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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 Dec 8th, 2013, 11:40 AM
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So glad you resumed your report, Kristina. Waiting for more.
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Old Jan 11th, 2014, 10:11 AM
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I know, I know, it's been a while, but I'm back with more. This round of posts is on where we ate in Lecce; the good, the not so good and just plain bad.

<b>Lecce Restaurants</b>

Lecce was no exception in terms of the high quality of the food we had all over Puglia. When researching for the trip, several restaurant’s names came up over and over again and I dutifully added them to my list. Yet in the end, the one we liked the best was one we chose at random, totally under the radar, and we enjoyed it so much, we ate there twice in three days.

<b>Trattoria Nonna Tetti</b>

Our first meal in Lecce was lunch at Trattoria Nonna Tetti, shortly after we arrived. The restaurant was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel. We ordered the antipasti to share and it was quite generous with five different plates hitting the table. There was a plate of typical Puglian roasted eggplant with tomato, a shredded carrot and red cabbage salad which seemed a bit out of place, sauteed mushrooms, roasted peppers over fava puree which were over salted, and a sausage stew served in an earthenware crock.

For our main course we shared a plate of fried octopus which was served over fava puree and topped with fresh arugula and grated pecorino. This was delicious and the octopus was perfectly cooked. It was here we had our first bottle of the delicious Salice Salentino wine (half bottle, 7 euro). Lunch, with water and wine was 33 euro total.

Dinner that night was a disappointing meal (every trip has to have at least one, right?) at Il Latini. My pizza was decent (plain, with burrata) but my mother ordered a “soup” with mussels and garbanzo beans and asked if she could have it without the mussels. What she got was something that which turned out to be a mound of garbanzo beans (like 3 cans), dumped into a bowl.

<b>Trattoria Le Zie</b>

The next day we had lunch at Trattoria Le Zie. This was the place I read about as a “must”. It turned out to be good solid standard fare, very home made and tasty, but certainly not worth the pilgrimage some say is a must. In fact, I would say it’s really not worth the hype and there are dozens of similar places around. We ordered the antipasti which was white beans, grilled eggplant, frittata, and a cold potato salad with tomatoes and arugula.

We also ordered meatballs which were very nice and light in texture, bathed in tomato sauce and the typical dish of sauted chicory and fava beans. For dessert we shared a slice of ricotta cake. With house wine and water, lunch was 35 euro. Everything was fine, but again, not spectacular. I think the allure of this place is that it looks like you are dining in someone’s living room and you can see right into the tiny kitchen.
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Old Jan 11th, 2014, 10:49 AM
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<b>Il Vico del Gusto</b>

We spotted il Vico del Gusto as we were walking back from Trattoria Le Zie. It’s very close to Palazzo Gorgoni and right across the street from the big public garden/park The food was uniformly excellent, with an emphasis on fresh fish and seafood. If you like whole fish, served table side this is the place for you. We saw two gorgeous grilled fish served this way while we were there.

On our first night there, we ordered the octopus salad which came with artichokes, olive oil, balsamic reduction and arugula. The octopus was perfectly tender and flavorful. my mother ordered the “fried fish of the day” turned out to include calamari, squid, and shrimp as well as whole small fried fish. Again, perfectly cooked. Be aware, if you can’t handle fish heads, bones, shrimp in the shell, this is not the dish (or maybe not the place) for you.

For my main course I ordered Angus steak and it arrived sliced, topped with lightly dressed arugula and super sweet sliced cherry tomatoes. The server had asked if I wanted it buon cotto (well done), sangue? (bloody) or Mediano (medium). I asked for medium and it was MR which was actually perfect. With a nice half bottle of wine, a bottle of water and coperto, dinner was 47 euro.

We enjoyed our meal so much we returned the next night to Il Vico del Gusto for dinner. We experienced the same great service, same wine, and more wonderful food.

For our antipasti we ordered white anchovies marinated in vinegar, pink peppercorns and olive oil (see photo at top of post). This is one of my favorites ways to eat anchovies and I wasn’t disappointed.

We had seen a dish of fried mussels and sticks of tempura fried vegetables the previous night and asked if we could have with calamari instead of mussels. Normally I would not ask for a substitution, and at first we were told no and accepted it, but neither of us like mussels and we’d seen them make fried calamari the night before. But then the server consulted the chef who said yes, especially since they were out of a pasta I’d ordered. These were some of the best fried vegetables I’ve ever eaten. Lightly battered in something akin to tempura, the vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, carrots) were tender inside, as if they’d been blanched first. The calamari, of course, was as we’d had the night before on the fried fish platter; perfect (albeit oddly served in a martini glass-someone is trying to “update” plate presentations here, please stop).

We also had a gigantic bowl of sauteed greens (chicoria) with olive oil and the local spicy pepper. The final dish of the night was the “millefleule” of eggplant; basically eggplant parmesan with the eggplant sliced paper thin and in about a dozen layers. This was another generous portion and delicious, though half of it seemed to have meat (prosciutto?) while the other did not. I preferred it without the addition of the cured meat and my only criticism of the meal was that the meat in the dish should have been listed on the menu. With wine and water, dinner was 40 euro total.

One other thing to note about il Vico del Gusto is that the women’s restroom was one of the first fully wheelchair accessible restrooms I’ve seen in a small restaurant in Italy. Accessibility is still so rare, that it was worth noting for those looking for it.

il Vico del Gusto, Viale XXV Luglio, Vico dei Fiechi, 14, Lecce. tel: 0832 246931 http://www.ilvicodelgusto.it/

Photos of these meals are here: http://www.wired2theworld.com/2014/0...ttoria-le-zie/
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Old Jan 11th, 2014, 10:55 AM
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Hi Kristina, happy New Year.

I am just dipping into your report. Puglia moves up and down my admittedly long travel wish list. What did you think of a nine-day trip from the West Coast? I am also in California and short, busy trips are getting more difficult for me, especially when I have crazy work obligations on either side.

Off to view your photos!
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Old Jan 13th, 2014, 06:29 AM
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Leely2-

Most of my trips to Europe are of this length (8-9 days). I think they are fine, but I do spend a little more to get flights with the best connections and seats. Cheapest is not always better if that means a 6 hour layover or losing a day (like leaving home late on the first day of the trip).
Also, I try to minimize moving around. Three locations was perfect for us. Or, better yet, a week's vacation rental somewhere like we've done in Rome several times.

If you've already traveled other parts of Italy, then I highly recommend Puglia.
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Old Feb 9th, 2014, 08:35 AM
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I know it's been a while, but I'm back with another post. I'll get this done, I swear. I have to finish before my next trip, to Peru, in April!

<b>Otranto and the Salentine Coast</b>

On our last day in Lecce we decamped our car from its parking space, drove around in circles a bit and headed out of town going east, in a straight line on highway 364 to San Cataldo on the coast. I’m not sure what we expected, but there wasn’t much “there” there. In October everything was shuttered, but I’m sure in August it’s hopping. So we turned the car south and followed the coastal road with the goal of stopping in Otranto and making it to the “end of the earth” (or at least the very tip of the heel of the boot) in Santa Maria di Leuca.

Our first stop was in a tiny town about mid way between San Cataldo and Otranto. I can’t remember the name (it might have been Torre dell’Orso) but it had a nice hotel (with a fantastic bathroom) high on a cliff overlooking the sea. This was the first of many “torre” ruins we’d see along the coast.

The next stop was the town of Otranto which boasts a small castle and cathedral. The old part of town is charming and the port is incredibly picturesque. Once again, not knowing where to park in the town, we ended up down at the marina where we found free parking. There’s a tourist information spot there (free map!), public restrooms, and behind the restaurant at the end of the building on the right, are access stairs up into the old part of town. It could not have been easier.

By the time we were done walking around the town we found ourselves at that awkward time of day when it’s just a little too early for lunch, but if we’d left, by the time we got anywhere else, it might be too late. We settled on a little place called il Corsaro. The food was good, but expensive for what it was and the service was horribly slow.

After Otranto we drove down to the tip of the heel of Italy’s boot to Santa Maria di Leuca where the Ionian and Adriatic seas converge. There we found a vast open square with a giant lighthouse and a small church (above and below). On the edge of the square is a small cafe where we had a gelato before heading back up the autostrada to Lecce.

There's more, including tons of photos from this day on my blog here: http://www.wired2theworld.com/2014/0...lentine-coast/

There's more to "see" about this day than there is to "say" so I do hope you'll check out the photos.
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Old Feb 9th, 2014, 08:40 AM
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I have this principle now, fewer and fewer pyramids of skulls interest me. Thanks that has put me off Otranto for good.
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Old Feb 10th, 2014, 10:07 AM
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bilbo-Oh, don't let that put you off. ;-)
However, if you ever have the chance, I recommend you avoid the Capela Los Osos in Portugal if skulls bother you. And any Khmer Rouge Genocide memorials in Cambodia for that matter.
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Old Mar 31st, 2014, 11:19 AM
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I WILL finish this report, I swear.

Here's another installment:
Il Sextantio Hotel- Sleeping in a Cave in Matera Italy

We spent 3 nights in this gorgeous property and rather than cut and paste the story of the experience, I'd rather link to my blog post because the pictures add so much to it and without them, it may not make sense.
http://www.wired2theworld.com/2014/0...-matera-italy/
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Old Mar 31st, 2014, 02:27 PM
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Kristina I commend you for sticking to this excellent report. I just may hold the record for most-drawn out trip report (with additional demerits for long, unrelated segues within)...I think it took me months to do one of the Asian ones. Not to mention the unfinished Southern AFrica tome from a few years ago. So just keep going, at your own pace, and thanks for some happy hours of reading and looking at pics!!
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Old May 18th, 2014, 10:20 AM
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Still plugging along...

Here's my post on the a walking tour of the sassi we did with Nadia Garlatti.

http://www.wired2theworld.com/2014/0...-matera-italy/

Lots of photos too! I highly recommend it; the walking tour and the post. ;-)
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Old May 18th, 2014, 10:39 AM
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Second your rec for a tour with Nadia. She was great. You have tremendous perseverance!
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Old May 18th, 2014, 01:50 PM
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yestravel- I've got to get it done so I can write about April's trip to Peru and then my upcoming July trip to Burma! It's just hard to find the time when I have a full time job, a lengthy commute, a part time writing gig, another blog (food focused) and other trips to plan! I know, #firstworldproblem. So I persevere.
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Old May 18th, 2014, 02:02 PM
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Never had time for TR's when I worked. So good for you for doing them.
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Old May 19th, 2014, 05:44 AM
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I'm still following along, always enjoy reading about your travels. I think the "Mother Mary of the handbag" must be my patron saint considering my affection for purchasing handbags during my travels! ;-)
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Old May 26th, 2014, 07:20 AM
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One more post done on Matera; Ancient Rock Churches, Modern Art and More...
http://www.wired2theworld.com/2014/0...-art-and-more/
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Old May 27th, 2014, 06:11 AM
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Kristina, thanks for calling my attention to this report. I've only started it, but it sounds like the kind of trip Cheryl and I would enjoy. (and I'm looking forward to reading your Peru report before we go in November)
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Old May 27th, 2014, 04:51 PM
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Thanks Kathie. I hope to get started on Peru soon. I'll let you know.
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Old Jun 1st, 2014, 09:15 AM
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Well, this is it, the last post from the trip.

Restaurants in Matera and Bernalda, including Ristorante il Cantuccio and Le Botteghe in Matera and La Locandiera in Bernalda (worth the drive!). Lots of food photos too.

http://www.wired2theworld.com/2014/0...-and-bernalda/

Many thanks to those of you who stuck with me given how long it took me to complete this report.
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Old Jun 1st, 2014, 09:27 AM
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Thanks for finishing up the yummy account of your trip. This is a trip report that makes me hungry!

Looking forward to your Peru report and hoping you will have restaurant recommendations for us. I'll watch for the report on the South America forum.
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