Puglia (Apulia) region of Italy

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I love the Puglia (Apulia) region in the boot heel of Italy, especially the town of Lecce, which is known as the "Florence of Southern Italy" for its fine, baroque architecture of its palazzi and churches. Thanks again to TravelCenturian (Acca) who introduced ITN readers to this wonderful town on this message board about 4 years ago (prior to that I had never heard of Lecce). There was a Frugal Traveler column on Puglia in the June 14, 2011 issue of the New York Times at http://frugaltraveler.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/in-apulia-vacationing-like-an-italian/ . However, for an escorted tour to Puglia that's much less frugal and that certainly doesn't bike it as did the Frugal Traveler's columnist, Seth Kugel, Travel Concepts International, Inc. (TCI)/Serious Traveler offers a "Precious Stones of Puglia" tour from Sept. 29-Oct. 7, 2011 at http://serioustraveler.com/ApuliaItaly1.html. I have been trying to take this particular tour ever since TravelCenturian "sang the praises" of Puglia on this forum, but unfortunately it hasn't had the minimum number of participants needed to operate since 2005. Once again I have a deposit down on this tour for this year, as do 3 other people. However, with such low enrollment I am concerned that either the tour will be a)cancelled again; or b) allowed to operate at additional cost; or c) allowed to operate at its original cost, but downscaled in hotels or other services and stripped of the "bells and whistles" that make this tour so special to the extent that it is no longer as appealing. I am particularly concerned that the low enrollment as it currently stands might necessitate a change to a less desirable hotel than the centrally-located Old World-style Patria Palace Hotel in Lecce (which directly faces the Basilica di Santa Croce, the penultimate symbol of Lecce Baroque, whose exterior is magnfiicantly lit up at night). If I sound like I've been to Puglia before, I have. Was there in Oct. 2009 with Elderhostel (now Road Scholar). Although the Road Scholar program was good in terms of sightseeing and educational content, I was not at all happy that it opted to spend 6 nights in the nothing town of Conversano that it used as a base for day excursions and that the hotel that it used in Lecce was a 10-15 minute walk from the historical town center, with mediocre food at best (even in Italy!) and a restaurant staff with an attitude that was even worse. So now I really want to go back to Puglia and do it right! I won't feel like I've truly experienced Puglia the way it should be until I've taken "Precious Stones of Puglia" with TCI. I hope that some of you might consider it too so that the tour can operate for once in a blue moon. May this be the year that it finally does so and with all the features contained in the original itinerary at the same cost. Otherwise I will continue booking it in the future for as long as it takes until it operates. Can you tell I REALLY want to take this tour? Can some of you help make it a go by enrolling in it? As I stated in my previous posting concerning this tour back on Jan. 30, 2011, "I have no financial interest in or occupational connection with TCI, but I'm trying to plug their "Precious Stones of Puglia" tour for Fall 2011 because I'm tired of it getting cancelled or worse yet, not offered at all."

Ada, love sharing your excitement about Lecce and hope your tour group meets its minimum and you get your stay at the Patria Palace. I certainly support you singing the praises of this town and Puglia and hope it encourages others to explore this wonderfully "undiscovered" part of old Italy, the way we remembered it from decades ago and the way we want it to stay. If the tour fails its minimum, we can recommend self-drive because this part of Italy is so uncrowded and the small towns can only be reached by car anyway. And extended stay in the Patria Palace with their very excellent front desk help could more than make up for this phantom tour that keeps slipping through your fingers.

Thanks, TravelCenturian, for your good hopes about my Puglia tour operating.

I just noticed on TCI/Serious Traveler's website that their Puglia tour is no longer listed for Fall 2011, but has been rescheduled for April 25-May 3, 2012 instead. Even though I had a deposit down on the Fall 2011 departure, I have not been notified of the date change by TCI's owner (possibly because I am currently in Romania on another tour offered by the same company). In any event, I have emailed her and asked her to apply my deposit to April 2012 instead.

Because I don't drive, I am compelled to take a tour of this region. One can sure enough get to Lecce by train from Bari, but as TravelCenturian points out, the small towns can only be reached by car. I am also assuming that the advantage of a group tour is that it will offer a group rate on the Patria Palace hotel that would be cheaper than booking it on my own.

Let's just hope that TCI/Serious Traveler has better success with a spring departure date to Puglia than it did with the fall one.