For us, the big selling point of our trip to Italy was a 10 day biking tour of Puglia. Puglia is a region located along the southeastern side of Italy and bordering the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. As predicted, the weather was warm and dry, perfect biking weather. Darcy and I were in a group of 18 great people, organized by Vermont Biking Tours (VBT). VBT arranged everything, plane reservations, transfers, our pre-trip in Matera, bikes, helmets, hotels and restaurants. Pretty much all we had to do was show up ready for a good time.
Our first day of biking was a warmup ride of only 6 miles, riding from our masseria (think hotel) to the ancient ruins of Roman Egnazia and back. Right off the bat, Darcy was able to show off her bicycle “tatoo”, otherwise know as chain grease, on her leg.
As for the ruins themselves, it’s hard to describe how much manpower was involved in creating this place. That remained a strong theme in my mind throughout the tour as the manual labor involved in all the buildings was just mind-boggling. The major transportation road from Brindisi to Rome was the Via Traiana, comprising the coastal spur of the Appian Way. This road ran right through the center of Egnazia for so many years that the carts cut deep and obvious ruts into the roadbed of solid stones.
Walking around we could see locations for the central plaza, the baths, and the many homes of this town.
Egnazia remains an important, ongoing archeological site that is still worked daily.
Day 2 was a daylong 25 mile bike up the coast to Monopoli, a beautiful fortified town on the Adriatic coast.
Stops along the way included a fish market,and then further along a stop for snacks. Each day, we were supported by a van traveling along with us to provide water, snacks, and even a ride for anyone who got tired of biking.
We had ample time to explore the old town with its narrow streets and beautiful shoreline, followed by lunch on our own at one of the many small cafes in the old town.
After lunch, a ride back to our masseria offered many opportunities to view the great landscapes and fields full of vegetables and olive trees. We ended our day about 4:30 at the poolside with a couple glasses of wine, before showering and a relaxed dinner at the masseria.