Unique experiences where you can trek, cycle, meditate, fly like a bird and then dine under the stars
While luxury means different things to most people, the rush that luxury fuels involve feeling the rarest sensations, accessing the unknown and forging a unique path that they never light upon in quite the same way again. Beyond seaside and nightlife scenes, Puglia is an experiential playground that beckons curious and adventurous spirits.
The following activities are suitable for solo travelers, couples and small groups for family and friends, and even men’s retreats (an on-the-rise travel trend) with a combination of adventure sports, trekking, wellbeing and haute cuisine converge to reunite, reconnect and rejuvenate.
Guided excursions on the Ionian coast provide endless scenic shots of the aquamarine sea and a chance to learn about the geological evolution of the natural landscape between Gallipoli and Porto Cesareo. The route passes through the Isola di Sant’Andrea Regional Park, the Punta Pizzo coast, Porto Selvaggio Regional Park and the Palude del Capitano marshlands. An abundance of fossils is left from historic tsunamis, with cliffs and abysses that are home to flora and fauna. Going from sandy coast to expansive dunes and karst landscapes it is amazing to see just how varied the landscape is in this singular route.
On the Adriatic, you can walk the coast from Gargano in the north with its dramatic seascapes and lush forests, to the open plains behind Torre Guaceto that meet the sea, and from Otranto to the southernmost tip of Santa Maria di Leuca, passing through quaint villages, lush fields with abandoned trulli and prehistoric caves such as Grotte Cipolliane.
Hiking along the river bend
Just south of Matera is the historic town of Ginosa; on the ancient paths along the banks of the river, travelers can hike independently or guided with excursions through a lavish, green valley. Millennia of human history rest here, an energy that is palpable along the historic routes. Charming rustic kitchens dot the countryside, ideal for a rest and recharge stop. Master bakers recreate recipes by hand, and the delightful aromas of freshly baked bread merge with fresh-from-the-backyard olive oil and wine from the region of Gravina in Puglia. In the cool mountain air of Gravina in Puglia, hikers can explore the large ravine at the bottom of which flows the homonymous river. Passing the labyrinth streets of Piaggio and Fondovico you can visit the underground Gravina with ancient cisterns dating back to the last century that is found only here.
In the heart of Basilicata, the glorious spires of the 15 million-year-old Lucanian Dolomites rise to the sky, with dramatic views and shapes reminiscent of Trentino. At the Via Ferrata, you can go rock climbing and cross Nepalese bridges held by a wire. Once the adrenaline settles, sample local produce cultivated in the surrounding farmland.
The Angel’s Flight
The exhilarating feeling of breathing fresh air while shouting at the top of your lungs is priceless. In Italian, hand gliding is known as ‘flight of the angel’ and for just reason. Wearing only a harness fastened with security clasps tied to a steel cable, you’re sent off into the open air, crossing from the mountaintop village of Castelmezzano to Pietrapertosa in the Lucanian Dolomites. Finally, at 1000 meters in altitude you can take in the environmental heritage around you with the town’s houses miraculously perched on the rocks, the lush forest in its majestic silence and feel the rush of an experience afforded only by winged creatures.
Biking in the mountain range of the Terra delle Gravine natural reserve park will have you immersed in a sea of lush greenery, while a tour around the historic villages of the Itria Valley lends a more picturesque experience passing through landscapes dotted with trulli, haystacks and vineyards. Yet a night bike ride is perhaps more suggestive here in Puglia, either preceded by or special aperitivo or well-earned after covering some ground. Overnight options are available, with an early morning breakfast in an exclusive location to celebrate the experience.
Early Morning Fishing
Early risers will appreciate a journey to the open sea; take advantage of the still, fresh air and venture to the depths with a local fisherman where you decide the catch of the day and experiment with the bait and net. The beauty of this experience lies in its rustic simplicity; enjoy an early morning swim and the first coffee of the day with the sun’s rays hitting the open sea, fish your own food and head back to your piece of paradise with a sense of self-achievement.
When the ocean lures you from earth’s surface, snorkeling in a natural marine reserve is a wonderful alternative. Down under, the temperatures are cooler, there is enough space for everyone and you can explore the marine life. The Torre Guaceto Marine Reserve organizes guided snorkeling excursions, while experienced snorkelers can access the reserve by boat and explore independently. In addition, private travel experts can arrange private day trips where you can snorkel and dive in unique grottoes. Unique locations include Grotte di Porto Cesareo, Grotte del Soffio in Santa Maria di Leuca, Punta Secca at the Tremiti Islands, and Il Curvone at Santa Caterina di Nardò.
Yoga & Meditation
If you seeking to revisit your comfort zone or mastering the technique, the backdrop of millennia-old olive trees is something to consider. The landscape between Fasano and Savelletri, extending on the road to Ostuni and along the coast to Carovigno offers wonderful walking paths surrounded by tens of thousands of ancient olive groves where you can draw from the wisdom of grace and silence olive trees exude and invite you to roll out a blanket or yoga mat to connect to your own inner wisdom.
The Stars Above and Below
After a long hike in Matera or evening excursion by the sea, stargazing in a remote countryside location is the perfect ending to a day in Puglia. The only requisite is a clear sky or the light of the moon. Astronomers can be booked by travel designers or you can head to the Astronomic Park (Parco Astronomico) in Salento, close to the town of Salve.
Back on earth, by day or under the moonlight that guides you to the Milky Way, a private chef can light up the evening with a gourmet or Michelin-starred dinner at the location of your choice or at the comfort of your private villa. Alternatively, you can also go on market tours and tastings with the chef prior to the experience to discover the rich biodiversity of the region.
What’s better than breakfast in bed? Probably a barefoot dinner on a stretch of beach lit by torches and the moonlight, with a local chef cooking your favorite cuisine. Indeed, eco-chic barefoot dinners on the ‘calette’ (inlets) along the Adriatic and Ionian coast can be arranged with the help of local travel designers. Locations include Torre Colimena, Castelo Fiorentino. Traditional Apulian music bands can accompany the night, infusing rhythm and spirit to an unforgettable evening.