Slow Active Tours
Southern Italy experience
Nature, emotion & art
For a long time Edwin wanted to live an active (and slow) holiday through the heel of Italy and eventually he found us. We helped him achieve the mission and his father came with him. And together they discovered the wonders of the Valley of Trulli … Below is the translation of the original version of his travel blog.
A journey that includes several daily stages through the heel of Italy. A desire that becomes reality when, together with my father, I am off to walk in Puglia for five days.
Slow Active Tours arranged a trip for us that I couldn’t wait to live for months. “Puglia, but is it not flat?”, My father didn’t know what to expect from the type of terrain or hiking route in Puglia, he has the impression that from this part of Italy you can only go down to the sea …
Our tour starts from Alberobello and ends a few days later in Ostuni: boots, a backpack over my shoulder and eyes wide open to admire our entrance into the Itria Valley.
In general we follow this itinerary: Walking Puglia: Itria Valley and coastal dunes.
The ‘green heart’ of Puglia will be our playground for the next days.
Puglia is the easternmost part of Italy, with Bari as its capital. One hour south of Bari there is Alberobello, the place with the highest concentration of ‘trulli’. These typical houses with pointed roofs are famous here and attract thousands of tourists.
The hundreds of trulli in the steep streets offer a special panorama. They look like ‘gnome houses’ but they are not: inside they are surprisingly large. Small dark windows let in little light and the temperature is pleasant and constant thanks to the thick walls. Cool in summer, warm in winter.
The town is popular, even more since it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. Students of school trips and tourists from the East crowd the stairs until five in the afternoon in spring. But as soon as the buses break down and the setting sun paints the white town of orange, you can see a totally different Alberobello.
And after a nice evening we retire early in our trullo: tomorrow we go South.
First hiking day in Puglia.
“Did you hear that noise?” We are not yet outside the city and everything around us is already quiet. Or rather, every step is a kind of rustling in a mix of grass and dry twigs. It takes a while before tracking down the source of that sound, and we find out that they are small salamanders that flee away. Our eyes distinguish them better as we move forward with kilometers. Generally green, some of them surprise with shades of orange. Disturbed in their routine, they can not just stay to sunbathe, and they quickly slip between the many stone walls that have accompanied us so far.
Century-old walls, everywhere here you breathe history.
We walk along an aqueduct of other times, intended to supply water to the city of Bari. Almond trees, firs, but above all olive trees decorate the environment. Slowly sweat droplets begin to form on my eyebrows. Hot enough with about 23 deg C, but it does not feel like that.
The wind is stopped by olive trees, and every so often you see a farmer working silently in the vastness of the fields. “Bon Giorno!”, The man turns and glances in surprise at the two, equally surprised, Dutch ‘vagabonds’.
The day proceeds relentlessly and in the distance it seems to pop up a snowy alpine peak. I blink three times to better look at the white point: Martina Franca, our final destination of the day, shines in the afternoon sun.
This announces an interesting climb!
The sun gives its best in the early hours, the legs feel very good after the 21 kilometers of the previous day, the same ones that remain to arrive today in Cisternino.
This walking tour in Puglia promises better and better.
Forests have been replaced by farms. Small trulli stand out in brown-reddish fields.
The valley is invariably populated by olive and almond trees, but also by artichoke plants (..artichoke hearts fried in olive oil, hmm..yum!), vineyards (the white wine produced in Locorotondo is famous all over the world) and all kinds of fruit trees.
“I smell fire!” Unfortunately I no longer have sense of smell, but my father has, and quite good. It seems to be time to prune the olive trees, and piles of branches are cut from the trees, raked on the side and burned immediately. In Puglia they are accustomed to this, small controlled fires burn scattered, in the countryside around our hiking route.
“Is a fox!” About twenty meters after us, a big specimen of fox crosses our path. We remain silent for the excitement. I did not expect it, it’s so beautiful to see!
We also see a small snake on the road shortly after: the day could not get any better! In so much nature, we finally see its inhabitants.
We eat the sandwiches that we brought with us in silence, waiting and hoping for other surprises.
The name says it all. The tour operator Slow Active Tours organizes trips where you are never inactive, but where life flows slowly.
In our case, we walked between 15 and 20 kilometers a day, having enough time to enjoy the Italian ‘Bella Vita’. Well fed, we dip our tired feet in the hotel pool and lazily on a park bench we watch people ordering the aperitif in a Friday afternoon.
Today there was also a visit with tasting, at the Masseria Brancati. The 3000-year-old olive trees are treated with respect, the ancient methods of pressing are still visible and are explained to us. After the tastings, you go away obviously a little heavier. Extra virgin olive oil is now in my backpack: “Never in the fridge, or I’ll kill you!” says Filippo, our guide.
The route description is perfect: a small road-book with points of interest such as water supply sites, tourist attractions, but especially with the right path, essential. We also use a GPS for the rare cases of doubt, which in reality only shows that the indications of the Slow Guide are impeccable. This booklet, the Slow Guide in fact, is also used during cycling trips, another great passion of Slow Active Tours.
It’s nice to enjoy it – both during and at the end of a day spent outdoors. The first three days we devoured our sandwiches bought in the morning under the olive trees, sitting on the dry stone walls. But today we arrive exactly at lunchtime in a beautiful country house called Lama di Galizia.
Here we are expected for a wide tasting of local specialties. Wine, bruschetta, cheese, cured meats and artichoke hearts, too many to mention. From here, with the sea in the distance, you can hear the wind rustling among the branches of olive trees and nothing else ..
Milena, the owner, tells us that they also have three rooms in formula B&B and my father and I look at each other: we would love to stay here for a nap! But the dirt road calls, and Ostuni is still 10 kilometers away and so, with a full stomach and a bit of melancholy, we turn our backs to the Lama di Galizia.
Ostuni today is our final destination, and the ‘White City’ is already watching us from afar. Milena’s suggestion is to dine at the Osteria del Tempo Perso, and it’s great. As true ‘gentlemen’ we know how to appreciate the typical dishes in this special restaurant.
Our trip has been successfully completed. We toast with a nice ‘Vino Bianco’ and we know for sure: “We will come back”.
Slow Active Tours provides the luggage transport: the only thing to take with you during the day is what you need in the hours of walking. I tested the “Fjällräven de Kaipak 28” as a backpack. It was excellent – and so was my review. Packed lunch, enough water, some fruit, a camera and maybe a light jacket.
All in all, you find everything you want. Regarding water supply: here and there, also indicated in the Slow Guide, you will find fountains for water. It’s nice to refill the fresh water bottle again.
The temperature is delicious at the end of April. 22 deg C in the sun are perfect, probably in the height of summer it can be a bit too hot. You can still walk in the early morning and late afternoon to avoid the strongest heat.
You should be well equipped with socks and shoes. The best tracks are on dirt and probably only with sneakers after a few days everything would feel underfoot. I took the socks from point 6 to test them. Made of merino wool, they are adorable, but they were a little too hot for my feet.
For all kinds of trips offered by Slow Active Tours take a look at their website, and if you have any specific questions about this or other tours, just ask.