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London, Rome, and mostly Puglia-- Loved It!

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May 27th, 2012, 11:59 PM
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London, Rome, and mostly Puglia-- Loved It!

Such an amaing trip. Huge thanks to all who gave us so many good tips… and all you PUGLIA fans, hold on… just a little about London and Rome first….

Will do this log over a few days. Will try to keep it fairly short if I can… but it was a really full 4 weeks – April into May ! I will say that this was a real budget trip—we managed to keep lodging at an average of just under $100 a night for our trip— spending sometimes a little more lavishly on dining, coffees and gelato!!

We loved every rainy day in London. Our little b&b at Russell Square (Celtic) was quiet and right at the tube stop—and a busy stop it is! Loved the breakfasts at this family-run B&B and how professional the little breakfast staff was. Brought us back in time, somehow.
Did our rounds of museums. Walking and more walking.

The amazing Borough Market was a highlight for us-- just across the river. Easy to get to and such fun to explore.( London Bridge tube and it was just around to the right as you face the station.)

Foods from all around England and so much to sample. Easy to spend the afternoon going from stall to stall looking and tasting and buying. Had a memorable “Salty Beef” sandwich. But the true culinary showstopper was the cheese guy. Imagine a gigantic block of cheese under a roaring flame—scrape the entire melted & slightly burned top off onto the most delicious English potato you’ve ever tasted. On a drizzly afternoon, it’s stinky-salty-sweet heaven.

We were both surprised at how very much we liked the musical ‘Matilda.” The cast, the music, everything. How on earth they can have all those child actors onstage and not have it feel like too-much-English-honey is beyond me—but it was tremendous.

Tea in Notting Hill.(nothing special but the clotted cream was beyond.) Yummy curry in covent garden. Went to pubs where everyone seemed to know everyone. On a lark, went into a late-night club with loud music and were treated kindly (but still felt wayyyyy too old to be there) – but it was fun to get a little glimpse into this London scene. Ate good Fish and Chips in the ”smoking section” at North Sea (outside on the street.) (near Russell Tube-- the to-go is attached to the restaurant and less than half the price.)

Flew to Rome from Gatwick and arrived at Hotel Spagna. Fantastic location right by the Spanish Steps and very quiet. Wouldn’t recommend, though, unless you are good without any direction from your hotel… there’s rarely anyone there. (only 4 rooms, I think.)

Didn’t want to walk far that first night, so just went up the little street to Otello—not bad and very reasonable for the location on V. Croce. Also up the street is a divine little 4E Tiramisu-To-Go place called Pompi (v. Croce 86) which I would recommend for a lovely treat. Served Cold and in a stylish little go-box it hit the spot for an after-dinner stroll. If you're a tiramisu fan, don't miss it-- several varieties from which to choose.

Absolutely don’t miss the simply divine Granita di Caffe Con Panna at Cremoria Monteforte right next to the Pantheon. Deliciously strong coffee granite hand- stirred until it’s just right—with the most delicious whipped cream on top and bottom. We returned twice—and it wasn’t even hot out! If you want to have a good and super-budget lunch, I would recommend “Tratt. La Coppelle” at V. Copelle 38 – the pizza is huge, yummy and very reasonable, as is the wine.

We had a wonderful dinner at Maccheroni on Pz Copelle as well. Had a house-made pasta (similar to pici) with a delicious and creamy pesto sauce. Also, ravioli with cream&zucchini flower. Both amazing. 2 pasta, wine, water, veg & limoncello were 46E. Super service.

Wow—Grom gelato had a huge long line every single time we passed them. I’m not a big fan—but they seem to be the thing in Rome. (fairly ignored in NYC...??)

Took a class from “Cooking Class in Rome” on V. Franaoroli 5 and were so glad that we did. First of all, 10 people were all from different countries! (Turkey, Austrailia, U.S., England…) It started at about 11 and we cooked, talked, learned and ate until almost 4pm !! Andrea Consoli keeps things moving, is full of tips and information about Roman (specifically) cooking and is warm and friendly as well as very direct. Just a great teacher.

WE learned to make fried pumpkin blossoms, gnochetti, chicken cacciatore and an amazing crostata. Enjoyed the fruits of our labor at a long table and just had a fantastic time. This was a class worth taking—I actually walked away knowing that I could actually make these dishes and that they would work. (in fact, made some gnochetti last night on a whim—and I’m still jet-lagged! ) Walked around the Trastevere area afterward, trying to digest both physically and mentally after the long hours of cooking and eating!

(….To bed. On to Puglia tomorrow. )
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May 28th, 2012, 12:02 AM
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ooh i look forward to tomorrow
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May 28th, 2012, 12:04 AM
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hmmm know that cheese guy you are talking about, it is good eh!
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May 28th, 2012, 12:10 AM
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Thanks for sharing this.
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May 28th, 2012, 01:49 AM
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What a swell little report. We leave for London in early July. Borough market is at the very top of my list.
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May 28th, 2012, 03:41 AM
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Great start, cant wait for more!
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May 28th, 2012, 04:16 AM
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thanks, can't wait for Puglia!
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May 28th, 2012, 10:19 AM
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Great report. You hit all the highlights giving us a great quick read and a feel for your trip.
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May 28th, 2012, 10:49 AM
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Oh-- p.s. on Borough Market-- I think they're only open Thurs thru Sat. Also-- their goods do go beyond England/UK-- but we were mostly interested in the most local products.
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May 28th, 2012, 10:13 PM
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ON TO LECCE….

Train from Rome to Lecce—5 hours—and I can tell you that we both feel that the time has come to ride only in first class for journeys this long! I had read that, for this fast train, first class was not much different from 2nd class. This is somewhat true—but what I noticed on all of the trains we took was that 2nd class was ALWAYS fully booked. I’m talking center aisle just filled with luggage so you couldn’t walk through the cars. And this was in early May! So next trip—only first class.(ok.. I'm getting old... I admit it...)

We really liked Lecce. It’s a town that it’s nice to settle into. It’s such a mixture of styles and people. We were turned off at first in the more modern section of town, but grew to love all of Lecce’s neighborhoods. You find the most baroque style imaginable inside the many churches—and then almost (greek?? Turkish??) style fortresses… a roman amphitheater, then ugly modern block-style buildings. Understated, but sometimes overwhelming as you stop and look. The town sneaks up on you—-each turn down a quiet street finds another treasure.

Speaking of treasures—it is the ‘Ciceri e Tria’ that we will remember most!! Our favorite version was at 'Alle Due Corte'. This is a pasta that you could bury yourself in, and die happy. Thick noodles, half of them boiled and half fried until chewey & crispy at the same time. Tossed with chickpeas and a little oil so that it makes a sauce of itself that is thick and creamy and worth a trip to Puglia!! The house wine here was unbelievable . 2 pasta, 2 meat, ½L wine, water and 2 espresso= 38E.

Stumbled through town and an hour later found ourselves at the recommended “Natale” for gelato and a smile. They are just so kind and proud of their product. This is quality gelato that’s perfect in every way. Not too sweet—as so often they can be. They always slip just a little tip of a new flavor to try on the top of your cone. Nice touch.

Will not recommend our B&B Centro Storico. Perfect location and beautiful room with high, arched ceilings. But the furniture is falling apart and the roof with a little view has disgusting plastic furniture that nobody would want to sit on.

Our B&B did come with little cards that were good for breakfast at the central square “Cin Cin” which we just loved. This seems to be the hangout for locals as well as tourists. Super coffee at a reasonable price. Our favorite “pasticciotto” which is the local pastry… get it here first. You won’t be sorry—especially in the a.m. when it’s slightly warm. Flaky delicious crust surrounds a cream in the middle that, to me, had a slightly citrus flavor. (though I asked and they said no citrus… but my Italian isn’t perfect!) Starting the day with the perfect cappuccino and pasticciotto… I will remember this about Lecce!

It was my birthday, and DH arranged for a ‘cooking class’ at restaurant “Piccola Casa” which was really fun—but not exactly a cooking class. This is a Tuscan restaurant in the heart of Puglia…it’s fairly new and they seem to do very well!! (maybe they feel they can get good Puglian cooking at their mama’s house!??) We showed up a couple of hours before they opened and the sweet, Tuscan owner showed us how to make pasta.. and just pasta. We then enjoyed it with a delicious duck sauce, champagne, amazing local wine, fried bread, 5 other kinds of breads, maile with prune&onion chutney, great dessert & coffee and more. The lesson with dinner was 40Epp. It was a fun and delicious birthday!

Rented a car and drove out to the “Reserva La Cisene” park for some birdwatching. (Directly E.) Stopped at a farmhouse “la Poeta Contadino” that we spotted off the highway along the way and had some outstanding food . Lovely setting outside looking over the wildflower covered field of olive trees.

This night, we discovered the delightful cheese ‘schmorza’ – - where have you been all my life?? Melt it under a big fire over just about anything, and you’re in heaven.

LECCE TO TRICASE—SOUTH

Stopped along the way in Corigliano at a slow food spot, ‘Olo Kalo” which was quite good. Their Ciceri e tria is very different from what I’d had—more like ‘In Brodo”… but delicious.

Absolutely loved our simple Masseria Agriturismo Uccio in Tricase. No pool and nothing fancy, but the white bedding and modern fixtures mix artfully with the ancient building. Super comfy. Great hosts who brought us fresh peas from the farm. Use of bicycles. Gorgeous landscape. A fantastic church next door (you could hear the bells, and sometimes singing.) This church is way out of town in the country -- would love to hear that story.

The owner put a really nice bunch of typed info in the rooms—and he recommended ‘La Ficarigna” 6 miles away in Specchia. We found it (thank you garmin!) and it was about 9:30 and it was pretty empty. We were nervous.. but by the time we left at midnight, they were completely full. They are known for a pasta flambé (forget the name)and we were worried it would be ho-hum and just for show—but this was a dish we will dream about for a long time. A huge, huge wheel of Grana Padano cheese is set afire with liquor and stirred to pull off the cheese. A hot cream sauce is added to the wheel and stirred into the cheese to make the sauce. Cheesy, delicious and worth a trip just for this pasta. Delicious house wine. Fantastic and fresh salad. Just a delicious meal.

Had a very good and very local lunch in Triggiano “A Casa Da Nona” where, on a Sunday, there were children running wild (in a good way) and several families were enjoying dinner together in this very small place. Classic Puglian oriccette w/palpetine, really good grilled meats, rustic barley bread, fried bread balls, organic local wine , coffee, etc. (27E) Down here, we are finding that English is rarely spoken—so bring your phrase books!

Drove over to the gorgeous coast. The roads are good and, being May, not at all crowded. Stress-free driving— - this is pretty rare in Italy. Wanted to soak in the waters at Cesarea Terme but were only able to sniff their sulfur. Perched on the edge of the sea—we liked this little town—but sadly, the baths are closed on Sundays. Took the long way home, driving along the aqua waters to the very bottom of the heel and then back. Gorgeous, peaceful and memorable.

Tomorrow we move on to Truli Land…. But signing off for today.
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May 28th, 2012, 11:11 PM
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Hi Kawh sounds like lecce was on the whole quite good- we are off there today while u are up here for trulli!!

be sure to grab some of the sugared almond nuts of the guy in alberobello
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May 28th, 2012, 11:24 PM
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Good report kawh, our style of travel is similar I think. Some good eating, leisurely driving, enjoying the social aspect of the cities but also the quiet beauty of the countryside.
Btw what is palpetine?

Enjoy the trullis, and I am looking forward to the rest of your report.
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May 29th, 2012, 02:12 AM
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Loving this so much!! Cant wait to hear more!
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May 29th, 2012, 08:38 AM
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Great report! We took the cooking class also and I have re-created at home most of what we did when with Chef Andrea. Food is a good reason for travel isn't it
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May 29th, 2012, 08:55 AM
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Enjoying your report and adding more places to eat in the Fall onto my list.
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May 29th, 2012, 01:12 PM
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HGOO1- no-- we are now home in sebastopol, california. this is all a post-jet-lag memory! missed the nuts... ah, well.
if you are in lecce now-- make sure to make a reservation if you want to go to the recommended 'Le Zie' as we just went by early and thought we'd get in but completely booked for the whole night.

sundried-- maybe it's spelled polpettine-- little tiny meatballs using various meats-- whatever is local.

luvto-- i thought andrea did a fantastic job. i don't know how he keeps up his patience and enthusiasm with so many different levels of cooks. i enjoyed learning the history and science of the cooking-- and that it was totally hands-on.
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May 29th, 2012, 09:35 PM
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OUR LOVELY TRULLO FARM AND ANOTHER COOKING CLASS…

Drove to our trullo just outside of Ceglie Messapica. (Trullo Casedd through airbnb) For a moment we were turned off—because this ancient trullo has a little makeshift homedepot-type shade just outside. We get it now—this is where real people live—people who can’t afford designer awning set-ups!

This place is fantastic! The owners met us there (they live elsewhere but farm the land with their parents) and proudly showed us around the farm—-the fava crop, fruit trees (we picked cherries) and the small vineyard which their parents were trimming. The trullo was big and roomy but cool and cozy with half its kitchen inside and half its kitchen from the outside. It felt like home from the moment we entered and was DH’s favorite place we stayed. The owners informed us that they wanted to bring us dinner for our 2nd night and we eagerly agreed. Oh—did I mention it had a WASHING machine?? Man, we put that to good use.

We blindly headed into Ceglie Messapica and fell in love with the place. Every corner is a blind corner. It’s just small and lovely. One of our favorite little towns to get lost wandering around in. Only wish we could have spent more time there.

Had no food ideas for this town – and followed our noses to ‘Arrosteria Borgo Antico.’ I think that translates as ‘Roast Meat Heaven.’ This tiny place serves only meat—no pasta or pizza—and they do it right. We had heard that Puglia was known for their amazing roast meats—but hadn’t really tried much of it. This was worth the wait. We put ourselves in the chef’s hands and he recommended a N.Y. Steak (really—in Italy??) for my hubbie. I thought….” Oh no.. this is going to cost us a fortune. Ah well—.” Wrong!

This was the steak of a lifetime. Huge. I mean width, length, girth. It would not fit as a carry-on !! Seriously, though, it was at least 1 ½ pounds and cooked to perfection. Easily the best steak we’ve ever had. I had the local cut of pork which, I think, was from around the neck? Scrumptious. This was preceded with amazing antipasti and crazy-good charred roast potatoes. A liter of great wine. And they do NOT have espresso… the meal must be followed by lemoncello and grappa. Total was 35E. The chef came to check on us several times. He is obviously proud of his product. Posed for a quick picture by the wood-fire oven after. Not a word of English spoken.A delicious meal followed by a walk through the tiny dark maze of streetways.


Cooked up leftover steak and pork and bread (too late to shop—so asked last eve if we could please take the virtually untouched bread left in our basket and they packed it all neatly for us) for breakfast at our little trullo farm. Took off to explore.

Lovely drives through stone-walled narrow streets. A time or two, Garmin sent us through some fields with just tractor marks (oops—later realized that it was set for pedestrian-mode!) and what a gorgeous area.

Ended up in beautiful little Martina Franca armed with no less than 5 restaurant names and each one (that we could find) was closed!!! Here we had the worst meal of our trip at the busy but horrible ‘Agroalimentare Pace’ whose menu states that they use all local ingredients etc etc—but we affectionately refer to it now as ‘the cat food place.’ ‘nuf said.

On through more tiny streets, vineyards, pastures and dotted with ancient trulli to Alberobello and its amazing, but Disney-like tourist zone with each store featuring souvenir jingle-jangles just like the store before it and the ones after it. Yet, even with the touristy patina and the all sights and sounds of squealing sugared-up school kids jamming the streets, the place holds its magic. In the newer part of the city, the streets were filling with older gentlemen strolling, at the bars and in the little park. Are all the women at home preparing amazing Puglian feasts for their families??

Speaking of...Had to get back home because our Trullo owners were coming over with dinner. They arrived with big smiles—with food burning hot from the wood oven. She had made 3 kinds of fugazza-- perfectly chewey, crispy and burnt at the edges— some eggplant parm, and a calzone with a very, very strong (and underappreciated by us) cheese. He had 2 bottles of wine (both adorably sealed in recycled water bottles) from his vineyard—and looked every bit as if he had just come from the field. A feast we won’t forget.

I wanted to get to our cooking class and dinner at Il Frantoio tonight—but must stop for now.
Will continue tomorrow. Sorry this is getting so long!!
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May 29th, 2012, 10:43 PM
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Enjoying your report. Thanks.
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May 29th, 2012, 10:51 PM
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Not long enough kawh! This is bringing back many great memories. The south is so specially charming in its own "time warp " sort of way.

Maybe it is very poor. But it's traditional way of life is something us North American city folk can not remember and can hardly comprehend and it is so exquisitely preserved here.

Let's hope at least some of it survives, that we visitors can walk gently, and contribute something to its economy without taking too much in return.

Oh , mushy I know. I can't help it, hope you love it as much as we did.
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May 29th, 2012, 11:16 PM
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ah love the sound of Ceglie Messapica, we are off there today so might just seak out that steak place

Agree re alberobello- it does retain its Charm despite the tourism.
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