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Top 5 Reasons to Take a Biking Tour of Puglia with VBT

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There are many reasons to travel to Puglia with VBT, the Italy Experts.  You’ll cycle along stunning coastal roads overlooking the Adriatic, glide past ancient olive groves and sample their oils with a local family. And off the road we’ll explore the iconic trulli homes of Alberobello and stay in cozy masserie— authentic 16th-century fortified farms. To help you learn more about this wonderful region we’ve compiled our Top 5 reasons to join VBT and uncover a part of Italy that may be less familiar—but is by no means less inviting—on our Puglia: Italy’s Undiscovered Coast bicycling vacation.

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The Bike Routes
Puglia is a beautiful and scenic region located on the “heel” of Italy’s boot. The peninsula is at the convergence of the Adriatic and Ionian seas and our cycling routes offer everything from wonderful views along the rugged Adriatic coast to peaceful country roads through 800-year-old olive groves. One VBT traveler said “The last riding day, on the plateau over the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, is the loveliest route I have ever ridden.” And know that you’ll be in good hands with our expert, local Trip Leaders guiding you along the way and making sweeps along the route with our outfitted VBT support van, ready to assist in any way.

The “Off-the-beaten-path” Feel
IMG_0299Our Puglia vacation is dubbed “Italy’s Undiscovered Coast” and as one of our travelers can attest, “the trip title is very accurate—this ‘undiscovered’ area of Italy was a delight. There were few tourists, lots of contacts with local people, beautiful scenery, and great food.” Our Trip Leaders are all natives of the region and know the roads, people, history, and customs of the region like the back of their hand. Since Puglia is less of a tourist destination, you’ll be immersed in Puglian culture with enlightening interactions with the locals, homemade meals and stays in gorgeous, family run accommodations.

The Masserie
Far away from any chain hotel, the Puglian countryside is dotted with historic Coccaro doorfortified farms known as masserie, which have been renovated into amazing farm hotels and 5-star resorts.  The fortifications of the masserie originated around the 16th century as a means to ward off attacks by pirates and brigands. They feature high boundary walls, angular towers, drawbridges and watchtowers. Inside the walls, families worked and lived together with their own church, oil mill and oven to bake bread. Today, the masserie that we’ll stay at are destinations unto themselves with many modern amenities while maintaining their historic charm. “The gorgeous garden, underground spa and surrounding olive groves would all be enough by itself. But the food here takes it to another level. We took the cooking class and reveled in the delicious dinners and endless breakfast buffet,” said one VBT traveler after returning from this vacation.

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The Architecture
Although Puglia is home to ancient temples, medieval relics and early Roman castles; the region is perhaps best known—architecturally—for its trulli houses. A trullo is a unique type of building consisting of a whitewashed, round house topped by a large cone of local stones – all assembled without mortar. It is believed that trulli originated as storage sheds built for agricultural implements but eventually they became dwellings, with adjoining buildings added as families grew. Many trulli are still used and inhabited today, and some of their roofs show mysterious chalk marks, either to protect from evil or to bless the house.  One VBT traveler said “we were drawn to Puglia because of the charming, quirky trulli houses found in this region. I delighted in every one of these amazing structures I saw, whether the vast numbers in the World Heritage site of Alborobello or the unpretentious homes we rode by. My curiosity was satisfied by our opportunity to see the inside of a trullo and how the architecture perfectly suited the environment.”

The Food
agnello_060530_0032The location of Puglia within Italy directly reflects the food that the region is known for, and it even received a UNESCO heritage award for its Mediterranean cuisine. Because of the warm and sunny climate, Puglia ranks first in Italy in the production of olive oil and wine, and second for almonds.  VBT offers an unparalleled foodie experience while on the Puglia vacation. This trip features cooking classes, wine tastings and even a home-hosted lunch and olive oil tasting with a local family. A VBT traveler recalled her experience with the cuisine quite fondly, “I long for the great food we were introduced to. Breaking open fresh green pods to find sweet, tender almonds inside and feasting on olives, cheeses, seafood, and the local Primitivo red wine was just glorious. Did I mention I learned to make pasta with the master chef at the amazing masseria where we first stayed?”

You can discover your own favorite reason to visit Puglia with VBT in 2014. Simply follow the link to read what many other VBT travelers have to say about this active vacation of a lifetime! http://bit.ly/VBTPUReview

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Great Sculptures of Europe

Many VBT vacations to Europe include stops in cities with world famous museums – either on the trip or on our optional pre- or post-trip extensions. We wanted to provide a list for you of some of the great sculptures that you could see along your journeys. Some are masterpieces that cannot be missed and some are lesser known pieces found in places other than artistic meccas like Paris or Rome.

“Apollo and Daphne” by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Galleria Borghese, Rome)
ApolloAndDaphneThis life-sized Baroque marble sculpture, commissioned by Cardinal Scipione, was created between 1622–1625. The sculpture portrays the story of Daphne and Phoebus in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Although the sculpture may be viewed from every angle, Bernini intended it to be viewed from its side, to let the viewer see the reactions of Apollo and Daphne simultaneously.

 “David” by Michelangelo (Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence)
DavidThis masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture – and possibly the most famous statue in the word – was created between 1501 and 1504 by the Italian artist Michelangelo. The statue represents the Biblical hero David glaring off in the distance with a sling around his shoulder, perhaps a sign that he is intensely waiting for battle. This is in contrast to many depictions of David after he slayed Goliath.

“The Kiss” by Rodin (Museè Rodin, Paris)
The KissThis marble work was inspired by the passionate love affair between Paolo Malatesta and Francesca da Rimini made famous in Dante’s Divine Comedy. The sculpture depicts the 13th-century Italian noblewoman falling in love with her husband’s younger brother, Paolo. The lovers’ lips are not actually locked in the piece, suggesting that they were interrupted – and furthermore, killed – by Francesca’s husband Giovanni, without their lips ever having touched.

“Pluto and Proserpina by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Galleria Borghese, Rome)
Pluto and Proserpina
This large marble piece was completed the year Bernini began Apollo and Daphne and depicts Pluto, the commanding god of the underworld, abducting Proserpina, the daughter of Ceres – the Goddess of the Earth. Bernini develops a twisting pose by pushing Proserpina’s hand into Pluto’s face and you can see her hand crease his skin as his fingers simultaneously sink into her flesh.

“Venus de Milo” by Alexandros of Antioch (Louvre, Paris)
Venus De Milo
The “Aphrodite of Milos” better known as the “Venus de Milo”, is an ancient Greek marble statue created sometime between 130 and 100 BC. The statue represents Aphrodite (Venus in Roman), the Greek goddess of love and beauty. The famously absent arms are believed to have shown the right arm lowered across her torso as to hold up the sliding drapery while the left remained outstretched, holding an apple.

“Fontaine des Quatre-Saisons” by Edme Bouchardon (Rue de Grenelle, Paris)
The Fountain of the four seasonsTranslated as “The Fountain of the four seasons”, this monumental 18th-century public fountain is still located in the streets of Paris. The fountain is huge and richly decorated and although its grandiosity irritated Voltaire and other figures of the French Enlightenment, the fountain is the best surviving example of public architecture during the reign of Louis XV.

“Bronze David” by Donatello (Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence)
Bronze DavidThis statue of David, which pre-dates Michelangelo’s by over 60 years, is known  for being the first unsupported standing work of bronze cast during the Renaissance, and the first freestanding nude male sculpture made since antiquity. It depicts David, posed with his foot on Goliath’s severed head just after defeating the giant.

“The Veiled Christ” by Giuseppe Sanmartino (Museo Cappella Sansevero in Naples)
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Sanmartino’s Veiled Christ is one of the greatest sculptures of all time. Since the eighteenth century, travelers of all levels of distinction have come to contemplate this artistic miracle and the oft praised finesse of its veil. Legend has it that famed Venetian sculptor, Antonio Canova, once said he would have given ten years of his life to have been the sculptor.

“Sculptures of the Night Watch” by Alexander Taraynov (Rembrandtplein, Amsterdam)

Night WatchAlthough Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum houses Rembrandt’s famous painting, The Night Watch,  Russian artist Alexander Taratynov created a bronze-cast representation of the painting as part of the celebration of the artist’s 400th birthday in 2006. In 2009 the sculptures traveled to New York City and Russia to be displayed before returning to the redesigned Amsterdam square where they serve today as a magnet for visitors.

“Salt Celler” by Cellini (Kunsthistorisches Musieum, Vienna)
Salt CellarCellini’s Salt Cellar table sculpture is crafted from ivory, gold, and vitreous enamel and was completed in 1543 for Francis I of France. The piece depicts Neptune and Ceres – symbolizing their unity in producing salt, mined from the earth. It is sometimes referred to as the “Mona Lisa of Sculpture” due to its famous theft in 2003. It was recovered three years later.

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