Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

My Party in Puglia (11 Fabulous Days and Nights!!)

My Party in Puglia (11 Fabulous Days and Nights!!)

May 17th, 2007, 02:11 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 1,480
My Party in Puglia (11 Fabulous Days and Nights!!)

Day One

Our flight to Rome was uneventful, albeit a bit turbulent at times and on a dinky little 737 plane. Upon arrival we walked to the Avis counter at Fiumicino, and while we had reserved a Nissan Micra, they offered us a Fiat Punto instead. I was hesitant but they told me it was a bit bigger. Being three persons with a semi-large suitcase and handbag each, I decided to go for it. I reserved an automatic, since that is the only kind I can drive. When seated in the car, I saw what looked like a manual shift. When I asked, they told me it WAS indeed automatic. Finally, I got someone to come and explain and it turned out this was a new type of car (only 6000 kilometers on it) where it was indeed automatic but you could switch it also to manual, without a clutch though. Strange. Took me several days though to figure out that if I inadvertently move this shift in a certain manner, it will become manual, and then I had to move the stick each time it needed to change gears (but with no clutch). Very strange and exasperating till I figured it out. They were truly not helpful at Avis.

It was a long drive to Trani, with lots of traffic on the G.R.A. (Ring Road). We arrived at around 5 PM, and I called Nicola (the owner of our B&B in Trani) who came to get us and we followed him to his B&B (Ai Carrettierri, Via Carrittieri 28, phone 0883-487204, cell 349-1637592; http://www.amgservicescrl.it/aicarrettieri/).

It is in what looks like the basement floor of an old and beautiful apartment building. You have to use a key to open the main door to the building, then another key to open a door which opens into a private outdoor patio with some tables and chairs (which we could never really use because the weather was somewhat rainy). All three of his apartments are accessed from this courtyard which are used only by his guests. When he opened the next two doors to our apartments, it looked like quite a palace. We each had an entire apartment to ourselves. It includes a very large bedroom, a large dining room/kitchenette/foyer, a bathroom, lots of halls, mirrors, antiques, small stairways, etc. The frig is stocked with some water and juice. Pre-packaged cakes and wafers await us "for breakfast". It is wonderfully situated right smack in the old town center, we had parking on the street right in front of our building. The only drawbacks were no windows, almost like a cellar/grotto-type place, no reception for cell phone and no regular phone in room. The room was somewhat damp and had a bit of a moldy smell but it was not terrible at all. Air conditioning and heating were included, we needed neither one of them. The cost was 50 Euros for a couple and 40 Euros for a single.

After getting settled and oriented, we took a walk through the city and down to the port by sunset. We walked all around and after deciding it was time for dinner, we had a most fabulous meal at Rosa dei Venti (Via Rampa la Conca 6, tel -0883-586979; web site www.ristoranterosadeiventi.it) right on the water. Being Wednesday night, it seems most of the restaurants were closed so it took time to find one that was open and looked good. While I tend to really shy away from any place that has a "tourist menu" this one looked different, and so indeed it was!! They did not really call it a tourist menu, if I remember correctly, it was something like "Menu of the Day". For 20 Euros each we had the following : Bruschetta with tomatoes, rucola and great Pugliese olive oil, a huge dish for each of us with about 7 local cheeses to try, orchiette pasta with baby tomatoes, rucola and parmeggiano, veal scallopini in wine sauce, fabulous lemon sorbet to finish off the meal, water and great red and white house wine. Staggered back to B&B and slept really well.



Day Two

We left our B&B at around 8:30 and walked down the street, looking for a bar for breakfast. We soon found a place right near us on Via Mario Pagano 198 (called Super Bar, and it truly was!!) and had a great cappuccino and cornetto with almond cream and some jam (warm and freshly baked!!). Everything is homemade - cakes, cookies, chocolates and ice creams. Each morning, as we sat and drank, we saw the father start bringing out the day's beautiful "wares" of cakes, cookies, pastries, etc. It seems to be a "Mom/Pop/Children" operation. Fortified, we started down towards the port where we went into the Nicola San Pellegrino Cathedral which is just gorgeous. Very minimalistic and not ornate at all, stone, beautiful classy wood, grand organ. Then a visit to the Castello which used to be a prison.

From there we wandered all about the small streets, purposely "getting lost" at every corner and finding new and amazing things around each bend.

We stopped at a little restaurant where they had a sign outside "Degustazione Muscato di Trani". We could not resist and each had a cold glass which was so great we decided we must buy a bottle to take home (we will, have not gotten to a store yet!!).

Lunch was at another fabulous place called Taverna Portanova at Piazza F.do Lambert 7 (phone/fax – 0883-508386, e-mail – [email protected]). Here we enjoyed some excellent homemade taralle (the typical Pugliese rounded dry biscuits) with anise seeds and great bread as well, the white house wine which was again fabulous, homemade large ravioli with ricotta, mushrooms in a tomato sauce, baked sea bass which was out of this world, served with beautifully roasted potatoes, tomatoes and a sauce. Waitress/owner was very friendly, patient and composed. Highly recommended.

After lunch, it was siesta time at 3 PM so we went back to the B&B for about 2 hours.

We then ventured out again and in the opposite direction. We got to the Piazza della Repubblica, around where the new town is also located and ended up in front of Albergo Lucy in Piazza Plebiscita (my first original choice for lodgings which did not work out). The church of San Domenico is right there but we could only see it from outside since it was closed.. The beautiful park right near there was our next stop where we walked the entire length back and forth and then up the promontory and saw the harbor from above. We went back down to the port again and stopped for a drink at Jaxo, a very nice place facing the port. I had my first Negroni (VERY strong and got me quite tipsy), my cousin had a Campari arancia which I liked better and will try next time.

We then walked to a restaurant called Trattoria Da Miana at Via Sinagoga 54, Tel: 39-0883-589794 (closed Wednesdays, and apparently also for lunch because we tried there last night and it was closed and tried again for lunch today and it was closed – finally we got there tonight). It is another beautiful restaurant and the food was very tasty. The ravioli we had for starters that was filled with a gorgeous cheese, and had a sauce of arugula, almonds and cream was heavenly. The sea bass we shared and the steak was terrific. House wine and two deserts of chocolate ricotta cake and a sort of sabarina were also divine. But the price was quite expensive considering that we had no worse food at the other restaurants we visited. The price here was 88 Euros total for three people.

We strolled back to the B&B, tired but happy.

Flame123 is offline  
May 17th, 2007, 03:51 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 6,282
Great descriptions, Flame ! Keep it coming.

BTW our v. old automatic car has a gearstick too - do you mean they don't in the US (assuming that's where you're from) ?
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
May 18th, 2007, 09:45 AM
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 1,480
Caroline - thanks.

Yes, we do have these types of cars, but I had never used or seen one before and not getting instructions or help from anyone at the Avis staff was very frustrating. It is the second time now and I doubt I will use them the next time I need to rent a car!!!

Anyway, here is Day Three :


Day 3

We had breakfast again at "our" Super Bar on Via Mario Paganoi. Same delish cappuccino and cornetto. Today we drove out of Trani (which was QUITE the experience with the Italian drivers on these really narrow streets!!) and into some small towns along the coast and a bit inland as well. First we drove to Andria in order to get to Castel del Monte. We had to park in a parking lot, for 4 Euros, and from there take a shuttle to the Castel. It is perched high up on a hill and is very impressive from the outside. It was REALLY windy, maybe because of the weather today or maybe because it was so high on a hill but it was really scary. Once inside, for another 3 Euros each, it was OK but nothing "to write home about". Since no one seems to know why this Castel was built, it has an air of mystery surrounding it but that is about all. Back to the shuttle to get the car and then we drove towards Ruvo di Puglia. A very poor small town with an interesting cathedral and that was about it. There is a large archeological museum here called Jatta but none of us was interested in seeing it so we skipped it. Terlizzi was our next stop today where again it was a small poor little town with a small center, a pretty church and that was it.

From here we went back to the coast and got to Molfetta. Here the port was quite nice and we decided to stop for lunch as it was about 1 PM already. The place we went into had a very pretty flower-lined entrance and inside it looked very elegant and attractive. We were just about the only ones there though (which has been pretty much the pattern – maybe because it is not considered "the season" here yet). The food was good and plentiful but nothing special and the price was alright.

Fortified, we walked some more along the port and then drove to Bisceglie which turned out to be the nicest of the small places we saw today. Again a port with some nice buildings, a large square in the center, etc. From there we returned to Trani and all decided that Trani was the nicest of all and had the most to offer. We put our feet up a bit and later went down to the port and back to Rosa dei Venti where we were greeted so warmly by the owner already down the street, even before we got even near to the restaurant. This time we chose to order less food because we were not that hungry. Since we were second-time customers, the chef started us out with "his speciality" on the house of a freshly made puff pastry with meat and melted cheese. We each then had fabulous bruschetta, like last time. We ordered the scallopini and another assorted cheese plate. We all had salads with it and wine. The meal ended once again with wonderful lemon sorbet and the bill was 15 Euros each. Best deal ever.

Tomorrow we leave Trani and go towards Conversano where we are booked for 4 nights at Masseria MontePaolo.

Flame123 is offline  
May 18th, 2007, 02:02 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 22,026
Thanks for taking the time to post this during your trip; I look forward to more...

Concidentally I am now reading the new book by Lidia Bastianich which has a chapter on Puglian food; if you plan to return to the Andria area, she recommends the "spectacular" burrata (cheese) made by Domenico Asseliti and his family.
ekscrunchy is offline  
May 18th, 2007, 02:27 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,800
hi, flame,

great report on a neglected area.

in fact, so neglected, I've no idea where Trani is!

would you be kind enough to give me an idea plus driving time from Rome, and when you were there?

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
May 18th, 2007, 02:41 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 22,026
Ann: Just in case you are in the US and watch PBS, the new series called Lidia's Italy (same as her new book) had a program on Puglia recently in which she featured Trani. You can probably catch the rerun.
ekscrunchy is offline  
May 18th, 2007, 08:03 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,806
Good stuff, Flame. More, please.
Holly_uncasdewar is offline  
May 19th, 2007, 06:00 AM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 1,480
ekscrunchy - thanks. I am not actually writing this as I vacation. I have returned already and am putting the report together. Yes, I read about this buratta cheese. I believe we may have also eaten it and not really known. We had some very special cheeses on this trip and I am sure this was one of them.

Ann - the Puglia area of Italy is the "heel of the boot", i.e. the southeastern part. To get there from Rome, as we did, we drove south first towards Napoli (about 200 kilometers) and then cut across the country, easternly, to get to the eastern coast, the Adriatic Sea, and that was about another 200 kilometers to Tranu. Another 200 kilometers southwards to our final stop got us to Lecce. We were just there now during the first 11 days of May 2007.

Holly - thanks. And here is more !!!


Day Four

On our way to Conversano. We left Trani, sadly, around 10 AM and arrived at the Masseria around 11:20. We were booked into 2 beautiful rooms with balconies overlooking gardens and countryside. Completely isolated and beautifully quiet and peaceful. The price here was 85 Euros for a double, 55 Euros for a single. After settling in we drove towards Polignano di Amare where we stopped around the port and old city center and had a small meal of tagliolini with porcini mushrooms for my cousin and me, with salmon for my husband (L'Osteria di Chichibio, Largo Gelso 12, Polignano di Amare; Tel – 080-4240488; web – www.chichibiopolignano.com). We later found out that this was a restaurant recommended especially for its amazing and fresh fish, which we actually saw while seated next to the man preparing them for cooking/baking, etc. But we were not hungry for a large meal anyway. We then walked forever all over the old town and by 3 PM we were hungry for an espresso, for some reason the restaurant did not offer coffee at all. So we stopped at a small outdoor cafe right at the entrance to the old city and rejuvenated ourselves with great coffee.

We walked back to the car and drove into the city of Conversano. Again, we walked all around the old city with beautiful castles, fabulous churches, had our first gelato for even a very inexpensive price of 1.30 for 2 big scoops in a cone. We returned to the Masseria around 5:30 and just enjoyed the peaceful quiet, rested, took showers, etc. before dinner at 8 PM here.

Dinner – many many small antipasti including canapes of tuna salad and a dried tomato paste, plate of various cheeses, fried bread balls, fried mozzarella balls, a fried dough with melted cheese and tomato inside. Prima piatti of really al dente spaghetti with tomato sauce and parmeggiano, secondi piatti of delicious goulash-type beef with roasted potatoes and rosemary. Desert was petit four of chocolates and nuts. Water, red and white wines. Yum. Quite good. We ended up having dinner here each night and it was 20 Euros each.

A comment about the dinner at Montepaolo. One of the reasons I chose this place for 4 nights was because of comments on tripadvisor. People raved about the food, the owner, etc. We did not have the same experience. The food on two nights that we ate here was very good, since those were the two nights that there was either a large party or another table set for about 10 people coming from somewhere just for the meal. So we enjoyed the special foods made for them. On the other two nights, while the food was OK and even tasty, it was nothing really and truly great. The owner, while nice enough, was not even there for two of the four days we spent. And when she was, she was too busy to give us more than a quick Bona sera, etc.


Flame123 is offline  
May 19th, 2007, 02:41 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,800
hi, Flame,

thanks for the signposts to puglia. in fact it was trani i couldn't place - one of the other students on my italian lessons has a house in puglia, but I hadn't read your title properly. Duuuh!

the trip sounds great - what made you pick that bit?

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
May 20th, 2007, 12:28 AM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 1,480
Ann - you are welcome. We picked Puglia on the suggestion of a traveling companion. She has friends who have a summer home in that area and they had been raving about it for some time. So we took the plunge and decided to visit there.

More coming soon.
Flame123 is offline  
May 20th, 2007, 01:42 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 221
Flame--I'm loving your trip report and definitely bookmarking it for reference for our trip next year (yes, so far off, sigh!) I've been trying to find a guide book specifically for Pulgia (have checked under Apulia also) but cannot find anything more than several pages in a Southern Italy guide book. Did you have a book and if so can you tell me the name and author? Thanks.
Angela_m is offline  
May 21st, 2007, 02:11 AM
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 1,480
Angela - I also had very little to go on when trying to find books. I actually received a couple on loan from a friend, for this trip. One indeed was the one you write about on Southern Italy, but it was much more than a few pages, it was a chapter of maybe 40-50 pages. But since it spoke of many towns there really was not more than a half page or page for each place. The other book was called The Blue Book on Southern Italy, if I remember correctly. That was less useful. I relied also on whatever I found on travel sites (not so much on Fodors site but more on tripadvisor and slow travel). And I found that I really had more than enough information.


Here is Day 5 :

We had breakfast at 9 AM, it consisted of bread, some pound cake, cookies, good yogurt, not-great cappuccino, not-fresh orange juice. Not at all what I expected (or read about). Oh well…. We were out just before 10 AM and drove to Alberobello, the Trulli village. We walked around the tourist part and also the "regular" part of the town where people actually live. Very beautiful and special to this region only. Locorotondo was next, another small village in the Trulli area. Here we had a great light lunch of pasta with gorgonzola, tomatoes and basil, the speciality of the region, i.e. pureed fava beans with chicory (or spinach in this case) which was really and truly outstanding, and a "chef's plate" of various marinated or fried vegetables, meats and cheeses. A memorable and very very inexpensive meal in a small trattoria which I would happily return to (Trattoria Centro Storico at Via Eroi di Dogali 6; Tel : 080-4315473; www.ilcentrostorico.biz).

Our next stop was the charming little town of Cisternino where we walked around the old centro storico and then drove to the big city of Ostuni. Here we had some trouble finding the actual center and even parked the car much further than we should have, but we finally got there and was it worth it!! Beautiful whitewashed houses, a very big center, several beautiful churches and buildings, and a great gelato which we enjoyed in the afternoon heat. We walked around the city some more and then headed back to the car.

Driving back to Conversano we got a bit mixed up around Putignano but stopped at a gas station and asked someone who was filling up his car and he said to wait 5 minutes and follow him. He got us out of the mess and on the right road but we ended up at the masseria at 7 PM, much later than we wanted. There is a private party here tonight at the Masseria but we were promised quiet by midnight, let's see if that will hold. We are having dinner here again tonight.

Dinner was great!!! Appetizers included bruschetta with tomatoes and olive oil, mozzarella, deep-fried light vegetables (fritta mista), two kinds of focaccia, spinach and ricotta quiche. Lasagna was prima piatti, not for me because it had eggplant. No second piatti for any of us because it was pork tonight but we got some kind of wheat dish in tomato sauce. And the proprietor came out to tell us that we were her guests for dinner tonight, both because of the above and both because of the private party tonight and to "make up" for the many people and noise, etc. That was really very nice of her (and good business!!). We rounded off the meal with a millefiore cake with pistachio cream and fondant and on-the-premises-made almond liquer. WOW!!!!

A P.S. to the party and noise – there were indeed many people, maybe about 100, and it included small children. The "noise" was barely audible and everyone conducted themselves in a very elegant and proper manner. It was beautiful to see and I believe that the music, which was actually welcome and beautiful (the owner thought we would be bothered by it), and the party itself were finished even before the promised midnight hour.


Flame123 is offline  
May 24th, 2007, 04:35 AM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 1,480
Don't know if you are still reading my report, but here is Day 6 finished :


Day SIX

We awoke to a beautiful sunny morning for a change and it was warmer than till now. We drove to Altamura and visited the beautiful historic center there, churches, etc, We got some info from some aging pensioners sitting outdoors in the sun and in the "tourist office" (more aging pensioners sitting indoors who were all very sweet and as helpful as can be). Altamura is the "city of bread" and we found the excellent de Gesu bakery that I wanted to visit after reading about it (F. lli. Di Gesu` S.n.c., Via Bari, c.s. 1047, 70022 Altamura; Tel/Fax : 080-3142737). It smelled wonderful and we bought some typical Pugliese taralle and biscotti to bring home.

We continued our drive to Matera, the Sassi city of caves. We were all truly "wow-ed" here. It was really something special and unusual and we had never seen anything like it before. We walked around for a long time, stopping at every corner for pictures and "wow-ing". We stopped for a drink and sandwich around 3 PM at a lovely little outdoor seating area of a hotel called La Casa di Lucio, Hotel Relais, on Via S. Pietro Caveoso 66; Tel 0835-312798, www.lacasadilucio.it. There was a small outdoor area and it was a pleasant respite from the midday heat. We used the bathroom there and it was so elegant and beautiful that I needed to photograph it. The hotel itself also was gorgeous and I asked the woman what is the cost. She told me 135 Euros per night for a couple. There are quite a few hotels here in this sassi area and I guess people choose to spend some time there. It looks like it would REALLY be eerie at night, it was eerie enough now during the day. We started back around 3:45 and will be having dinner at MontePaolo again tonight.

We had a fabulous meal tonight (maybe because we saw a large table set for about 10 guests from outside?). We started with tuna crostini, lightly battered and deep-fried zucchini strips, pastry filled with melted cheese and tomato, also fried, marvelous soft
mozzarella cheese, soft and creamy inside with some lettuce, mounds of creamy ricotta with mint. Primi piatti was creamy risotto with asparagus and parmeggiano. Second piatti was the best barbequed veal I have ever eaten with a lovely salad. Fruit (kiwi, strawberries and oranges) rounded off the meal along with a small cup of custard and fruit, wine and water.

Flame123 is offline  
May 24th, 2007, 05:59 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 6,282
You are making me want to follow in your footsteps ! Please keep it coming. Sorry if it's in there somewhere already, but what was the name of the masseria you stayed at ?
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
May 24th, 2007, 06:00 AM
  #15  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 1,480
The name of the Masseria is Agriturismo MontePaolo just outside Conversano.
Flame123 is offline  
May 24th, 2007, 06:58 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 6,282
Thank you. I've thought about going to Puglia & looked at a few masserias (masserie, I suppose), but being in historic buildings they don't generally seem to have balconies. This looks nice and very reasonable.

Hope you don't mind me asking - how good is your Italian ? We speak some but not fluently - is that enough for Puglia ?
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
May 24th, 2007, 08:37 AM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 1,480
When you say you speak some Italian, what do you mean? I also speak some Italian, and can understand if spoken slowly. I had absolutely NO problem with anyone in Puglia, even those who knew no English whatsoever (most of them!!) just because they are such kind and generous people, who are willing to go to lengths to make themselves understood. We even had people driving us to destinations because it was easier than trying to explain it. They were truly marvelous.

If you speak a little and are patient and sensitive yourself, I don't think you will have any problems.

I also had an pocketbook of Italian/English dictionary with me and it came in useful from time to time. The main thing is to say a few words in Italian. They are so pleased that you are "trying" that everything else is forgiven!!
Flame123 is offline  
May 25th, 2007, 03:20 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 6,282
Thanks, that's good to know. I've done 3 years' worth of evening classes but as I said, am by no means fluent and I'm not that confident. I've been to Italy 16 times (I think) so far but not usually so far off the beaten track - usually our problem is not getting to practice our Italian because everyone speaks to us in English (or in Ischia, in German) !
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
May 25th, 2007, 09:23 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,472
More please!
Barb is offline  
May 25th, 2007, 12:53 PM
  #20  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 1,480
Here is more !!!


Day SEVEN

We had our sad breakfast as usual and we were off around 9:45 towards Martina Franca, a beautiful elegant little town with very exclusive shops, very well-manicured piazzas and little green areas and gardens in the city, and a nice centro storico where we walked around for some time.

Castellana in Grotto was next where we had a vegetarian Panini and a drink before entering the stalagcyte and stalagmite caves which were amazing. They are apparently the biggest in Italy and very very impressive. We had a tour of about an hour in German because that is what they were offering at that time (there were very few tourists and so we would have had to wait several hours for one in English). We then drove towards the sea again and stopped in Monopoli which was a surprisingly beautiful and interesting town. MANY MANY churches, at every corner a different one, and a very big and grand centro storico. We again wandered down to the port which was much larger than we had expected and so we were happy we decided to go there.

We returned to the hotel around 6 PM, showered and waited for dinner.

It seems that we have better dinners when there are parties going on here. Tonight we had tomato and basil crostini, fresh mushrooms in a lemon and oil dressing and a cheese and potato/bread baked pie. Delicious tagliatelle with artichokes were the primi piatti.

Some stewed beef, cold potatoes and very large and strange cucumbers were the main course and only some sad fruit with whipped cream for desert.

Flame123 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 07:31 PM.