Solo sightseeing needn’t be a chore with a singles-focused tour. John Hall, senior travel consultant at Carrick Travel in Leamington Spa, sampled solo specialist Just You’s Discover Apulia itinerary

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I’ve been to Italy but never the south, so when I saw a competition in Travel Weekly to try a tour of Apulia with Just You, it really appealed.

I wondered before I went whether it might all be sad and lonely types, but it wasn’t like that at all. There were 31 of us, and the majority were retired, professional people ranging from 50 to 85.

We were on the same BA flight from Gatwick, but it was only when we reached Bari, the capital of Apulia, that we were introduced to each other. There was no awkwardness; we sat in pairs on the transfer and started chatting straightaway, and they asked us to rotate around the 35-seat coach each day to talk to someone new.

We started in Martina Franca, a lovely medieval town with narrow streets and pavement cafes. The next day we stopped in Locorotondo, a proper Italian market town full of colourful fruits and vegetables, on the way to Alberobello to see the unusual 14th-century trulli houses, and got chatting to one of the locals.

We visited Lecce, another historic town with Roman ruins and awe-inspiring medieval architecture, the delightfully un-touristy Ostuni, and had lunch at a traditional masseria (farmhouse). That was my highlight thanks to the beautiful countryside setting and the food – all home-cooked with organic ingredients grown on-site. It wasn’t just a meal, it was a social occasion.

This trip was so much more than I’d imagined and gave me a real insight into the unspoilt and untouristy side of Italy. It’s not at the cheap end of the scale, but includes a lot so it was very good value. I would definitely recommend this to my clients, especially the over-40s.

Book it: Just You has extended Discover Apulia for 2013 to include Selva di Fasano, Matera, and olive tasting, plus the highlights John enjoyed, from £999 for eight days with flights, seven nights’ half-board and tour manager.