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Tour Description

  • 15 days
  • selfguided
  • tour

This two-week tour of southern Italy will take you off the beaten track, from the unspoilt countryside of Basilicata to Apulian cities that rival Florence (but attract a fraction of its crowds). Since it’s a self-drive tour, what you see is up to you – but we’ve put together the highlights you could cover in 14 days. 

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Looking for something totally unique?
Our Italy Experts can create completely bespoke itineraries. Give them a call with your requirements and they can tailor-make a trip to suit you.

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At a glance
  • Explore four of southern Italy's lesser-known regions
  • Discover new cities, countryside and coast
  • See Matera's cave houses and Puglia's trulli  
  • Driving yourself gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace

Suggested Itinerary

Day 1: UK - Naples

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Map of Day 1: UK - Naples

Touch down in Naples Airport, where you’ll pick up your hire car for your two-week exploration of southern Italy. From there, you’ll drive to Cilento, an untouched region known for its dramatic landscapes, vast national parks and picturesque coastline. Choose one of its unspoilt small towns as your base; Santa Maria Di Castellabate sits in the middle of Cilento National Park, while Palinuro boasts a beautiful Blue Flag Beach.

 

Cilento is big on Mediterranean-style cuisine. After checking in to your hotel, be sure to try some fresh fish, local olive oil and vegetables for your first meal in the region. A must-try local specialty is buffalo mozzarella, considered the very best in Italy and making an appearance on almost every restaurant menu – try it in a simple Caprese salad. 

Day 2: Cilento

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Points of Interest

Map of Day 2: Cilento

On the outskirts of Palinuro is one of the region’s must-see natural wonders, the Blue Grotto. When you enter this underground cave by boat, the sunlight transforms the water into a dazzling blue. Book a local boat tour to see it, and make sure you save it for a sunny day for the biggest impact.

 

Cilento has 28 Blue Flag beaches dotting its coast, but with most visitors heading to the nearby Amalfi Coast, Cilento’s sands remain appealingly quiet. Pitch up for an afternoon on the golden grains of Santa Maria di Castellabate, which has fantastic diving as well as plenty of seafood restaurants for a lunch stop. 

Day 3: Cilento

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Points of Interest

Map of Day 3: Cilento

Today, why not explore the idyllic little town of Ascea, set high into a cliff-side overlooking a gold-sand coastline. It has a fantastic beach lapped by the warm waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, with a fascinating old watchtower at one end and, for history buffs, the Velia Archaeological Site – a UNESCO-listed site with Greek and Roman roots. If you’re in town at the end of August, Ascea hosts a colourful procession in honour of Our Lady of Portosalvo, where locals gather with candles and ribbons to stroll through the town. 

Day 4: Cilento - Calabria

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Map of Day 4: Cilento - Calabria

Before you leave Cilento, pick up some of the region’s favourite sweet treats – locally grown white figs, best enjoyed fresh in summer. They’re the ideal snack for your drive into Calabria, a beautiful region way down in southern Italy that’s loved by the Italians but relatively unknown to Brits. It takes around four hours – the coast road is slightly slower, but worth it for the views.

 

Calabria’s coastline feels almost Caribbean, with huge sweeps of pale-gold sand against the deep blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Base yourself in Tropea, a lovely seaside resort with a real southern Italian flair. On your first day, stretch your legs with a walk through its old town. It’s a postcard-pretty cluster of narrow lanes and pastel buildings – be sure to grab a gelato on your wander along the seafront. 

Day 5: Calabria

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Points of Interest

Map of Day 5: Calabria

On your first full day in Calabria, head to one of its most impressive sights – the Santa Maria dell’ Isola Monastery. The monastery looks like something from a fairy-tale, crowning a rocky promontory jutting out into the sea. It’s a little bit of a climb to get to, but the staggering panoramic views are well worth it.

 

The monastery sits on a piece of Tropea’s coast known as the ‘Coast of the Gods’ for its incredible beauty. After you’ve worked up an appetite climbing to the top, stop along the coast in one of the resort’s waterfront eateries to grab lunch, take some photos and soak up the views.

 

After lunch, take a drive to the little town of Ricadi to visit the Capo Vaticano. Not only is the cape one of Italy’s prettiest sun traps, but it’s a natural wonder, too – formed by a soaring wall of white granite that’s been studied by geologists the world over. We love it for its incredibly clear waters and natural beauty.  

Day 6: Calabria

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Points of Interest

Map of Day 6: Calabria

Situated in the ‘toe’ of Italy’s ‘boot’, Calabria is a stone’s throw from the volcanic Aeolian Islands. Book a boat trip for the best way to explore the archipelago; the ever-smouldering Stromboli is particularly impressive – and you can sail past after dusk to see its red-hot lava light up the night sky.

 

If you’re visiting in August, you may be lucky enough to catch a food festival. Sagra della ‘nduja celebrates the region’s much-loved spicy sausage, held in the little town of Spilinga around half an hour from Tropea. Otherwise, try it on pizza in a local restaurant. 

Day 7: Calabria - Basilicata

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Map of Day 7: Calabria - Basilicata

Say goodbye to those views – it’s time to drive inland to Basilicata. This is rural southern Italy, historically attracting few visitors. But with a little help from the city of Matera – set to be European City of Culture in 2019 – Basilicata’s star is on the rise.

 

Drive through the unique rolling landscapes that characterise the region. If you have the energy, it’s a fantastic place to hike and cycle, with interesting hilltop towns and national parks to explore. One of the best spots is the from the little town of Maratea up to Basilicata’s own Statue of Christ the Redeemer, similar to that of Rio de Janeiro, located around 600 metres above the sea. 

Day 8: Basilicata

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Map of Day 8: Basilicata

Base yourself in Matera – it’s one of Italy’s most impressive undiscovered gems. The city is best-known for the Sassi di Matera – an ‘old town’ of pre-historic cave houses that are said to have housed Italy’s first inhabitants around 9,000 years ago. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the sassi have formed neighbourhoods and today even house hotels, restaurants and museums. One of the most unique places in the whole country, reserve a whole day to explore on foot, stop at a sassi café and visit the Casa Noha museum to make sense of the city’s history. The museum is located beside Matera’s Duomo, one of the city’s landmarks.

 

Find a local osteria for dinner; Basilicata is an agricultural region known for simple, hearty and delicious dishes using home-grown ingredients. Look out for lu’ntruppc (pasta with sausage sauce) with handmade bread dipped in locally produced olive oil. 

Day 9: Basilicata

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Map of Day 9: Basilicata

Basilicata is a diverse region, home to towering mountain ranges as well as two striking, untouched coastlines. Pick which you’d prefer to see today – there’s the Ionian Coast, around 30 minutes’ drive from Matera and known for its secluded little beaches, or the wildly beautiful Tyrrhenian Coast that sits against dramatic mountains.

 

If you’d rather head inland, the Dolomiti Lucane is a must-see. Named after the Dolomite Mountains in Italy’s north, the mountain range is known for its otherworldly crags and peaks and its unusual flora and fauna, with plenty for lovers of the great outdoors to get their teeth into. 

Day 10: Basilicata - Puglia

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Map of Day 10: Basilicata - Puglia

Squeeze in breakfast in the sassi before climbing back in the car for the scenic drive across the border into Puglia. This region of southern Italy may not have the name-recognition of Tuscany, but we think it rivals its famous neighbour. Beautiful countryside, to-die-for cuisine and white-sand beaches are the basis of Puglia’s appeal, with a sprinkling of quaint villages best explored by car.

 

We recommend a hotel in Torre Canne di Fasano; this peaceful fishing villages has a fabulous sandy beach and relaxed town – the ideal place to wind down after your adventure in the undiscovered south. Start with a passeggiata along the seafront, with a dinner of freshly netted fish in a local trattoria. 

Day 11: Puglia

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Map of Day 11: Puglia

Today, hop in your hire car for a visit out to Alberobello, Puglia’s famous ‘Trulli Town.’ This charming little town has a classically Italian centro storico and a striking basilica, but the main reason it draws visitors is for the trulli. These are small, traditional stone houses with cone-shaped roofs, and over a thousand of them sprawl across Alberobello like a toy town. It’s a magical place to wander – be sure to finish up with a glass of Salice Salentino wine at a trullo bar. 

Day 12: Puglia

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Points of Interest

Map of Day 12: Puglia

It’s well worth saving a day to discover Lecce, the Apulian city nicknamed the ‘Florence of the South.’ This cultural gem has 2,000-year-old roots and a fascinating centro storico, home to a Roman amphitheatre, imposing fortress and a Church of Santa Croce to rival Florence’s own.

 

Lecce’s charming baroque streets are the perfect place to pass the time, with plenty of pavement cafes, tiny shops and restaurants. Make time for a plateful of orecchiette (an ear-shaped pasta popular in Puglia) served with an aged ricotta and tomato sauce. 

Day 13: Puglia

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Points of Interest

Map of Day 13: Puglia

Ostuni is one of the prettiest places in Puglia – and that’s saying something. Dubbed ‘The White City’, Ostuni is an enchanting sprawl of whitewashed buildings set into a steep hillside. Its centro storico is one of Italy’s most atmospheric, with cobbled streets and narrow passages revealing little cafes, bars and shops around every corner. The Duomo sits at the highest point of the town; it’s a steep climb, but the spectacular views of the countryside are worth it.

 

Ostuni is a great place to sample some authentic cuisine. There are plenty of tiny trattorie and bars serving home-cooked local fare. A glass of the local red with focaccia Bari (fresh-baked bread topped with tomatoes, olives and olive oil) is the perfect way to finish the day. 

Day 14: Puglia

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Map of Day 14: Puglia

It’s your final day in Puglia, so it’s time to relax and pick a spot by the beach. Puglia’s coastline is fantastic; it’s the longest of any region in Italy, and combined with its southern climate, Puglia is something of an undiscovered gem for beach lovers.

 

The beaches are wild and beautiful – all powdery sands and rugged backdrops – and there are plenty to discover. Punta Prosciutto Beach is a popular spot around 30 minutes from Lecce, known for its sand dunes and shallow waters. Situated in a protected marine area, it’s virtually untouched, too. 

Day 15: Puglia - UK

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Map of Day 15: Puglia - UK

Sadly, today will be the last day of your journey around Italy’s undiscovered south. Drop your hire car off at Bari Airport before catching your flight back to the UK. 

Call to discuss and book your tour 01293 762410 *

Flight Information

Direct flights to Naples airport (NAP) are available from Birmingham, Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London Gatwick, London Luton, London Stansted, Manchester and Newcastle and take approximately 2 hours 45 minutes.