandro Fighera, 33, 74015 Martina Franca. +39 080 483 9288.

Fasano: Supermercato Punto Simply. Open Monday to Saturday from 8:00AM – 1:15PM, and 4:30PM – 8:30PM. Closed on Sundays. Address: Piazzale Kennedy 25. +39 080 439 2669

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Alberobello to Ostuni

Overview

Today you leave the fanciful world of the Trulli and head to the gleaming white city on a hill that is Ostuni. En route, you pass through Locorotondo and Cisternino – two of the most charming cities in the region.Ostuni

The cruise to Locorotondo is relatively flat and easy to navigate making the first 10 kilometers pass quickly. If you didn’t visit Locorotondo yesterday, it is well worth taking a little time to detour into the old part of the town whose name literally means “round place”. The traffic-free Centro Storico is a lovely place to wander with its polished white stone streets lined with whitewashed houses. The pink and red geraniums add the perfect accent. If you need a destination to justify your wanderings, the baroque cathedral (Chiesa Madre San Giorgio) in the center of the old town is well worth a visit. The café on the square just inside the walls of the old town makes a perfect spot for a mid-morning coffee.

The route from Locorotondo to Cisternino is on small lanes but, once out of Locorotondo, it is relatively straight forward to navigate – except for an easy-to-miss turn in Figazzano. The lanes track the bottom of the valley so the riding is mostly flat or downhill until you see Cisternino. Cisternino is another “city on a hill”. The climb starts about two kilometers out and is steep in places. On arriving into Cisternino there are two rewards for all the climbing: 1. great views from a small plaza with a very convenient café/gelato store, and 2. A slow-paced town that has been designated borghi più belli (one of Italy’s most beautiful towns).

OstuniCisternino also has a number of butchers who will cook your meat to order (fornello pronti) and serve it at tables right in the store; obviously only a treat for meat lovers though the butchers often grill vegetables too. The town also has an excellent artisanal gelato store (L’Era Glaciale in the old town, past the main square and not the one with the great view).

The 13th-century Chiesa Matrice – where you enter the old town – is worth a look but Cisternino mostly rewards those that wander without purpose and it is compact enough that you never feel lost.

After lunch, an ice cream and a wander, you continue your ride towards Ostuni. Again you are on smaller roads and the terrain gets more arid as you head south. After passing through the tiny hamlet of Panza (no store) you have a short-steep climb up to a ridge that has open views down to the Adriatic across craggy limestone terrain. You then descend along this ridge down to the city that epitomizes “white cities on hills”: Ostuni. Your short climb to the city center is along black cobbled streets. See Ostuni in the Towns and Cities section of this guidebook for more details about Ostuni.

Route Options

The route described above, and in your turn-by-turn directions is 35 kilometers (20 miles) with 300 meters (990 feet of climbing). Overall, the route is downhill and there are no major climbs except for the two kilometers up to Cisternino. There are also several short-and-steep sections such as the straight-as-a-die road after Panza.

To shorten your ride: The only way to shorten today’s ride is to ask for a van transfer. Both Locorotondo and Cisternino make good drop-points.

For easier navigation: If you want to avoid the smaller, rougher roads that take more navigation, you could ride SP 134 and SP 11 to Cisternino. From Cisternino, the SP 17 takes you directly to Ostuni.

To extend your ride: The best way to enjoy a longer ride is to take one of the loop rides out of Ostuni either to Ceglie Messapica, Carovigno, or the coast at Torre Guaceto (see Ostuni Loop Day).

Lunch

The most obvious place for lunch today is Cisternino. However, if you make a late start you may choose to have lunch in Locorotondo.

In Cisternino: Cisternino is rightly famed for its fornello pronti – butchers who cook your meat in their stores (or more normally, at a grill just outside their front door). You will find several of these in Cisternino old town. Of the several to choose from, we like Rosticceria L’Antico Borgo. The meat is good quality and the place seems a little less touristy than some of those on the square. Choose your raw meat and how you want it cooked. Simple setup, great meat though not great for non-meat-eaters. Just past the main square at Via Tarantini 9. Open Monday to Saturday from 9:00AM – 12:00PM and 7:00PM – 11:00PM. Closed on Sundays. +39 080 444 6400. www.rosticceria-lanticoborgo.it

As an alternative to pure meat, try Osteria Bell’Italia. This tucked-away gem is worth seeking out for great antipasti as well as main courses: authentic local cuisine with friendly service. Located around the corner from Rosticceria L’Antico Borgo at Via Duca d’Aosta 29. Open every day from 12:30AM – 2:30PM and 7:30PM – 11:30PM.  +39 080 444 9036.

Some of the best gelato in the area can be found at L’Era Glaciale. Straight on from the main square at Santa Lucia, 9-11. +39 320 796 3853.

For a simple coffee or gelato with a view, stop in at Cremeria Vignola on your cycling route. Open 11:00AM ‘til late every day. Address: Via Santa Lucia, 9/11, 72014 Cisternino. +39 320 796 3853.

In Locorotondo: U’Curdunn is down a small lane in the heart of the old town. They serve traditional food in a lovely setting. Simple, affordable and tasty. Open Wednesday to Monday from 12:30PM – 3:00PM. Closed on Tuesdays. Address: Via Dura, 19, Locototondo. +39 080 431 1433. www.ristoranteucurdunn.it

Quanto Basta Pizzeria is in a similar location but also serves pizza – though it is not always open for lunch. Closed Mondays. Address: Via Morelli 12, Locorotondo. +39 080 431 2855.

Just inside the gates of the old town, Caffe Della Villa is the perfect place for a morning coffee and to sit and watch the world pass by. Address: Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, 22, Locorotondo.


Fornello Pronti

While butcher’s shops across Puglia will often grill the meat you buy from them, the butchers of Cisternino have made it something of a specialty and many have added seating areas that are as large as the original store.

If you see a butcher shop with a “Fornello Pronto” sign on the door, just go in and order some Fornello. The butcher will actually cook the meat for you on a (usually wood fired) barbecue. Many butcher’s shops have a side room where you can sit, bring your wine and enjoy the barbecue. The benches make for a friendly, informal atmosphere. In Cisternino the tables are a little more formal – controlled by waiters – but eating is relaxed and tasty.

Specialties of the area include bombette (little bombs), spiedini (mixed meats on skewers) gnumireddi (lamb liver and herbs), and chicken wings wrapped in smoked Pancetta.


Useful Contacts en Route

Stores: There are a couple of reasonable supermarkets on your route.

Cisternino: Supermercato Olive. Open: 8:30AM – 9:00PM every day. Closes at 1:00PM on Sundays. Address: Via Fasano 85. +39 080 444 7015

Locorotondo: Shop Market. Open Monday to Saturday from 7:30AM – 2:00PM, and 5:00PM – 9:30PM and Sundays from 8:30AM – 2:00PM. Address: Pezzolla, Piazza Antonio Mitrano 1. +39 080 431 1053

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Ostuni Loop Rides

Overview

Ostuni is another city that has enough to entertain one for several days. Surrounded by limestone walls, the old section of the city rewards those who wander without purpose. There are also two good bike rides into the hinterland. Ostuni

Option 1

For an adventure inland, you will ride to Ceglie Messapica. The city dates back to Messapian times (500 BCE) but most of the visible buildings are “merely” 14th century. The sleepy old town makes a fine lunch stop. It is the typical maze of narrow alleyways paved with white, polished stone. These small lanes connect a series of pleasant piazzas dotted with medieval churches and a modest castle. Ceglie Messapica is off the main tourist routes and you won’t find it in most guidebooks. However, it boasts a surprising number of good restaurants.

The route out to Ceglie Messapica is on small lanes that meander and twist their way across terrain dominated by olive groves. The route is scrappy in places – the road-surface is quite potted and there are several unsigned turns to navigate – but the benefit is that, once you leave Ostuni, you will see very few cars until reaching the outskirts of Ceglie Messapica. By contrast, navigating the return route to Ostuni is simple – via SP 16 and SP 14. While these roads carry more traffic, they are also a little more scenic. The ride ends with a short climb back up to Ostuni. As you arrive into Ostuni, you will have superb views of the city – perched on the hill with the Adriatic in the background.

Option 2

For those looking to visit the seaside, the Torre Guaceto nature reserve is one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in Puglia; with sandy bays and clear water. As you might expect the route is predominantly down on the way to the coast and a steady climb on the way back. On the way out, Carovigno makes for a modest, if pleasant stopping point – this is also your last chance to collect food and water for the beach. Like many towns in the area, Carovigno has a characterful, small old town surrounded by less attractive modern sprawl. Those wanting a shorter ride with relatively little climbing will make Carovigno their turning around point.

Torre_GuacetoThose riding onto the coast will descend down to Area Marina Torre Guaceto; specifically, Spiaggia di Punta Penna Grossa. This sandy, pretty bay is great for swimming with inviting turquoise waters. There are few facilities at the beach, so you need to take your own food and water. Even though cars are not allowed down to the beach, the bay is typically crowded in July and August. If you want a sit-down lunch, you could head up the coast to Torre Santa Sabina. This seaside town has a couple of good seafood restaurants overlooking the small harbor. A side trip to Torre Santa Sabina will add 20 flat kilometers to the day’s ride unless you return to Carovigno via the busier (but more direct) SP 34 in which case it adds only a few kilometers.

The ride back to Ostuni climbs up past some of the oldest olive trees on the peninsula – on the Serranova plain. Some have been carbon dated to be over two thousand years old. With their gnarled and twisted trunks, you can believe it. Again, Carovigno is a good stopping point on the way back before continuing your steady climb up to Ostuni.

Route Options

There are two routes described above – and in your turn-by-turn directions:

Option 1

This route is 30 kilometers (20 miles) with 330 meters (1000 feet of climbing). Most of the climbing is in the 5 KM ascent up to Ceglie Messapica. However, there are other, shorter climbs, notably as you return up to Ostuni.

There are no real stopping places between Ostuni and Ceglie Messapica and so no practical way to shorten this ride. If you want to avoid the rough roads and more intricate navigation of the outward journey, you could ride out on SP 22 – a remarkably straight and easy to navigate road. Of course, it is also a busier route. See map.

To extend this option a little on the return leg, you could continue along SP 16 to Cisternino and from there ride on SP 17 back to Ostuni. This extension would add 15 kilometers and 240 meters of climbing.

Option 2

This route is 45 kilometers (30 miles) with 360 meters 1200 feet of climbing. Most of the climbing is in the second half of the ride: from the coast back up to Ostuni.

To shorten the day’s ride to 20 kilometers, and avoid much of the climbing, turn back to Ostuni on reaching Carovigno.

A detour to the restaurants in Torre Santa Sabina adds an extra 20 flat kilometers unless you ride the busier SP 34 back to Carovigno – see map.

To extend your ride: simply combine both options above. This gives you a ride totaling 75 KM with 690 meters of climbing.

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend on the ride option you choose.

In Ceglie Messapica: As you will have likely learned by now, even the most “normal” of towns can have great restaurants. cibus_ristoranteCeglie Messapica is a great example of this. Our favorite restaurant here is Cibus. The food is very well prepared, service excellent and English is spoken. The antipasti are a little more creative than the typical, abundant spread. The shady, semi-open setting also makes this a great place to linger over some great food. Located in the old town at Via Chianche di Scarano 7. Open Wednesday to Monday from 12:30PM – 2:30PM. Clsoed on Tuesdays. +39 0831 388980. www.ristorantecibus.it

Osteria L’Antico Arco is a good alternative if Cibus is either closed or full. Well prepared traditional food in a nice atmosphere. Open 1:00PM – 4:00PM every day. Address: Via Celso, 4, 72013 Ceglie Messapica. +39 339 759 1381.

In Tore Santa Sabina: The Ristorante Miramare da Michele has been widely reviewed in the international press. The setting – right on the harbor – is perfect for a seafood meal and they serve great dishes such as the lobster pasta. The restaurant is easy to find: keep riding down the road into town and when you reach the water, they are on your right. Address: Via della Torre 3. Open: 12:30PM – 4:30PM every day. +39 338 243 0001. www.miramaredamichele.it

For all the acclaim received by Ristorante Miramare, for us, the restaurant next door Ristorante La Terrazza in the white building (small sign) serves better seafood and tries a little harder when it comes to service. We also prefer the décor – It has a very similar position overlooking the harbor at Via della Torre 5. Open: 12:30PM – 3:30PM ever day. +39 339 410 2658. www.laterrazzaristorante.it

In Carovigno: Osteria Gia Sotto L’Arco has a lovely setting in a small square on the edge of the old town. The food is also excellent: a modern interpretation of local cuisine showcasing local ingredients. The addition of good service makes this a truly great eating option for those that want to make Carovigno their lunchtime destination. Just off the cycling route in the main square (continue straight where you take a right onto Via Regina Margherita) at Corso Vittorio Emanuele 71. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 12:30PM – 3:00PM. Closed on Mondays. +39 0831 996286. www.giasottolarco.it

A more traditional alternative is La Cantina. Very generous antipasti as well as well-prepared other courses. Proprietor, Vincenzo, is very welcoming and they now have outdoor seating on the square. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 12:30PM – 2:30PM. Closed on Mondays. Address: 97, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 95, 72012 Carovigno. +39 338 459 6846.


Ancient Olive Trees

The olive trees in the area have been dated back to the beginning of the common era (2000 years ago). Locals tell us that there are trees near Ostuni that are 3000 years old. When you look at their gnarled and twisted trunks the claims seem credible.ancient_olive_trees_puglia

On today’s coastal ride, you pass the “Olive Tree of the Crucifix”. There are several explanations for the name – some more confusing than others. A local tradition links this tree with the crucifix in the church at Serranova – just off the route. The crucifix was originally dedicated by sailors who had been saved from a storm; believing that it was praying to the ship’s crucifix that had saved them. It is said that the crucifix was hidden inside of the Olive Tree of the Crucifix until it was discovered there and placed in the church. Many still believe that the Serranova Crucifix has miraculous powers and there is an annual pilgrimage there each year – May 3. The ancient tree also still has something of a shape of a cross to it.

To help protect ancient olive groves, the uprooting and selling of these ancient trees for ornamental purposes is now illegal – though not completely unknown.


Useful Contacts en Route

Stores:

Ceglie Messapica: There is a small store in the center of town at Via Nizza, 46. +39 0831 198 3957.

Carovigno: If you plan to take picnic supplies to the beach, you can pick up what you need at Supermecato Dimeglio, which you pass on your way out of town at Via Santa Sabina 68. Open 8:00AM – 8:30PM. Closed on Sundays. +39 0831 987850.

There is also a supermarket on the way out of town at the western end of Corso Umberto.

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Ostuni to Monopoli

Overview

Dolem_of_MontalbanoToday you head up the Adriatic coast to the ancient port-city of Monopoli. While the distance is a little longer than the other days, most of it is descending or flat with very little climbing.

As you leave Ostuni you enjoy a gentle six-kilometer descent on SP 19 before turning onto a quieter bike route. You then traverse a flat plain as you skirt around the Dune Costiere Regional Park: an unspoiled stretch of sand dunes and beaches. This section of the ride also follows the route of the Trajan Way (Via Traiana): a roman road that dates back to 244 BCE and connected Rome with Brindisi – and from there to ports east. The road was built by Emperor Trajan and also passes through Egnazia (ruins south of Monopoli). Also along this section you will pass the Dolem of Montalbano. The cluster of stones might not look like much but this rough-hewn altar has been dated back to the bronze age.

Soon after the altar you head south across the dunes reaching the coast at Torre Canne. Torre Canne is a pleasant-but-unremarkable town identified by the white lighthouse and from which it gets its name. Unless you need to resupply with water or snacks (or you want to bathe in one of the thermal mineral springs), you will, likely choose to by-pass it and push on to Savelletri.

From here, you ride northwest up the coast. The shoreline is mostly a mix of low, limestone cliffs and rocky coves – much unspoiled but also dotted with the infrastructure of the local fishing industry. In several places you are riding just yards from the emerald waters of the Adriatic and, despite the lack of sandy beaches, you will see plenty of sun worshipers baking on the cliffs or huddled in the bays.

The first town you reach of any size is Savelletri. Depending on your mood and the weather, Savelletri can look like a slightly Savelletrirundown seaside resort or a charming fishing hamlet huddled around two small harbors. Either way, it makes a good lunch stop – with a couple of excellent seafood restaurants overlooking the small harbor and a smattering of more informal cafés.

After Savelletri you continue to hug the coast as you ride on to the next seaside town of Capitolo. En route, you pass the ruins of Egnazia (also Egnathia or Gnathia). This is, perhaps, the most important archeological site in Puglia with the ruins of a Greco-Roman town that date back to the 4th century BCE. You can still see the outlines of the city walls, homes, an amphitheater and a necropolis. That said, these are very definitely ruins and this is no Pompeii. The onsite museum has an impressive mosaic of the Three Graces.

Capitolo is a relatively modern seaside town strung out along the coast. It is the last place for lunch before Monopoli with one beachside restaurant worthy of note – La Peschiera see lunch below. From Capitolo, you leave the coast and have a very gradual climb across to Monopoli. After the smaller towns of the Valle d’Itria, Monopoli can seem like a large and bustling city. However, once you navigate through the modern outskirts, the walled old town by the sea is very manageable and pleasant. See Monopoli in the Towns and Cities section of this guidebook for more details about Monopoli.

Route Options

The route described above, and in your turn-by-turn directions, is 40 kilometers (25 miles) with less than 100 meters (330 feet of climbing). With the lack of hills, this ride is one of the faster and easier days – providing you do not have a headwind off the sea. There is a very moderate climb up to the outskirts of Monopoli.

To shorten your ride: The only way to shorten today’s ride is to ask for a van transfer along the route. Torre Canne or Savelletri are both good options.

To extend your ride: The best way to enjoy longer ride is to take one of the loop rides out of Monopoli to Conversano and Polignano a Mare (see Monopoli Loop Day).

Lunch

Most people have lunch at Savelletri. With an early start – or just riding faster – you might also eat at Capitolo.

In Savelletri: We have had some of our best seafood meals in this slightly unpromising looking town. At Osteria del Porto, the Savelletrioutdoor terrace (complete with a tank of lobsters and the catch-of-the-day on ice) is a great place to enjoy a delicious and lingering lunch. Having the fishing boats bobbing in the harbor behind you just completes the scene. Located in the center of town by the harbor at Piazza del Porto,19, Savelletri. At weekends it can get busy, so arrive early or make a reservation. Open from 11:45AM every day. +39 338 280 5468. www.osteriasavelletri.it

Saporedisale, next door, is also a great seafood restaurant with a similar setup with a little more of a modern flare rather than being quite so traditional. Open: 12:00PM – 5:00PM every day. Address: Piazza Del Porto, 13, Savelletri. +39 080 482 9289. www.saporedisalesavelletri.it

Continuing around the seafront on Via Fiume you will find several cafes and bars – as well as more restaurants – these make a nice stop for coffee and gelato.

In Capitolo: La Peschiera is a Bourbon-era fish hatchery converted into an excellent hotel and restaurant right over the water. The restaurant is called Saleblu. This is a great place to enjoy a long, lingering (if, relatively expensive) lunch. With less than ten kilometers remaining to Monopoli, there is no need to rush. Located on the RHS of SP 90, 2 kilometers after the entrance to Egnazia Ruins (shortly before Capitolo) at C.da Losciale 63. +39 080 801 066. www.peschierahotel.com

There are also cafes and a couple of other restaurants in Capitolo itself but both are relatively expensive for what you get.

Popular with locals and tourists, Trattoria Il Cavaliere is a solid, good value choice for seafood. As a consequence, lunchtimes in this cozy restaurant with vaulted ceilings are busy and the service is efficient and perfunctory rather than overly friendly. From Monopoli it is located approximately 6km down the coast in Capitolo (on your route from Ostuni, at approximately 32km). Open: 12:30PM – 3:00PM and 7:30PM – 11:00PM. Closed on Mondays. Address: Contrada Lamandia, 15, 70043 Capitolo. +39 080 9303106.


Scavi D’Egnazia

(also Gnatia, Ignatia, or Egnatia)

The Greco-Roman city of Egnazia was an ancient city of the Messapii (Indo-European people that inhabited Puglia between the 8th and the 3rd century BCE). There is also evidence of some settlement here as early as the Bronze Age (15th century BCE).

The Messapic era of the town ended in the 3rd century BCE, with the Roman conquest. Under the Romans, the town grew and prospered as an important trading town; lying as it did on the sea at the point where the Trajan Way (Via Traiana) joined the coast road. It was also famed for its solar and fire cult.

An episcopal see in the early Christian era, the city was probably abandoned in the High Middle Ages due to the spread of malaria in the area, or it may have succumbed to Vandal and Saracen attacks.

Unfortunately, the ancient city walls were almost entirely destroyed over a century ago to provide building materials but you can still clearly see the outline of the city. The site occupies 40 hectares and includes walls, a necropolis, ancient houses, roads and a cemetery. The on-site museum also has fine frescos.


Useful Contacts en Route

Stores: There are no large supermarkets on today’s route. However, there are small stores in Torre Canne, Savelletri and Capitolo.

Egnazia: An ancient archeological city, it is thought that the first settlements here were established in the 13th century BC. Open: April through September the Museum and Archeological Park are open from 8:30AM – 7:15PM. It can be reached from the coast road SP 90, on Via degli Scavi.

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Monopoli Loop

Overview

Monopoli has enough to entertain for a day for those not wanting to ride. Or for those just wanting a short-flat ride, Egnazia makes for a flat in-and-out destination back along the coast. The (longer) regular ride has two great destinations: Conversano and Polignano a Mare. One a nicely restored city with real elegance and charm and the second a bustling seaside town perched on the cliffs with stunning views and a majestic pocket of a beach.Monopoli

On the regular ride, you leave Monopoli along bustling city streets. While a little hectic, it is fun to see the city going about its business as you ride out through the suburbs. After three kilometers, you leave the city behind and are on quiet country lanes. In contrast to some of the other rides, the roads up to Conversano are relative well paved and easy to navigate. However, like most of the other rides in from the coast, you have a five-kilometer climb up onto the ridge. You will not be surprised to learn that olives are the dominant crop here but you will also see cherry orchards as you climb away from the coastal plain.

You get relatively close to Conversano before you see its skyline – dominated by a Norman castle and several churches. The route avoids most of the more modern sprawl and you are soon in the heart of the old town. There is a real elegance to Conversano and, despite not attracting that many tourists, it feels prosperous and confident. It even has a street of expensive jewelry shops and Madonna (the popstar not the original) was staying here last time we visited.

The town of Conversano originally prospered in Norman times when it was the capital of an area that included much of the Puglian peninsula – as far as Lecce and Nardó in the south. The town’s main sights include the Romanesque cathedral, a small museum in the Palazzo Vescovile with pleasant cloisters, and the castle. Piazza Conciliazione, around the back of the castle, has several nice cafes and a good restaurant clustered on this peaceful square. Random fact: Conversano was twinned with Bethlehem in 2009.

MonopoliAfter the peaceful elegance of Conversano, you descend back down to the coast – to the bustling seaside town of Polignano a Mare. This pretty town sits atop cliffs that look down on a beach deep in a limestone ravine that is little bigger than a football pitch. Even if you do not go down to the beach, you can make your way through the narrow alleyways to the balconies that overlook the cove and the sea. The town also has several interesting churches, a monastery, a pleasant piazza, and an imposing entry gate. The unique position of the town has meant it was a settlement since prehistoric time as well as the ancient Greek city of Neapolis, and, later, a Roman town on the Trajan Way (Via Traiana). One downside of being one of the most attractive towns in Puglia is that the town can be busy with tourists – especially at the weekend when day trippers visit from Bari.

The ride from Polignano back to Monopoli is the least attractive part of the ride. The road can get busy – especially later in the afternoon – and the fact that it runs alongside a busy highway can make it feel a little monotonous. The good news is that it is flat and in less than ten kilometers you are back in Monopoli.

Route Options

The main route described above, and in your turn-by-turn directions, is 40 kilometers (25 miles) with 260 meters (860 feet of climbing). The only real challenge is the five-kilometer rolling climb up from the coast at kilometer 5 but it is rarely very steep. The last ten kilometers from Polignano to Monopoli can also be a busy with traffic.

For a shorter ride: You could head directly northwest up the coast to Polignano. This is a flat 20-kilometer out-and-back. However, this route means you only ride the monotonous coast road that tracks alongside the coastal highway.

For easier navigation: If you want to avoid the smaller, rougher roads to and from Conversano, take the busier-but-more-direct SP 114 from Monopoli to Conversano and take SP 21 from Conversano to Polignano a Mare – see map.

For a longer ride: The simplest way to get more miles is (when you return to Monopoli) to continue south though Monopoli and ride down the coast until you have done half the riding you want. Then turn around and head back the way you came.

Lunch

The most obvious place to eat today is Polignano. Those making a late start may also choose to eat in Conversano. There are good choices in both though Polignano has more open at lunchtime.

In Conversano: Several of the restaurants in Conversano open only for dinner so the choice is a little more limited than first appears. However, Pasha on the main square is a great choice. Upstairs is more formal – fine dining – and downstairs and on the terrace is more of a trattoria. The food is creative and well prepared. “Mama Maria” is the chef and her son takes care of the front of house. The only downside is that service can be a little slow. Located on the main square, opposite the castle at Via Morgantini 2. Open Wednesday to Monday from 12:45PM – 2:45PM. Closed on Tuesdays. +39 373 800 2809. www.ristorantepasha.com

Another great choice – on Sundays – is Goffredo Ristorante Osteria in Terrazza. They serve modern food – but based around traditional flavors. The small terrace is atop the Corte Alta Villa Hotel. In addition to nice food and attentive service you enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the old town. Down a small lane in front of the cathedral at Vico Goffredo Altavilla 8. Open from 1:00PM on Sundays only. +39 080 495 9668. www.terrazzagoffredo.it

For coffee, deserts and light lunches, we like Della Corte Caffeteria. On the main square at the back of the castle. The outdoor tables are great for watching the world walk by. Open from 7:00AM every day. Address: Piazza Conciliazione 5/6. +39 080 332 8303. http://caffetteriadellacorte.it/it/

In Polignano a Mare: With over one hundred restaurants in-and-around Polignano a Mare there is no Polignano_a_Mareshortage of choice. However, the number of day trippers who visit the town means that quality can be a little more variable than some of the quieter towns that cater more to locals. There is some good food to be found though prices tend to be a little higher than inland.

Wind your way through the alleys of the old town to reach La Locanda Porta Picc for good value, good food and fixed menus. No fuss, delicious food with a bias towards seafood. Walk through the old town to Via Anemone 34-36. Open Thursday to Tuesday from 12:00PM – 3:00PM and 7:00PM – 11:00PM. Closed on Wednesdays. +39 388 194 5973. http://www.ristorantelalocandaportapicc.it/

For excellent seafood served fast-food-style but with extended wait times, join the crowds at Pescaria. Open from 12:00PM every day. Address: Via Roma 29. +39 080 424 7600. www.pescaria.it

For simply, great fish in a simple eatery, head just out of the historic center to Il Pescato Dispensa di Mare – basically a fish shop with tables. Prices are reasonable though it can get busy so make a booking or arrive early. Down a side street at Via Atropo 23. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 1:00PM – 3:00PM, and 8:00PM – 11:30PM. Closed on Mondays. +39 338 398 5939.

A little touristy but with exceptional pizza is La Bella ‘Mbriana. The service is more efficient than friendly but the pizza and position – right on the square – make this a winner for us. A favorite of our is the pizza with tomato, stracciatella, and basil. On the LHS as you walk into the square at Piazza Vittorio Emanuele 22. Open from 10:00AM every day. +39 (0)804 248 840. www.labellambriana.it

If you need a view with your seafood, head to Il Bastione. The food is good but the real draw here is the view; you sit on a wonderful terrace on the clifftop overlooking the old town of Polignano. Service is efficient if relatively formal. Located on the north side of the small cove and part of the Covo dei Saraceni Hotel at Via Conversano, 1. Open every day from 12:30PM – 3:00PM. +39 080 424 1177. www.covodeisaraceni.com

For vegetarian food (with some fish dishes) try the very popular Mint Cucina Fresca. The food is fantastic but there are very few tables so book or arrive early – or very late. Close to the sea at Via San Benedetto 32. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 12:30PM – 2:30PM. Closed on Mondays. + 39 080 424 1373. www.mintcucinafresca.com

And a great finish to any meal is… ice cream! The best in Polignano a Mare is Il Mago Del Gelato. Open every day in summer. Address: Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, 70044 Polignano a Mare. +39 080 424 0669.


Conversano Castle and the Gothic Wars

There has been a defensive building on the site of Conversano Castle since the time of the Gothic Wars in the Conversano_Castle530s (see box below) but it came to prominence in the Norman times. The first Norman feudal lords in the 11th century reconstructed the castle from the former ruins. Of the original Norman core there still exists a central tower with a square base known as the Torre Maestra and a fresco on the original vault entry, depicting the saints Cosmas and Damian.

The castle was later extended by the Counts Luxembourg (14th century) who built the high circular tower at the north. Around 1460, the Acquaviva built a twelve-sided tower base, more squat and with the embankment type walls, particularly daring from the engineering point of view; inside it, there is a round tank with a corridor around it equipped with drains, which were important in defending the city.

The following centuries saw the further transformation of the building as it was gradually converted from an imposing castle into an elegant mansion, suitable to the prestige of the powerful feudal lords. The current entrance, on Piazza Conciliazione, was built in 1710 at the behest of the Countess Dorotea Acquaviva.

The castle is currently only partially publicly owned. The public area of the building houses the civic art gallery displaying paintings of the great cycle of the Gerusalemme Liberata by Finoglio.


The Gothic Wars

The Gothic War between the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy was fought from 535 until 554 in Italy, Dalmatia, Sardinia, Sicily and Corsica. It is commonly divided into two phases. The first phase lasted from 535 to 540 and ended with the fall of the Ostrogothic capital of Ravenna and the apparent re-conquest of Italy by the Byzantines.

During the second phase (540/541–553), the Goths’ resistance was reinvigorated under Totila and put down only after a long struggle by Narses, who also repelled the 554 invasion by the Franks and Alamanni. In the same year, Justinian promulgated the Pragmatic Sanction which prescribed Italy’s new government. Several cities in northern Italy continued to hold out, however, until the early 560s.

The war had its roots in the ambition of the East Roman Emperor Justinian to recover the provinces of the former Western Roman Empire, which had been lost to invading barbarian tribes in the previous century (the Migration Period). By the end of the conflict Italy was devastated and considerably depopulated. As a consequence, the victorious Byzantines found themselves unable to resist the invasion of the Lombards in 568, which resulted in the loss of large parts of the Italian peninsula.

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Safety & Enjoyment

Your safety is our first priority and should be yours, too! Here, we share some ideas on helping you get the most from your cycling tour – safely and while having fun.

Riding Safely

We have a few simple rules we ask you to follow:

    1. Always wear a cycle helmet fastened securely while cycling.
    2. Do not ride at night or in the dim light of dawn or dusk.
    3. Ride in single file and with the direction of traffic.
    4. Carry identification, details of your medical/travel insurance and emergency contact details.
    5. Sign an accident waiver indicating you are fit to ride and understand the risks.
    6. All cyclists under 16 years of age:
      • Must wear a florescent safety triangle or high visibility clothing.
      • Need to be accompanied by an adult over the age of 21 who is responsible for their safety at all times while cycling.

Daily Bike Checks

Your rental bikes are checked and tuned before every trip.  However, it is useful to do some regular checks just to keep things running smoothly. These checks should take less than five minutes to do.  Of course, if you’re in any doubt or have any concerns, give us a call and we’ll have a guide come out to you.  If they can’t fix a problem they’ll arrange for a new bike.

Brakes: 

  • Do both brake levers engage the brakes smoothly?  This test is best performed first on a stationary bike and then on a moving bike.
  • Are the shoes spaced evenly on either side of the wheel and the brake blocks close to but not rubbing on the wheel rims?
  • Are cables OK – not frayed – and under tension?

Handlebars & stem:

  • Check alignment – does the wheel point forward when the handlebars point forward?
  • Holding front wheel between legs check for lateral movement when flexing/twisting handlebars.
  • With front brake engaged, move bike back and forth to check for any rocking.  If there is movement, the headset may need tightening.

Gear changing.  This check is easily done as you set out at the start of your ride:

  • Check all front gears engage/change smoothly
  • Check all rear gears engage/change smoothly
  • Are cables OK – not frayed?

Chain:

  • If you’ve been riding in rain or on wet roads, you may want to wipe off your chain and apply a little lube the night before.  In the morning, run a clean rag over the chain to remove any excess oil.
  • But don’t overdo it; an over-oiled chain just attracts dirt.

Wheels & tires:

  • Inflate front & back tires to recommended tire pressure which should be written on the side.
  • Check front & rear wheels spin smoothly with little friction or noise and are true (no wobbles).
  • Check there are no loose or broken spokes in either wheel.
  • Check tires including sidewalls for cuts or other damage.
  • Check tires for any foreign bodies embedded in the tires and remove / replace tires as needed.
  • Are the quick-release mechanisms secure, correctly engaged and pointing backwards?

Frame:

  • Check for cracks and alignment in the frame, the headset & the handlebars – especially if you accidentally dropped the bike.
  • Pay extra attention and feel for problems in carbon forks and carbon rear stays where fitted.
  • General check for any loose parts.

Riding Safely

Here are our favorite top tips to help you have a safe trip.

  1. Ride predictably in smooth lines and avoid weaving or wobbling. When you stop – for example to check your map – we recommend that you move off the road. The more people there are in your group, the more important this becomes.
  2. Stay alert, be aware and anticipate; anticipate what other vehicles will do, anticipate what gear you will need to be in after you stop and anticipate the approaching road surface – do you need to avoid gravel, potholes or broken glass? Should you dismount to cross railroad tracks?  [FACT: 50% of urban accidents happen solo.  That is, people just fall off of their own accord.  A little anticipation would work wonders here.]
  3. Be as visible as you can be. Our fluorescent triangles are available to all guests and we recommend that riders of all standards wear them.  [When riding with our florescent triangles, we have noticed that cars give us a noticeably wider berth as they pass by.]
  4. Choose a safe riding position on the road. Stay as close as is safe to the right-hand side of the road as possible but do not be cowed into a dangerous riding position.  For example, avoid riding on grit, or dangerously broken pavement or where you are at risk of being hit by an opening car door.
  5. Obey the law. Drivers will give cyclist more respect, and you are far safer, if you obey all the traffic laws – including stopping at stop signs, riding on the right-hand side of the road and not riding under the influence of alcohol.  [FACT: 10% of ‘cyclist at fault’ accidents are caused by cyclist using the wrong side of the road.]
  6. Ride assertively but defensively. At intersections, make eye contact with drivers.  Assertive riding is easier for drivers to predict, but cars are bigger and harder than we are, so we always try to avoid getting into confrontations with them.  [FACT: 63% of cyclist collisions occur at intersections.  The most common cause of accidents, where the driver is at fault, is the driver’s failure to yield the right of way.]
  7. Check out your bike and make sure you are confident that it is roadworthy. Everyday check brakes, tires, quick release mechanisms, pedals and headsets.  Everything should fit snuggly and move smoothly.  Whether you are riding your own or a rented bike, the roadworthiness of that bike is your responsibility.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Cyclists

[Apologies to Stephen Covey]

As well as having a safe tour, we are keen for you to enjoy cycling and achieve a real sense of accomplishment.  This is likely to include riding within your limits and not exhausting yourself before lunch.  Here are some thoughts on how to stay happy on your bike.

  1. Eat before you are hungry. Even moderate cycling burns around 300 calories per hour so eat plenty of snacks such as power bars or trail mix.  We need to eat in enough time to allow our bodies to process the food and get the fuel to our legs before the fuel gauge reaches on empty.  Recovering from a fuel deficit is very difficult and will leave you tired for the rest of the day.  So, indulge yourself.  [Everybody’s metabolism is different, but when riding extended distances, it is typical to need to eat something every 45 minutes.  A nice big bowl of pasta the night before and a carbohydrate rich breakfast in the morning also help.]
  2. Drink before you are thirsty. It can get very hot on the bike in this area.  As you sweat, you will lose both water and essential salts.  You will not notice the effects until it is too late.  Drink plenty of water before you start to ride and then take regular sips en route.  [A good target is to drink either water or a sports drink at least every 30 minutes.]
  3. Ride at a pace that feels comfortable. Even when climbing hills, it is good practice to be able to keep a conversation going without being out of breath.  This means changing down to a low gear, keeping your cadence high and taking things easy.  If you are a slow rider riding with fitter friends, have them ride at your pace rather than you struggling to keep up with them.  This will also help them avoid sore legs the next day.
  4. The sun can get very intense, especially in the middle of the day so keep your shirt on and use a high factor sunscreen. [Watch for being burned through the gaps in your cycle helmet.  Many of the best helmets have extra wide gaps for better ventilation.  A bandana under the helmet can make all the difference.]
  5. Relax and change your hand position regularly. This helps avoid shoulder cricks or back aches.  Drop handlebars are better for being able to do this than straight handlebars.
  6. Check your bike. A sticking brake or skipping gear stops you relaxing and can be dangerous.  If you are unsure, talk to your guide, who will be happy to help you check things out if you have a concern.
  7. Smile, you are on vacation!

Seat Height Adjustment

Seat height adjustment is more craft than science.  The most important thing is that you feel safe and confident on the bike.  However, getting your saddle to the right height will also help you stay comfortable on longer rides, avoid saddle sores and conserve your energy while you pedal.

Bike fitters can spend hours getting your fit just right, but here are some simple rules of thumb.

  1. Stand and hold or prop yourself up against a wall.
  2. Position the pedals so the pedal cranks are vertical (one pedals at 12 o’clock and one pedal at 6 o’clock).
  3. Get on your bike and place your feet on the pedals. Move your foot so that your heel is on the pedal at 6 o’clock.
  4. When your seat is at the correct height, your leg (of the foot at 6 o’clock) should be straight but your knee shouldn’t be locked (technically, there should be a 25-30-degree flexion in the knee when the pedal is at the bottom most point).

If your seat is too low, it will make it harder to pedal and you may get knee pain at the front of the knee.  Too high and your hips will go from side to side which will make you tend to ride in too high a gear and you may develop pain at the back of your knees.

Saddle Sores

Saddle sores are the great unmentioned subject of cycling.  However, if you have not been riding much recently and start doing a lot of miles on a bike, you may well become just a little too familiar with this phenomenon.

To prevent sores, it’s helpful to know what they are.  Definition: A saddle sore is a skin ailment on the buttocks due to, or exacerbated by, riding on a bicycle saddle.  It often develops in three stages: skin abrasion, folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles) and, finally, abscess.  If it’s not obvious from the definition, it is better to stop the sores in the early stages than try and treat it in the final stage.

The best cure of all is to not get them in the first place.  The best way not to get them is to gradually build up your riding mileage and get used to your bike seat.  Doing rides before you come on the trip will help with this.  Other good preventative measures include:

  • Reducing the friction due to bobbing or swinging motion while pedaling, by setting the appropriate saddle height – see above.
  • If you have a favorite saddle, bring it along and we’ll fit it to your rental bike.
  • Wearing good cycling shorts, with a high-quality chamois insert.
  • Use petroleum jelly, chamois cream or lubricating gel on the chamois to further reduce friction.
  • Do not sit around in damp bike shorts after your ride and thoroughly wash and dry the affected area.
  • A friend who guides extreme mountain biking trips in the Colorado Rockies swears by putting hemorrhoid cream on the affected area. If all else fails, it’s worth a try!

There are pharmacies in all the main towns you’ll stay in if you need medical treatment.  Our primary message would be, if you think you have them, don’t ignore them.

Fixing a Flat

Of course, we hope you won’t ever need this skill – but just in case here is a checklist for fixing a flat – or repairing a puncture in your tyre as the English would say!  If it seems as though there are a lot of steps, you may be reassured by the fact we have seen all these steps completed in just over a minute

Remove the wheel. Sounds simple, but a couple of hints might make this easier.

  • If it’s the rear wheel, first put the chain on the smallest cog. This makes it easier to remove and replace the wheel.
  • Undo the quick release.
  • If it’s the front wheel, you will need to unscrew the quick release a little to get it over the lips on the fork – they’re known as lawyers’ lips!
  • You may have to loosen the brakes a little to get the tire past the brake blocks if there is still some air in the tires. On hybrid bikes this usually means squeezing the brake calipers together and unhitching the cable.  On road bikes there is usually a release mechanism on the caliper itself (or on the brake lever).
  • For the back wheel, you may need to ease back the derailleur a little before the wheel just drops out under gravity.

Let the air out of the tire.

  • For Presta valves, loosen the small nut at the top of the valve and press down.
  • For Schrader valves (like the valves on car tires) press the tip of a tool or stick onto the valve tip.

Before doing anything else, spin the wheel to see if you can find out what caused the flat. If you find it, either remove it now or mark it so you can remove it when you remove the tire.

If you’re very lucky, you’ll now be able to ease the tire off the rim with your bare hands. But to do this you may well need bear’s hands. Alternatively, you’ll need to use tire levers (irons):

  1. Insert the curved end of two tire levers under the edge of the tire about two spokes apart.
  2. Lever back the first tire lever to take the tire off the rim being careful not to pinch the inner tube and so add an extra hole to patch! Hook the free end of the lever around a spoke.  This leaves your hands free to lever back the second tire lever.
  3. Keeping the hooked lever stationary work the other lever around the tire until one side of the tire is completely removed from the rim but leaving the other side still seated on the rim. If a tire is very tight, you may need to engage a third lever.  When the third is in place, the middle one can be removed and re-inserted farther over.
  4. Remove the valve stem of the inner tube first then pull the rest of the inner tube from the tire. Try to keep the inner tube oriented with the tire so that when you find the hole you can navigate back to the same point in the tire and double check that what caused the flat isn’t still embedded.
  5. Look over the external and inside of the tire for damage and embedded debris. Remove any objects.  Then run your finger around the inside of the tire (carefully!) to detect any glass or thorns.  As a final check, inflate the tube and locate the puncture hole.  Check the tire at the corresponding place to ensure the offending object has been removed.  If you skip this step or are just a bit sloppy you may have another flat five minutes after getting back on your bike!
  6. Hopefully, you have a spare tube that your nice tour company gave you at the start of your ride. If not you’ll need to repair the hole in the old tube using a patch kit.
  7. Place some air in the new (or repaired) tube – just enough to give it some shape. Insert the valve stem on the tube into the valve hole in the wheel and then ease the rest of the tube into the tire.  Then ease the tire wall so the tube is sitting in line with the wheel not hanging outside of the wheel.

Now the tricky part.  Starting at the valve, work the tire back onto the rim using your thumbs or the muscle in the palm just under the thumb (actually the abductor pollicis brevis though knowing this won’t help you get the tire back on).  If the last section is hard to get on, try these things:

  • Ensure that the tire that is inside of the wheel is sitting well into the rim.
  • Hold the wheel horizontally against your stomach with the section of wheel without the tire on furthest away from you. Then use your abductor pollicis brevises to roll the tire onto the rim.
  • If none of this helps, use tire levers to work the bead onto the rim. However, if you resort to this there is a real risk of pinching the inner tube and creating another hole and being back to Step 4 above!

Inflate the tire.

As you inflate ensure that the tire is sitting evenly in the wheel.  If not, let out a little wire and reseat the tire in the rim.

When inflated, spin the wheel to ensure there are no bulges or wobbles. If there are, deflate the tire, reseat the tire on the rim and re-inflate.

Replace the wheel. (This is pretty much the reverse of Step 1.)

  • If you didn’t need to loosen the brakes to get the deflated wheel off, you may find you need to do it now to get it back on. A tap with the palm of your hand can also do the trick to ease the tire past the brake blocks.  DON’T FORGET TO RETIGHTEN THE BRAKES BEFORE HEADING OFF!
  • If it’s the front wheel, you will need to retighten the quick release a little after getting it over the fork lips before reengaging the quick release. The pressure needed to close the quick release should be enough to leave a small mark on the palm of your hand but not so much you need to apply all your strength and all the strength of your cycling partner to close it.
  • For the back wheel, you may need to ease back the derailleur a little before the wheel drops into place.

My Customized Itinerary

If you’ve made it this far, there’s likely an Oregon cycling trip in your future. We’d love to create the perfect custom itinerary for you! Please submit your request below for a no-obligation personalized cycling vacation to be created for you.

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