Your Words, Not Ours: a Self-Guided Adventure in Italy

"Don't tell anyone about how beautiful Lecce is – everyone will go there! There are white limestone cathedrals, old squares and little cobbled streets, but it's nowhere near as busy as somewhere like Rome."

Matera at dusk
Matera at dusk

Venturing south to Italy's heel ticks all the Mediterranean boxes – scrumptious food and wines, sunny skies and time-old towns –with fewer crowds. For Cheryl Gooch and her family, cycling over gentle hills and past twinkling bays seemed the perfect way to catch up last summer.

"Cycling 50km a day, in southern Italy, with bikes supplied and all your baggage transported for you – I was sold! Our family's split across countries – my husband, teenage daughter and I live in Geneva – but our son's in the UK, so it would've been tricky to bring our own bikes. And, as there were five of us, we thought a self-guided trip would give us that extra bit of flexibility and the chance to go at a leisurely pace, chatting as we cycled along.

Poppy fields Poppy fields

Exodus gave us route notes about the area and suggested detours to the sights – castles, lighthouses, grottos. We only had to carry what we needed for the day; we left our bags behind in the morning and they magically appeared at our next hotel in the evening!

We began the trip in beautiful Matera. Buildings staggered up a cliff, with a dramatic drop at the back of the town where caves are built into the rocks. Our next night's stay in a traditional trullo in Alberobello was a pleasant surprise too.

Apulian frisella with tomato Apulian frisella with tomato

Each day gave us a complete change of scenery. Puglia is one of the biggest olive-producing areas of Italy, so there are fields and fields of olive trees. There are also flat coastal paths, the chance to stand on the heel of Italy, and a breathtaking view of Leece as you approach the final leg of the trip. Not to forget dairy farming and mozzarella production, which worked out nicely for our midday picnics – although we didn't go over the top at lunch because there was always a delicious meal and a glass of red wine waiting for us in the evening. That's the brilliant thing about cycling – it's a great way to see the countryside, and you can eat and drink as much as you like!"

Cheryl Gooch travelled on Puglia: Self-Guided Cycling in the Heel of Italy

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