February 7th 2020

Walking in spring is a such joy. Before the summer crowds arrive, when the weather is pleasantly warm and the longer days stretch out into balmy evenings - it's perfect.

Today we're highlighting Walks that I believe show off the very best of France and Italy in the early season and reveal some secret sides to two of our favorite destinations.

Our sumptuous Walk in Burgundy features fine wines, gourmet meals and ultra-luxurious accommodations against the backdrop of this rich and fertile region, crammed full of history.

Puglia offers everything that's wonderful about Italy and so much more. Once seen, Matera is never forgotten. The food and drink of the south are superb; fresh, local and delicious.

The little-known Azores archipelago also makes an appearance in our Spring Walks lineup. Our island-hopping Walk makes the most of a delightful, temperate climate in this unspoiled string of Atlantic islands, which seems destined to become a new hotspot for intrepid eco-friendly travelers. This is the year to visit and beat the crowds.

Puglia - Matera cave


Italy with "WOW" factor

If you love all things Italian, then you will adore Puglia.

Way down in the south of the country, this previously undiscovered region is winning admirers for its history, elegance, fabulous food and delicious wine.

And for "wow" factor, there's no beating Matera. Even James Bond finds himself there in the new movie No Time to Die (fear not: car chases are not an everyday occurrence!) The stunning Sassi di Matera are a labyrinth of cave dwellings, churches and monasteries dating back more than 9,000 years.

That makes this one of the oldest living cities in the world. Moreover, with its crown of honey-stoned houses perched above a ravine, Matera can boast a unique landscape with stone-age caves and more than 160 Rupestrian rock churches painted with colorful frescoes by the local farm workers who worshipped within.

And in such an extraordinary place, we have to stay in an extraordinary hotel. Created from the rocky backdrop of the Sassi, the Hotel Sant'Angelo is the result of a restoration process using cave-dwellings, stairs, narrow streets and courtyards to create an albergo diffuso, or so called "scattered" hotel. These caves create the ultimate in luxury accommodation for a simply unforgettable stay.

But that's not all. We also explore Lecce, one of the most important towns in Puglia which is often called the Florence of the South. It is known for its beauty, with baroque buildings, medieval streets and archaeological sites.

Puglia is also an excellent culinary destination. Its "cucina povera", simple, local dishes made with the freshest of ingredients, are Italian cuisine at its very best. We get to see mozzarella cheese and delicious orecchiette pasta "ears" being made following old-world traditions.

Last but not least - those famous trulli! Alberobello is chock-full of these unmistakable white, conical buildings that were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the prehistoric building technique.

Chateau du Clos-de-Vougeot


For food, wine and history lovers

The Dukes of Burgundy were once more powerful than the French king - and they loved the finer things in life. Happily for us, they left a legacy of lush countryside, fine architecture and of course, world-class wines and food.

Who better to tell us about this rich history than the Comte de Vogüé, who invites us into his magnificent home, the Château de Commarin.

Always owned by the same family (the current Comte is the 26th generation to live here) this collection of gracious buildings and its surrounding park have survived bitter wars, including the French Revolution. Our afternoon at Commarin is unforgettable.

In Burgundy we are, of course, never far from the story of wine.

We visit the market and the famous hospice in Beaune, founded as a charitable alms house nearly 600 years ago. One of France's most prestigious historic monuments, its flamboyant Gothic architecture, polychrome roofs (and a renowned vineyard) make this one of Burgundy's gems.

For lovers of religious sites, the abbey at Tournus, a masterpiece of Romanesque art with the look of a fortress.

Châteauneuf-en-Auxois is a fairytale picture perfect hilltop Burgundian country town. It overlooks the Burgundy Canal and is officially one of the "Plus Beaux Villages de France".

With its origins in the early 17th century, our luxury hotel here, the Château Sainte Sabine, is a beautiful building on the site of an ancient monastery, tastefully renovated and converted into a peaceful and welcoming refuge with panoramic views.

And (of course) we visit the famous Côte de Nuits vineyards and the Château de Clos-Vougeot; enjoying a special wine-tasting at a family-run domaine on the Côte de Beaune and a memorable dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Bon appetit!

The Azores - Caldeira das Sete Cidades

The Azores

An Atlantic Adventure

Scattered like stepping stones in the mid-Atlantic, The Azores are nine volcanic isles - and offer one of Europe's great island adventures.

Blessed with a temperate ocean climate, the islands' lush forests and vibrantly colored volcanic lagoons make a fascinating backdrop to our new Walk.

Did you know that the island of São Miguel is the only place in the world where pineapples are commercially grown in greenhouses?

Thanks to Portugal's trade links with Brazil, these exotic fruits from afar perfectly filled the gap left when the islands' thriving orange trade with Britain declined. We take a look at a pineapple plantation set up 100 years ago and taste these small and deliciously sweet Azores pineapples.

And then there's tea! In the 16th century, tea was introduced to Portuguese priests and merchants in China who later introduced it to the great houses and palaces across Europe. Seeds of a tea plant from Rio de Janeiro found their way to the Azores and now here are the only tea plantations in Europe. The factory processes the leaves on vintage 19th century English machinery. We'll take a tour and enjoy a hot cuppa.

There are three active volcanoes on Sao Miguel Island, so it's no wonder there's a lot of geothermal activity. That means hot springs and thermal bathing pools await weary Wayfarers

We also visit Pico Island, famous for its long history of grape growing and wine making, and home to Mount Pico, the volcano that dominates the skyline. For a challenge, hike to the peak, or take a more leisurely stroll among the old vineyards.

In addition to resident sperm whales, found here year-round, the Azores' waters also frequently host migrating blue, humpback, and fin whales and we'll take a boat ride for a spot of whale-watching.

As the world wakes up to the beauty of this Portuguese paradise, The Azores have undertaken considerable steps to becoming one of the leading sustainable tourism destinations, minimising exposure to environmental damage and climate change.

Our eco-friendly hotel on Pico, the Aldeia da Fonte, offers luxury accommodation in a unique natural setting. Comprised of six volcanic rock houses, it sits on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by stunning landscaped gardens.

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