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A self-guided bike tour in Puglia, starting from Matera, is not just cycling through enchanting landscapes; it’s a journey into the soul of Southern Italy. This adventure offers the freedom to explore at your own pace and the joy of unfiltered experiences. Riding through Puglia, you’ll intimately connect with the land and its people – a unique feeling that only a bike tour can provide.
Starting in Matera, the famed town of the “sassi“, immediately immerses you in a landscape that weaves together history and nature, setting the stage for an unforgettable bike adventure.
Your path will take you through Alberobello, with its iconic cone-shaped “Trulli” houses, and across the Manduria countryside, dotted with vineyards and olive trees. You’ll glide along the Ionian coast of Salento, passing through Gallipoli, and reaching Santa Maria di Leuca at the southern tip of Italy’s heel.
The grand finale is in the baroque city of Lecce, an architectural masterpiece waiting to be discovered from the saddle of your bike.
Cycling Matera and Puglia | Self-Guided Bike Tour
From Matera to Lecce
Self-Guided Bike Tour
A Self-Guided Bike Tour is a type of cycling adventure where you have the freedom to plan and navigate at your pace. Our dedicated tour guide and support team will handle hotel bookings, logistics, and baggage transport, ensuring you enjoy a hassle-free and carefree experience.
Stages up to 70 km per day with a maximum of 1300 meters of climbing. Those tours appeal to riders used to train a bit, with some “tasty” climb. Usually you are back at the hotel in the early afternoon.
For guests that want more riding, we can add extra loops to regular stages.
50 – 70km / day
The enchanting “Città dei Sassi”
We meet at your first hotel in enchanting Matera. Over a good glass of Aglianico del Vulture, we present to you in detail the tour that awaits you. After a bike fitting, we leave you to discover this wonderful city, a UNESCO site since 1991, and the 2019 European Capital of Culture. The historic center of Matera, known as “I Sassi”, is literally carved into the limestone rock. UNESCO has defined Matera as “the most extraordinary and intact example of a troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean region, perfectly adapted to its terrain and ecosystem”.
Today many of the cave dwellings have been transformed into museums, restaurants, and welcoming hotels, but it keeps its exterior intact, which will give you the feeling of having been transported into a distant past in the Holy Land.
From the karst ravines of Matera to the typical Trulli of Alberobello
We leave Matera and Basilicata to enter Puglia, in the plateau of the Murgia between green and colorful fields in spring, and golden yellow in summer. In Gioia del Colle you can admire the beautiful Norman-Swabian Castle, which houses the interesting Archaeological Museum, but above all don’t miss the fantastic cheeses such as scamorza, stracciatella and the delicious burrata.
The route then leads us through the countryside of Putignano, where we recommend a short detour to visit the rural sanctuary of Barsento, built in the sixth century with simple and soft shapes, but perfectly integrated into the surrounding landscape. The day ends in Alberobello, among its welcoming and lively alleys. Alberobello is known all over the world for its Trulli, characteristic cone-shaped rural houses, built without cement mortar with the tholos technique, plastered with very white lime. Born for practical and economic needs, today they represent a symbol and a wealth for the territory, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. And it will be an ancient Trullo to host you for the night.
In the realm of Primitivo di Manduria wine
Today a beautiful path awaits you among gentle slopes, vineyards, and fields, dotted with Trulli that rise towards the blue sky. Once in Ostuni, we leave the Valle d’Itria and the Murge behind us, to enter the Salento plain, the southernmost area of Puglia.
Ostuni (known as the White City) is a wonderful village, which shines in pure white, perched on three hills, which dominate the valley. At the top of the town stands the Cathedral dedicated to Santa Maria dell’Assumption, a splendid example of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, which deserves a brief stop in front of the majestic facade, characterized by three portals, surmounted by three rose windows, of which the central one is a beautiful example of medieval symbolism.
Today’s stage ends in Manduria, among the vineyards of Primitivo Salentino, the older brother of the Californian Zinfandel. Here you cannot fail to visit the museum housed in the “Produttori di Manduria” cellar and to taste a good glass of Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale DOCG.
Along the beautiful Ionian coast
Today we go to the sea, in the beautiful sea of Salento. After leaving the Manduria vineyards you head towards the coast of Porto Cesareo, which is home to long beaches and a Marine Protected Area of over 16,000 hectares (41,000 acres). The coast has some cliffs, lagoons, and many beaches, among which the Lido degli Angeli stands out, characterized by a lush dune system. The stage continues along an undemanding path, until you reach the seaside village of Gallipoli, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in all Salento.
Gallipoli is an ancient settlement of Greek origin (Kali Polis), which later became an important Roman military center, subsequently the main hub in the Mediterranean for the oil trade for lamps. Today it’s a renowned tourist destination, but its historic center retains the fascinating urban layout of the Bourbon era, with high bastions overlooking the sea that enclose elegant palaces, narrow houses, and richly finished churches. Here you will find excellent restaurants where you can delight yourself with a dinner based on freshly caught fish.
A Breathtaking Coastal Cycling Journey
As you leave Gallipoli, the road hugs the coastline, offering breathtaking views of the Ionian Sea. The route to Leuca is about 50 kilometers with a mix of flat stretches and gentle hills.
After reaching Torre San Giovanni you’ll enter the Natural Park of Ugento, famous for pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters. As you pedal through the heart of Salento, imagine yourself weaving through a landscape dotted with olive groves and Mediterranean scrub. The fragrance of the sea mixes with the scent of wild herbs, creating an aromatic experience unique to this part of Italy.
You’ll find the final stretch to Santa Maria di Leuca arguably the most scenic. As you approach, the terrain becomes hillier, challenging your legs but rewarding you with panoramic views. The lighthouse of Leuca, perched at the southernmost tip of Salento, signals the end of your journey.
Cycling the Salento Coastline
The route from Leuca to Otranto stretches approximately 50 kilometers along the eastern coastline of Salento. It is a moderately challenging ride, with a mix of flat sections and some undulating terrain. The road offers the Adriatic Sea view as a mate, with its amazing shades of blue.
Once you pass the charming town of Tricase, and Castro Marina, famous for its Zinzulusa Cave, a natural wonder filled with stalactites and stalagmites, you’ll pedal northward, finding yourself surrounded by ancient olive groves, yes, you are in Puglia!
The coastal road to Otranto is a cyclist’s delight. Each turn brings a new vista, from secluded coves to expansive beaches. You’ll find several little villages along the route where you can stop for a coffee or a taste of the local cuisine, particularly seafood.
As you approach Otranto, the easternmost town in Italy, prepare to be captivated by its unique charm. Otranto’s history as a bridge between the East and West is evident in its architecture and cultural landmarks. Otranto’s old town, encircled by imposing walls, is a labyrinth of narrow streets leading to the beautiful Aragonese Castle. The heart of the town is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Annunziata, famous for its stunning 12th-century mosaic floor depicting the Tree of Life, a masterpiece of medieval art.
A bike ride through Nature and Baroque Splendor
As you leave Otranto, as yesterday, the Adriatic Sea accompanies you, shimmering under the Italian sun.
Heading towards Lecce, about 50 kilometers away, the route initially follows the coast. You’ll experience a mix of flat terrain and gentle hills. The coastline is dotted with hidden coves and sweeping beaches. Take the time for brief stops to admire the views. A highlight of today is riding through the Riserva Naturale Le Cesine, a WWF-protected wetland area. This nature reserve is a haven for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts, with a diverse range of flora and fauna.
As you move inland, the landscape transitions to the serene olive groves that are characteristic of the Salento region. These ancient trees, some centuries old, stand as silent witnesses to the region’s rich agricultural history.
Your arrival destination is Lecce, known as the ‘Florence of the South’ because of its stunning baroque architecture. The city’s streets and piazzas are lined with buildings crafted from the local Lecce stone, a warm, soft limestone that is easily worked into intricate designs. The heart of Lecce’s baroque splendor is the Piazza del Duomo, home to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.
It’s time to say goodbye, but we know that Puglia touched your heart and you want to be back in the Med in one of Mediterras bike tour destinations!
You can bring your own bike or rent one from us, we offer great bikes from selected Italian and international brands: road bikes, leisure cycling, mountain bikes, e-bikes, all in perfect working conditions. You can book your rental bike at the end of the reservation process.