Biking Italy’s Puglia Region with DuVine Cycling & Adventure Co.
By Steve Jermanok
All it takes is one ride along the Adriatic Sea to appreciate the splendor of Puglia, the region of southern Italy close to the heel of the boot. We biked up and down sweeping hills with the blue expanse of water always by our side. The sweet smell of honeysuckle the best form of aromatherapy as we cruised past seaside villages, old stone walls, peering down in awe at the greenish/blue waters hundreds of feet below. We stopped in Santa Maria di Leuca to gaze at the lighthouse, church, and large plaza before making our way back to the port of Tricase where a fresh seafood feast was waiting for us. According to my trusty Strava app, we had biked 43 miles with an elevation gain of over 3,000 feet, so I was definitely ready for a break and the chance to dig into calamari, mussels, grilled aubergines, tomatoes, and the creamy burrata cheese the region is known for.
We were on Day Two of a 6-day bike ride through Puglia with DuVine Cycling. As soon as we got off the train in Lecce, the starting point of our jaunt, I knew this trip was going to be magical. We arrived around 6 pm Saturday night and walked from the train station to our hotel, Patria Palace. The 20-minute stroll was an eye-opening experience as we passed exquisite baroque churches, plaza after large plaza, and Roman and Ottoman Empire ruins, like an old amphitheater down a side street. It only got better as the night continued and hundreds of locals swarmed the streets and walked arm and arm to dine and drink at the outdoor tables. Wow, was this place was alive and the people were a striking mix of Persian, North African, and Italian blood. There were very few tourists.
The next morning, our guides Davide and Paolo picked us up and we met our group of 10, including a family of 4 with adult kids, and a couple from Istanbul. After our pedal along the Adriatic, we would do one more coastal loop past popular beach towns. Then it was off on a 90-minute drive northeast to the town of Locorotondo, where we would begin blissful days of riding through the heart of the countryside. I savored the riding here, rolling hillsides dotted with centuries-old gnarly olive trees, vineyards, and the distinctive mushroom-shaped houses called trullis. All on country roads with little or no traffic. We spent that night in restored 1800s trullis, now part of the boutique property, Borgo Canonica.
Puglia is known for producing more olive oil than any other region in the country. On our last day, we had the pleasure of biking to a masseria known for producing some of the finest olive oil in the region. First we had to earn our meal by making our own pasta, the ear-shaped orecchiette Puglia adores. Then we dined outdoors, loving our pasta and grilled vegetables, washed down with the local primitivo red wine. The olive oil was so good that we brought home two bottles.
Paolo and Davide were not only fantastic guides, but excellent traveling companions with larger-than-life personalities, often teasing each other and us. They were a well-oiled machine on the routes, one riding with us and one back in the shuttle if anything went wrong. What I loved about DuVine was that their group size was only 10. We had an intimate group that we now consider good friends. Also, the lodging and restaurant choices were top-notch the entire itinerary. Not only would I recommend Puglia for moderate bikers, I’d happily recommend DuVine for any of their trips.
Visit DuVine Cycling & Adventure Co for more infomation.
Steve Jermanok Working as a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, contributing editor at Budget Travel,and regular contributor for TheBoston Globe, Men’s Journal, and Yankee Magazine, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1500 articles on 80 countries. He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. With his wife, Lisa Leavitt, Steve launched a boutique travel agency, ActiveTravels.com, in May 2012. His clientele includes many people in the travel business, including Steve Kaufer, founder of TripAdvisor (designed his honeymoon to Turkey), and Mark Snider, owner of The Winnetu Resort on Martha’s Vineyard and The Nantucket Hotel on Nantucket. You can follow him @ActiveTravels