Drifter Sister + Arrivederci Puglia TravelĀ 

By: Sally Mee
This item appears on page 27 of the October 2017 issue.

My husband, Jim, and I found an ad in “The Mart” section of ITN’s December 2016 issue describing a combination trip of a week on a yacht sailing Croatia’s Dalmatian Islands for a maximum of 20 people plus a week’s bus tour of Montenegro for 10 people, all arranged by Drifter Sister (Catch the Wind Tours, Boulder City, NV; 702/294-4365, www.driftersister.com).

We’re at an age where we’re trying to discover destinations, mostly in Europe, that we haven’t yet visited. This trip furthered our quest and was a wonderful new experience for us. 

Drifter Sister runs a wide variety of trips in Europe as well as in Mexico, Cuba and Greece. Because the company owner, Ihla Crowley, is a “one-man band” who accompanies all of her tours, she doesn’t necessarily repeat a trip the next year or even the year after that. Ihla has a following of repeat travelers who sign up for any trip she plans. 

We embarked our sailing on May 20, 2017. Our yacht docked in a different port each night between Dubrovnik and Zadar in Croatia. 

The second week was the coach tour of Montenegro, including three nights in Budva and the other nights in Perast, where we stayed in a small hotel on the banks of the Bay of Kotor. 

Daily excursions included wine tasting, Old Town visits and walking tours, a jeep safari to Durmitor National Park with a barbecue lunch, Sušica Lake in the Dinaric Alps and a cruise on the Bay of Kotor. A walking tour of Trebinje (Bosnia & Herzegovina) was included during our transfer back to Cavtat, Croatia, for the return flight. 

The price per person for this 2-week tour, including most meals, was $3,671.



Serendipitously, also in the December 2016 issue, there was a 2-line Mart ad for Arrivederci Puglia Travel (Via Giuseppe Elefante, n.3, 70010 Turi, Italy; phone +39 339 73 74 047, www.arrivedercipuglia.com).

Several years earlier, our son and daughter-in-law had returned from a bicycle tour raving about Puglia and how wonderfully free of tourists it was. Even though we had been to Italy many times, we had never been to the region of Puglia, Italy’s “heel of the boot.” We wondered if we could dovetail a trip to Puglia after our Montenegro trip with Drifter Sister. It clicked beautifully.

Antonella Susca operates Arrivederci Puglia along with her brother Sandro. They’re very professional, have done their homework and have a nice website. Immediately replying to our email, Antonella said they could customize a tour. We were very excited and enticed our friends Bruce and Pam Michels to join us in Bari, Puglia, on June 3.

Antonella sent us the outline of a tour for four people, with Antonella as our guide and Sandro as the driver of a 6-passenger van. We made our own suggestions, such as eliminating a day for shopping and including an extra day for wine tasting. We decided to stay six nights in a B&B in Polignano a Mare and two nights in a 4-star hotel in the Old Town of Lecce (the Florence of southern Italy).

 The price came to around 2,100 (near $2,500) per person for eight days and eight nights, with almost everything included, even a stop for gelato! 

The B&B had only three suites, and we took two of them. While we were there, guests from Brazil, the Netherlands and Germany stayed in the third suite. B&B Il Palazzotto (70044 Polignano a Mare, Bari; www.bebilpalazzotto.it) was clean, clean, clean. It had a small elevator for its three floors plus a beautiful rooftop terrace.

From this base, we took day trips that usually included an al fresco luncheon in an olive grove, cave or old Roman building. These luncheons were private (reservations required) and usually included a visit from the chef, who suggested specialties of the day and, always, wine.

Lunch tended to last at least two hours, so we fell into the habit of having only a light dinner on the terrace, watching the sun set and observing the swifts frantically devour their evening meals of insects.

Our schedule included Matera, Alberobello, Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Bari, Ostuni, Trani, Castel del Monte, Lecce and Otranto. Many of these are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

We visited a farm for mozzarella tasting and did a Primitivo wine tasting and a tasting of extra virgin olive oil at a masseria (fortified farmhouse). We also walked among several of the 60 million olive trees in the region, many over 1,000 years old.

We were there in early June and the weather was perfect. We saw very few tourists and never heard American English spoken.

My main reason for writing was to alert others to visit the wonderful area of Puglia before it becomes another crowded Venice, Florence or Rome.

And I give Antonella and Sandro a big “thumbs up” for providing a vacation that will be remembered as one of our very best.

SALLY MEE

Pleasanton, CA