Cycle Italy on a Guided or Self-Guided Tour
Here's your chance to bike through stunning and endless Italian olive groves as you bike your way from coast to coast in and around the stiletto heel of Italy in the beautiful Puglia region. Visit UNESCO World Heritage sites, peddle the rolling countryside and along the epic coastline. And each evening enjoy fabulous meals – guilt-free, after all, you've earned them after biking several hours daily on this 7 day biking tour.
Picture Italy's stilletto heel shape: on this Italian bike tour, you bike along each coast, starting in the Sassi of Matera, in Basilicata, then you will head on to the Apulian land.
Once you cross the Murgia plateau, you head to the Itri valley, filled with gorgeous and never ending olive groves. These olive groves are cultivated in farms they call Masserie – local stone fortresses sure to delight you! Sure to be a highlight!
Along the coasts you'll ride along beautiful sandy beaches with fanciful dunes and several protected reserves. Ride past old Messapi civiliations, rock settlements, and a few castles. Be sure to look out for the trullos, homes built with drystone techniques.
Then you'll head south to the Salento, stretching between the two beautiful coasts. Inland, check out the incredible Lecce Baroque, where there still exists Messapit and Salento Grecia!
Tune in to the Active Travel Adventures podcast episode on this amazing Puglia biking adventure: there's a player link above, or you can listen from any podcast app. Be sure to download the free Travel Planner below!
Highlights of a Cycle Tour of the Italian Puglia Region
Sassi, ancient Matera districts and the Park of Rock Churches
Locorotondo and Cisternino, whitewashed villages
Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage site
Ostuni, an architectural jewel referred to as “the White Town”
Staying in Masseria (farmhouse)
Gallipoli, founded by Greeks, located by the Ionian Sea
Otranto, with its beautiful castle and cathedral
They offer dozens of exciting cycling tours throughout Europe, both guided and self-guided, of differing difficulty ratings and types of adventures, so you are sure to find a good match!
TRAVEL PAST 50
WINNERS OF EIGHT 2017 NATJA AWARDS FOR JOURNALISTIC EXCELLENCE
Check out Kris' blog posts about her incredible Italy Bike Tour adventure.
SHOW NOTES – time stamped
Past Podcast Episodes Mentioned:
West Highland Way of Scotland
Galapagos (with Kristin Henning of TravelPast50.com)
APPS MENTIONED: Strava
Connect with Travel Past 50:
WINNERS OF EIGHT 2017 NATJA AWARDS FOR JOURNALISTIC EXCELLENCE
Check out Kris' blog posts about her incredible Italy Bike Tour adventure.
Key Segment Time Stamps:
00:00 Train vs slow travel
00:23 Podcast intro about today's adventure and bike travel in general
01:53 Intro Kristin Henning of Travel Past 50
04:20 Guided vs self-guided tours
06:45 Customize your self-guided trip by adding an extra day or so
07:51 Hotels are booked and luggage transferred
08:33 Regular bikes vs eBikes and eBike benefits
12:26 How many hours biked per day average (about 4)
14:27 Did Kristin have any anxieties before the trip? No but knee issues (bikes are better)
15:33 Difficulty rating (about 2.5 – 3 out of 5)
16:04 Biking vs hiking benefits and cultural interaction
18:15 Choosing a destination
19:24 Materra and Socci caves
21:10 Alberobello and trulli homes
26:42 Avatrona, Gallipoli and Ostranto
28:19 When Kristin went (see FREE Travel Planner for monthly guidelines)
28:42 Lecce, nightlife
35:22 GPS and Kristin's navigation error
37:48 Materra a highlight
39:49 Image that comes to mind first: Gallipoli
40:25 Kristin's advice (take extra time in towns)
42:16 Kristin ranks this adventure vs her other ones
42:54 Who visits this region?
43:43 Kristin describes Travel Past 50
45:38 Why is Kristin doing more adventure travel?
49:18 Submit your favorite stories for the adventure travel book
49:47 Pleae share this podcast
Time Stamped Complete Transcript
Kris: 00:00 Someone was talking about the difference between flying to a destination. Of course, you're just getting this cool birds eye view and on a train you're, you're seeing the world go by and that's a level of experience, but biking or hiking, it's like you're inside the movie. Whereas in the train you're, you're seeing the movie.
Kit: 00:23 Welcome to the Active Travel Adventures podcast. I'm your host Kit Parks, where every other Thursday on the Active Travel Adventures podcast, I bring you an exciting new adventure. I believe that if you want a kick ass life, adding adventure travel to your life is a must. You not only get to see some of the world's most remarkable landscapes and meet some of the coolest people, adventure travel makes you feel empowered and helps you to tackle some of the biggest challenges in your everyday life. So come along for another great adventure on today's Active Travel Adventures podcast. Today I'm going to be interviewing Kristin Henning from Travel Past 50. We first met Kristin on our Galapagos, episode number 18. Today Kristin's going to be telling us about her amazing bicycle tour through the stiletto heel of Italy. She's going to tell us about visiting some UNESCO world heritage sites, the incredible food, a great wine variety that she discovered and all the amazing landscapes in addition to learning about the adventure itself of biking up and down the stiletto heel of Italy. We're also going to discuss bike touring in general. What do you need to look out for, what kind of decisions need to be made? Is this the right fit for you? So we're going to go a little bit of detail into that as well and I think we've got a great episode for you today and I hope you'll come along for the ride. Thanks for listening.
Kit: 01:38 Our guest today is Kristin Henning. We first met her when she told us about her Galapagos adventure back in episode 18, but kristin, for those that may not have heard that episode, can you give us a little introduction about yourself and perhaps tell us your age?
Kris: 01:53 Well, yes, certainly. I'll start with the age because our blog is called Travel Past 50. So we're concerned with active travel and cultural travel for travelers over 50 and I fit that. I am 65. My husband is a year older, a couple of years older than I am, and we have been traveling pretty much nonstop, almost nomadically -since 2010- in the last couple years. We've based in Minneapolis our hometown, but over the course of these years we've just been getting more and more interested in active travel as a way to be closer to the destinations we're visiting and to stay healthy and happy.
Kit: 02:38 Perfect. Perfect. And you actually pretty much just sold everything you own and hit the road, is that right?
Kris: 02:44 We did! We had a big old house and we sold it and we sold our cars and we sold most of our stuff. We did have a storage unit that's now whittled down to nothing and partly because our children pilfered through it and took a lot of good stuff. So that's nice that it's getting used, what we did keep. And it, ‘s kind of like we traded a mortgage for traveling – that is what we did.
Kit: 03:10 Perfect. I kind of downsized myself and that does afford me the ability to do a lot more traveling as well. So folks: that it's a cool idea. So today we are going to be talking about a recent bite tour that you took to Italy. How about giving us a brief overview of that?
Kris: 03:24 Yeah. This was our second bike tour. We did have another occasion to bike in France a couple of years ago and we were interested in doing something again and we met a guy named Jim Johnson who is with a company called biketours.com, a very small operation in the United States and their specialty is European bike tours and they're essentially an agent working directly with local bike companies. So we loved the sound of working with him and we found really, I think that the main things that most bikers considering a bike tour need to think about is exactly what the process we went through. Where do you want to go? Do you want to bike on a self guided tour or with a group and you know what are your. What are your other interests that you want to incorporate into your route?
Kit: 04:20 Let's break that down a little bit. For those that don't understand the difference between a self guided and a guided tour, could you explain that for us?
Kris: 04:26 Yes. The the guided tours, you'll be with a group. It might be if you've got a family of extended family trip, you could do a group tour and it will be probably 12, eight, 12, maybe 18 bike riders and you're traveling on a set itinerary each day with that group and the advantages of it are that you've got a backup if you don't really want a bike or if someone in your group doesn't want a bike that much, they can ostensibly hop into the support van. The support van is there for any bike problems and having a local guide with you of course is an advantage because they know a lot about their local area and they will also hook up with local guides where guides are required… perhaps to see a world heritage site or a special museum or something, so it affords you a lot of tour opportunities within the bike route as well.
Kit: 05:31 Good. And then what is a self guided tour?
Kris: 05:34 And self guided is what we've chosen because oftentimes we don't work well in groups. But self guided is fantastic for us because we start and stop at our own pace. We still know where our next destination is going to be the following night. Our hotel is booked and we are given very detailed directions, route maps and GPS, so you know exactly the route you're taking. They've ridden it. The GPS will literally tell you how many meters your next turn is ,and it's really an efficient way to bike around an area you don't know at all and you won't get lost. You're not going to get very lost. And for us it's a really good option because we carry camera gear, we like to stop and do photography are inclined to detour, we want to stop at random when we see something that piques our interest, you know, for us it's an abandoned church or animals in a field or something like that that we want to just hang out and observe. So that's why we chose self guided.
Kit: 06:45 I like self guided too because you can often add in an extra day here or there because with a group you've got to do everything the same with the group itself. With self-guided, if there's a particular town or a village you'd like to stay in, you can make arrangements ahead of time to do that.
Kris: 06:58 Yeah. And that's actually a really good point. It's almost a third option. When you go towards self guided, you can also think of it as a custom trip. One of the things about this trip that we'll talk about in Puglia, Italy is that we loved every town we visited and we could have spent more time in each town. As it turned out, we stayed longer at the end, but we could have just as easily booked a rest day between each bike day and then had time to really explore the sites in each of the cities. So that's. It's really customizable entirely.
Kit: 07:33 Yeah. It's very much like the West Highland Way that I did and I was able to take an extra day in Rowardennan, which was so spectacular. I was like, “Hey, I want an extra cool day just to hang out and just enjoy this peaceful village.”
Kris: 07:43 Did you decide that in progress?
Kit: 07:46 You had to decide it in advance because they book all your accommodations ahead of time.
Kris: 07:51 Yeah, and so that's the other great thing about BikeTours.com: either way, guided or self guided, your hotels will be booked. You can moderate the expenses on your trip by what level of hotel you want in a lot of cases, and your luggage is carried forward for you. So your day starts with you leaving your luggage at the front desk, have some breakfast, hop on your bike and when you arrive at your next destination, your luggage will be in your room.
Kit: 08:21 Yep. That's exactly the way they worked with the one I hiked, too. Yeah. That's wonderful. Now let's say you're traveling with your partner and your partner is not the same fitness level as you? Is there an option with the bike?
Kris: 08:33 Yeah, and this actually it was another thing I meant to mention up front in the first considerations is what kind of bike you want. Our first bike trip we was fairly easy and we had regular bikes and we were very happy with that and proud of ourselves I must say for completing it and this time we were going to use regular bikes but it was early spring and we felt like we hadn't been on a bike over the winter and I have a few knee issues with a meniscus tear. I just wasn't confident. So we reserved ebikes and I'm so glad we did. And I just talked to a friend of mine, actually a friend of my daughter's, who said that he arranged a family trip for his 70 year old mother and it was in the Dolomites, so some serious hills if not mountains, and she used an ebike and the boys used regular bikes and it was fantastic.
Kris: 09:35 And there are couples who have differing levels of experience on bikes too. I just highly recommend the ebikes for anyone who's not entirely confident about keeping up.
Kit: 09:47 Define ebike, because a lot of people may be never heard that term before.
Kris: 09:50 Yeah. So they are electric bikes. They have a battery that is charged each night. It's best to think of them as electric assist. It is not at all a motorized scooter effect. You cannot just sit there and putter along with your power on it requires pedaling. So I think that's great because it takes the guilt away of using some assistance, but so the battery can be… I mean the assistance can be turned off entirely. You don't need to use it at all, and most of the assist bikes, ebikes, have maybe three levels of assist so that if you are depending upon the conditions, you can just kick it into higher gear, higher assist, and it'll make it easier to cover the distance with the exertion that you are putting out.
Kris: 10:46 You're still putting forth some exertion and that should be clear. You're not on a motor bike, you're not on a scooter. So what we found that, it's obviously if you're on a serious hill, you're into a big wind. You're going to want to use some assistance, if you're me. The other cases where I found that I used it and loved it were in cities or just getting started on a hill. You know that affect when you first get on a bike and maybe you've left it into higher gear and you start to pedal. It's like, “Oh my goodness, what have I done here?” I've got to really work and you may swerve out a little bit to get yourself going and you can't do that in a narrow lane and with traffic. And so we were advised from the get go put the power on right before you get on the bike, just to get that first step or two on your bike to get going and then decide if you need it or not. And that really helped. I used it there a couple of short stints where we were on a highway or county road, you know, pretty quick traffic and I didn't want to linger there and I was on a hill and so I kicked it into higher gear to get through that section. I used it on tiny narrow lanes in villages where there's not room for a car to pass a bike. So the cars behind me are waiting for me to get to that end of that section. So you know why linger, right?
Kit: 12:23 It helps you keep up with the traffic then?
Kris: 12:25 Exactly.
Kit: 12:26 Right. So about how many miles a day are you doing? Is this like hardcore all day or is it partial day? Or tell us a little bit about that.
Kris: 12:35 It's partial day for most people. For us, you know, we extended that into pretty much a full day. We were doing about 35 miles a day, I think .
Kit: 12:45 Translate that into about roughly about how much pedal time per day.
Kris: 12:50 For us with stops, it was four to six hours.
Kit: 12:55 Okay. So you're probably pedaling around three.
Kris: 12:58 Three or four I guess. Three to four depending on your pace. And what I would recommend for cyclists is to probably get an earlier start than we did and because, well at any rate, I mean we were starting about 10:00 which is late and therefore we would arrive in the next town after the lunch hour and that wasn't ideal, but we would have stopped. We usually like to pack an apple or a snack bar, and we might stop for coffee. We, I think we only stopped for a more regular lunch, sort of stop once or twice where we actually ate a meal. So we eat pretty lightly while we're biking. That meant that we were hungry when we arrived at the next town, but if you get up and go, then you'll get to the town by lunch. We just didn't keep to any time table. That's kind of why we were self guided and it worked out fine.
Kit: 13:57 Right. Or You could just take a couple hours midway of the height of the bike ride, take lunch and then finished up in the afternoon as well.
Kris: 14:05 Exactly.
Kit: 14:06 You're going through more than one village.
Kris: 14:08 Oh yes. They're usually villages every hour or so.
Kit: 14:14 And the only thing you have to do is just get to the next destination by the end of the day sometime.
Kris: 14:19 Yeah. Yeah. And preferably before dark. Although we did take lights with us, but we were there well before dark.
Kit: 14:27 Now you said you'd gone on a milder trip before? Were you at all anxious about going on this a little bit more rigorous trip?
Kris: 14:36 No, we weren't. We were really excited about it because since the first ride we've been convinced that this is just an ideal way for us to travel. We love to incorporate it into any and every destination if we can to do a bicycle. So we didn't have reservations about that. I did have reservations about my knee and oddly enough, biking is fine. I just don't have any pain biking. So for those out there who may have meniscus tears, injuries, get on a bike and see if it works for you without pain and it's a great alternative to walking, which for me is more painful. So that was my only reservation. We didn't know much about the terrain and it wasn't extremely hilly but that is because we didn't know, as another reason that we got ebikes.
Kit: 15:33 And on a scale of one to five, how would you rate this difficulty wise? This particular adventure?
Kris: 15:39 Hmm. Probably a two or three. That's such an objective thing. I don't know, depending upon my expectations or I don't really know how to grade it. I think the bike company probably… I think they have it at a scale of three. I'd say it's a two point five. Yeah.
Kit: 16:00 Right. Okay. And with the ebike, that probably makes it a little bit easier to.
Kris: 16:03 Absolutely.
Kit: 16:04 And you know one another thing too, I like about the bike tours, not that I've taken one, but the more I talked to people that have, I think it's something I need to add because I'm such a hiker, I always want to hike, but you get to see so much more when you travel, when you bike because you can go two or three times faster.
Kris: 16:18 Yeah. You cover so much ground and you still have the opportunity to stop and see things closely, like you do hiking, but you can mix it up more than you can hiking. HIking, I'm sure is mostly out in the country and in this way you're kind of mixing up some city, villages agricultural areas, and and this one didn't have a lot of wilderness, but you can be biking through wilderness too,
Kit: 16:49 And like hiking, when you do a bike tour you have much more interaction with the locals because you're not sitting on a bus touring, just getting out and looking at the tourist things. You're actually in the villages and asking for directions, etc.
Kris: 17:02 Yeah, and I think that there is such a natural inclination for local people to welcome hikers and bikers. They feel already akin to you knowing that you've invested some effort in and having your feet on the ground as it were. We have a friend of mine, that someone was talking about the dIfference between flying to a destination. Of course you just getting this cool birds eye view. And on a train, you're seeing the world go by and that's a lovely experience, but biking or hiking, it's like you're inside the movie, whereas in the train, you're seeing the movie. It's a really good description because you are involved with people. You can jump into a store, you can even in the wilderness, you know, if you're in a car driving through a scenic route, you go over a bridge and there's no way you can even see the river below you.
Kit: 18:01 Right. And I love that explanation because you are part of the experience. You're a part of the other people's experience as well. Yes, exactly. Yeah. You are in the movie. I love that. Tell us a little bit about the adventure that you actually took, some of your highlights, and what were some of your favorite things that you saw?
Kris: 18:15 Well, yeah, as I was mentioning earlier, one of the things to consider when you're choosing your route is not just the difficulty level, but what else is the route going to bring to the party. And for us, the reason we chose Puglia is for world heritage sites and, and food I think was, maybe it was a secondary consideration, but in hindsight was way up there in our appreciation of this experience. So Puglia is the stiletto heel of Italy's boot that is the region. It's called Apuglio in Italian. And to clarify in English, it's technically Apulia starting with the letter a, I'll just refer to it as Puglia, but this bike trip took us down and across and up again, that heel, that's spike heel of the boot. We started in Materra and that is a world heritage site. Materra I should mention, is just west over the border into the next region, which is called Basilica.
Kris: 19:24 So not to be confused Materra is not Puglia, but that's where we started and that is a thrill to visit because that is the world heritage site of the Socci caves. Socci caves were dwellings of the community hundreds and hundreds of years ago. And up into the 20th century, into the fifties, these were still occupied and there were no modern amenities and people lived with their animals and lived off the land and it became sort of well known because finally it was kind of discovered that these were very squalid conditions and there were a lot of health issues of course. So the people were moved out of the caves and it was cleaned up. The caves are now kind of back in business, if you will. I'm making it sound like a tourist trap. And it's not. The caves are now used more for museum purposes.
Kris: 20:23 There are churches in caves, and there are restaurants in caves, and there are dwellings in caves and you can visit a lot of them. So it's also an incredible hiking area. We didn't cover all of the ground of the region that we might want it to have seen because we didn't add a day of hiking in there, but I would recommend it for hiking too. Okay. So we should probably try to add a day into it at least. Well, yes, and we did add a day at the end. It was kind of rainy and we didn't see enough so we ended up after our bike trip, going back to Mattera by car, a rental car too, so that we could spend a couple more days. It's really that fascinating. Yeah, it's wonderful.
Kit: 21:08 So from Materra then, where do you go?
Kris: 21:10 So from Materra, we went east and our next overnight was at another world heritage site, which is the town of Alberobello. And Alberobello is filled with what are called trulli homes, trulli or a a trullo, is a stone structure with a conical shaped roof that is also stone. So they're very thick walled and cool inside. It can get extremely hot in this part of Italy, as you can imagine. And these were used, these types of structures were used and still are used for not just homes but for agriculture, for food storage and, and animals and everything. So it was kind of a thrill to us to be outside of all Alberobello on our bikes and realize, oh my gosh, here's a really, really hundreds of year old trulli that's still being used out in the field. And oh my gosh, here's a brand new trulli structure that has been made into a modern home.
Kit: 22:16 Right. And didn't you get to stay in one?
Kris: 22:18 Yeah, we did. And that was very, very cool. it was a, a beautiful structure with really three rooms, a great room with kitchen and a bedroom. And maybe it was two rooms. I guess there was a bathroom, two, three rooms.
Kit: 22:37 Very cool. so on the inside too, it's all stone as well.
Kris: 22:41 Yes. Very, very cool. In, in temperature protective feeling. And then to see in the town of Alberobello there are two hills on either side of the valley that are just spread with these homes. One next to the other. It's beautiful.
Kit: 23:05 Be sure to send us a photo of that that I will put on the website at www.activetraveladventures.com. And can you make sure that you please send us some photos of that and I'll put that https://activetraveladventures.com/pulia and pulia is spelled p u g l I a. That'd be great. Thanks.
Kris: 23:22 Excellent. I will do that.
Kit: 23:24 So and then from the trullis, then where do you go?
Kris: 23:27 So then continuing east from, from Alberobello, we went to the town of Ostuni, which was a thrill to approach. This is known as the “white city”. It was on the eastern coast of the peninsula and is up on top of a hill. So we, we came over one hill and then seeing this white city across the way and way beyond that the ocean is quite a thrill, Ostuni. We ended up visiting again later as well. Wonderful food. It's just a great seaside Italian city.
Kit: 24:05 Would that be another town you recommend us taking another rest day just to explore?
Kris: 24:09 Oh yeah, I would. Yeah, absolutely. It's got a lot going for it. It's also really cool because it's surrounded by all of orchards and it's really beautiful. It was a major port. It's now some distance away from the sea these hundreds of years later, but cool.
Kris: 24:32 Cool. And what's next?
Kris: 24:34 So from Ostuni, we went to Avi and that is smack dab in the middle of these vast olive groves. Orchards that go on as far as the eye can see. Biking throug that, that was one of my favorite segments. It was just really relaxing and through the back fields of huge olive growers, we were told that we were going to stay on a farm, which I thought might mean that we would be with a family or in an outbuilding at a farm. It turns out that this was on a property called a Masseria. The Masseria Bosco is the one we stayed in. Huge, wonderful former, well it's still an active agricultural area, but many of these growers of olives and wine, one or the other, or both have turned their property into kind of a bed and breakfast kind of place or outstanding restaurant and small hotel place.
Kris: 25:44 This one was phenomenal. It had, I don't know how many rooms, probably not more than a dozen or dozen and a half rooms, but excellent restaurant. They make all their own olive oil. They do olive oil tastings. They have a pool and a huge patio area and pergola outside. It would be great for a wedding or a celebration of that sort. It was just amazing and we stayed in one of the old buildings that had been decorated with antiques. We could look out over the olive trees that just went on as far as we could see and every direction. It was just beautiful. That was a great night watching the night sky as well, I must say. That was really wonderful.
Kit: 26:26 Oh cool. Very nice. Very nice. So where do you go from there?
Kris: 26:42 Avatrona, and then from Avatrona we went down to Gallipoli and I did not know that there was a Gallipoli in Italy. I knew of the one in Turkey. So that's down on the inside, on the west side of this spike heel of Ital, that stiletto peninsula is the ionic sea. So it was right after Avatrona coming to the coast… I can send a picture of this overlook was quite a thrill because we had been inland up until this point. So we biked along the coast, have a wonderful day of biking and Gallipoli is a kind of a funky little forgotten town now. We stayed and enjoyed walking around. Very cool. And from Gallipoli then we headed east cutting across straight east across the heel and we stayed in a town called Otranto, which is back up north a little bit once we crossed. And then you're on the Adriatic side. That was kind of cool thing for me because I'm a map freak to be one bike day away from seeing two different coasts. And Otranto is a historic town and in all of these historic towns and you can find beautiful churches and the center cities are generally in really good shape and small streets, but Otranto is outstanding and that it was at one time the world's biggest port for shipping olive oil all over the world. And when you bike around here, you are not surprised at that because it's olive groves as far as you can see.
Kit: 28:12 Wow. Wow. And when were you there? Could you see the olives on the trees?
Kris: 28:19 They were pretty green. We were there in May.
Kit: 28:22 And is that a good time of year to go?
Kris: 28:24 Yeah, absolutely. It was not too hot. Well, I think we had one sprinkle. I mean it was, it was really mild and the locals were saying it was a little cooler and cloudier than usual. But we loved it. It was perfect.
Kit: 28:37 Great, great. And then from Otranto, what's next?
Kris: 28:42 So from Otranto, we bicycled north up the Adriatic coast, a beautiful ride. And then ended our bike tour in the town of Lecce: l e c, c e, so my pronunciation may not be perfect there. Lecce is a college town for one thing and it's one of the bigger towns in the area. So it's a very, very vibrant… It's got, of the towns we visited, the best night scene. Just walking around after, oh, eight or 9:00. 10:00 is when things start to happen and it's a beautiful city.
Kit: 29:25 So let's also talk about the food.
Kris: 29:28 Yeah. I really didn't expect so much good food. There are a couple of big highlights starting with Materra and of course here I'm worried about my lack of training right at the beginning of the bike tour and we get there and I'm just eating pasta like there's no tomorrow.
Kris: 29:46 But Materra is interesting that in that it has what they call a black wheat, a black pasta and that is from the old days when they would burn the wheat fields to try to facilitate a second producing cycle in the year. They don't burn the fields anymore, but they toast the wheat in such a way that it is slightly black. And so they have what they call black pasta. I have a picture of a black pasta with ricotta and crisp sun dried tomatoes. It was just that tangy sun dried tomato with a rich ricotta sauce over this black pasta, which is…, you can't taste a burnt taste, but you all over town, you smell a, a toasty aroma. So they're very famous for their breads and their wheat there. So that was a great introduction at the other end of the spectrum is Ostuni.
Kris: 30:52 Ostuni, where we spent some time after a bike ride to is they are very famous for the orecchiette, which is the little ear shaped pasta. And, and that is the traditionally served very simply with a kind of a pesto that might be out of broccoli or what they call robe. I thought it was spelled r a p a,
Kit: 31:23 But I wonder if it's rabe because I know there's something in the broccoli family that sounds like that.
Kris: 31:33 Oh, that must be the same thing. Yeah, because I get a lot of different translations for it and I think they kind of loosely change the greens depending upon the season and what they have, but we literally were walking around, we didn't find the restaurant that we were looking for were just kind of keeping our eyes open for a place to eat and ended up at this kind of hole in the wall wine bar that had some of their floured butcher block stand outside their door with samples of the pasta that they were just making.
Kris: 32:08 Right. Then it's that fresh. So they are literally same day pasta, making it right there in front of you and then preparing it with this delicate pesto and top of the little basal and parmesan. It's wonderful.
Kit: 32:24 Oh good. Now with all that exercise, you don't feel guilty.
Kris: 32:27 No, exactly. That's my point. Yeah, it feels so good. I mean, that's the great thing about this, for those who are sort of trepidatious about biking, it's more akin to just going to an exercise class and then having a nice lunch. That's kind of the way the whole holiday feels. One other food stuff that I would like to mention is the appetizers. The antipasto plates in this region are pretty spectacular and I highly recommend ordering whatever the house offers and whether or not you know what it is and it could in some cases include tripe, so if you're not into that you don't eat it, but it will also be sausages and ham and cheese as they're very famous for their mozzarella and fresh vegetables here, so you'll get zucchini and peppers and pickled apples.
Kris: 33:23 And beans. A lot of great beans prepared nicely, so the antipasto plate is great.
Kit: 33:31 Wonderful. I imagine between the two seas, lots of fish.
Kris: 33:34 Yes. Although I was surprised that we didn't eat more fish than we did and I. I don't know why that is. It didn't seem to be featured on a lot of the restaurants' menus. Maybe they consider it more of an everyday dish or maybe we were just all more in tuned to the land and the vegetables- that seemed to be the case. We didn't eat a lot of meat either. We seemed to eat a lot of pasta and vegetables and beans.
Kit: 34:06 And you said the accommodations were great?
Kris: 34:09 Yes, they were. And it sounds like you had a variety too, so it wasn't just your regular old guesthouse or so?
Kris: 34:15 Right, and it was big and small hotels, historic places, new places and one of the things that I loved about the self guided tours is that we had from the local tour operator recommendations in each town that are all written up and ready for you, so where you might have to get your bearings from your hotel and get a couple of their standard recommendations, we already knew from the writeup that was handed to us some places to look out for and sites to see. So we could kind of plan our limited time in the cities that way. And one day it in Alberobello, where the trullie homes are., we stayed a little longer the next morning because there was some of the things we wanted to see. We didn't start biking until noon. That was fine, no problem. But having the restaurant recommendations by the local bike operators is really a nice deal.
Kit: 35:12 It saves you a ton of time. Very nice. And then when you look back, what are your favorite stories?
Kris: 35:22 I think. Well, I'll give you a funny one and a couple of just overall impressions. One of my navigation errors: I think it's always good to have a navigator. We had one gps, so I'm the navigator. So I have the maps and I have the gps. Tom had a his iphone on. He wasn't looking at a map, but he runs Strava app, which hikers and bikers use mostly cyclists, maybe. But Strava is a wonderful app that will give you your gps of where you actually went. So I have the map of where we were supposed to go. Tom's got the map of where we actually went and it also means you can save that route map and share it with your friends. So we were able to share our route with our Travel Past 50 readers every day.
New Speaker: 36:15 Very cool. I'll put a link to that in the show notes and on the website.
Kris: 36:17 Well, so I'm the navigator and it took me a little bit to figure out not to anticipate the directions in there. It does take a while to know how the gps works. I missed a turn and took us down a 10 percent grade, which is pretty darn steep. And then at the bottom went, “Oh no!” My gps is dinging at me that I took a wrong turn. I thought Tom was going to kill me. It's like of all the places I go down this massive hill and realize, “Oh no, we gotta go back up!” Thank goodness again, we had the bikes but. So I didn't want to go back up this hill until I was really, really sure because it takes… sometimes the gps will blink out and it takes a minute to get to show you that you're back on the right trail and I, so I wanted to wait and walk around and finally I got my iphone out and used my compass on my iphone and tried to figure it out that way and we can, you know, make an educated guess. We did go back up the hill and found that that was the right route. I wasn't sure until we got back up the hill if I was really leading us in the right direction. So that was my one navigation glitch. That was not my best overall impression, but it was my one of my moment of shame,.
Kit: 37:40 I guess the work out up that hill gives you freedom to eat whatever you want. Right?
Kris: 37:48 Exactly. You gotta work, you gotta work to say that you've done it. I think that seeing Materra was really quite a thrill and walking around there and also just the surprise of ending up at the masseria in Avetrana was… I was just so surprised at what that whole evening was going to be like. Thinking that I was going to be in someone's house and then ending up on this, it's like a plantation operation where we were greeted as we were in every place, but this even more so greeted by the proprietors. “Put your bikes here. Let's get you a cold beverage rest in, you know, then we'll show you. ” Your room is just so relaxed and so it's such a wonderful experience. Any foodie, anyone with a special occasion, anyone driving around this part of Italy, should I make a point of of going to a masseria for a meal and overnight, preferably overnight as well s,o you can enjoy the wine, but the best chefs in the region tend towards these masserias.
Kris: 39:03 ThIs is where you will find the best restaurants and so they're going to be out in the middle of nowhere. They're not going to be in towns and I do have in one of these stories, the links to all the places we stayed, so I'll be sure you have that. Eating out is all about the food.
Kris: 39:19 The other great discovery in this region is a wine called primitivo and it's a generally a red wine. Uh, it, it's wonderful. It kind of reminds me a bit of a spanish wine, although not so… It's a full red wine that is great with pasta or meats or vegetables. It's really good.
Kit: 39:44 When somebody asks you about your trip, what's the first image that comes to your mind?
Kris: 39:48 I think riding up to the coast before Gallipoli was… we had such a pleasant day going through the olive orchards and then that just opens up to this bluff over the water, was just an aha moment after a very pleasant day of biking and it was all downhill from there.
Kit: 40:15 And that's always nice too. very nice. Right. And be sure to send us a photo of that as well and will be putting it on the website. Anything you wish you had known before you'd gone or any advice you'd like to give us?
Kris: 40:25 I think the main thing is as always allow as much time as you can. I think the only thing that we would have done differently is stayed longer maybe during our ride, but I don't even regret the way we did that at all because we did have time at the end. We worked with a company called Wonderful Italy that that is sort of like a glorified airbnb. We loved that and so we stayed additional days in Ostuni and in a town called Martina Franca, which is really the cradle of all of this wine, all of oil, agriculture area. It's kind of right smack dab in the middle of the heel.
Kit: 41:14 And one thing we can think of too is you only went about 200 miles. So even though that's a long way on bike, if you get on a train or public transport, let's say you saw a town that you liked at the end of your journey, just allow some extra days to go back and do what you did so you don't have to plan in advance, “Oh, I'm going to stay in Matera, or Ostuni or whatnot. You could plan a few days. Yeah, playing a few days and go back to the towns that caught your fancy.
Kris: 41:39 Right. And it was three nights stay through Wonderful Italy and Ostuni and Martina Franca. They helped us rent a car and we drove back to Matera and stayed at Martina Franca. So we did the drive across the hill and back easily and we also drove up the coast to visit another world heritage site and happened on a great seaside village there which people can find in our, in our post. That was just a sort of that classic cliff side Italy village that we stumbled upon in our rental car.
Kit: 42:16 It sounds like the whole trip sounds amazing and you've traveled all over the world. Where does this particular adventure fall in the spectrum of your adventures?
Kris: 42:25 You know, it's really, really high up there because partly because Italy, after Spain, is the country we're most familiar with and have visited a large share of, but we had never been to this part of Italy and it's very distinct and that's what puts it way up there in the scale of memorable trips for us, it was a real discovery and it cannot be lumped into the rest of Italy.
Kit: 42:54 Who's visiting there? Do you see a lot of Americans or Europeans or who are the tourists there?
Kris: 42:59 Well, some of the snowbirds, the year round visitors are northern Europeans who may have a house there for their winters to, to get away. And so that is probably Scandinavians, Germans, some Dutch. As far as the visitors go, it's, I think primarily because of the world heritage sites, it's becoming a little better known among North American travelers. But we didn't really run into other Americans that I can think of along along the way.
Kit: 43:36 Sounds like a cool trip. So we've talked a little bit about the fact that you're so well traveled. Tell us a little bit more about Travel Past 50.
Kris: 43:43 Travel Past 50: It started by accident, but it was predictable for other people, I'm sure. Tom and I come from a publishing background. We published the alternative news weekly here in Minneapolis and St Paul for many years. We founded it and then publish that at another magazine after that, so reporting, writing, photography, even though we didn't practice that as business owners, as publishers, we migrated to easily when we started traveling. Our travels started in Ecuador. We spent between Ecuador and cChile our first year of travels, we're in south America and at the time Tom and I were doing our separate things, doodling at blogging I guess, and then the following year when we decided to hike the Camino de Santiago. Following that, we decided we should really coordinate our efforts here and we were getting so many questions from friends that we decided to document what we were doing a little better.
Kris: 44:44 So now what we like to do is share our firsthand experiences. First and foremost, offer some practical information. In fact, Tom's got some really good information about a good backpacks and packing for a bike trip on our site that people might be interested in. So we are combining some practical information with just a lot of our firsthand experience and trying to all along the way encourage people to travel and be active and to keep their eyes open because we feel it's just such a.. it's so eye opening and it's so refreshing and so hopeful to get to know people around the world and realize what's in common rather than what's dividing us.
Kit: 45:38 Definitely. As much as I agree on the travel part, I would like to know your opinions to what makes adventure travel in particular special because you seem to be getting more and more adventurous.
Kris: 45:46 Yeah. And the older we get, the more adventurous we get, which is really interesting. I think it is a combination of the fact that it feels good for us. It's like as long as we can hike and bike, not doing that would make us age a lot more quickly. I think if you want to put it that way, the it keeps us young, it keeps us inquisitive, but the main part of traveling is being inquisitive and trying things and whether that's the physical activity that's opening you up to those new vistas and people or or not, that the point is seeing things that you might not otherwise see or even approaching things that might be part of your everyday life. I biked yesterday in the city here, but does the experiences of traveling and biking, and biking at home can each instruct the other, what do you, what do you stop for? What do you look at? Who do you talk to? How do you manage a situation that's unfamiliar or a breakdown or a how do you share a happy moment when you're alone? Those are all part of the travel experience.
Kit: 47:03 Definitely, definitely any final thoughts?
Kris: 47:07 I just encourage people that give it a whirl and if they try a bike tour, I hope you do, too.
Kit: 47:16 I vow right now that I will do a bike tour somewhere next year. I promise. So mark this down.
Kris: 47:21 I also encourage people, if you don't know whether to to reserve an electric bike or a regular bike, go to your local bike shop and try one out. Just hop on and see what you think.
Kit: 47:40 Yeah, I did the electric bike on a wine vineyard tour in that little town of Cassis also. I'll put a link to that. That was my favorite town in France that it was a blast because it's fun. I mean when we got to a hiltl, ZZZZZT up the hill you go. So I knew you could use your muscle or you could use the bike. It was really nice. Oh yeah. Very cool. Well thank you so much for your time. It's been a blast. I got to put this one on my list too. Every time I talk to you I've got to add something else to my list.
Kris: 48:08 Well, I hope to that if your listeners have other questions, they can certainly respond to us through the website or or Facebook or personally through email and we would be happy to ask answer more specific questions. I hope we've covered the basics.
Kit: 48:23 Sounds great, and I'll put links to all your social tags, website and any of the links that we talked about today will be in the show notes and on the firstname.lastname@example.org/puglio, P U G L I A . Thanks so much for your time, Kristin.
Kris: 48:39 Thank you, Kit. It's a pleasure.
Kit: 48:42 I hope you've enjoyed today's adventure about doing a bicycle tour through the stiletto heel of Italy. I think bike touring in general is kind of a cool way of travel and I've actually just booked my first trip. I'm going to be going to Ireland next late spring and doing a bicycle tour through the beautiful irish countryside, so I'm excited about that. Kristin really got me motivated to do that and I promised when we had our interview earlier this month that I would go ahead and commit to 2019 that I'd be going on a bike tour myself, so I'm excited about that… spreading my wings a little bit away from the hiking I tend to favor. So of course I'll be doing an episode of that next summer.
Kit: 49:18 If you have not already submitted your stories for the upcoming book on adventure travel, please email at K I T [at] activetraveladventures [dot] com or send me a voice mail at two, five, two, five, one five, zero, one, six, six.
Kit: 49:33 I'd love to hear your stories. Positive, negative. Let's make this a participatory book where we're all involved in putting out our great stories and encouraging others to get out and adventure travel. So come on, I know you've got some great stories. Please share them.
Kit: 49:47 And speaking of sharing, could you please help spread the word about this podcast? Share it on facebook, share it on twitter, share it on instagram stories, share it with your friends. The way people find out about podcasts is basically through sharing and word of mouth, so please take a minute or two and share it with your friends. I sure would appreciate it.
Kit: 50:06 You know how over and over again we hear some of our guests saying, Nepal, Nepal, Nepal, how they loved Nepal. They have to go back to Nepal, but most people go to the, to the main area, the Everest Base Camp era. This time, when I come back in two weeks, we're going to go to a lesser known region. That is just as spectacular, but not as crowded, so I think you're really going to enjoy going to Annapurna with me. I be back in two weeks- two weeks from Thursday- and until then this is Kit Parks and “Adventure On!”
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