Southern Italy: Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast & the Treasures of Apulia 2019

Status: limited

12 Oct – 26 Oct 2019


Southern Italy: Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast & the Treasures of Apulia 2019
Tour Highlights

  • Travel across beautiful, historic Southern Italy from the Bay of Naples to Apulia with David Henderson, an award-winning artist and expert in the history of Italian art.
  • Dr Joan Barclay Lloyd, a world authority on the art and architecture of Italy from Antiquity to the Early Modern era, joins the group as Guest Lecturer for the first week of the tour.
  • Visit Greek and Roman cities, villas, theatres and religious sites including Paestum, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Taranto and the beautifully preserved Villa at Oplontis.
  • Discover some of Europe’s finest museums, like the great National Archaeological Museum, Naples, Taranto’s fine archaeological museum and Naples’ vast Palace of Capodimonte, with works by Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael, Brueghel, Masaccio, Simone Martini, and many other European masterpieces.
  • Trace the fascinating history of this vital area of the Mediterranean through myriad monuments reflecting Greek colonisation, the Roman Empire, Byzantine hegemony, Lombard duchies, Islamic raids, Norman kingdoms, Holy Roman imperial sovereignty, and Angevin, French and Spanish rule.
  • Explore the development of Norman Romanesque architecture, sculpture and mosaic in the cathedrals and shrines of Apulia, including the seminal shrine of St Nicholas, Bari.
  • Encounter magnificent medieval castles and fortresses of the era of Frederick II (1194-1250), especially monumental Castel del Monte.
  • Stay in a luxuriously restored 16th-century masseria (fortified villa) at Savelletri di Fasano, and a Baroque city palace in Lecce.
  • Make an in-depth exploration of the local customs, agriculture and vernacular architecture of Apulia, one of Italy’s least-known but greatest treasures. We visit charming villages, vineyards and olive presses, fortified manor houses and strange beehive dwellings (trulli), watch mozzarella being made, and dine on produce grown in local masserie.
  • Experience some of Europe’s most dramatic, historic landscapes, like the Amalfi Coast and the Bay of Naples, as well as the broad plains of olives in Apulia.
  • Encounter the distinctive Baroque architecture and decoration of Lecce, a ‘planned’ 17th/18th-century town with its own very particular style of intricate façade ornamentation.
  • Marvel at the transformation of Naples, one of Europe’s greatest historic cities, into a vibrant metropolis through extensive urban renewal in the past decade.


The tour to Southern Italy greatly exceeded all expectations. We visited some extraordinary archaeological sites at Herculaneum, Pompeii and Paestum and some impressive museums exhibiting many of the wonderful artefacts that had been excavated at these places. The bus journeys travelled through some impressive country: the tour down the Amalfi coast was a special highlight. The side visits to historic places were especially appealing: Monte Sant’Angelo, high up above the Adriatic, Martina Franca, with its Baroque architecture, and Otranto, with its delightful coastal setting. Lecce, a treasure-house of Baroque architecture, is amazingly detailed and quite unlike anything to be seen in other parts of Italy. The [coach talks and site visits] with Joan Barclay Lloyd were highly informative and eminently digestible. Finally, the food and wine were equally amazing – never in my life have I been treated to such a succession of such delectable lunches!  John, VIC.

15-day Cultural Tour of Southern Italy

Overnight Naples (3 nights) • Sorrento (2 nights) • Salerno (1 night) • Trani (3 nights) • Savelletri di Fasano (2 nights) • Lecce (3 nights)



The detailed itinerary provides an outline of the proposed daily program. Participants should note that the daily activities described in this itinerary may be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate changes in museum opening hours, flight schedules etc. The tour includes breakfast daily, and lunches and dinners as indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch, and D=evening meal.

Naples - 3 nights

Day 1: Saturday 12 October, Arrive Naples
  • Arrival transfer from Naples airport for participants taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight
  • Welcome Meeting & evening at leisure

Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred by private vehicle to the Eurostars Hotel Excelsior, located in the Naples waterfront precinct. Participants not travelling on this flight should discuss the meeting arrangements with their ASA consultant. Following a welcome meeting and a welcome drink, the remainder of the evening is at leisure to relax after your flight. (Overnight Naples)

Day 2: Sunday 13 October, Naples
  • Naples Cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta)
  • Church of Pio Monte della Misericordia (Caravaggio’s The Seven Acts of Mercy)
  • Walking tour of central Naples
  • Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano (Caravaggio’s Martyrdom of St Ursula)
  • Teatro di San Carlo
  • Welcome Dinner

One of the most ancient cities in Europe, the origins of Naples go back to the 9th century BC, when it was founded by the Greeks as ‘Parthenope’. In 470 BC it was reestablished as ‘Neapolis’. The city thrived as a centre of Greek, and subsequently, Roman culture. After being conquered by the Byzantines, Naples was an independent duchy for about 400 years, before periods of domination by the Normans, Swabians, Angevins, Aragonese, and the Bourbons. Today’s visits take in a selection of the monuments, artworks, and open spaces that bear testament to the history of this extraordinary city.

We begin by visiting the Duomo of Naples. Naples Cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta) is often called the Cattedrale di San Gennaro (St Januarius), after the city’s patron saint. The cathedral houses a vial of his blood that is brought out twice a year; on these occasions the dried blood usually liquefies. If the blood fails to liquefy, disaster will befall Naples. On March 21, 2015, blood in the vial appeared to liquefy during a visit by Pope Francis and was taken as a sign of the saint’s favour; the blood did not liquefy when Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2007.

The Gothic cathedral was commissioned by King Charles I of Anjou (1227-1285). Construction continued under his successor, Charles II (1285-1309) and in the early 14th century under Robert of Anjou (1277-1343). It was constructed on the foundations of two Early Christian basilicas whose remains are visible. Greek and Roman artifacts have also been found beneath the building.

Within, the Royal Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro has frescoes by the great Baroque painters Domenichino (1581-1641) and Giovanni Lanfranco (1582-1647). There are also altarpieces by Domenichino and the great Spanish artist Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652). Other masterpieces include an Assumption by Raphael’s teacher Pietro Perugino (1446-1523) and canvasses by the Neapolitan Baroque painter Luca Giordano (1634-1705). The Early Christian baptistery has 4th-century mosaics. The Minutolo Chapel, mentioned in Boccaccio’s Decameron, has 14th-century frescoes. Although later changed, the crypt retains its original portal with sculptures by the medieval Sienese sculptor Tino da Camaino 1280-1337).

We next visit the church of Pio Monte della Misericordia to see a masterpiece by Caravaggio (1571-1610), The Seven Acts of Mercy (1607)This church originally commissioned seven paintings, each depicting a separate merciful act, but Caravaggio combined all the images in one great painting that became the church’s altarpiece. In this wonderful painting, rarely seen by tourists, Caravaggio created a masterful composition, depicting the acts of burying the dead (two men carry a body); visiting the imprisoned and feeding the hungry (caritas Romae, ‘Roman charity’: a woman suckles a prisoner)); sheltering the homeless (a pilgrim asks an innkeeper for lodging); clothing the naked (St Martin clothes a naked beggar); visiting the sick (St Martin comforts a cripple) and refreshing the thirsty (God gives Samson water in the jawbone of an ass). Above, an angel transmits God’s grace that inspires charity.

Naples’ historical centre was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1995. We shall take a walk through the streets of this remarkable city, pausing to admire some of the façades of its many churches and palaces. Via San Gregorio Armeno takes us past an array of shops dedicated to traditional Neapolitan presepi, nativity scenes which have for centuries been handmade by local artisans.

We next visit the Baroque Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano, (1637-1639) designed by one of Naples’ greatest architects and sculptors, Cosimo Fanzago (1591-1678) for Giovanni Zevallos, Duke of Ostuni. The palace became an important museum in 1989. Its greatest treasure is Caravaggio’s Martyrdom of St Ursula, thought to be his last painting, made for the young Genoese nobleman Marcantonio Doria in 1610. Doria commissioned the work to mark the entry into a nunnery of his stepdaughter, who took the name Sister Ursula.

Our final visit today is to Naples’ wonderful Baroque Teatro di San Carlo (1737), the world’s oldest continuously active opera house and also, in its time, the largest. Its construction was initiated by the Bourbon King Charles VII of Naples, later Charles III of Spain (1716-1788), to replace a smaller theatre. On opening, it was much admired for its architecture, its gold decorations, and the sumptuous blue upholstery (blue and gold being the official colours of the Bourbons). We shall return to our hotel on foot via the grand Piazza Plebiscito, and take some time to freshen up for our Welcome Dinner. (Overnight Naples) BD

Day 3: Monday 14 October, Naples – Herculaneum – Naples
  • National Archaeological Museum, Naples
  • Herculaneum

This morning we visit the National Archaeological Museum, founded by Charles VII of Naples (Charles III of Spain) in the 1750s, very soon after the discovery of Pompeii. This museum holds the majority of paintings, mosaics, sculptures, furniture and other objects found in Pompeii and Herculaneum. It is therefore one of the greatest museums of Roman antiquities in Europe. It is particularly noted for its wonderful Roman painting collection, taken from the walls of Pompeian houses, its famous Farnese collection, and the marvellous bronzes from the Roman Villa of the Papyri.

After lunch at a local restaurant we will visit one of the great treasures of the archaeological world – Herculaneum. Like Pompeii, this Roman seaside town was destroyed in the 79 AD eruption of Mt Vesuvius. However, instead of being gradually submerged under a rain of fine ash like its larger counterpart, Herculaneum was quickly submerged by a torrent of boiling mud that spilled over the town when the side of Vesuvius’ crater collapsed. Although the excavated area is much smaller than that of Pompeii, the level of preservation found here is quite extraordinary, with almost pristine streetscapes and fine interiors.  Overnight Naples) BL

Sorrento - 2 nights

Day 4: Tuesday 15 October, Naples – Oplontis – Sorrento
  • Capodimonte Museum, Naples
  • Roman villa at Oplontis

This morning we check out of our hotel and drive to the National Museum of Naples. This is housed in the huge Capodimonte Palace (1738) that was built by Charles VII, whose intention was to create the greatest hunting lodge in Europe. Located within a lovely park on a hill overlooking the city, this vast museum houses an extremely important collection of Italian works, including Simone Martini’s Toulouse Altarpiece (c.1317), Masaccio’s Crucifixion (c.1426); Botticelli’s Madonna and Child with Two Angels (1470); Giovanni Bellini’s Transfiguration (1480); Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s The Misanthrop, and Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind (1568) and Raphaels, including his marvellous Portrait of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (c.1511). Among this embarrassment of riches, highlights are Titian’s marvellous Portrait of Pope Paul III (1543), his Pope Paul III and his Grandsons (1546), his Danae (1545) and Caravaggio’s stunning Flagellation (c.1608).

After lunch at a local restaurant we drive to Torre Annunziata, once an outlying village and now a suburb of Naples, to visit the magnificent Roman villa at Oplontis. This grand ‘maritime’ villa, which may have acted as a model for less grand Pompeiian ‘urban’ houses, was one of many that lined the Bay of Naples, serving as summer retreats for wealthy Romans. It was discovered in the 18th century but only excavated seriously in the 1970s, so that unlike many other sites associated with Vesuvius, it was excavated with great care and precision. It has been meticulously maintained and conserved, and we will encounter beautifully preserved wall paintings and floor mosaics that illustrate the opulent lifestyle of the Roman elite.

We then continue around the coastline to Sorrento, favourite of 18th-century ‘Grand Tourists’, where we will be based for two nights. (Overnight Sorrento) BL

Day 5: Wednesday 16 October, Sorrento – Pompeii – Sorrento
  • Roman city of Pompeii

Today we take the local circumvesuviana train to visit the Roman provincial city of Pompeii, buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD and rediscovered in 1748. The site of Pompeii is huge and its fine state of preservation gives a vivid impression of life in a Graeco-Roman city. We shall visit its forum, baths, amphitheatre, odeon and theatre, and shall pay special attention to the wall paintings in large houses within the city and in the suburban Villa of the Mysteries. The latter has a unique painted room in the so-called ‘second style’ in which people and mythical figures perform the mysteries. The room’s extraordinary perspective places the figures on a stage in front of brilliant red panels; because we identify the red panels with the wall, the figures in front of them seem to occupy, and gesture across, the space in which we stand. (Overnight Sorrento) B

Salerno - 1 night

Day 6: Thursday 17 October, Sorrento – Amalfi Coast – Salerno
  • Positano
  • Amalfi Cathedral & Cloister
  • Ravello Cathedral
  • Villa Rufolo & Villa Cimbrone, Ravello

This morning we drive along the beautiful Amalfi coast which affords glimpses of charming seaside villages set against the azure Mediterranean. We shall stop to admire views of Positano, a picturesque resort whose white houses and luxuriant gardens descend in steep steps to the sea.

At Amalfi we encounter one of Italy’s most important medieval trading cities. In the 6th century it traded with Byzantium. It later contested control of the seas with the Muslims and then with competing Italian cities like Pisa. Its relationship to Islam was ambivalent. Frequent hostilities did not obviate trade with Muslims and Amalfi enriched itself by exploiting links to the vast Islamic trading empire that stretched from Sicily, Spain and North Africa to India and China. Pious citizens of Amalfi created a hospice for pilgrims in Jerusalem from which grew the Order of the Knights Hospitaller. Amalfitan ships supplied the starving armies of the first Crusade (for a price), and these same ships returned to the city with goods bought from their foes. Here we encounter visual memories of this interaction with Islam in the rich polychrome façade of the cathedral and the interweaving arches of its cloister.

Our next stop, Ravello, was founded by Amalfitan merchants in the 9th century. The source of the town’s wealth, trade with the east, is reflected in the fascinating Arabo-Norman architecture of its wealthy palaces, including the Palazzo Rufolo (11th century), which was occupied by Pope Adrian IV, King Charles of Anjou and Robert the Wise. One of the most important monuments is the cathedral, founded in 1086, where one can admire the Ambo and the Pulpit decorated with Byzantine mosaics, splendid bronze doors (1179) by Barisano da Trani and a museum situated in the crypt. Ravello’s chief glories are two wonderful gardens: Villa Cimbrone with its breathtaking views and Villa Rufolo with its ancient palace and flower-filled gardens that inspired Richard Wagner’s Parsifal(Overnight Salerno) BD

Trani - 3 nights

Day 7: Friday 18 October, Salerno – Paestum – Trani
  • Greek Sanctuary, Paestum

Today we drive to Paestum and then across Italy to Apulia (Puglia). At Paestum we visit a Greek shrine centre with grand Doric temples like the Temple of Neptune (5th century BC), whose excellent condition is matched only by the Temple of Hephaestus (Athens) and the Temple of Concord (Agrigento). We shall explore the temple complex and its museum, which has very rare examples of Greek painting, in particular, the image from the extraordinary so-called Tomb of the Diver (c.480 BC), in which a figure dives across a wall that separates this world to the netherworld. We then farewell our guest lecturer, Dr Joan Barclay Lloyd, and drive east across Italy to the lovely old Adriatic port of Trani, in Apulia. (Overnight Trani) B

Day 8: Saturday 19 October, Trani – Canosa di Puglia – Castel del Monte – Trani
  • Canosa Cathedral & Tomb of Bohemond
  • Dauni Hypogeum, Canosa
  • Frederick II’s Castle, Castel del Monte
  • Trani Cathedral & castle (exterior)

Today we visit Canosa and its Cathedral of San Sabino (founded 7th-8th century). The cathedral was built by the Lombards in the 7th-8th centuries, and underwent extensive restoration following an earthquake in 1851. Situated near the right transept is the fascinating Mausoleum of Bohemond, Prince of Antioch (1054-1111), who was one of the leaders of the First Crusade. This little building, which shows remarkable similarities to buildings of antiquity, is surmounted by a polygonal drum topped by a hemispherical dome.

Canosa di Puglia is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in Italy – archaeologists have dated the human presence here to the 7th millennium BC. Hidden under its streets, and entered through later buildings, are a number of hypogea – pagan tomb complexes built by the local Dauni tribe. We will tour one of these.

One of the most magnificent palace fortresses of the Middle Ages is Castel del Monte (c.1250). The German Emperor Frederick II, ‘Stupor Mundi’, held sovereignty over vast territories from the old Norman regnum in South Italy and Sicily through northern Italy to his family domains in Germany. In order to control such extensive territories, he built a line of castles through them, of which Castel del Monte is the supreme example. This massive castle has a keep of octagonal plan with eight octagonal towers at its angles. Scholars have suggested that its sophisticated geometry derives from Islamic science and that it relates to architecture as far away as Iran. Castel del Monte, used also as an imperial hunting lodge, was the setting for lavish banquets at which Frederick exhibited his power and influence.

We spend the rest of the afternoon in Trani, visiting Trani Cathedral, which stands on a point protecting the entrance of the city’s harbour; its location is one of the most splendid in Italy. Its tall Romanesque bell tower obviously doubled as a watch tower and beacon. The cathedral has recently been restored. We shall visit its crypt which, like those of most Apulian churches, is located under the east end. Trani’s crypt, however, is much large than most. It predates the cathedral and determined the location and size of the transept above. After this visit, the evening is free to explore the picturesque little port and town. (Overnight Trani) BL

Day 9: Sunday 20 October, Trani – Monte Sant’Angelo – Barletta – Trani
  • Sanctuary of St Michael the Archangel, Monte Sant’Angelo
  • Colossal Byzantine statue of an emperor, Barletta

This morning we travel to the small medieval hill town of Monte Sant’Angelo, which overlooks the Adriatic Sea from the slopes of Monte Gargano. Here we visit the Sanctuary of St Michael the Archangel, where pilgrims visited the cave in which the Archangel appeared to the Bishop of Sipontum in the 5th century, to demand that Christians worship there and promising in return to protect Sipontum from invaders; this is the first documented apparition of St Michael in Western Europe. Monte Sant’Angelo consequently became a staging post for pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem. The shrine has a magnificent octagonal tower built in the late 13th century by Frederick II as a watchtower and converted to a bell tower by Charles I of Anjou. Nearby is the 11th century church of S. Maria Maggiore with fragmentary remains of Byzantine frescos and beautifully carved capitals. A ruined castle once dominated the town. Built in the 9th century it was expanded by the Normans and Frederick II, who used it to house his mistress Bianca Lancia, whose ghost is said to haunt the ruins!

After lunch, we drive to the city of Barletta to view an extraordinary colossal 5th century bronze sculpture of a Byzantine emperor (possibly Valentinian I: r. 364-375), washed up in the harbour from an ancient Byzantine ship wreck in 1309. This monumental portrait sculpture gives some inkling of the monumental riches of medieval Constantinople. Barletta also has a fine 12th-century cathedral, Santa Maria Maggiore, located on the site of a Roman Temple of Neptune and an Early Christian basilica. Its architecture represents a fusion of the Romanesque and Gothic styles. Barletta’s castle was begun by the Normans in the 10th century and added to by Frederick II (1222-1228) and Charles I of Anjou (1227-1285), who built its huge bastions. We return to Trani, where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Trani) BL

Savelletri di Fasano - 2 nights

Day 10: Monday 21 October, Trani – Bari – Savelletri di Fasano
  • Fortress (exterior), Bari
  • Bari Cathedral
  • Church of San Nicola, Bari

Bari, capital of Apulia, is a sophisticated southern metropolis. Like the other ports of the coast, its gridded 19th century city abuts the old town with its white houses and weaving streets. Here we visit the fortress (exterior), the church of San Nicola and Bari Cathedral.

The Normans bequeathed their cities wonderful cathedrals which derive architecturally from buildings like Saint-Etienne, Caen, in Normandy. The cathedrals are of two types: one is a basilica with galleries and a wooden roof (Trani, Bitonto, Bari), whilst the second type, exemplified in Molfetta, is vaulted with domes. The first style was initiated in the church of San Nicola, which which has fine Romanesque interior furnishings and was built to hold the remains of Saint Nicholas, translated here from Lycia in southern Turkey (1087). San Nicola, patron of sailors, was a very important saint and his church is of suitable grandeur. Closely related in style is Bari cathedral.

We stay the next two nights in one of the finest masserie in Apulia, the Masseria Torre Coccaro, which has been converted to a luxury hotel. Despite its distinctive conversion, it is still very much a working estate. In the late afternoon there will be time to explore the masseria before dining together to enjoy the traditions and distinctive flavours of the southern Italian kitchen.  (Overnight Savelletri di Fasano) BD

Day 11: Tuesday 22 October, Savelletri di Fasano – Alberobello – tour of local masserie – Cisternino – Savelletri di Fasano
  • Tour of Alberobello
  • Tour of the ‘Cultural Landscapes of Apulia’ with a visit to a local olive oil cooperative
  • Wine tasting in Cisternino

This morning we tour the Valle d’Itria, a valley which could be imagined as a large, diffuse city made up of scattered buildings – extraordinary cone-roofed, whitewashed, beehive houses called trulli. We begin by exploring Alberobello, whose trulli make it perhaps the strangest and most picturesque town in Italy. Its unique, cone-shaped houses are typical of an ancient construction method seen throughout the Mediterranean world and the Middle East; perhaps the most famous example of these tholoi is the so-called ‘Treasury of Atreus’ at Mycenae. Alberobello’s trulli were built for a specific purpose. In the 18th century when Apulia was ruled by Spain, the kingdom calculated taxes to be imposed on local landlords by counting the number of peasant houses on their lands. To avoid taxes, local aristocrats forced their dependents to live in cone-shaped houses with stone plugs at their peaks. Remove the plug and the house collapsed – and the tax collector would see only ruins. Trulli also have strange symbolic decorations painted on them which remind one that this region was favoured by the mystical brotherhood of the Rosicrucians during the Middle Ages.

We next drive through the Apulian countryside with its vast olive groves, viewing the distinctive whitewashed fortified farm houses called masserie. Most of these date from the 16th and 17th centuries when, despite Christian victory at the naval Battle of Lepanto in the Adriatic (1571), the inhabitants of the exposed Apulian coastline feared Ottoman attacks or plunder by North African pirates. Many of these quaint, whitewashed manor houses are dominated by towers and have fanciful decoration designed to announce the status of their owners. We shall visit an olive oil press (Apulia is one of the greatest olive oil producing districts of the world) and taste other local produce over lunch.

In the late afternoon we visit the medieval village of Cisternino, located on the high plains of the Murge, surrounded by fertile fields of olive groves and vineyards. Here we visit its historic centre characterised by its white-washed 16th- and 17th-century buildings and taste some locally produced wines.

This evening we shall eat another delicious evening meal at Torre Coccaro’s dining room.  (Overnight Savelletri di Fasano) BLD

Lecce - 3 nights

Day 12: Wednesday 23 October, Savelletri di Fasano – Martina Franca – Taranto – Lecce
  • Village of Martina Franca
  • Demonstration of mozzarella making & light lunch at a local caseificio (cheese factory)
  • National Archaeological Museum in Taranto

Southern Italy has two kinds of towns, medieval trading cities along the coast, and inland towns high on escarpments far from the sea. The latter developed as refuges from coastal attacks by the Arabs, Turks and pirates. Martina Franca was founded in the 10th century when refugees from the Muslim devastation of Taranto built a village on Monte S. Martino, a high lying slope of the Murgia hills. The town prospered and from the later Middle Ages Martina attracted many noble and merchant families, who built over 20 elegant palaces and more than 15 churches in its historic centre. Before the unification of Italy (1861) Martina Franca was walled, with 24 towers and four gates. With 19th-century progress some of these towers were dismantled and access roads punched through the walls. Its four Renaissance and Baroque gates nevertheless survive. Today it is famous for its Baroque buildings like Palazzos Panelli, Blasi and Motolese, all enhanced by loggias decorated with wrought iron. In the Piazza Roma is located the impressive 17th-century Palazzo Ducale. The town’s 18th-century Rococo Basilica of Saint Martin is dedicated to its patron saint, Martin of Tours (4th c. AD). It has an intricate façade and a portal decorated with a high-relief sculpture of St. Martin ministering to the poor. The interior has rich polychrome marble altars.

We drive a short distance to a visit a local caseificio (cheese factory) where we shall watch a demonstration of mozzarella-making. We shall taste some of the local cheeses and have a simple pasta lunch.

We then drive to Taranto, a coastal city on the Ionian Sea that was founded by Spartan Greeks (706 BC) who established their acropolis, now Taranto’s historic centre, on a peninsula. The Spartans called their city Taras after the mythical hero Taras, son of Poseidon. The Romans linked the city to Rome by extending the Appian Way (to Brindisi) and called it Tarentum. The city’s present historic core follows a plan set out when the Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus Phocas rebuilt it after Muslims had razed it in 927 AD. In the past, upon being bitten by the large local Wolf Spider, Lycosa tarentula, citizens would promptly do a long, vigorous dance to sweat the venom out of their pores. This frenetic dance became known as the Tarantella.

During the 4th century BC Taras was the centre of a thriving Greek pottery industry. Anonymous artists now named the Iliupersis Painter, the Lycurgus Painter, the Gioia del Colle Painter, the Darius Painter, the Underworld Painter, and the White Sakkos Painter, fashioned volute kraters, loutrophoroipateraioinochoailekythoi, fish plates; they specialised in elaborate mortuary vessels. The decoration on these vessels was red figure with overpainting (sovradipinto) in white, pink, yellow and maroon slips. Taranto’s few Greek remains include part of the ancient city wall, two temple columns (6th c. BC) and tombs. We are here, however, to visit its magnificent National Archaeological Museum that displays exhibits from the Prehistoric, Greek, Roman and Early Middle Ages, including fine South Italian pottery.

In the afternoon we drive to the lovely Baroque city of Lecce. (Overnight Lecce) BL

Day 13: Thursday 24 October, Lecce – Galatina – Otranto – Lecce
  • Basilica of St Catherine of Alexandria, Galatina
  • Ruined castle, Otranto (exterior)
  • Otranto Cathedral

This morning we visit the beautiful frescoed Romanesque / Gothic church of St Catherine of Alexandria in Galatina. Its typically Apulian Romanesque façade has a porch with a sculpted lintel depicting Christ and the Apostles. Behind the façade is a fine 13th-century Italian Gothic church whose interior is covered with magnificent frescoes by Tuscan artists working in the style of Giotto. The extremely ambitious cycle depicts scenes right through from Genesis to Revelation.

We then drive down to the very heel of Italy to Otranto, a medieval city that guarded the mouth of the Adriatic, the narrow Strait of Otranto. It was probably founded by Greeks from Taranto and competed with Brindisi as a major Roman port. It became one of Byzantium’s main cities after its conquest of Italy in the 6th century. In 1070, it fell to Robert Guiscard. Otranto was taken by the Ottoman Turks in 1480. It was held for a year until liberated by Alfonso V of Aragon, who built a fine castle there. The Castle of Otranto was depicted in Horace Walpole’s novel of the same name. We shall view the exterior of the fortress before visiting Otranto’s Romanesque cathedral (1080), which has an extremely rare medieval mosaic floor (1163-1165). This huge mosaic depicts scenes from the Old Testament and chivalric cycles, as well as figures from medieval bestiaries, arranged alongside a ‘tree of life’, showing human experience from the Fall to salvation. (Overnight Lecce) BL

Day 14: Friday 25 October, Lecce
  • Piazza del Duomo, Lecce
  • Santa Croce, Lecce (exterior)
  • Prefecture, Lecce (exterior)
  • Afternoon at leisure
  • Farewell Dinner

Lecce is a glorious ‘planned’ city, masterpiece of Baroque urban design. This morning we will explore its distinctive Baroque architecture, which was beloved of Sacheverell Sitwell (Southern Baroque Revisited). Lecce is like a Baroque stage set, its centre a fascinating orchestration of highly decorated façades in golden Leccian stone. Among many churches and palaces we shall view the Basilica of Santa Croce and the Prefecture, both of which have extremely ornate façades. The great interior of the Basilica also has one of the most sumptuous of Leccian Baroque decorative schemes and the Prefecture, which was originally a convent, is one of a number of palaces you will encounter here.

The afternoon will be at leisure to relax and further explore this charming and dynamic town. This evening we will gather again for a farewell dinner to celebrate the end of our Southern Italian journey. (Overnight Lecce) BD

Brindisi Airport

Day 15: Saturday 26 October, Lecce – Brindisi Airport
  • Airport transfer from Lecce to Brindisi Airport for those taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight

Participants taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred to Brindisi airport in the morning. Alternatively, you may wish to extend your stay in Italy. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B



15-day Cultural Tour of Southern Italy

ASA has selected 4- and 5-star hotels that are themselves historical buildings and/or are located in historical centres. All hotels provide rooms with en suite bathroom. Rooms for single occupancy may be requested – and are subject to availability and payment of the Single Supplement.

  • Naples (3 nights): 4-star Eurostars Hotel Excelsior – situated on the rejuvenated seafront next to the iconic Castel dell’Ovo. www.eurostarsexcelsior.com
  • Sorrento (2 nights): 4-star Imperial Hotel Tramontano – a historic hotel in the town centre. The public rooms and terrace enjoy views of the Bay of Naples and Mt Vesuvius. www.hoteltramontano.it
  • Salerno (1 night): 4-star Lloyd’s Baia Hotel – a modern hotel overlooking the sea on the Amalfi Coast. www.lloydsbaiahotel.it
  • Trani (3 nights): 4-star Hotel San Paolo al Convento – located on the harbour within the fully restored Barnabiti monastery, which dates back to 1400. www.hotelsanpaoloalconventotrani.it
  • Savelletri di Fasano (2 nights): 5-star Masseria Torre Coccaro – luxurious accommodation housed in a restored historic masseria, surrounded by ancient olive trees. www.masseriatorrecoccaro.com
  • Lecce (3 nights): 5-star Patria Palace Hotel – housed in the restored 18th century Palazzo D’Anna, located on Piazzetta Riccardi, facing the Baroque Basilica of Santa Croce. www.patriapalace.com

Note: Hotels are subject to change, in which case a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation in a double (or twin) room for single occupancy throughout the tour. The number of rooms available for single occupancy is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

How to book

How to Book

Make a Reservation


Please complete the ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION and send it to Australians Studying Abroad together with your non-refundable deposit of AUD $500.00 per person payable to Australians Studying Abroad.

Passport Details

All participants must provide no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the program a photocopy of the front page of their current passport.

Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation in a double (or twin) room for single occupancy throughout the tour. The number of rooms available for single occupancy is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

Practical Information

Practical Information

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 15-day Cultural Tour of Southern Italy involves:

  • Moderate walking and standing during site visits; walking tours may include steep slopes, flights of stairs, cobbled streets, visits to hill-top towns and uneven ground at archaeological sites.
  • Some days involve long stretches on winding coastal roads (eg. Amalfi Coast).
  • Visiting a range of towns and villages on foot, involving walks uphill from bus parks to historic town centres and other sites.
  • Using stairs in museums (lifts are not always available).
  • The use of audio headsets, which amplify the voice of your guide (despite noisy surroundings). This technology also allows you to move freely during site visits without missing any information.

Other considerations:

  • 4- and 5-star hotels with five hotel changes.
  • You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person.

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Tour Price & Inclusions

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $8380.00 Land Content Only – Early-Bird Special: Book before 30 September 2018

AUD $8580.00 Land Content Only

AUD $1990.00 Single Supplement

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with private facilities in 4- & 5-star hotels.
  • Breakfast daily; lunches & evening meals indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch & D=evening meal
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included.
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach
  • Airport-hotel transfers if travelling on the ‘ASA’ designated flights
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person at hotels (not at airports)
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Tour notes & tour handbook
  • Entrance fees to museums & monuments, wine-tasting
  • Use of audio headsets during site visits
  • Tips for the coach driver, local guides and restaurants for included meals.
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • Airfare: Australia-Naples, Brindisi-Australia
  • Personal spending money
  • Departure transfer from the hotel to the airport
  • Luggage in excess of 20kg (44lbs)
  • Travel insurance
Tour Map

Tour Map

Terms & Conditions

A deposit of $500.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on an ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 75 days before departure: $500.00**
  • 75-46 days prior 25% of total amount due
  • 45-31 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 30-15 days prior 75% of total amount due
  • 14-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**This amount may be credited to another ASA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case early-bird discounts will not apply. We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we recieve written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. If an ASA tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all tour monies paid. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 75 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products or services. If a service provider does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA. ASA will not be liable for any claim (eg. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any such service provider however caused (contingencies). You must take out adequate travel insurance against such contingencies. ASA’s liability in respect of any tour will be limited to the refund of amounts received from you less all non-refundable costs and charges and the costs of any substituted event or alternate services provided. The terms and conditions of the relevant service provider from time to time comprise the sole agreement between you and that service provider. ASA reserves the sole discretion to canel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

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