Frequently Asked Questions

How can I reserve my spot?
Do I need travel insurance?
What does the package price include?
What do meals include?
Where will I be staying?
What about gratuities?
How much walking is involved?
When is the best time to visit Southern Italy?
How many people will be on the tour with me?
What if I can’t make it for a scheduled tour?
What will the weather be like while I’m there?
What kind of clothing/footwear should I pack?
How much cash should I bring with me?
Where can I exchange money once I arrive?
I have special seating requests regarding international flights; how can I choose my seat on the flights?
What are the baggage allowances on the flight to/from the U.S.?
Can I use my electronic devices in Europe?
How can I make calls once I’m in Europe?
I have special dietary requirements, will this be a problem?
Do I need any vaccines for my trip to Southern Italy?

How can I reserve a spot on an upcoming tour to Puglia and Basilicata?

In order to book, please send us a request via our contact form here. We require a deposit of just €350 (approx. $400) to hold your place, which can be made by either bank transfer or credit/debit card. Deposits are fully refundable, no questions asked, up until 21 days after the receipt of the payment. The remaining balance of €1550 (approx. $1,900) should be paid as follows: 50% (€775/approx. $950) within 45 days before the tour start date, and the other 50% (€775/approx. $950) within 15 days of the tour start date.

If the trip deposit was made at least six months in advance on the trip start date, a €150 discount will be applied to the final payment, as per our promo offer.

Of course, if the minimum number of travelers isn’t reached and the tour is canceled, all deposits and payments will be promptly refunded.

We ask clients to hold off on booking airline tickets until the trip is a “go” (at the latest, 2 months prior to departure), meaning that we’ve reached the minimum of 6 travelers to form a group. However, as soon as the minimum is reached, we will immediately inform travelers to purchase their airline tickets.

Do I need travel insurance?

Clients are STRONGLY URGED to have travel insurance that includes emergency evacuation and repatriation as well as health coverage while traveling abroad with us to Southern Italy. Some credit cards like Capital One Venture already include travel insurance when you book the trip using their card. Otherwise, you can get a plan for around $50-$75 for the duration of your stay. We recommend World Nomads; you can get a quote in less than a minute at their website www.worldnomads.com.

What does the package price include?

The package price of €1,900 (approx. $2,200, slight variations can occur according to exchange rates) includes accommodations for 8 nights, all ground transportation*, daily breakfast, 3 group lunches, 3 group dinners, all guided tours, entrance fees and the services of local, English-speaking trip coordinators who will accompany you for the duration of your stay in Puglia and Basilicata. The price of lodging includes a shared double room in a hotel in the center of Lecce; single rooms are available upon request with an applicable surcharge of €450 (approx. $500) for the duration of your stay. Airfare is not included and can either be booked on your own (ensuring arrival on the start day indicated on the tour) or through our travel agent at no additional charge.

*Airport pick-up and drop-off is included in the package price; however, a €20 per person surcharge will be added for passengers requiring pick-up or drop-off before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m.

What do meals include? 

Continental breakfast is provided at your bnb each morning and includes cereal, milk, cookies, toast with jam and butter, and coffee or tea. If you have special requests, please let us know in advance, and we’ll make every effort to see that they’re taken care of. For our group lunches and dinners the menu consists of a regional appetizer and main course, bread and still or sparkling water. Wine is included only when specified. Feel free to order more if you feel so inclined, but please note that anything above and beyond what’s included in our meals will be at your expense.

We can accommodate most dietary requests, so please let us know if you have special dietary needs at the time of booking.

Where will I be staying?

You’ll be staying in a quaint, family-owned bnb in Lecce’s historic center. Most of the facilities we work with are characterized by architectural elements that are typical in Puglia, including exposed Leccese stone and star-vaulted ceilings. You’ll remain in the same bnb for the duration of your stay except for a one-night stay at a trullo in Alberobello.

If you’d like to make your stay that much more special, try our luxury accommodation upgrade. You’ll have the choice of staying in either in a gorgeous, five-star hotel that combines the best of Southern Italian tradition with the utmost comfort, or in the palace of a noble family, complete with a breathtaking garden. Both properties are in Lecce’s old center, just a few minutes’ walk from all the major attractions. To guarantee availability, we suggest booking at least six months in advance. For prices and additional info, please contact us at info@theheartofsouthernitaly.com.

What about gratuities?

Gratuities in Southern Italy are already factored into the final price of each service (a meal in a restaurant, a tour, when ordering a beer at a bar, etc.) and therefore guests are not required to leave any additional gratuities. However, if  dining on your own at a sit-down restaurant, you can choose to leave a 5-10% tip if you feel that you received good service (it’s appreciated, but by no means necessary). A tip at the end of your stay at the bnb is also appreciated, but not required. 

How much walking is involved?

A minimum of 2-3 hours per day are spent either walking or standing up. In order to fully enjoy your experience with us, we ask that our guests be able to walk and be on their feet for several hours at a time both inside and outside and in various weather conditions; be prepared to walk up ramps and slightly inclined terrain and/or several flights of stairs at a time; and carry or transport their luggage over cobblestone streets. For our most walking-intense day in Matera, arrangements can be made for travelers to do the tour in an open-air vehicle (with applicable surcharge) instead of by foot.

When is the best time to visit Southern Italy?

Southern Italy’s mild Mediterranean climate and bustling centers like Lecce and Matera make almost any time a good time to visit. However, we’ve purposely planned our tours in order to avoid the high-season months of July and August, as well as to take advantage of local customs like participating in the traditional olive harvest or experiencing the Easter processions that are only available at certain times of the year. We have tours at Easter, in late June, early September, and late October as we’ve determined these to be the best times to take full advantage of seasonal offerings, as well as maintain a comfortable pace without the hassle of fighting the crowds.

How many people will be on the tour with me?

Group sizes usually range from about 8-12 people, although there may be more or less depending on the demand. Our maximum is capped off at 12, as we wish to keep our tours intimate and tailored to the needs of our clients.

What if I can’t make it for a scheduled tour?

Feel free to contact us with tour requests outside our established schedule, and we’ll make every effort to plan a personalized itinerary for you. Prices and availability may vary, so be sure to contact us as soon as you know when you’d like to travel.  

What will the weather be like while I’m there?

Average temperatures in Southern Italy:

  • At the end of June temperatures are usually in the 70s during the day (20-25º C) and drop to the mid-60s in the evening
  • At the beginning of September temperatures are similar to June, and, although it all depends on the year, it usually does still feel like summer up until mid-September, with cooler temps after sunset
  • At the beginning of November things tend to be cooler, getting into the low 50s (10º C) at night, although it can still get quite warm – high 60s and low 70s (18-21ºC) during the day
  • In mid-April temperatures tend to be a little more unpredictable. While certainly cooler at night (low 50s) during the day you can expect temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s

Which brings us to our next point…

What kind of clothing/footwear should I pack?

Seeing as temperatures can vary quite a bit, it’s always best to wear layers to be able to adapt to changes in the weather that can take place from week to week. A light sweater or jacket is always a good idea, as is a hat, especially during the warmer months of June and September. In November and April definitely bring a heavier sweater and a jacket or coat, especially if you’re sensitive to the cold! As a general rule, comfortable sundresses, pants, shorts and t-shirts are fine during the day, and it might be a good idea to bring a light scarf, which, aside from making you look very Euro-chic, is also versatile and practical. Make sure to bring comfortable footwear however, as moderate walking is required each day. Trust us, strutting down cobblestone streets in high heels is no easy feat, so leave your Jimmy Choos at home!

How much cash should I bring with me?

Although this is totally up to you, we recommend that you exchange $250-$500 into Euros before departure to comfortably get you through the first few days. It’s preferable to do this at least a week in advance at your local bank, where rates are better and usually no fee is charged for clients. Expect to pay more at the airport and money exchange offices.

Where can I exchange money once I arrive?

Fortunately for U.S. travelers, the dollar gets you further than ever, with current exchange rates of about .90 euro cents to the dollar. Now, while paying with your credit card at shops and restaurants will get you the best bang for your buck (as long as your credit card company doesn’t charge transaction fees), not all places accept credit cards, especially smaller venues and/or for purchases under €10 ($11).

Therefore, the next best way to pay while in Italy is to simply withdraw money from local ATMs, which will generally allow you to take out up to €450 ($500) daily. If you do choose to go this route, check with your bank about international withdrawal fees beforehand, as these can range from $1-$4 every time you take cash out. If this is the case, then you’ll probably want to take out the maximum amount each time in order to withdraw as little as possible.

I have special seating requests regarding international flights; how can I choose my seat on the flights?

Please communicate any special seating requests at the time of booking and our travel agent will make every effort to accommodate you.

What are the baggage allowances on the flight to/from the U.S.?

Baggage allowance on Alitalia and Skyteam partner flights (KLM, Delta, AirFrance, etc.) includes one free piece of checked luggage weighing a maximum of 50 lbs. and measuring up to 62 linear inches (length + width + height combined). You can also take on a carry-on bag or small roller suitcase, weighing up to 11 lbs. and measuring up to 18 in x 14 in x 10 in (length, width, height) plus a personal item (handbag, laptop case, etc.)

Can I use my electronic devices in Italy?

Yes and no. In Europe, apart from the outlets being a different shape (see pictures), the electric current they use is also different, since North America uses 110 volts and Europe 220 volts.

Fortunately however, the most “critical” electronic devices like laptops, cell phones and digital cameras already have voltage converters built in to them, so all you’ll need is an adaptor. You can check whether your gadget has this feature by looking at the bottom or back of your device or at the battery pack, which should indicate that the item accepts voltage from 110v-240v (see picture). If this is the case then just pick up an adapter, which is a little plastic piece that you put over your device’s plug so it’ll fit into the wall socket.

Be forewarned though that cheaper devices like hairdryers and electric toothbrushes don’t usually have variable voltage, and will eventually get fried by using them in a European outlet. Unless you have a higher-end hairdryer or device labeled for international usage you’re better off using what the hotel provides (all the hotels we work with have hairdryers) or buying a cheapie once you get to Italy.

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Adaptor and Mac plug

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How can I make calls once I’m in Italy?

If you use Apple devices, check out their useful tips for communicating while abroad here: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201643

If you have an “unlocked” cell phone and you want to be able to connect to the Internet and make local calls, your best bet is to buy an Italian SIM card once you get here. You can then take out your SIM and put in the new Italian one, allowing you to make calls at local rates. Keep in mind that if you got a cell phone through your service provider it may not always be possible to “unlock” your phone (i.e. use the phone with other companies), so be sure to check with them first.

If you need to make international calls, the easiest way to do so is to use an application like Skype or Viber, which you can download onto your smartphone. These programs let you call other users or phone numbers abroad using an Internet connection (via Wifi or roaming).

And if you just want to disconnect and not have to worry about calling people at all then sit back, turn off your cell phone, and if you need to contact us (or make other local calls) you can use the phone at the hotel free of charge.

I have special dietary requirements, will this be a problem?

While Italy has always traditionally been known as the land of pizza and pasta, there’s actually a tremendous variety of other food choices available, including many gluten-free alternatives. We can easily accommodate vegetarians and are happy to adapt to your dietary needs, just let us know at the time of booking.

Do I need any vaccines for my trip to Southern Italy?

No, no vaccines are necessary for travel in Europe. However, you can check out the State Department’s health advisory for foreign travel at https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings.html.