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Sofia Travel Co.
3907 Cherrywood Road
Austin, TX 78722

T: 214-493-3702


3907 Cherrywood Road
Austin, TX 78722


Undiscovered Italy

Explore Italy’s Alluring South

United States Naval Academy Alumni Association

Procida Veritcal in focus.jpg


September 24 - October 4, 2019


$5,595 Per Person, Land Only

+$1,175 Single Room Supplement


26 people


• Explore haunting Pompeii and visit the world’s greatest archaeological museum • Stay in Stone Age cave dwellings carved into the cliffside of unforgettable Matera • Make authentic Neapolitan pizza from scratch with an expert local chef • Sail through the bay of Naples to the hidden thermal islands of Procida & Ischia • Hear engaging lectures on topics from Italian culture to the Bourbon dynasty • Enjoy the sea view from your hotel along Naples’ picturesque harbor promenade • Taste fresh buffalo mozzarella at a historic farm & make bread with a Puglian chef • Marvel at golden artifacts and amazingly preserved temples left by the Ancient Greeks • Stay in an ethereal countryside masseria & harvest olives at a Roman era mill



Dear past and future travelers,

The greatest joy in traveling is the spirit of exploration, and nowhere is this more true than in Italy. Travelers go to Italy to see the sights but fall in love with Italy when they experience life amongst the locals. Touristic sites are good for a photo, but historical discovery and authentic cultural encounters—the kinds that you only find when you go off-the-beaten-path—stay with you for a lifetime.

Over the past many years, we have had the matchless pleasure of exploring rustic Southern Italy. Using the knowledge and experience gained from years of tours led to Rome and Venice, Tuscany and Umbria, we began exploring the less visited corners of Italy. Places like Matera, Puglia, and Naples quickly revealed a beauty equal to Northern Italy but with a unique culture, history, and disposition tied more to the Mediterranean, Sicily, Greece, and North Africa than central Europe. The further we explored, the more we realized that the dream of visiting an "undiscovered" Italy before the advent of group tours wasn't a fantasy; it was waiting for us in Southern Italy.

This tour is a labor of love, a desire to share with you the unforgettable experiences, places, and people we have met during our travels in Southern Italy. Come join us as we explore Undiscovered Italy together!


Blake and Adam Sparks


3 nights in naples

One of the planet’s truly legendary cities, Naples is awash in history. From our waterfront hotel in Naples’ most elegant neighborhood, we’ll explore this unofficial capital of Southern Italy with its world-famous cuisine, opulent grandeur, and larger-than-life culture.

Day 1 and 2 - Depart USA, Arrive Italy
Arrive Naples and transfer to our hotel on Naples’ famous car-free seaside promenade, the lungomare. Check in to our hotel for four nights and enjoy the views from your room of the Bay of Naples and the beautiful Castel dell'Ovo. In the evening, we gather together for a welcome reception and our first dinner together as a group. (D)

Day 3 - Explore Naples
Naples is a world unto itself. Founded over 3,000 years ago, Naples prospered during the 16th-18th centuries to become one of the greatest cities of Europe. Our exploration of Naples begins with a cultural orientation to life in Southern Italy followed by a visit to the grandiose Piazza del Plebiscito. Then, try Naples’ legendary espresso and sweets at a 150 year old café before visiting the grand Duomo of Naples with its famous relic, the liquifying blood of Saint Januarius. After a group lunch, we begin exploring the dreamlike Historic Center of Naples, a maze of color, exuberance, and vitality. We marvel at Renaissance art from the grand masters and local crafts on the Via S. Gregorio Armeno before an optional visit to the exuberant Mercato Pignasecca.

After an afternoon at leisure, we gather together for an unforgettable dinner: a pizza making class with a local pizzaiolo. Sample the unique local ingredients and learn the techniques that make Neapolitan pizza the best in the world before enjoying your creation. (B,L,D)

Day 4 - The Islands of Procida and Ischia
On this unforgettable day, we board private boats and set off into the Gulf of Naples to visit two picture-perfect islands. First, we dock at the small, colorful island of Procida where we enjoy a seafood lunch and the beautiful views of the pastel buildings trickling down the hillside towards the water.

We continue to the thermal island of Ischia, famous since Roman times for its curative powers, and dock in the charming harbor of Sant’Angelo with its chic boutiques and cafes. Adventurous travelers can continue to a nearby coastal cove where locals flock for the curative powers of the underground volcanic activity that heats the seawater to intense temperatures. Return to Naples for dinner and overnight. (B,L)

Day 5 - Pompeii, Naples Archaeological Museum
Today, take an optional visit to the world’s greatest archaeological site: Pompeii. We begin at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, which houses the major finds from Pompeii and the neighboring cities preserved by the explosion of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Marvel at magnificent bronze and marble statues, amazingly preserved frescoes, and numerous items from everyday life that testify to the impressive advances of Roman Civilization. After lunch, head to Pompeii and begin a walking tour of this expansive ancient town. Stand in the Forum with Mount Vesuvius in the background, explore ancient bath houses, walk into Roman homes, and enter the arena of an ancient amphitheater.

For those not taking this optional excursion, spend the day exploring Naples with a recommended tour of the underground Bourbon Tunnel and the Royal Palace of Naples. (B)

2 nights in matera

Matera is like a dream. Carved into the side of a gorge during the Stone Age, Matera is one of the world’s longest continually inhabited cities. Stay in an unforgettable, restored cave hotel as we explore this haunting stone city, Europe’s 2019 Capital of Culture.

Day 6 - Buffalo Mozzarella Factory, Arrive Matera
Depart Naples and visit the countryside farm of Filippo Morese, who, after nine generations and three centuries, continues his family tradition of raising water buffaloes for the production of buffalo mozzarella. After watching the remarkable mozzarella production process, Filippo will show us his water buffalo before a tasting of the unbelievably fresh and flavorful cheese, yogurt, and even gelato.

We then continue to one of the oldest and best preserved archaeological sites of Italy, the Greek temples of Paestum. Founded by Greek settlers over 2,500 years ago, this sprawling ancient city is most famous for its three remarkable Doric temples, the best preserved on the planet.

We then delve deep into the Italian countryside as we travel through the Basilicata region for two nights in the dreamlike city of Matera. The hundreds of caves that dot the hillside of Matera have been inhabited since the Stone Age, and we will continue the tradition at our unforgettable boutique cave hotel. In the evening, we gather in the main cave, a deconsecrated former chapel, for a candle light dinner in an unforgettable setting. (B,L,D)

Day 7 - Matera
Wake up to the stunning views of the Gravina River gorge from your hotel terrace before setting off on a walking tour of this uniquely beautiful city. We begin at the 1,200 year old cave church of Santa Lucia alle Malve with its 12th century Byzantine style frescoes. We then learn about the radical 20th century inhabitation and depopulation of Matera’s caves before enjoying the sweeping views from the church of Santa Maria de Idris. After lunch, take an optional visit to Matera’s modern sculpture museum and continue exploring Europe’s 2019 Capital of Culture at leisure. (B)


Explore Italy’s rustic heel in an ethereal masseria—a fortress-like countryside estate—beautifully restored to its 16th c. glory. Experience the traditional Puglian lifestyle as we harvest olives from 2,000 year old trees, bake bread with a local chef, and learn to dance the pizzica.

Day 8 - Taranto, Countryside Masseria
Enjoy the morning at leisure to shop in the boutiques of Matera or hike through the stunning Gravina River gorge directly in front of our hotel for stunning views looking back towards Matera. In the late morning, leave Matera and head to Puglia via the coastal town of Taranto. After a group lunch, we explore the town’s history from its founding by Spartan settlers to becoming the principle Greek city of Southern Italy during the Classical Period. Its museum, a treasure trove of golden adornments, mosaics, and bronze armor, represents the premier collection of ancient Greek colonization in Italy, known since Roman times as Magna Grecia.

We then continue to our countryside masseria, a uniquely Puglian version of a countryside estate. Beautifully restored by the Di Lauro family to its 16th glory, this dreamlike setting provides the perfect base for exploring Puglia and delving into Southern Italian country life. In the evening, we enjoy dinner al fresco and making use of the masseria’s own produce, olive oil, and wine. (B,L,D)

Day 9 - Alberobello, Ancient Olive Grove
We take a day trip to the one-of-a-kind town of Alberobello, famous for its whitewashed, conical trulli houses. After wandering the unforgettable streets and enjoying lunch on your own, we continue to a 500 year old olive press. With thick, gnarly trees dating back 2,000 years and an even older Roman olive mill underground, this farm provides a unique opportunity for us to harvest olives from the trees and sample the fresh-pressed oil. Finally, we stop in the town of Grottaglie, famous for its traditional pottery where we can shop the beautifully hand painted ceramics. After returning to our masseria, we take a quick ride to eat dinner out amongst the locals. (B,D)

Day 10 - Puglian Cooking Class
Our final day spent together as a group takes full advantage of our special accommodations and gracious hosts, as we spend a day soaking up the culture of Puglia. We join the proprietor and head chef in her garden and kitchen as she teaches us how to prepare local specialties, including delicious Puglian bread. Relax with spa treatments or a bike ride through the countryside before gathering together for a final dinner. After enjoying the fruits of our labor, we are treated to local musicians who teach us the traditional pizzica dance. (B,D)

Day 11 - Depart
Transfer to Bari or Brindisi for a return flight home.


We'd love to travel with you! 

If you'd like more information about this tour, please contact us or give us a call at (214) 493-3027.