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Castles, Palaces and Caves-9 Days in Puglia and Basilicata

Castles, Palaces and Caves-9 Days in Puglia and Basilicata

Old Nov 1st, 2013, 05:25 AM
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LCI- Do you remember which amaro you liked best?

<b>Monopoli and Cisternino </b>

Getting out of the airport was smooth enough and we made it to the highway going south toward our first night’s stay just outside Fasano in the small town of Pezze di Greco. It was lunch time and I had several towns listed in my notes as possible places to stop for a meal, but jet lagged and hungry is not really the time to go exploring too much.

When we got near Monopoli we pulled off the highway and used the GPS to guide us into the town. Unfortunately, we didn’t really know where we were going and when we saw an open parking space, we thought we’d take it. It was at this point my mother discovered that she had not figured out how to get the stick shift into reverse (note to self; this should always be figured out <i>before</i> leaving the rental car parking lot. Note to self #2, <i>get an automatic</i>!).

Ten minutes later we are still in the parallel space, getting closer and closer to the car in front of us as the car rolls forward with every attempt to put it in reverse. Mom is getting a little more frantic and I’m trying to keep her calm (by “keeping her calm” I mean standing outside of the car because I don’t want to be in it when she hits something). Finally we ask a group of twenty-somethings passing by if any of them speak English. One does, and when we explain the problem, he very nicely gets in the car and shows us that the gear shift needs to be pushed down and then moved back to get it into reverse. <i>Who knew?</i>

At this point we were too embarrassed to park the car there so we moved on and ended up at the port where there is a parking lot which appeared to be free. This was random, but worked for us. Walking away from the port, through an arch, we made our way into a little square. And like magic, there we were in the old part of town. After wandering a bit, we picked a place at random, Osteria Perricci (Via Orazio Comes, 1). The menu posted outside looked reasonable, and inside they were reassuringly busy.

I was pretty out of it and suddenly not that hungry after being awake for over 24 hours, so we ordered a plate of fried seafood and a pasta (orecchiette con sugo).

We were served a complimentary little bruschetta with chopped fresh tomatoes and on the table was placed a bowl of the local chopped peppers in oil. When the pasta came, I added some of the peppers to it and they were delicious, not too spicy and very flavorful. The plate of fried seafood was crisp and dry and nicely cooked (meaning not overdone and rubbery) with a little bit of everything; shrimp in the shell with the heads still on, octopus, calamari, and small whole fish.

Service was friendly, but a bit scattered. We had to ask for the check a couple of times and finally had to walk up to the front to look for for someone to pay (when we saw other people pay at the table). I don’t think we were being impatient or deliberately ignored, I think they just were busy with some large tables and not paying much attention to the smaller ones. With a bottle of water and a 1/4 liter of red wine, lunch was 21.50 euro.

We spent a little time walking the narrow streets and exploring at bit, though because it was after lunch, as we were soon to discover, the rule of shuttered shops and closed churches in the afternoon is hard and fast in this region of the country. I wish we’d had more time there, or gone back, so we could have seen the daily market which was supposed to be at Piazza XX Settembre, but I was starting to crash so we pushed on to get to the hotel.

In the afternoon, we drove a short distance up and over a small mountain to visit the town of Cisternino. Unfortunately, it began to rain as soon as we arrived so our time there was cut short. What I remember most were lots of whitewashed buildings with impossibly steep, narrow stairs, a maze of twisted lanes, and a nice lookout in a park with stunning views over the Valle d’Itria.

Photos of Monopoli and Cisternino are here: http://www.wired2theworld.com/2013/1...-puglia-italy/
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Old Nov 1st, 2013, 05:36 AM
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on for the ride
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Old Nov 1st, 2013, 06:21 AM
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Kristina, I have driven an auto for years and when we were in Spain last month, try as I might I could NOT get it into reverse....(and I know about the push down and across thing...) D ended up ( very impatiently) getting out of the passenger side and turfing me out of the drivers seat!!!!
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Old Nov 1st, 2013, 10:33 AM
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Kristina...

I had 3, one in Abruzzo at the cooking school and I don't remember the name, but it was good.

Another I had after dinner at Sorpasso (in Prati neighborhood of Rome), when I ordered they asked if I wanted a sweet or "not sweet" amaro, I said "not sweet" and never got the name, but it was good too.

Lastly I had Lucano after dinner at Armando in Rome and LOVED it! and I like the label too! ;-)
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Old Nov 1st, 2013, 05:08 PM
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Smeagol- this is not the first time we've had issues getting a manual car into reverse!

LCI-Lucano is a favorite. Antico Vecchio Amaro del Capo which is made in Campania.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2013, 06:27 PM
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I'm enjoying your trip report! And am off to check out your blog links. Looking forward to what comes next!
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Old Nov 4th, 2013, 02:44 AM
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Keep it up, Kristina!
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Old Nov 4th, 2013, 03:31 PM
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Waiting for more.
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Old Nov 4th, 2013, 04:49 PM
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<b>Masseria Salamina-Agritourismo Hotel in Puglia, Italy</b>

At first, driving up to the masseria feels a bit odd, as if you are driving down a private road (you are), through olive groves (you are), and then suddenly you see a what looks like a small castle in front of you, complete with tower and crenelations around the roof line. This property has been here since the 1600′s and is currently home to four generations of the Angelini family who live in a house adjacent to the main building.

Masseria Salamina sits in the middle of olive groves outside the one street town of Pezze di Greco on the SS16 south of Fasano in the Puglia region of Italy. A masseria is a fortified farm house and this one has been converted into an agritourismo as many in the area have. Agritourismi are a working farms (according to Italian law an agritourismo must make more money from farming than it does from tourism) which also offers lodging and often serve food from their own farm and those of the surrounding area.

There are 20 guest rooms; those in the main building are called “manor rooms” and are filled with period antiques original to the house and some may have a view of the sea (and are priced to match), “mezzanine” rooms off the interior courtyard with two levels, and “farm house” rooms off the back of the building which are like small 1 bedroom apartments complete with kitchen.

I had originally booked a mezzanine room (the least expensive at 100 euro/night in low season) but we were shown to a farm house room when we arrived. Confused, and with a bit of a language barrier, we asked to see the 2 level room. As it turned out, the farm house room was nicer (same decor but larger) than the mezzanine room and we had been offered this room because they were not full. Of course we stuck with the nicer room.

The little apartment was quite spacious for the two of us. The room decoration seems stuck in the late eighties but it’s very comfortable with high ceilings in all rooms. We were on the second floor so we also had a nice veranda overlooking the olive groves and the kitchen gardens for the restaurant. In better weather we could have sat out there at the table and enjoyed a glass of wine in the evening.

The living room has a daybed plus trundle (good for kids!), table and chairs, and a TV we never watched. The bathroom is quite large, but only has a half size tub with shower. The bedroom is spacious with two closets and a big window.

The narrow kitchen has no window, but is stocked with most of what you’d need to cook a meal (utensils, pots, pans, dishes). However, there were no cleaning supplies at all (sponge, soap) and the housekeeping never cleaned up in there. As we were checking out, we mentioned this to the owner and he told us when Italians rent a “self-catering” apartment, they expect to bring those things. These rooms are usually rented for at least a week at a time, if not more. But he admitted that for 3 nights that did not make sense and that non-Italian guests might not understand. Their website now says that the rooms include daily cleaning “crockery excluded”. We’ve stayed in many rental apartments in Italy and there have always been some cleaning supplies in the kitchen. Now I at least know to ask.

Strong, free wifi is available in the guest rooms and public areas. The public rooms in the main house are stunning and worth a visit. Frescoes on the walls of the stairway look to be original to the house and the ceiling of the main hall could belong in a church. Views from the balcony off the front of the main building go all the way to the sea.
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Old Nov 4th, 2013, 04:53 PM
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The food in the masseria’s restaurant was very, very good and we ended up eating dinner there every night. That wasn’t the plan; we could have gone out to local restaurants or other masseria in the area, but the food was good and the weather was poor so it just seemed to make sense to stay there. The dining room is in a building which was originally used for pressing olives and has a barrel vault ceiling at least 30 feet high. They offer a four course menu which changes nightly for 28 euro and most of the produce used in the kitchen comes from the gardens surrounding the hotel (even in October the tomatoes, peppers, basil and eggplant were still abundant).

We ate the full menu for two of the nights and one night, after a particularly large lunch, asked for items a la carte which was no problem (though there is not an a la carte menu with printed prices). I believe they serve dinner guests from outside the hotel if you make a reservation and they ask guests to let them know by mid day if they will be dining with them in the evening (the next day’s menu us available the night before). Breakfast was included in the room rate and was a buffet selection of yogurt, breads, pastries (both savory and sweet), cheese (oh, the fresh ricotta…), cured meats, fruit, etc. Of course, there was delicious cappuccino, cafe, and tea. Even the jams were made there.

On the first night the menu included a multi plate antipasti which included the traditional puree of fava beans and sauteed chicory, a smoked capocollo, eggplant parmesan and miniature pizzas. The pasta was a trofie with “green sauce from the garden”, the main course was veal wrapped around sausage with creamy eggplant and roasted potatoes and for dessert, a fruit tart. We ordered a lovely bottle of wine (SUD Malvasia Nera Salento Vino di San Marzano) for only 15 euro a bottle (we drank half and then took the rest to the room).

On our second night, I only ordered the antipasti course which included “duchess” zucchini, roasted peppers with capers, panzerottini, and rolls with ricotta and zucchini flowers. For out last meal we had wedges of fresh young soft peccorino, zucchini “poverella”, pizza rustica, and eggplant with mushrooms for the antipasti. The pasta course was strascinate with sun dried tomatoes and olives and for the main, lamb baked with salad. I think the kitchen shined the most with the antipasti and the pasta courses. The meats of the main course tended to be overcooked and the desserts were not really special.

If I were to stay again (and I would for sure) I would still eat there, though maybe not for every meal. Every night at dinner we got to chat with Filippo (the owner/manager of the masseria) who explained the food (where the cheese came from (local), where the smoked capocollo was made (again local, in a cave), and the different wines. On the last night we had a long discussion local liqueurs (he let us taste a few including the nocino that his mother makes every year) and my mother promised to send him her recipe for making bay leaf liqueur.
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Old Nov 5th, 2013, 08:33 AM
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Sounds like a great place to stay (and to eat!). I had nocino for the first time a few years ago at an agritourimo outside Bologna, it was terrific. I bet the homemade version you tried was great too! ;-)
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Old Nov 5th, 2013, 10:52 AM
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<b>Pezze di Greco</b>

We never had the opportunity to do anything other than drive through the town of Pezze di Greco. Every time we were in the area we were either on our way somewhere or it was mid afternoon when there was literally nothing open. If you plan on staying at the masseria, you will most likely need a car as there’s nothing within walking distance.

If you need a grocery store while there, we did find one open in mid afternoon when everything else was closed and we’d missed lunch (there are other grocery stores, but even the big ones close mid afternoon). It was raining buckets, and thought we’d buy some canned soup to heat up in the room. The store is on the SS16 road toward Fasano, on the right, just as you enter town. They have a tavolo caldo at the entrance, a nice bakery and lots of choice for salami and cheeses plus the usual grocery items. Except soup. But who knew it did not exist in Italy (or at least not in this store)? We found exactly three soups, all by the same manufacture, in foil pouches, hidden among the canned vegetables. We got barley vegetable and it was decent, along with some fresh baked rolls and salami.

Last but not least, my favorite part of the masseria might have been a five month old tortoise shell cat named Giulietta. She was one of the sweetest cats I’ve ever met and I wish I could have packed her in my suitcase and taken her home. If you see here there, make sure you give her a scratch and a cuddle from me.

If you'd like to see photos of the masseria (and even beautiful Giulietta), please check out my blog:
http://www.wired2theworld.com/2013/1...-puglia-italy/
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Old Nov 11th, 2013, 11:10 AM
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<b>Alberobello</b>

The coastal region south of Bari in Puglia is called the Valle D’ Itria and encompasses part of the provinces of both Bari and Brindisi. It’s probably best known for the thousands of trulli (whitewashed round houses with conical roofs made of stacked stone) in and around the town of Alberobello and the Baroque towns of Martina Franca and Ostuni.

We awoke on our second day to yet more rain and overcast skies, but what can you do, sit inside all day? Not us! We got in the car and headed first to Alberobello with the hopes of arriving before the hoards of tourists buses. Somehow we managed to arrive in town (thanks to the mifi and GPS) a bit away from where all the buses park and right next to the Trulli Museum. We had no idea where the “center” was at this point so we visited the museum which I would say was well worth the 4 euro admission. Built into adjoining trulli, the museum covers construction, history, and shows exactly how people used to live in these buildings before the town became a tourist thronged UNESCO site.

From the museum we walked over to the church and from the elevated vantage we could see that if we went down some stairs and across the street we would be in the thick of it.

Yes, what you may have heard about every single trulli having been turned into a souvenir shop is absolutely true, at least in this area which is about 6 square blocks. But it’s still worth about an hour to walk around and some of it is really quite charming. But you can tell the shop keepers are jaded, especially when they can tell you’re not interested in buying anything. Besides a few restaurants, I didn’t see anything there which wasn’t there specifically for tourists.
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Old Nov 11th, 2013, 11:22 AM
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<b>Locorotondo</b>

Locorotondo is a short scenic (<I>look! Trulli in their natural habitat!</I drive from Alberbello and world apart in terms of design, construction and the quantity of tourists (none that we could see on the day we were there).

Here we parked slightly outside the historical center on one of the main streets and walked a few blocks uphill into the center. With its white washed walls and narrow winding streets, balconies filled with hanging flowers, and steep stairs seemingly going nowhere, it reminded me much of Cisternino.

<b>Torre Canne</b>
After one of the best meals of the trip (lunch at Il Cortiletto, details to come later) we headed back to the Masseria, only to decide at the last minute we wanted to see the coast so we backtracked at bit and drove over to Torre Canne. There wasn’t much going on there but it wasn’t hard to imagine that in the summer it would be packed. Pretty much the only signs of life were at a single, almost empty restaurant. So we walked around for about 10 minutes, checked out a neat sculpture of a whale, the lighthouse and a small shrine built right onto the beach and then headed back for a rest.

These towns are nothing if not photogenic and my descriptions really don't do it justice.
If you'd like the see the photos, go here: http://www.wired2theworld.com/2013/1...-italy-part-1/
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Old Nov 11th, 2013, 12:31 PM
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Kristina this is great, and so are your photos! I am eager to read about your meal at Il Cortiletto in Speziale.
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Old Nov 12th, 2013, 06:24 AM
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eks-I'm working on it! it was your discussion of Il Cortiletto which led us there. Did you ever get to eat there?
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Old Nov 13th, 2013, 05:33 AM
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<b>Lunch at Il Cortiletto in Speziale, Puglia</b>

In Italy, Sunday is traditionally a big day for families to go out to eat for lunch. At 1:30pm, the tiny dining room of Il Cortiletto, which has only five or six tables, is already full. On the covered patio out back we’re offered our choice of tables with only other table occupied. Within twenty minutes it’s almost full so clearly Sunday lunch is a late event in these parts.

The patio has white washed stucco walls and is mostly covered by an arched solid roof so we’re protected once a warm rain starts. Plates are chipped in an unapologetic, shabby-chic kind of way, but nice glasses are used with good bottles of wine. The staff appears to be mostly in their 20′s and 30′s, and the young chef appears a couple of times to speak with the obvious regulars; he in chef’s coat, bushy hipster beard, and baggy chefs pants with a loud print the kind of which I have not seen since I was a chef the late 90′s. The servers, all female, are dressed in jeans and deftly juggle armloads of dishes while trying not to slip on wet pavement between the covered patio and the kitchen’s open back door.

While we don’t really know what to expect with the food, it turns out to be a refreshing take on the regional cuisine, using local organic produce with updated plate presentations from the more traditional fare we encounter later in the trip.

A small bowl of warm fried olives arrives at the table before our order is even taken. I’d never eaten fried olives before in the Pugliese style (these are not battered or stuffed, just fried) and they have a very soft texture and more subtle flavor. This article from Zester explains a bit more about Puglian fried olives.

There’s no printed menu, only a couple of small blackboards with the day’s many choices written upon them. One of the servers, a lovely young woman, speaks enough English (combined with our culinary Italian) to explain our choices. We choose three courses to share and it’s difficult to decide because everything sounds so good. Later, we notice almost every table sharing several courses. We also order a couple of glasses of rose because it just sounds perfect for this humid day.
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Old Nov 13th, 2013, 05:51 AM
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Ooops, forgot the link to the article on fried olives: http://zesterdaily.com/cooking/fried...ugliese-treat/

More...
The first course, a mixed antipasti, arrives on two plates. The first is a large platter filled with lots of little bites, much more composed in style than we would see on any meal in the rest of Puglia. It’s beautiful and has local burrata drizzled with olive oil, pecorino cheese with honey and fig, a few slices of coppa, roasted peppers, stuffed eggplant, zucchini, frittata, asparagus wrapped with proscuitto, and little fried balls of something I cannot remember. On a separate plate there’s a savory pumpkin souffle with pesto which is warm and delicious.

Between the antipasta and pasta courses we’re served a small plate of ice cold wedges of raw fennel. I’ve never seen it served this way before, but assume it’s a palate cleanser or digestive aid since fennel is considered so good for digestion.

The pasta course is penne with zucchini pesto, fried zucchini flowers and fresh ricotta. This is one of the best pastas I’ve ever had; a perfect balance of flavors and textures. The sauce is creamy, probably with some of the ricotta mixed in with the pesto as well as dolloped on top and the zucchini flowers are fried, adding a crunchy texture and salty fried flavor which offsets the creaminess of the sauce. The penne pasta is cooked very al dente, something we’d see just about everywhere in the region. This dish was served split on two plates so what you see in the photo (on my blog) is a half portion.

The last course is a plate of grilled lamb chops with diced roasted vegetables (carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers) and rosemary. The lamb chops are tiny but perfectly cooked. The vegetables still taste bright and while roasted, aren't mushy.

In the end, our lunch is 45 euro including the coperto, 3 glasses of Rose, bottle of water, antipasti plate (9 euro), pasta (10 euro), and meat course (11 euro). We would have gone back again the next day, but they are closed on Mondays.

Via Lecce 91 (aka Route 16), Speziale (south of Fasano and Pezze dii Grecco). No web site. [email protected] Tel-080 4810758 Closed Mondays

Photos here: http://www.wired2theworld.com/2013/1...-puglian-food/
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Old Nov 13th, 2013, 07:07 AM
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is pesto "allowed" in Puglia, some of the chefs I've met just scowl
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Old Nov 13th, 2013, 10:36 AM
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Wow...the food at Il Cortiletto looks fantastic and your photos are terrific (as always!).
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