Kickstart your Italian adventure with our 12-day gastronomic journey, beginning in the culinary heartland of southern Italy – the vibrant city of Napoli! Here, the streets come alive with the aromatic allure of street food, the freshness of seafood, and, of course, the iconic taste of pizza.
Our Italian escapade will whisk you into the homey kitchen of my dear friend Mimmo, right here in Naples. Together, we’ll whip up an authentic Italian lunch, sharing laughter, stories, and the age-old secrets of Neapolitan cuisine. (Those passionate about Italian cooking may also wish to consider our Food and Wine Tour of Calabria.)
As we bid arrivederci to Napoli, we’ll meander down to the rustic charm of my cherished Calabria. A scenic three-hour drive will unfold the beauty of the Italian countryside before we find ourselves amidst the majestic Pollino Mountains. Here, we’ll delve into the local culinary traditions, learning age-old recipes from the natives.
Our journey will then uncork the essence of Calabrian vineyards through a picturesque wine tour. We’ll also unravel the famed Calabrian trifecta of licorice, clementines, and rice, each having a unique tale tied to the land.
As our caravan of flavors crosses into the quaint realms of Basilicata, you’ll be enchanted by the famed cruschi peppers that add a zesty charm to the region. The diverse assortment of breads here is a testament to Italy’s age-old baking traditions.
Each region we explore has its unique cooking experience, immersing you in the local flavors, techniques, and jovial spirit of Italian cooking. Amidst all the foodie exploits, there’ll be ample free time to wander, sip on exotic cocktails, and soak in the serene Italian vistas.
This expedition is more than just a tour; it’s a “taste” of Italy that promises a palate of experiences, hearty meals, new friendships, and memories that will linger long after the journey ends.
If you have any questions about this itinerary, please get in touch.
Those interested in this tour may also wish to consider our Food and Wine Tour of Calabria.
Accommodations and Transportation:
Group Excursions and Experiences:
We will meet you at the Naples International Airport in time for the group transfer at 10:00am, or, if you are able to take our advice and arrive a day early, we’ll pick you up directly at your centrally-located Naples hotel.
You will start things off with Mimmo, who will take us for a walk around his hometown to get a feel for this intriguing and energetic city. We’ll see Naples from a local’s perspective as we explore this fascinating city and indulge in some of its best traditional snacks, street food, drinks, and of course…it’s world-famous pizza!
Afterwards, we’ll head to our hotel, located in an 18th-century noble residence in the heart of Naples, where we’ll have time to rest and get settled in before we gather for our official welcome dinner where we might see ‘O pazzariello, a popular Neapolitan street artist dating back to the late 18th-century. Overnight in Naples.
This morning, we will be joining Mimmo for a visit to one of Naples’s bustling local markets. We’ll check out the vibrant stalls bursting with fresh produce and local specialities to pick up some essential ingredients we’ll need to prepare an authentic Neapolitan lunch. That’s right, we will be Mimmo’s special guests for a delicious lunch which we’ll prepare together. Then, we’ll feast on our special home-cooked meal on his terrace overlooking the city. After lunch, we’ll return to our hotel and you’ll have the rest of the day and dinner on your own. Overnight in Naples.
This morning, we are on a mission for the very best central Italy has to offer. We will start with a visit to the magnificent Palace of Caserta, commissioned in 1752 by King Charles of Bourbon. The King envisioned an extravagant royal residence that would rival any other, while his wife, Maria Carolina, Marie Antionette’s sister, wanted to one-up her little sis! The result is one of Italy’s most extravagant UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Royal Palace with its grandeur exterior, the lush palace grounds boasting both Italian and Renaissance gardens, and the elaborate water fountains will leave you speechless.
Speechless, but hungry.
Did you know the best pizza in Italy isn’t in Naples? Luckily for you, we did, so we will make our way to the charming town of Caiazzo for lunch in a multiple-award-winning pizzeria.
Owner and master pizzaiolo, Franco Pepe, has created a unique culinary journey with a tasting experience to discover the evolution of pizza and its ties to this magnificent territory. His has been called the best pizza in Italy; and we all know the best pizza in the world, is in Italy. So this is your chance to eat the best pizza. In. The. World.
Return to Naples. Evening and dinner on your own. Overnight in Naples.
This morning we’ll check out of our hotel in Naples and head towards our next region, Calabria. Along the way, we’ll visit the Certosa di San Lorenzo in Padula, a Carthusian monastery founded in 1306. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most impressive Baroque structures in southern Italy. We’ll admire the cloisters, gardens and living quarters that make up this historically important complex nestled in the breathtaking Vallo di Diano, in the province of Salerno. Afterwards, we’ll stop for lunch nearby before continuing our journey to Calabria.
We’ll check into our charming farmhouse hotel, located near Morano Calabro and we’ll have time to rest and get settled in before meeting for a delicious dinner with traditional Calabrian folk music. Overnight in Morano Calabro.
This morning you can choose to sleep in or head out for an optional early morning stroll through the town of Morano Calabro, listed as one of Italy’s most beautiful hamlets. We will then reconvene at the farmhouse for a mid-morning cooking class and feast on our delicious creations.
Following lunch, we’ll have some time to rest before heading to the nearby town of Saracena which sits on the southern borders of the Pollino National Park and has very ancient origins dating back to the Bronze Age. Here we’ll sample one of its most treasured possessions – the Moscato al Governo. This sweet wine is made from a combination of local grapes using a traditional and unique wine-making technique. Moscato wine dates back to at least the 16th century based on historical records that show barrels of this precious elixir being delivered to the papal court as it is said that Pope Pius IV was quite fond of it. You’ll have the rest of the evening on your own at the farmhouse. Overnight in Morano Calabro.
This morning we’ll head to the Plains of Sibari and discover a few of its gastronomic specialties. We’ll start in Rossano to get an in-depth look at Italy’s oldest licorice factory – Amarelli. This family-owned company has been in business since 1731 making the best licorice you’ll ever taste! Today, they create everything from raw licorice to liquors, beer, chocolate and so much more. We will visit the factory, as well as the museum, located within the family’s old 15th-century residence, and learn about the licorice-making process and the rich history of the family’s business.
Next, we’ll head to neighboring Corgliano Calabro, the clementine capital of Calabria. Here we’ll meet up with our friends who are giving Fanta a run for their money and see how clementines are being used to create delicious and refreshing drinks that have become household favorites.
We’ll have lunch featuring “Riso di Sibari,” an ancient grain rice that is cultivated in this region and praised by food enthusiasts and chefs alike as one of the best qualities of rice in Italy. Then it’s back to the hotel to rest up before a light dinner at the farmhouse. Overnight in Morano Calabro.
This morning we’ll check out of our farmhouse and cross over into our next southern Italian region, Basilicata. We’ll stop in the small town of Senise located at the gates of the Pollino National Park and discover an important protagonist for the cuisine of this region – Senise Peppers. You’ll often see these peppers hanging out on balconies to dry as you wander through the old town center which just adds to the beauty and charm of the architectural landscape.
Once dried, they are used to make a local specialty called “cruschi” peppers – which is the dialect word for crunchy. We’ll visit an agricultural farm that grows these peppers and produces delicious cruschi peppers. We’ll learn more about their production and get to taste them during our traditional Lucano-style lunch.
After lunch, we’ll check into our charming hotel in Bernalda and rest up before gathering together for aperitivo. You’ll have the rest of the evening and dinner on your own. Overnight in Bernalda.
This morning you’ll have the option to move your body with a yoga session led by winemaker and yogi Giuseppe Mastrangelo, the owner of a farm that is centered around outdoor sports and activities – the first of its kind in Italy. Giuseppe has been featured on national TV programs for his innovative idea of incorporating nature, sport, and local cuisine. Following our light yoga session on his farm, we’ll cool off with a glass or two of his award-winning white wine.
If yoga isn’t your thing, you can choose to hang out at the borgo, head into town, or go for a “passeggiata” (leisurely stroll) through the lovely hilltop town of Bernalda.
You’ll have free time for lunch (we can assist with recommendations and bookings, of course!). Then in the evening, we’ll visit the Temple of Hera, located in the archaeological site of Metaponto. This well-preserved ancient Greek temple, dedicated to the goddess Hera, dates back to the 6th century BCE and showcases classic Doric architectural elements – a testament to the region’s connection to Magna Graecia. Afterwards, we’ll have a casual dinner at a local macelleria where you’ll choose your cut of meat directly from the butcher himself. It’ll be prepared and served up specially for you. Overnight in Bernalda.
This morning we’ll meet Mariangela, a local celebrity chef, for a walk through Bernalda to visit her favorite places. We’ll mingle with the locals and stop into her preferred cheese shop and the local vegetable market to gather up all the fresh and delicious ingredients for our special meal. Then, we’ll return to the borgo and split into groups and make a collective lunch.
In the evening, we’ll visit the Amaro Lucano Museum for a private guided tour of this unique interactive museum. After we’ve learned a bit about this popular amaro, we’ll enjoy a mixology class with a local barman who will let us in on some of his secrets for creating the perfect cocktail which we’ll get to make, and of course sample! Cin cin!
Then it’s back to the hotel and you’ll have the rest of the evening and dinner on your own. Overnight in Bernalda.
This morning we’ll check out of our hotel and make our way to Matera, famously known for its carved cave dwellings, called “Sassi,” and believed to be home to some of the first human settlements in Italy going back to 15,000 BC. Before we settle into Matera, we will visit nearby Altamura, located in Puglia, which is known for its ancient bread tradition. We’ll get a firsthand look into the intricate bread-making process and discover the recipes and methods that have remained relatively unchanged since the Middle Ages. The real treat will be having the chance to taste this very region-specific kitchen staple.
Before we head to Matera, we’ll stop for lunch and get a taste of Puglia and its traditional local specialties. Afterwards, we’ll drive the short distance to Matera and check into our 4-star cave hotel. You’ll have the rest of the evening on your own. Overnight in Matera.
This morning we’ll create our personalized Cucu’ whistle with Cristian – a talented local artisan. These rooster-shaped whistles made of terracotta are typically found in Matera and are believed to bring good luck. We’ll paint our own good luck charm to take home – a special keepsake to remember our time in beautiful Matera. Afterwards, you can choose an optional walking tour of Matera and immerse yourself in the unique charm of this ancient town. We’ll return to our hotel and you’ll have time to rest before we meet up for our magical farewell dinner with amazing views of the Sassi. Overnight in Matera.
You’ll have breakfast, then you’ll have a group transfer to the Bari Airport or to post-tour add-ons. Arrivederci!
Group airport transfers are included at the scheduled times. Travelers arriving outside these times should inquire about private transfers.
We love private tours and can often include extra fun elements that aren’t available to individual travelers. If you’d like a bilingual escort or driver, just let us know. We’ll be happy to plan your custom vacation accordingly.
This is a great question because there is sometimes overlap amongst the three which leads to confusion. To keep it quick though, a travel consultant is a local expert, meaning she only focuses on a specific part of the world, in some cases one country, in other cases (like mine) part of one country. This person usually lives (or has lived for an extended amount of time) in the place she consults on and has an intimate knowledge of the area.
A travel agent is similar in that she helps her clients put their trips together. A travel agent can specialize in a country but oftentimes hasn’t lived there and/or may not have traveled to all of the places her clients are going. A travel agent can search for and book flights and cruises that travel consultants can’t or choose not to book.
I often work with travel agents who want to ensure they are offering the best service to their clients. The travel agent will contact me and together we’ll put the Calabria/southern Italy section of their client’s vacation together.
A tour operator packages trip elements into travel packages that they either sell directly or through travel agents. Some travel consultants (like me) are registered as a tour operator for legal business purposes.
When you book a custom vacation, there is more going into your trip than simply recommending a hotel or a cooking class. I am invested in my clients’ trips and I work with them to choose the right base locations, to map out their ideal route and to ensure the hotels, guides, excursions and activities are right for them.
It’s been estimated the average person spends 100 hours researching, planning and booking a vacation. My clients either don’t have this kind of time to devote to planning their trip or they want to ensure they are making the right decisions for their vacation.
Besides the fact that I’m being paid by my clients to plan their trips, I choose not to accept commissions from hotels, car companies, chefs or other vendors because I don’t like the potential conflict of interest. If I don’t accept commission from anyone, then my clients know I always have their best interest in mind.
I don’t – but I can either coordinate with your travel agent, recommend an agent to you for group travel or tell you about the airlines I personally choose when I’m traveling.