21 night / 22 day tour from Sunday 29th September to Sunday 20th October 2019
Visiting Abruzzo, Puglia, Basilicata & Campania
Thank you to those who have booked on Living Italy’s Mysteries of the Mezzogiorno tour in September 2019. We are pleased to let you know that we have received the minimum number of bookings required for the tour to proceed.
As you may have read on our website, after more than 20 years of operations we have decided to step back a little bit, offering just a small number of tours. As part of this restructuring, we have handed over processing of final payments for the Mysteries of the Mezzogiorno tour to our colleagues at Academy Travel in Sydney. Your final invoice will now come from Academy Travel and your final payment should be made to the account nominated by them.
All other aspects of the tour remain unchanged. The tour will be led by Neil Moore and all hotels, restaurants and other services will be booked by Living Italy.
We look forward to seeing you in Italy in September!
Known as the ‘Mezzogiorno’, the Italian south is a complex mix of Greek, Norman, Arab, French and Spanish influences. Once the Kingdom of the two Sicilies the area has seen greater misery but also periods of extraordinary splendour and cultural ambition which have left abundant traces throughout the regions of Puglia, Basilicata, Campania and Abruzzo.
From the towering mountains of the Abruzzo - perhaps Italy’s last frontier with it’s inaccessible hilltowns and forests still providing refuge to wolves and bears, to the flatlands of Puglia with thousand year old olive trees and magical clusters of the strange conical houses known as ‘trulli’, through the fascinating area of Matera known as the ‘sassi’ where the population lived in caves until recent times, then to Paestum and finally three nights in the gritty city of Naples with all its wonders ,
You will be constantly reminded that there is no other place that matches the cultural richness of Italy.
Scanno, Santo Stefano di Sessanio, Campo Imperatore, Calascio castle, Bominaco and other small towns and villages in Abruzzo, Trani, Castel del Monte, Bari, Martina Franca, Ostuni, Alberobello and Cisternino in Puglia, Paestum, Herculaneum, Villa Poppea, Naples historical centre, Naples Archaeological Museum in the region of Campania,
Arrival & transport to Sulmona
Day 1 Sunday 29th September 2019 o'night Sulmona, Abruzzo B D
Travel Time: 3 hrs approx.
We meet you at the restaurant in the garden of the lovely QC Terme Hotel, just 5 minutes away from Fiumicino airport at 12 midday. After lunch together we will drive across to the Abruzzo for our first accommodation in Sulmona, a family run Boutique 4 star hotel in the centre of town.
Known in Roman times as Sulmo and hometown of the poet Ovid, Sulmona is a graceful and picturesque town nestling at the foot of the impressive Maiella mountain range. Surrounded by almond forests, it is famous for its brightly coloured almond based 'confetti', exported throughout Italy and the world.
The magnum opus of Ovid, 'Metamorphosis', is one of the most influential works of western culture, and a principle inspiration for such authors as Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccaccio, Geoffrey Chaucer, and William Shakespeare.has inspired such authors as Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccaccio, Geoffrey Chaucer, and William Shakespeare. It has been said that there has been no new dramatic theme invented since this masterwork of the 8th century AD ...... every possible manifestation of the human psyche is represented in this Latin narrative.
The country we travel through is fascinating and at times spectacular. Living Italy explores the ancient past and the exhilarating present in this fascinating journey from the great mountains of the central Apennines to the castles of Frederick II and the Saracen strongholds of Southern Puglia.
We touch on the desolation that was once Matera, now a gem of Basilicata and the Unesco's Capitol of European Culture in 2019.
Naples, of course, is like nowhere else.
Calascio Castle & Santo Stefano di Sessanio
Day 2 Mon 30 Sep 2019 o'night Sulmona, Abruzzo B L
Today we visit the extraordinary castle of Calascio and the nearby octagonal church in what can only be described as an exhilarating setting. Lunch in the Rifiugio on the relatively remote mountain top near Calascio castle. In the afternoon we travel again through the fascinating trails of Abruzzo, visiting the delightful small town of Santo Stefano di Sessanio totally off the beaten track.
Dinner in Sulmona at a characteristic restaurant
Peltuinum, Bominacco & Sulmona
Day 3 Tue 01 Oct 2019 o'night Sulmona, Abruzzo B L
We drive down to the valley to the Roman ruins of the city of Peltuinum. In Bominaco a small medieval village we will visit The Oratorio of San Pellegrino next to the hillside pine-clad Romanesque church of Santa Maria Assunta. It is quite simply a beautiful hidden wonder. The frescoes in this small oratory more than rival anything pre Giotto in the C13th for capturing expressions in what is largely Byzantine form in a Romanesque setting.
The middle of the day is taken up with a visit to a fascinating local cook, Marina, who has researched, and reinvented some very traditional ancient recipes. Using locally sourced ancient grain she grinds her own flour and then proceeds to produce a 15 course lunch for us.
Sulmona markets & Scanno
Day 4 Wed 02 Oct 2019 o'night Sulmona, Abruzzo B
Today is market day in Sulmona and we spend time wandering amongst the offerings in the morning. Hidden away in a valley beyond turquoise mountain lakes lies the extraordinary town of Scanno, home to traditions of jewellery and distinctive costume that emerge from a distant past. Once almost inaccessible to the outside it has remained substantially untouched by time, its cobbled streets and picturesque roofs emerging from a primeval forest. Returning we pass a series of other spectacular hilltowns perched on crags overlooking the river Sagittario far below, and then stop in Pacentro
Abruzzo to Monopoli, via Castel del Monte
Day 5 Thu 03 Oct 2019 o'night by the sea in Monopoli , Puglia B D
Travel time: 2hrs 30 mins + 1 hr 20 mins
We leave Abruzzo today and drive to our seaside accommodation in Monopoli in Puglia.
On the way we stop at Castel del Monte, the octagonal castle-hunting lodge which inspired the library in Umberto Eco’s novel “The Name of the Rose”. When the Emperor Frederick II built the castle in the 13th century, he imbued it with symbolic significance, as reflected in the location, the mathematical and astronomical precision of the layout and the perfectly regular shape. A unique piece of medieval military architecture, Castel del Monte is a successful blend of elements from classical antiquity, the Islamic Orient and north European Cistercian Gothic.
We have lunch at a nearby restaurant with Castel Del Monte in view.
After the last leg of our drive today from Castel Del Monte to Monopoli we settle into boutique, luxury accommodation by the sea in the historic centre of town, have aperitivi on the roof top of this exotic small residence with expansive views over the Adriatic, and then walk out to dinner nearby.
You stay in private rooms and apartments which spread across a sea frontage.. All have completely separate entrances and private bathrooms, and are furnished in a simple, elegant style characteristic of the town.
Day 6 Fri 04 Oct 2019 o'night by the sea in Monopoli , Puglia B
Monopoli, is one of the most delightful port towns in Puglia, and you have the morning at leisure to roam and explore the cafes and vistas.
In the early afternoon when the weather is warmest we board the caicco, a wooden Turkish yacht, from the harbour in Monopoli, walking distance from our accommodation. The afternoon is spent on the sea, sailing from Monopoli to Polignano and back again to our port town
Day 7 Sat 05 Oct 2019 o'night by the sea in Monopoli , Puglia B
We visit the old town of Bari with our local guide and it's historic centre, including the church of San Nicola and the castle of Frederick II.
Return to Monopoli and free time for dinner.
Polignano a Mare
Day 8 Sun 06 Oct 2019 o'night by the sea in Monopoli , Puglia B
Polignano al Mare, is one of Puglia's most evocative seaside towns. clinging to the cliff faces of the Adriatic sea.
Return to Monopoli and free time for dinner.
Ostuni & Lecce
Travel Time: 15mins + 1 hr
Day 9 Mon 7 Oct 2019 o'night in Lecce, Puglia B
This morning we pack up and drive south, visiting the white town of Ostuni on the way.
We transfer to our new accommodation in the centre of Lecce, a Baroque city in the heart of the Salento Region of Puglia, often nicknamed The Florence of the South because of its abundant art and culture apparent in its extraordinarily elaborate Spanish Baroque cathedral and ambitious public buildings.
Our accommodation is in a 17th Century Palazzo, a prestigious historic hotel opposite the stunning elaborate baroque facade of the Basilica of Santa Croce. We are in a piazza close to all the historical monuments of the city and the hotel has been recently renovated to include all modern comforts while its original architectural and artistic beauty has been preserved. Its rooms are decorated in rich liberty style, each with its own original decorative paintings.
Dinner is at our favourite local in Lecce where we will introduce you to Puglia's robust and structured red wines, Primitivo and the blood black Negro Amaro, as rich and complex as anything you'll find in anywhere in Italy. The raw earthiness and hearty structure of Puglia's reds partner perfectly with the strong flavours of local cooking, where the rich local olive oil and seasonal vegetables are a staple.
The evening is then at leisure in Lecce, to stretch out on the rooftop terrace with views of the Duomo and a campari, or wander the streets for the passeggiata.
Day 10 Tue 08 Oct 2019 o'night Lecce, Puglia B L D
This morning our local guide will walk us through the Baroque streets of Lecce.
Papier-mâché or cartapesta is a craft that is unique to Lecce in the Salento region of Puglia. The origins of papier-mâché are in the Middle and Far East but, through trade, the technique eventually found its way here. The artisans of Lecce didn’t have access to valuable materials such as marble or bronze, but their creativity, patience and imagination found expression in the art of modelling paper, straw, rags, and plaster to create exquisite statues of saints and religious figures that looked like marble and bronze but were less expensive, faster to produce, and easier to transport and carry in processions. We visit some workshops with artisans skilled in the art.
In the afternoon we are met by a small group of local musicians and a teacher of traditional Pizzica dance.
Day 11 Wed 09 Oct 2019 o'night Lecce, Puglia B D
Transfer time: 1hr 15 mins
Otranto was a town of Greek origin, and in Roman times it was a city of considerable importance. As it is the nearest port to the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, under the Roman emperors it was a point of embarkation for the East.
We drive to Otranto on the coast (40 mins), and after some free time for a relaxed wander around the streets of this seaside resort, where we will enjoy the charms of this town, including the extraordinary 65 square meters of the Tree of Life mosaic covering the entire floor of the cathedral of Otranto.
The 12th century mosaics transcend geography, race and history, containing a welter of images that one would not normally expect to find in a Christian church. While there are Biblical references—Adam and Eve, Solomon, the beasts of the Apocalypse, Cain and Abel, Noah—there are also signs of the zodiac, images from the game of chess, an image from The Golden Ass by Roman writer Apuleius, the Huntress Diana and other references to Greek mythology such as an image of Deucalion and Pyrhha (protagonists of the Greek version of the Universal Flood) being rescued on the back of a great fish. King Arthur makes an appearance as do stories from Scandinavian mythology, and even the pre-Islamic Persian lion of the Sassanid empire. It seems to represent a story that is at the crossroads of East and West, above the great Christian schism of East and West and even above the division of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Day 12 Thu 10 Oct 2019 o'night in Trulli near Locorotondo, Puglia B L
We pack up and leave Lecce today and drive to Locorotondo stopping at the markets in Martina Franca on the way.
Martina Franca is a gracious whitewashed small town with gems of southern Italian Spanish influenced Baroque architecture beautifully presented in the labyrinthine streets.
This afternoon we move to an accommodation in the countryside in the area of the famous Trulli, conical stone structures originally built in dry stone which dot the landscape like hobbit houses. Part of our accommodation will be in Trulli structures.
We take the very short drive into town in Locorotondo for a brief guided tour and free time to wander and explore the streets of this circular white town
Free time for dinner in Locorotondo
Day 13 Fri 11 Oct 2019 o'night in Trulli near Locorotondo, Puglia B D
Pomona Gardens nearby our accommodation are the elaborate obsession of xxxxx who abandoned Milan to cultivate xxxxxxx and promote biodiversity on this enormous property. We will be taken through an escorted wander by this passionate man, through his personal paradise.
We have a delicious lunch in a private home in the countryside near Cisternino and then return to our Trulli to lounge by the pool or spend the afternoon reading or walking the countryside.
Dinner is at the accommodation in the countryside
Alberobello & Castellana Caves
Day 14 Sat 12 Oct 2019 o'night in Trulli near Locorotondo, Puglia B D
At Alberobello we see an entire town made up almost exclusively of Trulli, but the most evocative scenery is to be found in the fantastical landscape of the Val D'Itria in the drive on the way there. We follow backroads where the are seems frozen in the Apulia of ages past, blanketed with olive groves and vineyards and dotted with hundreds of countryside Trulli.
The Caves of Castellana began to form about 90 million years ago and are an opportunity to enjoy one of the most amazing natural wonders of Puglia. The unique guided tour winds along a distance of 1 km, and to a depth of more than 60 meters deep in an amazing scenario of stalactites, stalagmites, concretions, incredible shapes, fossils, canyons and caves.
Return to the accommodation
Day 15 Sun 13 Oct 2019 o'night Matera, Basilicata B D
Travel Time: 1 hr 30 mins
We shift today to the grey hand hewn caves of Matera, now a Unesco world heritage site and a unique and extraordinary urban landscape. The city is known as “I Sassi” (the stones), and has been tunnelled into the soft calcareous stone of a series of intersecting gorges with the excavated material used to build the house-fronts, some directly on top of others. We investigate at our leisure today after settling into our caves with candles & luxury fittings. We are staying in a boutique hotel in Matera, housed within incredible prehistoric caves. The hotel is located in the Cività neighbourhood, between the cathedral and the stunning Gravina canyon.
There is free time to relax post arrival and then we have dinner nearby
Matera & the Chapel of Original Sin
Day 16 Mon 14 Oct 2019 o'night Matera, Basilicata B L
In the morning a guided visit of Matera includes a small museum in, you guessed it, a cave which clearly shows how the inhabitants of Matera lived the not so distant past. We continue our exploration of the town including visits to a series of the local churches decorated with frescoes that show the influence of the Byzantines who ruled this part of Italy long after they had lost the north to the barbarians. We have lunch at a local agriturismo and wine maker then visit The Chapel of original Sin.
Late in the afternoon we have an appointment in another cave where we can relax in an underground thermal pool with sauna & spa followed by dinner in a local restaurant.
Matera to Paestum
Day 17 Tue 15 Oct 2019 o'night Paestum, Campania B D
Travel Time: 2hrs 40 mins
A late midday start today with some free time in for a last wander around the cobblestone streets of Matera before we leave our lovely caves to transfer to Paestum, an ancient Greco-Roman city in the Campania region of southern Italy. Near sandy beaches in a region known for its delicious mozzarella di bufula. We settle into a delightful restored family villa not far from Paestum's temple area.
Our accommodation is a quaint private villa, a small jewel in the National Park of Cilento (a UNESCO site), which we have exclusively for two nights. The Villa is an historic residence built in 1600 and has an enchanting views down to the sea. The ancient structure still has its original stables, oil-mill, cellars and bread ovens, as well as watch-towers along the enclosing walls. The ancient water reservoir, located in the garden by the well–spring, has been turned into a swimming pool with hydromassage. The halls, library, antique furniture and panoramic garden overlook Paestum's Valley of the Temples, One Suite, five Double Bedrooms, two Family Rooms (four beds per room), and an Apartment with kitchen facilities are available. There is a Dining room, where the owner Camilla serves an elegant dinner including local wine, a TV room, ample outdoor spaces, open Gallery with frescoes, panoramic Terrace, Garden with orchard, Swimming Pool, and a small Gym. Dinner is at the villa tonight. Drive time close to 3 hours including stops
Day 18 Wed 16 Oct 2019 O'night Paestum B D
. On the way we explore Paestum's three well-preserved Doric Greek temples, dating from the first half of the 6th century BC. These were dedicated to Hera and Poseidon. We also visit the museum of artefacts from the painted tombs of ancient Poseidonia. Drive time close to 3 hours to Paestum including stops
1. FEDERICO II, CELESTINO AND THE TEMPLARS
2. THE NORMAN KINGDOM IN THE SOUTH AND THE CRUSADES
3. THE KINGDOM OF THE TWO SICILIES FROM THE ROMANS TO GARIBALDI
4. MAGNA GRECIA
5. NAPLES. BELLA MA IMPOSSIBILE
Neil Moore offers a series of informative preparatory talks inserted at strategic points in the itinerary, and always accompanied by aperitivi
pp in DBL
pp in DUS
(single occupation in a double room)
A deposit of 10% per person is required to reserve a place on the tour.
There will be an interim payment of a following 20% of the total by mid March in order to finalise our accommodation options.
Final Payment is due 60 days before the first tour day
A limited number of upgrade possibilities may be offered. See below for more specific information
This program is costed on a maximum of 18 people travelling, with only 10 rooms held throughout
Enjoy the company of a small group of travellers, often Living Italy repeat guests, who have spent time with us in other regions of Italy.
All hand picked, and a feature of the tour,
Some are so extraordinary as to qualify as destinations in themselves. The accommodation in caves in Matera has been written up by CondeNast as one of the top 10 hotels in the world.
In Naples we stay in the centre in a fashionable, historic hotel with a pool
The rooms we request for our normal bookings are superior rooms. however some Suites, water views or larger rooms are available with a room upgrade, on request.
The prices indicated here are per room for the entire stay at that accommodation, and are in addition to the tour price and subject to availability.
Note my comments as to the relevance of some of the upgrades. The upgrade to waterview suite in Monopoli is the one that really puts the icing on the cake
In SULMONA upgrade to a Suite for 3 nights: Eur 330
In MONOPOLI - the property is waterfront with an expansive rooftop terrace and pool. For upgrade to water view or suite: EUR 390 for upgrade to WATERVIEW - Only 3 available. This is the upgrade to lash out for. In addition there is one large SUITE with expansive terrace and waterviews for an additional EUR 640.
In LECCE all rooms reserved are Delux - upgrade to a Suite room. EUR 200
In MATERA the upgrade is to a larger cave. Upstairs with a view, and downstairs to a 3 cave suite. All extraordinary and a huge range of variability. EUR 380. Really not necessary. All the caves are spectacular.
In PAESTUM the upgrades here are limited with the possibility of one suite only, otherwise larger rooms are available. Suite: EUR 160 . Family room: EUR 120. Really not necessary.
NAPLES - TBA
Transfer from QCTerme, near Fiumicino
21 nights in exclusive, characteristic and varied accommodations staying in
- A four star hotel in Sulmona
- Gorgeous waterfront residence in Monopoli
- Trulli near Locorotondo
- A four star hotel Lecce's historical centre
- Caves in Matera, Basilicata
- A four star hotel in Naples' hisotorcal centre
Breakfast every day plus 15 included meals
All land travel as per the itinerary
a cooking class in Abruzzo
Guided visits in Sulmona, Castel del Monte, Polignano, Alberobello, Lecce, Matera, Paestum, Villa Poppea, Herculaneum and Naples
Other visits to Martina Franca, Ostuni, Locorotondo, Otranto, Scanno, Calascio castle, Santo Stefano, Bominacco, Peltuinum
Accompaniment throughout the tour by Neil Moore & local guides
Transfer to Fiumicino airport
Villa Poppea & Herculaneum
Day 19 Thu 17 Oct 2019 O'night Naples B
Travel Time: 1 hr 15 mins + 30 mins x 2
Today we leave Paestum to transfer to a Naples, in the Campania region of southern Italy.
We visit the Villa Poppaea on the way to Naples.
Villa Oplontis, better known as Poppaea, is wonderful, with the best preserved frescoes of all the area.
Villa Poppaea is an ancient Roman seaside villa situated between Naples and Sorrento, situated in the ancient Roman town of Oplontis and about ten meters below the modern ground level. Evidence suggests that it was owned by the Emperor Nero, and believed to have been used by his second and rather notorious wife, Poppaea Sabina as her main residence when she was not in Rome. The frescoes decorating the walls of the Villa Poppaea are striking both in form and in color, and are ancient Roman painting, dating to 90-25 BCE.
After lunch nearby (not included, but we do book a local restaurant ). Drive into our accommodation in Naples
Late in the afternoon we drive back to Herculaneum so that we can enjoy the place at sunset and with fewer crowds. Herculaneum was once a thriving town in the Bay of Naples. Like Pompeii the city has a rich history influenced by Greeks, Oscans, Etruscans, Samnites and finally the Romans, and both cities are most renowned for their destruction, when they were buried in the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The city's second existence began with its gradual rediscovery in the 18th century. A guided visit by a local expert takes through the history and current dilemmas facing these two places. As the cities were being rediscovered, they began to die their second death. The worst forms of damage are of human origin and the early excavations, carried out over two hundred years ago and again in the 19th century, turned out to be more of a massacre, with statues and inscribed bronze plaques being carried off. All the remains preserved by the catastrophic explosion, were now exposed to the extremes of the weather, vegetation and to man.
Day 20 Fri 18 Oct 2019 O'night Naples
We will spend the day exploring the fascinating urban landscape of the city
Day 21 Saturday 19 Oct 2019 O'night Naples B D
Today we visit the National Archaeological Museum, a world class museum located in the heart of the city, and housing one of the most important collections of classical archaeology in the world. It has one of the world's best collections of Greek and Roman antiquities, including mosaics, sculptures, gems, glass and silver, and a collection of Roman erotica from Pompeii. Many of the objects come from excavations at Pompeii, Herculaneum, and nearby archaeological sites. There is a stunning collection of frescoes taken from the walls in Pompeii. Covering a period of about two centuries, the frescoes are excellent examples of Roman painting and cover a variety of themes, including mythological, landscapes, and scenes of daily life.
Naples to Fiumicino, Rome
Day 22 Sunday 20 Oct 2019 Departure B
Travel Time: 2 hrs 30 mins
On the last day we will transfer the group to Fiumicino Airport on the outskirts of Rome arriving around the middle of the day in time for afternoon flights.
The program may be altered to accommodate seasonal variations and activities, including local festivals and music performances if available. However the essential content of the itinerary will remain the same.
B L D means that breakfast, lunch and/or dinner will be included that day.
Excellent meals of local produce will be included at strategic places within the itinerary, and the whole package will be threaded together with the insights of your host Neil Moore on history, art, architecture and contemporary life. And of course we will feel obliged to compare the local wines to those in our previous Italian tours.
Neil Moore BA (Hons) is a painter and etcher of exceptional ability who has lived with his family for the last twenty years in the Umbrian countryside. Having graduated and then taught in the Department of Fine Arts at Sydney University, he made a second career as a newspaper illustrator for Australian newspapers and magazines, winning a Walkley award in 1980. Now an established artist in his own right who exhibits in Europe and Australia.
Neil moved to Italy in 1988 and divides his time between creative work and operating the Living Italy program together with his wife Carol Searle.
With an unrivalled enthusiasm for all things Italian he is fascinated by its southern regions, so rich in history and authentic local culture. Sicily in particular, with its extraordinary mix of Greek and Carthaginian, of Roman, Arab, Muslim, Norman and Spanish, provides fertile territory for this passion which combines a profound knowledge of the historical background with a keen appreciation of the island’s beauties and the various pleasures it offers.
See Neil's art at his web site:
08 Nov 2018
It’s time to say the largest possible thank you for a wonderful 21 days in the Mezzogiorno.
You really got it right for us – relaxed, stimulating, comprehensive, flexible – all the good things for a tour. And all with a minimal infestation of tour buses! We felt we were getting an inside look at the South based on your involvement, knowledge and love of Italy.
Accommodation deserves bouquets all round. Outstanding quality and variety and the standard was maintained throughout, so it was a real bonus for the trip. Restaurants were a little more mixed, but the overall package worked a treat, and the mix is part of the fun. Also, no tour groups (except us)! Keep up your good work.
Having both you and Neil with us was a special privilege. The two of you are the Yin and Yang of tour leading. All aspects are covered. Don’t hold Neil back on his contributions on history and art. The stuff which goes over our heads means that we may be learning something, and he delivers it so eloquently and enthusiastically.
The group worked very well, both compatible and easy going. This was probably helped by the fact that four of the five couples were return travellers.
As for negatives – can’t think of any!
We’ll be keeping an eye on the Living Italy web site, so you may well see the Whites again .....if you can fit us in.