Visiting Italy’s Heel on a Southern Italy Road Trip

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Italy is a favorite destination for boomer travelers, including us. A few years ago, we enjoyed a guided road trip in Northern Italy. And then Italy called our names again. This time—a Southern Italy road trip.

Claudia Fontana from Italy A La Carte met us at the Hilton Rome Airport for the drive to southern Italy, then dropped us off 12 days later at our cruise ship in Civitavecchia.

Claudio plans the itinerary, we approve it; he provides a list of lodging, we choose our favorites. For an up front fee that is all-inclusive, Claudio makes the arrangements as well as drives, interprets, guides and tells us what to eat during our Italian road trips. It’s the perfect combination.

The trip’s focus was a journey down the country’s Adriatic coastline all the way to the heel of Italy’s boot. On this off-the-beaten-path road trip in Southern Italy, we discovered charming villages, delicious food and friendly Italians. We’d go again in a heartbeat.

Boomer Travel Tip

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Southern Italy Road Trip

What we loved most about this trip was the off-the-beaten-path feeling of visiting less touristed areas of Italy. Some claim that this is the most authentic region of Italy. All I know is that we enjoyed charming villages, unique experiences and exquisite food. Below you’ll find articles describing our Southern Italy trip plus a detailed itinerary at the end.

The Basilica of Sant'Andrea in Subiaco, Italy

Stopping in Subiaco

On a Subiaco walking tour, cobblestone alleys twist and turn down the hillside from Subiaco’s old town to the commercial center. Alan looks at me and says, “This is the real Italy.” Ochre-colored buildings with stone accents line the narrow streets. The delicious smells of lunch preparations waft through an open window. Is this how […]

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Il Lavatoio offers charming lodging in Castel di Sangro.

Quaint Il Lavatoio: Staying in an Italian Wash House in Castel di Sangro

If you enjoy traveling Italy as much as Alan and I do, part of the reason is probably those quaint accommodations that ooze with charm. We certainly found that to be true on a stay in Castel di Sangro in the province of L’Aquilla. Read our Il Lavatoio review to find out why we quickly […]

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Boats in the harbor at San Domino in Italy's Tremiti Islands

Tremiti Islands: An Off-the-Beaten-Path Adventure in Italy

Want to go off-the-beaten-path in Italy? Visit the Tremiti Islands off Italy’s Gargano Peninsula. Okay, I’m sure that most Italians and Western Europeans know about these tiny islands near the Adriatic coast. But how many Americans visit? Alan and I are raising our hands, here, and giving you reasons to add them to your next […]

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Alan and Donna Hull in Trani, Italy

Walking With History in Trani

On a Southern Italy road trip, Trani turned out to be one of our favorite destinations—one that Alan and I have talked about visiting again on our own. Along with Claudio Fontana of A La Carte Italy Tours, our guide for the trip, and Stephanie, a local expert, we spent the better part of two days […]

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walkway along seaside with village in the background

Off the beaten path in Otranto, Italy

There are few things that make our itchy travel feet itchy like the thought of going off the beaten path in Italy. From road trips through Northern and Southern Italy, to bustling Rome, we’ve featured quite a bit about one of our favorite European countries. But today, guest contributor, Sharon Kurtz, is taking us off-the-beaten-path […]

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Sassi settlement in Matera

Walking With History in Matera, Italy

This article is part of a paid series that I’m writing as a brand ambassador for Michelin Guides. On a visit to Matera, Italy, history grabs us by the hand and says, “come walk with me.” And it’s not hard to do. Peering from the edge of the historic center in modern-day Matera, the caves […]

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Tremiti Islands

Southern Italy Photos to Inspire Your Next Boomer Trip

You’re all probably familiar with the old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” When planning a travel itinerary that saying is definitely true. Our Southern Italy photos document a twelve-day Southern Italy road trip that remains a favorite for Alan and me. Claudia Fontana from Italy A La Carte met us at the […]

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small street in an Italian village

Italy Travel Planner

Read our Italy Travel Planner before your next trip to Italy. Discover travel guides, resources, tips, where to go and gear for an Italian boomer travel adventure.

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Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Best Apps For Italy Travel

Did you know that the best Italy travel app can improve upon your Italian adventure? Whether you’re trying to communicate, checking a train schedule or contemplating which delicious pasta to try, there’s a travel app for that!  I’ve curated the best apps for Italy travel, no matter how you intend to explore this beautiful country. […]

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Southern Italy Road Trip Itinerary

Check out the Southern Italy itinerary that Claudio sent us (we just love his descriptions!). He called it: Down the Heel of the Boot: A Tour to the Bottom of the Italian Peninsula. And once again, this trip was on our own dime so that we can report “real deal” to you.

Day 1 – 22-OCT.  ROME – ABRUZZO NATIONAL PARK 
Leaving Rome, we will drive southeast toward Abruzzo Natinoal Park. But before, we will stop in the small and beautiful town of Subiaco where we will visit the middle age downtown and have lunch. Then we will continue to enter the park where we could have an experience in the wildlife as “on the footstep of the wolf” or ”searching for the Bear”

1 night in Abruzzo National Park

Hotel Il Lavatoio ( Castel di Sangro) This hotel is in the old laundry of Castel di Sangro.

DAY 2 – 23-OCT. RODI GARGANICO
The day until afternoon will be dedicated to trek in the wildlife continuing what we began the day before searching for wolf or bear; then back to the car driving down to the beginning of Puglia region in one of the most beautiful seas in Italy: the Gargano where in Rodi we will have our base for the next two days.  

3 nights in Rodi Garganico 

Hotel: Edificio 15 house Elite

DAY 3– 24-OCT. GARGANO
The Gargano area is one of the most beautiful and well preserved in Italy in matter of nature and landscape. Today will be dedicated to visit many of the small villages along the coast and the interior with its “foresta umbra” in the Gargano National Park.

DAY 4 – 25-OCT. TREMITI ISLANDS
The Adriatic sea in Italy is not known as the best sea, except this area, the area of the Gargano and of the Tremiti Islands. In the Tremiti were found settlement of human being of the stone age and they deserve a tour. We will dedicate the ENTIRE day. In the night back to Rodi.

DAY 5 – 26-OCT.  MANFREDONIA -FOGGIA – SANTA MARGHERITA DI SAVOIA – TRANI
Leaving Rodi and the Gargano subregion we will drive south stopping in Manfredonia, in Foggia which is one of the 6 provinces of the region. Then we will continue along the coast stopping in Santa Margherita di Savoia with its “saline” salt produced from the sea and Trani—all important locations of the area with a lot of history and things to be see.

2 nights in Trani

Hotel: Palazzo Paciotti (Trani)

DAY 7 – 28 OCT.  CASTELLANA GROTTE – CEGLIE MESSAPICA – OSTUNI
The Caves of Castellana Grotte are one of the most beautiful places in Italy and being in the area and not visiting them would be a terrible mistake. We will continue in Ceglie where we could visit the ruins of a civilization which was here before the Greeks and the Romans and then we will reach Ostuni, which is one of the capitals of the baroque in Puglia. In the evening we will reach Alberobello. This is a unique place where all houses are constructed with a pointed roof in stones.

1 night in Alberobello

Trullimania (Alberobello)

DAY 8 – 29-OCT.  MANDURIA – LECCE – GALLIPOLI
Today we will visit Alberobello’s famous “Trulli” and then drive south on the heel of  Italy passing through Manduria which is very famous for its very fine and “powerful” wines, Lecce, a beautiful baroque town and Gallipoli, a nice resort at the sea where we will be based for three days.

3 nights in Gallipoli.

Palazzo Mosco Inn (Gallipoli)

DAY 9 – 30-OCT. S. MARIA DI LEUCA – OTRANTO – GALATINA
We are really at the end of Italy, in the most eastern part – Albania is just 60 miles over the Adriatic sea. We will drive to Santa Maria di Leuca the southernmost part of Puglia region and the border between the Adriatic sea and the Jonio Sea. We will explore Otranto with its “Otranto canal.” It is the nearest part of Italy to the Balkans and Albania and known as the “white town” for its white limestone painted houses. Of course we will visit Galatina famous for white Galatina wine and red Negroamaro wine.

DAY 10 – 31-OCT.
Today we will dedicate all day to visiting the Jonio coast with Porto Ceresio, and Taranto.

DAY 11 – 1-NOV.  BACK TO ROME: MATERA – PADULA – SALERNO
On the way back to the north we will pass through Basilicata region, stopping in Matera with its “Sassi”—a Unesco monument and set of Mel Gibson’s movie “Passion.” Then we will reach Padula with its beautiful “Certosa” and finally in Campania region, Salerno where we will spend the night.

1 night in Salerno area.

Barone B&B (Salerno)

DAY 12 – 2-NOV.  TO CIVITAVECCHIA HARBOUR
Cassino or Fiumicino
We will try to make the best of this last day, stopping somewhere on an itinerary of 200 miles to reach Civitavecchia and the port for your cruise.

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