Puglia and Matera: suggestions please?

Old Jan 3rd, 2012, 08:56 AM
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Puglia and Matera: suggestions please?

I'm starting to cobble together an itinerary for a fall trip to Puglia and Matera, and would appreciate some thoughts. I've gotten so many great ideas from reading trip reports and posts here, and am now trying to edit and put together a trip for my sister and me. We would probably be working with about 8 nights, including the first jet lagged one (coming from NYC)

We enjoy art, culture, and sampling the local wines and foods of whatever place we're in. Our best trips have been those with a good balance of sightseeing, wine/coffee breaks, good (but not stuffy) meals and reading/relaxing time.

We'll be doing this trip by public transportation. I understand that will limit us and that transportation in this area can be unreliable, but we're ok with that risk. It will be part of the adventure.

So... here's what I'm coming up with so far:

PLAN A
Arrive Bari
3 nights Matera
2 nights in Martina Franca??? to visit Alberobello, Locorotondo and MF
2/3 nights Trani (perhaps 2 Trani and last in Bari)
Depart Bari

Does anyone know if the Martina Franca centro is close/easily accessible to the train station? is there a better option for these nights? Alberobello is tempting for convenience, but I'm quite reluctant to stay there after repeatedly seeing it described as "Disney-like" . But I would like to see the Trulli.

I'm also tempted to work in Lecce; if we went in that direction, the plan would prob look more like this

PLAN B
Arrive Bari
1 night Trani
2/3 nights Matera
1/2 nights Martina Franca
3/4 nights Lecce
Depart Bari or Brindisi

Nothing has been purchased, booked or even put on paper yet, so I'm open to suggestions, and appreciate your thoughts.

ALSO, any recommended guide books for this region?

Thanks!
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Old Jan 3rd, 2012, 09:28 AM
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I too did most of this by public transport and used Lonely Planet Puglia and Basilicata.
I started in Bari (on the ferry from Greece) and flew out of Brindisi. Transport was all very convenient with one exception (Matera).
I based myself in Lecce for a week and travelled on the little local Ferrovie Sud Est trains every day. Trenitalia doesn't go any further than Lecce! There are also buses. It's very easy to get about. I went to Martina Franca (no, the train station is not near the action and I had to ask several times for directions there) which was wonderful. Also Alberobello,where the train station isn't far away and I thought a few hours was plenty. Likewise Locorotondo, though that was my favourite and I could have stayed a day or so there just getting into the feel of the place.
Also recommended are the coastal towns of Otranto and Gallipoli, both an hour or so from Lecce by FSE train.
But I couldn't fit Matera into my week. It was just too far from Lecce to make it there and back in a day.
You will love the Salento. Full of all kinds of cultural delights, ancient sites, food and wine and very few tourists.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2012, 09:46 AM
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Thanks, Gertie! That's great info, and I'm pleased to hear that you found the public transport to be friendly.

Sounds like Locorotondo might be a better choice than Martina Franca?
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Old Jan 3rd, 2012, 09:49 AM
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No, not a better choice. Martina Franca is much bigger and there's lots of interest there. Locorotondo is very tiny, but with magnificent views and I just liked the feel of it. I went there on the way to MF and wish I had had longer there.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2012, 12:58 PM
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I see -- thanks for clarifying!
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Old Jan 3rd, 2012, 01:33 PM
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For my two cents, Locorotondo is one of the prettiest towns I've visited in Italy but as Gertie says above, it is very small, as is Alberobello.

Only one of the trulli zones in Alberobello--Rione Monti-- might be called Disney-like in that it is devoted almost totally to tourism. The center of the town is quite like a normal town, albeit a very pretty, white one with trulli as well as non-trulli structures.

I've had a car when I've been there so am no help with public transport, I am sorry to say. But I am happy to help as best I am able.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2012, 07:04 PM
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It really depends on your interests, but for what it's worth, I loved Lecce and am very glad I included it in my time in the area. I spent one very full day there (and had a wonderful meal), and am sure I would have enjoyed a 2nd day.

I think your plan B looks quite nice! For comparison, I spent 1 night/a half day, in Trani, which was enough for me to see its magnificent cathedral and the museum/fort, and to walk around the harbor, old town, and some gardens. (And have an amazing dinner.) I spent 1 night in Matera, with almost exactly 24 hours in the city. I saw almost everything that I most wanted to see in the city, but with little time to relax. (Except for the time I spent over an amazing dinner.) I can easily imagine spreading my explorations over 2 days there. I spent a few hours in Alberobello, and didn't stop in any of the other trulli destinations (although I'm sure I would have enjoyed them).

Hope that helps!
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Old Jan 4th, 2012, 01:37 AM
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If we haven't done this before somewhere....

Although there are areas accessible only by bus, we've not had any great difficulties when travelling around in Puglia - but have stuck to towns and villages that are on public transport routes. As well as the Trenitalia system, by now you've no doubt found the 'Ferrovie del Sud Est' - whose road and rail services go to many places south of Bari that aren't on the main network?

Whilst we don't rush about as much as some, for an idea of what you'll find perhaps try the photos taken during various trips we've made since 2001, here....

http://www.pbase.com/isolaverde/pugliagen

Peter
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Old Jan 4th, 2012, 05:45 AM
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Dear JMCT714,

I will be anxious to read your report as your itinerary is similar to what we have planned for our next trip.

I can highly recommend Matera. The town is amazing. First off, walking through a town that has been preserved from Paleolithic times is surreal. The food and wine is incredible and I was able to find that traveling with children. Without children I can only imagine what you could find. There were many spa hotels in the area (which I wasn't able to take advantage of) so the relaxation piece is present as well. We stayed in La Dolce Vita. The owners, Vincenzo and Carla were gracious hosts. Vincenzo is a young "local" and knows all about the area. He directed us to many of the local establishments. The B&B, built into a cave, could not have been cleaner.

Have a great trip! I look forward to hearing all about it.
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Old Jan 4th, 2012, 08:43 AM
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Thanks all for the responses. You've given me a lot of great information and lots to think about. I really do want to find a way to include Lecce and Locorotondo, so I think I'll focus on the logistics of "Plan B" a bit more.

Peter - I have been spending quite a bit of time on the Ferrovia del Sud Est site, as well as reviewing and enjoying your site. Your pictures are lovely.

Thanks again!
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 04:02 AM
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TTT
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