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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Cross-Country Skiing in Vermont with VBT

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Welcome to week four in our five-part series about the great cross-country skiing vacations that VBT is offering this winter. Last week we told you about the fascinating geothermal features, amazing skiing and unreal wildlife viewing you’ll find on our new Yellowstone in the Winter: Skiing America’s First National Park cross-country skiing vacation—make sure to check out the answer to the trivia question at the end of this blog if you tuned in last week. But first, let’s discuss another new vacation we’re offering this winter: A New England Winter: Cross-Country Skiing in Vermont. With four departures throughout January and February of 2014, there are plenty of chances to take this fantastic winter vacation into the heart of the Green Mountains.

VT_LeadOne of the great things about a Vermont ski tour is the state’s close proximity to many locations on the East Coast, offering the opportunity to try a VBT ski vacation without having to travel by plane.  Plus the Green Mountains are a fantastic place to ski, steeped in a rich history of winter culture—which we’ll learn about when the tour visits the Vermont Ski Museum in Stowe. The new tour begins in the idyllic New England town of Middlebury, with the first skiing locale being the Rikert Ski Touring Center at Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf campus a few miles outside of town. The campus got its name from Bread Loaf Mountain, the iconic peak that overlooks the meadows below, a virtual skier’s paradise in winter. During your day, you may opt for a lesson or choose to ski on your own with trail recommendations provided by our Trip Leaders. One Picture10highlight is a trail through the woods to the famous Robert Frost Cabin, where the acclaimed poet wrote many of his most famous works—including “The Road Not Taken,” “Mending Wall” and “A Cabin in the Clearing.” Frost spent his summers from 1939 to 1963 living at the farm and lecturing at the Bread Loaf School of English and its annual writers’ conferences.

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Later in the trip we’ll head to the town of Stowe which offers much more than just an alpine resort on Vermont’s largest peak. Here, we’ll stay and ski at the historic Trapp Family Lodge, which offers snowmaking on their cross country trails as to insure excellent conditions even in a marginal snow winter. The Von Trapp family—whose lives were the inspiration for The Sound of Music—purchased the lodge after emigrating from Austria during World War II, and opened its Cross-Country Ski Center in 1968. Today the Trapp Family Lodge is one of the country’s leading Nordic ski areas with more than 37 miles (60 km) of groomed ski trails and an extensive network of snowshoe trails.  The lodge itself has all the amenities you’d expect on a VBT vacation as well as including an indoor pool, outdoor hot tub, and wireless internet. We’ll also visit the Trapp Lager Brewery where we’ll sample some of the Austrian-style lagers that are brewed right on-site. If we’re lucky, Sam Von Trapp—Maria’s grandson—will be on hand to talk with us about Austria, skiing and his family’s legacy here in Vermont. We’ll follow our beer-tasting with a delicious dinner at the brewery.

Lincoln Peak Vineyard cropVermont is quickly becoming famous for its wineries and microbrews.  And this vacation also features a tasting and tour of the Lincoln Peak Winery, which produces their wine with grapes grown right here in Vermont.  We’ll taste their northern varietals and learn about what makes this wine so unique.  At the Otter Creek Brewery, we’ll have the opportunity to sample Long Trail, Shed, and Otter Creek beers.  If wine and beer isn’t your thing, then your taste buds will be excited to know that we’ll stop at the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory for another special taste from Vermont.

Another great cultural activity you’ll experience on this vacation is a maple sugaring demonstration as Vermont is the sap bucket2largest producer of maple syrup in the U.S.  We’ll work up an appetite for dinner on our final night with a sunset maple-sugaring tour at the Trapp Lodge’s sugarhouse. You’ll learn how sap is collected in buckets, and then boiled down in a wood-fired evaporator to create the maple syrup. Even if the sap’s not running, this will be a great introduction to maple sugaring and its production process.

Thanks for reading this week and we hope to see you out on the trails with us this winter in some of the world’s most fascinating winter destinations. Remember, on a VBT vacation you’ll enjoy world-class cross-country skiing combined with expert local Trip Leaders, comfortable accommodations and plenty of wonderful interactions with the locals. For more information on the A New England Winter: Cross-Country Skiing in Vermont​ ​vacation you can visit us online or request a catalog here. See you next week as the series concludes with a blog about another fun-filled winter vacation.

Additional Links:
Ski Middlebury Article:  http://www.addisonindependent.com/201304could-middlebury-become-ski-destination

Trapp Family Lodge: http://www.trappfamily.com/