A Perfect Week in Puglia

Old Jul 10th, 2012, 03:26 PM
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A Perfect Week in Puglia

We had spent a week in Umbria and a few days in Rome with a group of 8 -- family and friends -- before my husband and I ventured off to Puglia on our own. We had 6 nights and 7 days, which was not a lot, but offered us a wonderful taste (no pun intended) of the region. I would like to write a brief report since so little seems to be written about this wonderful region. The people are so warm and the food is amazing.

Below was our itinerary:

1 night in Lecce at Palazzo Persone
2 nights near Ostuni at Masseria La Rascina
1 night in Matera at L’Hotel in Pietra
2 nights in Montegrosso at Lama di Luna

I will be giving hotel and restaurant reviews and a few tips, and i am more than happy to answer questions.

DAY 1: LOVELY LECCE

We took a fast train from Rome to Lecce -- 5 hours, 2nd class. Very nice, but our car was noisy and crowded. Would have preferred 1st class, not for seat comfort, but for less people and noise.

We arrived in Lecce at 2:30. Now let me say that we have spent many weeks in Italy over the years and traveled all over and in many tiny towns, but we were not prepared for the shocking silence of a Sunday afternoon in Lecce. Our room was not ready, so we walked around and it was literally a ghost town. For an hour and a half, we probably saw 10 human beings walking around in the historic center.

Nevertheless, we were stunned by the beauty of this city. Absolutely gorgeous! The historic center is small and easy to navigate.

Lunch - Doppiozero
A very nice police officer directed us to a heavenly spot for lunch which he knew was open --Doppiozero. It is a “deli” type restaurant with outdoor and indoor seating on Via Paldini. We ordered a Greek salad, a salami and cheese platter, and a focaccia sandwich. It was perfection. We couldn’t have been happier.

Hotel - Palazzo Persone
We were able to check into our B and B, the Palazzo Persone, at 4. We stayed in the Sinagoga room. It was beautiful and spacious. There were only two of us, but it had a second bedroom with a twin bed which we weren’t even expecting and it was great for our luggage. The location was excellent, very close walking distance to everything you want to see. We would definitely return!

Needless to say, we were relieved to see human beings in Lecce as we ventured out again for an early evening walk before dinner. The town came to life, and it was even more beautiful in the evening than during the day.

Dinner - Locanda La Magiada
Unfortunately, the restaurants we had hoped to visit in Lecce were closed on Sundays. We were able to book Locanda La Magiada, which was recommended on the Mario Batali site, and had TVs so we could watch the Eurocup soccer. (Beware that google maps will tell you this restaurant is in piazza vittorio emmanuel, when really it is on VIA vittoria emmanuel) The food was fantastic! We had an burratta appetizer, and I had a wonderful pizza. Most people seemed to be ordering pizza. My husband ordered the local pasta that has some fried noodles and chick peas, and it was also delicious. It was overall a great dining experience and we would happily return.

The next morning, we were to rent a car and start our driving journey through Puglia. We were so happy that we had chosen Lecce as a starting point.
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 03:35 PM
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so glad you had a good trip-- and looking forward to reading about the rest of your week! we loved lecce as well-- it feels like a truly 'lived-in' town. waiting, waiting for more.
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 03:37 PM
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Wonderful! Please keep it coming. Pugli is way up there on my list for next trips and I love hearing about it. So far, you may just be designing my itinerary.
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 03:48 PM
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So glad you're enjoying it!

I forgot to say that Palazzo Persone was an excellent value -- 120 euro for that spacious room with great bed, great AC, delicious breakfast, and loads of charm.
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 03:57 PM
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DAY 2: OTRANTO, TORRE DEL’ORSO, OSTUNI

The next morning, we rented our car and headed south.

First stop -- OTRANTO
We found easy parking and enjoyed a leisurely walk through the old town overlooking the port. A sweet little town. Unfortunately, we missed the mosaic floor in the church. We were hungry, but decided to wait for our next stop -- Torre Canne, where we planned to have lunch and spend a few leisurely hours on their famously beautiful beach.

Second stop -- TORRE DEL’ORSO
Does Torre del’Orso have a gorgeous bay? Turquoise waters? Fine white sand? Yes, yes, and yes. Did it seem like all of Puglia had decided to spend the afternoon here? YES!
We were so disappointed. (It was the last week in June.) While we LOVE big bustling cities, we do not enjoy crowded chaotic beaches. We were getting hungrier, but we decided to wait until our next stop for lunch... Ostuni.

Third stop -- and DEFINITELY worth the wait -- OSTUNI
We were so hungry, we didn’t even walk around the town at this point. We just set the GPS to find a seafood restaurant recommended in the Lonely Planet guide, since we were both craving some seafood. We found a place to park on the street and practically ran to the restaurant.

Lunch - PORTA NOVA
We were surprised to be so wowed by this place! The view from the terrace was lovely, and while we did feel a bit underdressed (my husband was in shorts and flip-flops) -- the restaurant is elegant and formal -- we were made to feel very comfortable by the warm and excellent service. The squid pasta may have been the best pasta we've ever tasted, and we have had A LOT of great pasta in Italy on our many visits. The octopus and potato dish was delicious, as well as the carpaccio. This was truly a memorable lunch! We highly recommend this place!
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After an excellent lunch, we headed down the hill to check into our hotel, just 10 minutes from Ostuni.

Hotel - MASSERIA LA RASCINA
You cannot go wrong staying here! We paid for a basic room but were upgraded to a junior suite with a nice sitting area, as well as a patio. Everything was lovely! The pool area, the room, the common areas, the breakfast, and the hosts. Paolo and Leonie are so friendly and welcoming. They are happy and eager to recommend great places to eat and visit. This place has a serene atmosphere and is an outstanding value. The olive trees on the property are gorgeous -- some up to 2000 years old. We hope to return soon and recommend it highly! The location is excellent -- close to many great restaurants and towns and beaches! We wish we had planned to stay more than two nights. We could have easily stayed a week. We will definitely return!
That night we had a reservation for the famous six course dinner at Masseria Il Frantoio. Wow. The evening turned out to be a highlight of our trip, but I will have to continue tomorrow after I find the long list of things we ate! Stay tuned....
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 05:02 PM
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Wow and wow! Thanks again for sharing all this.
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 05:38 PM
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enjoying your TR. It will be esp helpful when we got to Puglia this fall. Looking forward to the rest of your week.
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 06:32 PM
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Your trip sounds wonderful! Can't wait for more!
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 06:43 PM
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This sounds WONDERFUL! I am so glad I found this trip report. My husband and I have rented a Trulli in Puglia for a week this October. We will rent a car for the whole time and do day trips when we are not relaxing or taking cooking classes at our villa.

Can't wait to here about your dinner as well as we are foodies looking for great and unique food experiences everywhere we go!!
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 07:03 PM
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Dina I have been waiting for this and will share it with my daughter and SIL as they are visiting Italy with us for the first time this fall, and we will be at Palazzo Persone and also B&B Malu in Polignano a Mare.

Looking fwd to more
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 08:41 PM
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Eagerly awaiting more!
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 11:59 PM
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Loving this...we were in Puglia at the same time!!
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Old Jul 11th, 2012, 04:42 AM
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Thank you for the report. We had to Puglia in a couple of weeks and look forward to seeing the area. We have lots of sun block and will go hungry, with camera in tow.
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Old Jul 11th, 2012, 06:59 AM
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Great start, Dina! Look forward to the rest!!!
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Old Jul 12th, 2012, 06:43 AM
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W LA PUGLIA!!!
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Old Jul 12th, 2012, 10:45 AM
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Thanks for the encouragement! I got distracted yesterday, but am happy to continue....

dinner - IL FRANTOIO
We arrived at Il Frantoio at 8 for the "tour" of their grounds. The masseria is truly beautiful. The landscaping is lovely, and the atmosphere in their dining patio, with the bouganvelias and wisterias in bloom is breathtaking. (We considered staying here but were weary of the lack of A/C and swimming pool in late June) The tour was quite interesting -- with a focus on olive oil making and the history of the masseria and masserias of puglia in general.

We then sat down in the lovely patio and were served an 8 course meal. It was quite creative and unique with its ingredients, but also quite delicious!
1st course -- fried bread pasta with tomato sauce (bread is a huge and delicious theme in puglia!)
2nd course - a flan of carrots and beetroot (surprisingly delicious!)
3rd course - stewed summer veggies in a basket of sheep's cheese
4th course - little balls of eggplant with mint (i don't even like eggplant, and this was wonderful)

-- at this point, we were bracing ourselves for the rest of the courses. we were stuffed!

5th course - wild fennel pasta with broad bean puree and poppy leaves
6th course - meatloaf and meatballs with wine served with potatoes and thyme.
7th course - mixed salad was almonds (this was the only disappointing course, but we were happy to not eat it all!)
8th course - a chocolate / coffee something that was amazing.

The wine was also delicious, and we both agreed that this is a dining experience not to be missed. Aside from the food and wine, the service and ambience of the place was perfect. A great value, too, at 60euro per person.

We were happy to be staying such a short drive from this place. La Rascina is no more than 10 minutes away.

DAY 3: BEACH TIME, CISTERNINO, MARTINA FRANCA, and OSTUNI (again)

After a lovely breakfast at the hotel and a leisurely morning, we decided we needed some time on the beach. We went to a “Greek” beach club -- da Santos. The chaises were placed on rocks and entrance to the sea was through a ladder, but we were told it would be uncrowded and quiet. It was quite a relaxing day. Lunch at the taverna there had disappointing food, and when I say “disappointing”, I basically mean mediocre. Everything we had been eating was so darned delicious, that we now had much higher standards...

La Rascina has a lovely pool area where you can also relax.

At about 5 (figuring we beat the heat), we decided to head out to see some of the famous villages nearby - Cisternino, Martina Franca, and Ostuni. They are all within a close drive...

CISTERNINO...
was charming and had a nice view. The historic center seemed small, and we walked around for maybe 30 minutes.

MARTINA FRANCA...
we liked more. Much bigger and livelier. We would have liked to spend more time here. We had a gelato and did some shopping.

OSTUNI...
Beautiful. We could have also spent more time here. We arrived at about 8, and the town was hustling with people enjoying the early evening. We had a great bellini at a cool bar called CAFE RICCARDO. Walking down the narrow alleys was reminiscent of being on a Greek island.

Dinner - L’OSTERIA DEL TEMPO PERSO
The food was okay. Again, perhaps our expectations were too high as we had heard from several sources that this was the "best" restaurant in Ostuni, or perhaps we didn't order right. But we were a bit disappointed. The food was fine, but did not wow us. It didn't match up to all the other meals we have had in Italy.
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We were sad we had to leave La Rascina and the whole area the next morning. Day 4 would involve an incredible 2-restaurant lunch, another beach day, and arrival in Matera.
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Old Jul 12th, 2012, 12:30 PM
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Great!! I'm heading to the car now; will sit in the backseat for the journey to lunch and on to Matera!
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Old Jul 12th, 2012, 01:53 PM
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Such a wonderful read!!!
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Old Jul 12th, 2012, 04:45 PM
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DAY 4: INCREDIBLE SEAFOOD LUNCH, BEACH, and MATERA

At Il Frantoio, one of the employees suggested a great seafood lunch option for us the next day, and we were eager to try it.

lunch part 1 --PESCHERIA 2 MARI
In Savelletri, a very small seaside town sits this cool, modern glass building, which looks quite out of place on the seafront among the older traditional buildings and across from the picturesque church. They only serve raw fish, wine, and water. They have no oven. They give you the option of putting lemon and olive oil on yourself, but this fish is SO incredibly fresh and delicious, you don’t need to do anything to it. We ordered a plate of oysters and an assortment plate of crudo -- tuna, white fish, salmon, and some shrimp. It was all the best “sushi” we have had in our lives. (And we have had a lot of good sushi!) Dining is on a terrace overlooking the sea.
Piazza Amati 8, Savelletri (+3908-0482 9161).

lunch part 2 -- LA ROTUNDA DA ROSA
On the beach, this is a wonderful place, too! Here we had grilled octopus and a linguini vongole that were both to die for. We also ordered mussels, and when they asked us how we wanted them prepared and we told them to surprise us, they brought them to us four different ways. (They had no idea we just had filled up on our crudo “appetizers” somewhere else!!) Warm service, inexpensive, delicious! Don’t miss either of these places!
(south along the coast from Savelletri about 5 minutes)

Beach -- COCCARO BEACH CLUB
This was the beach club of a really nice hotel that is open to the public (if you pay).
We spent a lovely afternoon here digesting our lunch. The water was a beautiful turquoise blue, and the sand was soft.

POLIGNANO A MARE
We had a little stop here on our way up the coast -- a nice walk through the old town. We would love to come back! After our walk we had a gelato and were are on our way, after about 45 minutes.

MATERA
Our hotel in Matera (which had outstanding service) had arranged a parking spot and a porter to meet us at the garage. Without him, it would have been nearly impossible to find the hotel. After a few glitches with our GPS and a few phone calls with the lovely hotel receptionist, we arrived in Matera at about 7, and it was still REALLY hot.

hotel - L’HOTEL IN PIETRA
The hotel was down in the sassi, which, if you’re going to stay in Matera overnight, would be the only place to stay. This is truly a beautiful hotel. Like I said, the service was outstanding. Manuela and Roberto were so warm and welcoming. At one point we had trouble with the cable TV, trying to find the Eurocup soccer channel, and it was eagerly solved -- "There is always a solution to every problem," we were happily told. When my husband couldn't get wifi on his ipad, they handed him a laptop. The porter -- Tomasso (who we later found out was 70 years old) -- was beyond belief! We could barely keep up with him as he carried our two heavy suitcases from the parking garage to the hotel. (which would have been extremely difficult, maybe impossible, to find without him!). Our "deluxe" room was so spacious and gorgeous! It was an outstanding value for 150 euro. This is a truly a unique experience. Don't miss staying here if you plan to stay the night in Matera.

We had a dinner reservation at the highly recommended Ristorante Leucanerie at 9, but when the receptionist called and asked them to please change it to 10, they told her we were the only party who had a reservation that night, and if we didn’t go at 9, they were just going to close for the evening. Hmmm. We thought this was very strange and weren’t sure we wanted to go to a restaurant and be the only customers. So we cancelled and Manuela recommended a restaurant with outdoor dining, just below the hotel in the sassi which we ended up really enjoying.

Before dinner, we showered and then took a long walk through the town. There were tons of people (which made us even more weary of the strange situation at Leucanerie) and the atmosphere was lively and festive. We stopped at a bar and had some drinks while we watched some soccer, and then we headed down into the sassi for dinner.

dinner - LA TALPA
Dining in the sassi in the evening was a beautiful experience. The outdoor dining terrace was filled up on a Wednesday evening with what seemed to be locals, or perhaps just Italians. The food was very good and the portions were generous. We really enjoyed the atmosphere, the service, and the food. I wouldn't call it memorable, but it was certainly not in anyway disappointing.
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It's definitely worth it to see Matera in the evening, and not just visit for the day. It is quite a thing to see -- all lit up in the cool of the evening. (It was quite hot during the day in June, as we would find out the next day on our guided tour!)
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Old Jul 12th, 2012, 06:30 PM
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I love a two part seafood lunch!
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