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.

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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. 

We’ll be adding more articles from this Southern Italy road trip itinerary so be sure to bookmark this page. Or subscribe to our weekly broadcast so you’ll be the first to know!

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.

cobbelstone street and beige stone buildings in Subiaco, Italy.

Stopping in Subiaco

There’s something special about walking down cobblestone streets, as a resident peeks at you from behind a lace-curtained window. Your footsteps echo against ochre-colored buildings that have stood the test of time. Discover one of our most memorable experiences of the Southern Italy road trip as we share what to see and do on a Subiaco walking tour. And, yes, we rewarded ourselves with a tasty Italian lunch.

Staying in an Italian Wash House

On our first night of this road trip in southern Italy, we stayed at Il Lavatoio in the charming mountain town of Castel di Sangro near Abruzzo National Park. No, this is not in southern Italy. But every road trip must have a beginning. Ours started in Rome and made its way to the south stopping at off-the-beaten-path Italian towns and villages along the way. We’re so glad that Il Lavatoio was part of the fun. Read about our historic lodging by clicking on: Staying in an Italian Wash House.

Visit the Tremiti Islands

After arriving on Italy’s Adriatic Coast, we took a few days to explore in the Rodi Garganico region. Deciding that it was time for an off-the-beaten-path island adventure, we flew by helicopter to explore the history and remoteness of the Tremiti Islands. Exploring Santa Maria a Mare on San Nicola, followed by an Italian seafood lunch was part of the boomer fun. Read about our adventure by clicking on: Visit the Tremiti Islands.

Walking With History in Trani

Arriving in Trani, a historic seaport town in Italy’s Puglia region, we were enchanted with the narrow, winding streets of the Old Jewish Quarter. Each morning, we’d start out from Palazzo Pachiotti for a day of boomer travel fun. Nights were spent dining in seaside cafes, as we watched the locals promenade by the sea. Click on Walking With History in Trani to read more about our experience.

Off-the-beaten-path in Otranto

Although Alan and I visited Otranto in Southern Italy as a side trip from Gallipoli, I haven’t written about it, yet. However Sharon Kurtz shares her experience visiting this off-the-beaten-path city in Southern Italy. Beaches, history and wine—what could be better? Read more about Sharon’s tips for visiting Otranto, Italy.

Walking With History in Matera, Italy

History seems to be around every corner in Italy. But when we arrived in Matera, we hit the motherlode. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Sassi settlements perched in two ravines offered uncrowded explorations of a fascinating history dating back to pre-historic times. Exploring by foot is the only way to truly experience this special Italian destination. Click on: Walking With History in Matera, Italy to read more about our experience.

Southern Italy photos

Sometimes, all you need is a photo to decide if a trip is right for you or not. I’ve collected photos from our Southern Italy road trip to show you the itinerary and special places that Alan and I experienced. Maybe our Southern Italy photos will inspire your next boomer trip to Italy.

Research your next trip at our Italy Travel Planner.

Southern Italy Road Trip Itinerary

Check out the 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) (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. GARGANOThe 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 – 2NOV.  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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