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    by mkataoka Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 28, 16 at 01:31 PM
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3wk Intinerary Puglia & Cilento looking for feedback from those who've been

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My husband and I are flying in and out of Rome at the beginning of May. We plan on renting a car at the airport and driving southeast with a stop midway before touring Puglia for the first time then heading up the west coast and exploring the Cilento for the first time as well.

After spending endless hours reading prior posts about Pugia I am starving and beyond excited to tour the roads less traveled in the heel of the boot. So here goes with my itinerary to date;
1 night in the Campangia Hills in the town of Benevento still looking for a quaint place to stay. Seems that the Hotel reviews on TA are positive regarding the accommodations and the town itself. This stop is under 3 hrs from the airport and then only 1 1/2 hrs then next day to out first stop in Pulgia

3 nights in Montegrosso at Masseria Luma di Luna. Plan to day trip to Trani for a stroll and some delicious seafood, and Altamaura for some delicious bread. Dinner for sure one night at Antichi Sapori. There seems to be a lot of wonderful Slow Food restaurants in this region, and I am hoping that those foodies reading this post who have eaten in this area could give a shout out for some of the other restaurants that stood out as exceptional.

4 nights at Masseria La Rascina outside of Ostuni as our Valle D'Itria base. From here we plan to visit Ostuni, Locorotono, Cisterno, the Truliis, and dine in the smaller fishing villages(IL Cortilletto in Speziale and either De Renzina of La Rotonda Da Rosa in Savelletri)! Again looking for my fellow foodies to shout out for their favorite dinning experiences in the region. It sounds like IL Frantonio's multi course dinner is definitely a must one of the nights, as is gelato at Il Super Mago in Polignano A Mare to wash down lunch at L'Osteri di Chichibio.

4 nights at Palazzo Persone in Leece as our Salento base. We plan to take many coastal day trips from here but will make sure to save a day to explore the beautiful baroque city. I am even thinking that we may stay here for a 5th night if we are having a great weather window for the coastal exeriences this region has to offer.

This brings me to 12 nights down and 10 left to plan. I am thinking about driving from Leece to Pisciotta for 2-3 nights staying either at Maurilivino or A'Machina Locanda di Fiume. Then staying in Sta Marina Castellabate for 2-3 nights. Next travel base further north, after a pit stop for lunch in Cetara, and then heading to Ravello or Amalfi for a few nights.

Im looking for lodging recommendations in Sta Marina Castellabata and would prefer to be by the coast vs the hills at this stop. Was considering Hotel Belmonte but cant get a sense if this time of year the hotel will be too sleepy for us. I welcome any and all input from those who have been to Cilento!

I'm on the fence about staying in Amalfi vs Ravello as we have stayed in Ravello in the past and loved it but eskcrunchy's old post on her Amalfi trip sounded like her base at the Hotel Fiodoriano(?sp) in Amalfi with free parking was a great base. If the weather is not favorable for the coast this last week our back up plan is to head to Rome for a city experience. I prefer Napoli but my husband is weighing in strongly for Rome. Does anyone have a favorite boutique hotel in Rome that is not a small fortune during peak season? I dont really want to spend more than 250 - 300 per night. Also looking for my fellow foodies to weigh in about their most memorable meals in Rome.

Hope this post is not too lengthy, and I look forward to hearing from those who have posted so much great information that has helped me get this far with my plans!

Happy Trails all,
tish

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    Was in southern cilento (70k down from s. marina castelabbate) last may and it is sleepy. Been twice before to the s.m.c. area but they are way too far back and my info wouldn't be relevant anymore. If you are interested in my report from last year (in southern cilento) i can copy it here, just let me know!

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    Thanks vinoroma I would love to see your report on Cilento. Would you recommend not spending too much time here and instead head to Ravello or Amalfi for a redo? I don't my not too touristy but sometimes sleepy can be depressing even if in a beautiful spot in the world. We had that experience a few years ago on the coast of Tuscany in May. We ended up moving on after only 1 or 2 nights.

    Kja I have that Cathedral on my radar while in Trani. Any restaurants there you'd recommend. We may end up there on a Sunday, and I'm hoping some of the good seafood spots will still be open for lunch.

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    My trip to Puglia was in 2007, and I'm not nearly the expert on foods that some Fodorites who have visited the area are. FWIW, here are the notes I filed in my TR on the meal I ate there:

    "Ristorante Il Melograno (Via G. Bovio, 189) — Staff of this restaurant take great pains to accommodate non-Italian-speaking patrons, and the restaurant has a multilingual menu. But order from the Italian menu if you can, because that’s where you’ll find the list of their seasonal specialties. I had a delightfully fresh, perfectly seasoned meal with a lovely wine."

    I just went back to my notes to see what, exactly, I ate, and found that it was fish with a coating of a mild, nutty cheese; lightly breaded and quickly fried. I didn't record what the fish was; I do remember discussing it with the waitress and going with her recommendation for both the fish and the wine. I also had a salad and my notes particularly mention the quality of the olive oil. (Of course -- it's Puglia! But that was my first night there.)

    Again, I encourage you to look for comments from the serious foodies who have been there.

    Hope that helps!

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    I love cilento, especially when it is sleepy (been there september and may) but if you say you escaped tuscan coast in may then you won't enjoy cilento in may either. Cut it short and move on to Amalfi.

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    Thanks vinoroma for that tip. I would still like to see your TR from yur trip to the Cilento. I have Pisciotta and Sta Marina Castellebate on my radar as two stops to stay for a night or two. Do you have a favorite spot there, or a favorite Hotel or B&B to stay in during the low season?

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    Ok, here is my tr from last year, in southern cilento. Will look into older notes to see if i can find info about the older trips closer to smc. For now i just remember that both in may & september all restaurants i was interested in were closed in/around smc, that castellabate itself on the hill top was very nice and that there was a good restaurant in the main piazza, and that we stayed at some bungalows once, where there was a good restaurant with great views of amalfi, esp at sunset. Will post if i find those details.
    #############
    We spent 5 days +1 (will explain further down) around the Policastro Bay at the beginning of May, this is our dining and drinking report.

    Background: as regulars of the board know we live in Rome. We have been to Cilento twice before, but further north, in the Santa Maria di Castelabate area. This trip planning started actually as "Basilicata coast", mainly thinking of Maratea, but ended up being the Policastro area, which is the border area between Campania and Basilicata. We stayed in Villammare Vibonati and did pre-trip research exclusively on Italian blogs and restaurant review sites, mainly, but not only, Luciano Pignataro, Scattidigusto, Dissapore and 2spaghi.

    What struck us overall was that the area seemed to be a culinary wasteland, caught between the era of the simple but good agricultural products of decades ago and the gastronomic awakening involving organic, local, sustainable eating in the last years: in the era of pre-packaged industrial food products at the supermarket. We took little roadtrips everyday and didn't see one single store with organic or local small scale production foods or any farms of any kind, except: We saw one single sign advertising an organic farm off of the road we were on, and when we turned into the driveway, met the owner. Upon asking him what produce they have (we were ready to buy anything - from honey, fig products, jams, cheeses, salumi to olive oil, all the delicious products that we had so often encountered in the norther part of Cilento) the answer was a very tired "almost nothing" - which turned out to be virtually nothing and broke my heart (yes, i can be a romantic sometimes).

    The only good produce of the area seemed to be fish, and so we ate fish.

    Following, the restaurants we visited. All restaurants with day-ahead or same day reservations, which was not necessary in the slow season, we were often the only or one of two tables. Other than these restaurants, we self-catered in the house we had rented and enjoyed the terrace and sea views.

    1st day, lunch: La Cantinella Sul Mare in Villammare: cavernous restaurant (in a very positive way), white and stone walls, shelves of wines. We had the 18 euro weekday lunch menu. Breadbasket with around 10 different homemade breads and rolls was nice, but nothing like our fave bread at Metamorfosi in Rome. We got an amuse (almost a regular portion) of fried totanetti on a bed of buffalo yogurt from the famous Vannulo, with freshly grinded cacao on top. Very fresh, nice combination of flavors and textures, we loved this. Then came the first course of the menu (an antipasto), a fresh anchovies torta with a crunchy vegetal carbon topping, on san Marzano tomatoes. This left the impression of a nice idea not well-executed, esp bcs we felt the anchovies were not the freshest. Next course, the paccheri with calamari, vongole and tomatoes reinforced this. Vongole were sandy, calamari plasticky, both not very fresh. Our wine almost made up for this mediocre meal - a 2004 Fiano di Avellino by Guido Marsella, whom we had visited a couple years back. Wine seemed to be the best part of the La Cantinella experience (owner was as big a fan as us of older white wines). Service was friendly but awkward. Overall we left feeling the restaurant could have been so much better. Would go again in the busy season (hoping that ensures fresher fish), but not necessarily otherwise. We paid around 75 euros total.

    1st day, dinner: Taverna Portosalvo in Villammare: very simple looking trattoria with marine decoration and a very passionate patron. The best/freshest fish counter we have ever seen anywhere - the fisherman brought in the catch as we entered the restaurant. We had the mixed antipasto platter with 4 different dishes on it (fried bianchetti-balls, marinated fish (don't remember name anymore, but pieces of a bigger fish), polipetti cooked with tomatoes and a calamari/potato dish), all very fresh and delicious and with distinctly clear flavors. I had a couple of very fresh and delicious raw shrimps. We then had a whole grilled "schianto" which had just come in - i was a bit concerned grilling might make the fish dry, but it was cooked perfectly, with a nutty taste and flakey consistency - very very good. Our wine was a 2010 Fiano San Matteo by Alfonso Rotolo, from Paestum, a very nice, mineral and full wine. This was a very good fish meal, great products expertly but simply prepared. Service simple but very nice. We paid around 100 euros. Would go back again, any time, in fact we did.

    2nd day, lunch: U Zifaro in Scari: sitting under the trees on the seaside on a hot day was great. Service was friendly and direct in a way we liked. We had paccheri with vongole and cozze (clams and mussels) and their specialty, orecchiette with shrimps and pistachios. Both very nice, though not as exciting as the dinner the night before. with a nice bottle of another Paestum white i don't remember more precisely, we paid around 40 euros. Would go again.

    3rd day, lunch: La Baita in loc. Santa Croce, on the hinterland/hills between Policastro Bussentino and Capitello. A very simple hut with great views over the bay, i can imagine sundown must be spectacular. This was a recommendation by the owner of our accommodation. It was very simple but we greatly enjoyed it. In the evenings they have pizza. We had an antipasti spread which included a frittata with wild asparagus, home pickled/marinated vegetables, diverse meats and cheeses, 3 different fritti (vegetable balls, rice balls and long gnocchi). Followed it by homemade pasta with a mushroom sauce and homemade ravioli with wild asparagus and cheese filling. Very rustic but tasty and lovingly made. With a very straightforward but drinkable, chilled red wine, we paid about 30 euros. Would go again.

    4th day, lunch: Il Ghiottone in Policastro Bussentino. The most "restauranty" of our meals. Strange beginning - although we had reserved the day before, when we arrived staff and chef were sitting together around a table and having a meeting of sorts and it took them some time to acknowledge, seat and serve us. We decided to go for the tasting menu. A panzanella torta, which was too dry and dense in the bread part (tomatoes were on top, not mixed in). A bruschetta with mozzarella from vannulo and and anchovies, very very good. Their version of mare e monti, which was a salad of tough, bland and sandy (?) pieces of octopus with flowers and wild herbs - very pretty to look at but not convincing taste- and texture-wise. Pan-fried calamaretti on a bed of fava bean puree were good but not exceptional. Malfatti pasta with pieces of a white fish i don't remember anymore, tomatoes and some broth was the best dish. spaghetti with anchovies and breadcrumbs was ok, though a bit salty. Paccheri with clams and calamari was un-fresh. At this point we stopped the menu, saying we were full - which was not untrue but had the food been better, we would have definitely eaten further courses. We were offered a very dry cake with figs as dessert. Nice service. Our most disappointing meal, as we were rather hyped about the female chef by the things we had read and were served definitely subpar quality food (especially when it came to freshness) with few exceptions. With a bottle of 2008 Cilento Fiano from Verrone, we paid a bit above 100 euros. Would not go back.

    5th day, dinner: return to Taverna Portosalvo. Going back to a place you have liked the first is always a bit tricky - was it a one-off? Is it going to be as good again? We were not disappointed! This time we got two of the dishes from the antipasto platter of the first visit as normal portions. The tomatoey polipetti were again delicious (with lots of chunky, toasted bread to mop up the sauces), the marinated fish was a bit more sour this time around but still good. We then got a sautee of vongole which were very good and a st. peter's fish from the oven with potatoes was again proof they know how to cook a hole fish. Nice conversation about the food landscape of the area with the patron. We again paid around a 100 euros, including a bottle of 2011 Fiano Paestum Cumalè by Casebianche. Would definitely go back, our fave meals in the area.

    The 6th day was return trip to Rome, with lunch on the road, at what some call Italy's best autogrill bcs of its closeness to the highway - the 1 michelin star Casa del Nonno 13 in Mercato San Severino. One of the most beautiful restaurants ever, in a 17th century building, with many different spaces for i formal and formal dining, cellars and private space options. We had a tour of the whole place after our meal but dined in the main room, which is the cellar. We got the tasting menu for 40 euros (all in all 8 courses) and the wine pairing for 20 euros (5 glasses). Service by patron and his wife, nice. I might have asked a tad too many questions and unnerved him a bit but the service was overall good. Very good bread/grissini selection. The amuse, head cheese on a redpepper sauce didn't wow, the sauce was nice but the headcheese a bit bland. The bufala salad, a carpaccio of bufalo meat with mozzarella, some wild greens and flowers, very refreshing and tasty. The mozzarella in carozza had a crust of nuts instead of breadcrumbs and was one of the best i ever had - it came on an anchovies mayo and wild greens. The pasta with tomato sauce was a perfect example of few very good products prepared simply becoming bigger than its parts. The ravioli filled with lamb were reminiscent of middle eastern flavors and out of this world good. The pork belly with coffee glaze was perfectly soft and crunchy at the same time, a great sensation (and taste). A passionfruit sorbet with strawberries was nicely sour to cleanse the palate. The millefoglie and baba al rhum were very good. Wines were a sparkling Fiano by villa raiano, two different fiano di avellinos by same winery, one of the most interesting and delicious reds i had lately, the 2011 jungano aglianico paestum by san salvatore (so different and so much softer than the aglianicos of the south), and a red dessert wine which i didn't care too much for. Paid 130 euros including coffee and water, which is a steal for the quality of the food and wine. Would go back.

    Some random notes:
    The much awarded and hyped Crivella gelato in Sapri left us cold. It wasn't bad, but rather unspectacular.
    The breads of the Forno Clotilde Zicca in Sapri were nice.
    The ristorante San Giorgio in Sapri, much recommended by Luciano Pignattaro, was closed when we went by to make a reservation for the next day: it was confiscated by the police due to mafia-related activity!

    The original starting idea of the trip, Maratea: went there one afternoon and hated it - it looked like disneyland or an italian town in las vegas, full of tourist-geared places. We had a coffee and gelato (both unremarkable) and walked around and left in a hurry to leave the negative vibe behind us.

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    Here are few details i found about our earlier stays in Cilento:
    We stayed one time at the bungalows of ristorante mocaria just between castellabate and santa maria c.. Basic but clean and nice bungalows immersed in nature, with great views from above on the whole bay and over to capri and amalfi. The restaurant has jaw dropping views, i remember the food as good and the owner being a bit eccentric but with great interest in wines, we were introduced to some great local wines there.
    In that trip, as we were driving around, we chanced upon cilentissimo.de - lovely old stone houses that are restored and are rented as apartments. We were shown a couple of them and they were gorgeous (saying this without having stayed and tested it), and i remember a professionally equipped kitchen being available on the premises.
    We had one dinner at hotel restaurant carmine in ogliastro marina. I think dinner was ok, but what remains in mind is the amazing view we had of a moon-rise over the bay (restaurant is at sea level), the most magical thing.
    Remember the park just north of ogliastro marina (entrance from there) being a lovely and easy hike, and a nice little rocky beach.
    I believe there is a luxury hotel there (former prince or something?) that is supposed to be great, remember reading about it.
    Sorry for being vague, but it is really some years ago now.

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    We stayed along the Cilento and Amalfi coast in late Sept & early October, 2012. That was off-season and we preferred the Cilento.

    The Cilento was relatively untouristed but with good tourist infrastructure. We stayed at Terre di Bosco, an agriturismo in the south Cilento coast and the food was remarkably good. Everything was local, fresh and in season. Very well prepared. We were the only Americans to ever stay there.

    We also spent a night at the Marulivo Hotel in Pisciotta and wish we'd had more time there. The photos you see of the terrace at sunset, with the setting sun on the village are real. It was gorgeous. There are good (and inexpensive) restaurants in town and in the marina with great seafood, good pasta - all delicious.

    We went out on a boat and the caves and water were beautiful. We explored an abandoned medieval village and rambled around hill towns. Went to Paestum and Velia.

    From there we stayed 4 or 5 days at a lovely place above Positano. We loved the place & the hiking but the towns were packed with tourists. Such a different experience from staying in a restored, medieval fishing village clinging to cliffs!

    From there we went to Rome and went on a tour of salami shops w/ my friend above, Vinoroma (hello - travel makes the world smaller - :)

    We will be back in the Cilento in early May this year and based on hotel vacancy, I don't think it will be empty. But what I saw in 2012 were people living their lives who aren't focused on tourism. Very different experience than a tourist destination devoid of tourists.

    We will stay another 3 nights at the agriturismo in Bosco as we really enjoyed it, and 2 nights at Castellabate. I will also try to track down the wine that Vinoroma enjoyed - if she says it's good then it's a must.

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    Rosetravels thanks for your input. After reading your post I am now reconsidering stopping in Castellabata area again. I think the luxury hotel vinoroma was referring to sounds like the Palazzo Belmonte. I was intrigued by the reviews I read about this hotel and it seemed like a nice place to spend at least 2 nights. Pisciotta sounded like a nice spot as well. Now I'm wondering if we should have 2 bases in Cilento and blow off the heavily touristy Amalfi coast! I more interested in visiting the Cilento you describe off season as not so much a tourist destination devoid of tourists but an area to experience life as the locals do.

    vinoroma thanks for your Cilento trip report notes. I was wondering if you could recommend a nice boutique hotel in Rome for the last 3 nights of our trip. Also what are your top 3 restaurant recommendations in Rome? We are looking for a not so touristy experience there. Our goal is to wind down, do some sightseeing, but interesting more in strolling the streets and people watching. And of course having a few fabulous meals!

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    Well, we will be there too in early May with friends so...there will be a few tourists around! I notice that Marulivo is nearly booked for the times I was looking at. If you stay there, be sure and get to the terrace before sunset to claim your table and order your wine or cocktail. I don't think it's possible to overstate how lovely that place and the town are. It's a medieval hill town with no cars. All narrow passageways. We had dinner at a good restaurant, sitting on a terrace with a nice view and a full moon.

    We'll be at Castellabate for a couple of nights, booked at this place (again, because of the terrace) http://www.residenzatamara.com/

    I also saw this lovely place in a small hilltown near Paestum that I think looks gorgeous and tempting. http://www.domuslaeta.com

    If you click my name you will find your way to my trip report that may have more info.

    We did find it jarring to get off the boat in Positano to the crowds of Americans and British travelers. I'm not sure why the Cilento is so relatively unvisited but whatever the reason, I am glad to enjoy the difference.

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    ciao rosetravels - i think I know who you are, not that many who take a salami-only tour :) Have fun in Cilento!

    tishkb, am not big on accomodations in Rome, but heard good things about La Regola 67, Inn at the Forum, Babuiono 181 and Villa Spalletti Trivelli. But really, do listen to others who have stayed in Rome, and not necessarily me, on this subject.

    As to food, yes, do listen to me about this ;) My absolute fave trattoria at the moment (and for some time now, they are very consistent, which is a rarity here) is Cesare al Casaletto. Trattoria Monti, Armando al Pantheon, La Campana are in the center and very good. Roscioli with reservations (as in, caveats). As fine dining, I love Metamorfosi. Do not miss Pizzarium (hole in the wall). Since you have few days only, am not suggesting any favorites that are further out.

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    VinoRoma, I enjoyed reading your comments. That reminds me of my experience at Taverna Portosalvo in Villammare: I ogled the vast assortment of fish in the rear of the restaurant before placing my order for lunch. I saw beautiful tiny clams and asked the owner if they were local; his answer was that not only were they not local, but they were from far away...From Le Marche!! (Compare that with the US, where seafood from hundreds of miles away might be considered "local.") I also enjoyed that restaurant very much!!

    In Castellabate, we stayed at a seafront hotel that I would recommend, Villa Sirio. It is a fairly small, former private villa. They have their own private beach area, with courtesy beach lounges and umbrellas, within an easy walk of the hotel. Parking, also.


    http://www.villasirio.it/en/

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    vinoroma: Thanks for your restaurant recommendations I will definitely take them along with me, and I will look into the hotels you recommended as well. I was just reading an interesting NY Times Travel article on where tourist can avoid the tourist traps by Katie Parla. She was referring to the area stradling the Prati and Trionfale districts. I was wondering if you can weigh in with an opinion on this neighborhood. She mentions historic shops and cafes and new culinary establishments but makes no mention of hotels or lodging opportunities in this district. I was also wondering if you do food tours for folks visiting Rome, if so my husband and I would be very interested!

    rosetravels I have read your trip report to the Cilento and have taken some good notes thanks!

    ekscrunchy : Thanks for your Castellabate recommendation the Villa Sirio looks lovely.

    Thanks also for your link to your thread on the Castelli Romani Lazio region, on the other thread I have going! Very interesting but I can almost see why you chose Ischia in the end. There is a country estate Loncanda del Pontefice in Marino that I keep circling back to as our final nights destination looks nice, rated #1 in the area on TA, and saw it linked to icastelli.net website which I thought had some other very nice higher end recommedations for this region. Hoping the food here in town will not disappoint, and want to check again that is is within 30-40 min reach of FCO. I am just curious though, if you were to chose this area, which town and or hotel would you pick for your last night on this itinerary and why? It is a shame that none of them strike me as a place I would like to stay for 2 overnights. Not the lodging just the cities themselves. Part of me wonders if I should stop fighting adding a stay in Rome for some awesome sight seeing, strolling, eating, and people watching our last 2-4 days of this trip.

    We are arriving at Lama di Luna on a sunday not sure if I want to comit to lunch at Masseria Barbera that day. I want to book Antichi Sapori for the following mon or tue night or maybe even both thinking one night price fixed and one night ala carte.

    We definitely prefer peschi to carne so one day will be centered around a seafood feast in Trani. My husand is much like your travel partner in that he won't gorge for lunch and dinner in the same day. So I too plan one meal a day around where we are eating our big meal whether it be lunch or dinner and the other is usually a lighter bite. I am fine tuning my Puglia restaurant picks. What would you say were your top 10 dining experiences over your 3 visits to Puglia???? And I would love to know where your top seafood spots were.

    The other coastal villages around Bari seem interesting and I agree with you that Gargnano would prove to be a lot of driving and we prefer slow travel.

    Will definitely try to include a visit to a mozzarella farm and as my husband is a huge fan of burrata I think I should strive to do this while in Andria!

    I will put Altamura lower on the priority list and make sure we go to Matera for at least a night and one day before hitting the AC. If we even make it to the AC. The more I re read your old trip reports on Puglia the more I think we may just spend that last week continuing to explore Puglia!!! May even have to spend some time at Torre Maiza!!!!

    And after this thread was topped by rosetravels, the Cilento is now back on the table for me. So many choices it is all becoming a bit overwhelming but in a good way. Do you still think Pisciotta is too far south for us? Can't decide if we should base there, or Castellabate, or a night or 2 in each.


    Thanks all for your interest and help with my travels plans!

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    Tishkb, prati / trionfale is my fave neighborhood. I used to live there and wish i was still in that area. The best food artisans are there. I agree 100% with Katie on the area (disclaimer: we are colleagues and friends, and i agree with 99.9% of what she writes). I am not aware of any boutique hotels in the area, but again, since i never needed them, never wrote about them either, i really am not a good resource on this. There are hotels, though! As to your question of food tours, am afraid i may not talk about that here. If you do not mind googling my nick, you will find info. (admins: please remove if this is not appropriate, really do not want to step on toes!)

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