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Puglia beaches, food and wine!

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Jun 1st, 2016, 01:21 PM
  #1
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Puglia beaches, food and wine!

Hello Fodorites....we are finally heading to Puglia in two weeks and thought I would check back in to see if anyone had any further must see, must do's. We are in Lecce then Matera and then near Ostuni. We want to do at least one or two beach days and would love to know your experiences in that regard as well as any great off the beaten path places to eat, have some great wine and whatever else stood out for those of you who have been there. Not necessarily fancy just memorable for you.

Thanks very much.
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Jun 2nd, 2016, 10:52 AM
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We were in Puglia in October of 2014 and loved it! Delicious food and wine there. Nice seafood and interesting vegetable dishes.
In Lecce we had a very good meal at La Torre di Merlino at via Giambattista del tufo, 10.

Delicious gelato at Pasticceria Natale, via Trinchese, 7. (this was one of the main streets in the old centre so hard to miss)
They also had chocolate, pastries etc.

In Matera we had a very nice lunch with local dishes at Ristorante Nadi, it is in the Barrisano sasso, at the bottom. So from the main square you descend down into the sasso and it is not hard to find. via Fiorentini,3.

An interesting thing we did was an olive oil tour at Masseria Brancati just on the outskirts of Ostuni. You call ahead to book a tour. (our hotel did it for us)
That was fascinating.

We went swimming once at the beach at San Cataldo which was pretty much a straight shot out of Lecce to the coast. As it was off season the beach clubs were closed and there were only a few other swimmers but it was very pleasant, clear clean water. I think it is worth it to pay to use the beach clubs in season as you get the chairs, umbrellas, the facilities etc plus there is usually a restaurant for lunch and drinks.

We also saw some nice beaches at Otranto and Gallipoli, but your hotels should be able to advise you on the best ones.

Where are you staying near Ostuni? We stayed at Masseria Cervarolo which is in the countryside (the valle d'Itria) near Ostuni. There are lots of interesting towns to explore round there.

I hope you have a great trip.
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Jun 2nd, 2016, 12:54 PM
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Thanks so much...and we too are staying at Masseria Cervarolo! It sounded wonderful.
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Jun 2nd, 2016, 02:07 PM
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Ohh! I am so jealous, I wish I was going back to the Cervarolo! Well make sure you have some time to relax at their pool, it was fantastic and they have a little snack bar/drinks place there too so you don't even have to move! lol.

They have the oil from Brancati in their dining room that's where we tasted it and when we remarked on it they told us about the tour etc.

They ( Cervarolo) had a free wine tasting night which we did and it was really worthwhile, very informative and we tried some great wines. We had dinner there a couple of times too, good food. (lots of food!)
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Jun 2nd, 2016, 02:16 PM
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I visited those areas in May the last two years. I guess this will be my trip report!

Matera
We enjoyed Dalla Padella alla Brace for dinner--very homey, full of locals and an amazing deal (SO much delicious food). For something a bit more formal, Le Botteghe was delicious. You can't miss the gelateria in the main square--I vizi degli angeli laboratorio di gelateria artigianale. It has really unusual flavors.
Just across the gorge in Matera is the large park with cave churches that you can see with a guide (some you can peek into). You can now walk over from the sassi because they have installed a bridge at the bottom of the gorge (if you are up for that--it can be hard on the knees, but the wildflowers were great). The park office, called CEA, had information as well as a little cafe. They offer a peasant soup called la crapiata, an unfortunate name for the 12-year-old in me, but hearty and delicious! We returned this year just for that lunch. That may not sound so special, but when you are eating bread, pasta, and cheese for 10 days, some nutritious meals like that are in order for us. They sell dried peppers, pickles, and dried beans.
A tour in Matera is highly recommended. We used Antonio at http://www.materatourguide.it/public/en/ (and we are really not typically tour people).
We took a day trip to Craco (sometimes called a ghost town--it was evacuated in the 50s before a landslide) for a fascinating tour. Our English-speaking guide was William and he did a fantastic job. Tell his furry sidekick Ronnie hi.
You can drive down to the coast and see a Greek temple at Metaponto (though if you have seen the ones at Paestum or in Sicily I would not make a special trip unless you are passing by).
Last, we drove to Laterza and hiked along the top of their gorge (google Oasi LIPU if you are interested). We were the only ones there and it was magical--just wildflowers and raptors.

Lecce
Le Zie (Cucina Casarecchia) is a great food experience, so I recommend it even though I found the food a bit salty in the case of the chicory and bland in the form of ciceri e tria. The tieddha (many spellings--a casserole of mussels and potatoes) is great. I find the food much better at Nonna Tetti, but be prepared to ignore the gruff waitress if she is swamped (recommend the fava spread with octopus). For a quick, cheap (but very good) lunch, I have two recommendations near the amphitheater, on either side of Cafe Alvino, a couple doors down in each case: Piadina Salentina and Come Vuoi Pane & Condimenti. If you are like me, lunch can be tough because I don't really like to have a long, large lunch when I want to be out sightseeing or whatever, and a lot of places close up. Piadina is an eat-immediatley kind of thing, but at the Come Vuoi place you can get a sandwich and pack it for an excursion.
For museums, don't miss the Faggiano.

Beaches (and tips for nature nuts)
We were not there in beach season, but we like to walk along the sea on nice days. Near Ostuni is Parco Naturale Regionale Dune Costiere da Torre Canne a Torre San Leonardo--that would be one of my choices for a beach day if you want a natural beach (versus beach clubs--plenty of those just north). Torre Guaceto near Brindisi is also nice. My favorite coastal park would be on the Ionian side, just north of Gallipoli at Porto Selvaggio--an easy drive from Lecce (gorgeous!).
There is a guide to Salento beaches sold at the Lecce tourist office--it shows where they are sandy and where they are rocky. We had a hard time knowing where to pull off and stop as we drove south along the Adriatic from San Cataldo, so do some research in advance--you may have seen that there are some dramatic rock formations. There is a WWF refuge called Cesine (tour required to really see anything) you may find interesting. We eventually stopped at Gagliano del Capo due to a coastal road detour and walked down to Ciolo, a lovely walk through Mediterranean vegetation except for a brief bit where you pass a dumpster. Ciolo is a popular cove beach, and there is a hike along the coast north to some caves (il Sentiero delle cipolliane).
On the Ionian side, there are plenty of beach clubs as well and gorgeous water. We drive through Ugento looking for a little regional park but gave up fro fear of getting lost in the zillion olive trees. We parked at Torre Mozza, which would be just fine for me if I wanted to swim on a hot day, and then we walked along the coast past some of the formal beaches. To the south and north of there, there are some beaches with spectacularly clear water--so look for that brochure I mentioned.
Buon Viaggio!
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Jun 3rd, 2016, 11:14 AM
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Wonderful...thank you so much!
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Jun 3rd, 2016, 11:17 AM
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Do you think we need to book the Matera tour in advance?
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Jun 3rd, 2016, 12:09 PM
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Thanks for all the great info above. We're headed to Puglia in September.
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Jun 3rd, 2016, 12:34 PM
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I would book the Matera tour in advance at this time of year. Large tour groups come through. Many people here rave about a guide named Nadia as well--someone probably mentioned her in one of your posts. Antonio and his wife both do tours.

Just fyi, our hotel called and inquired about the Craco tours for us, and we informed them of our rough arrival time (about an hour from Matera). They have a tour office, but that part of Craco can seem a bit like a ghost town as well, so we were glad to have it sorted before we arrived. You basically pass the town then go down a hill and the office is behind an apartment building. It starts out a little strange as they show you modern commercials filmed in the area, but they also show photos of Craco in the 50s--important when you enter the actual town and can visualize what it was like.
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Jun 3rd, 2016, 01:32 PM
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We used Nadia and she was terrific, and yes, we booked in advance.
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Jun 7th, 2016, 07:59 AM
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We are probably going to do he tour with Antonio in Matera. Quick question....is there much climing and/or can i do this in a pair of very comfortable flip flops or sandals...? I don't want to pack too much and am trying to avoid packing clunky sneakers? Thanks.
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Jun 7th, 2016, 08:35 AM
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Mikster it is not always flat, there are staircases to go up and down and uneven footing, I wore sneakers, would not have found it comfortable in flip flops but you may be different. If they were Teva sandals or the like I guess, but little strappy leather sandals no. Also our tour was about 5 hours which is a long time on your feet.

To avoid the clunky sneaker thing I have Nike Free that I travel with, very lightweight and don't take a lot of room.
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Jun 7th, 2016, 09:13 AM
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Bookmarking
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Jun 7th, 2016, 10:04 AM
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got it! Thank you.
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Jun 8th, 2016, 07:32 AM
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Not flip flops, but walking sandals should be fine. More important is that they are slip resistant, as that uneven stone pavement can be quite slick!
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Jun 8th, 2016, 11:33 AM
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Matera is definitely not a "flip flop" kind of place as well as most of the towns with the stone streets and rough walking. There are many lightweight and stylish sneakers and I would not leave home for Europe without a pair. As for the tour in Matera ...yes book in advance and we toured with both Antonio and Nadia and far preferred Antonio.
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Jun 9th, 2016, 12:17 PM
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Thank you.
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Jun 10th, 2016, 08:35 AM
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Hey, Mikster.

My wife and I visited Puglia 3 years ago this month - loved it!

I agree with the other posters - flip flops are not a good option in Matera. We are not tour-takers, but decided to take Nadia's tour in Matera. She was awesome. I'm sure that Antonio will be great, too.

We ate tons of good food and drank gallons of delicious wine in Puglia! Two dining experiences stand out in our memories. Here are a couple of excerpts from my TR:

From our drive down the Ionian coast from Matera to Gallipoli...

"We continued on down the coast, getting hungry thinking about our upcoming lunch. We pulled into the beautiful, seaside town of Santa Maria al Bagno. This is another place I’d read about somewhere in my research. It’s places like this and Punta Prosciutto that make all of the hours of research pay off. We had 12:15 lunch reservations (although they weren’t needed as it was midweek and early in the season) at Ristorante Art Nouveau overlooking the quiet little harbor. Jusef, whose family opened the business a couple of generations before, greeted us by name as we arrived. As it was a gorgeous sunny day, we ate lunch out on the pretty patio. Everything we ate and drank was simply prepared, yet outstanding! Such fresh, delicious seafood. Jusef and staff treated us with extra special care. This was the best meal of the entire 2-week trip, hands down."

Great dinner on the outskirts of Ostuni...

"On the way back to the room, we stopped by the desk and got directions to the masseria where we’d have dinner. It was very close by, just on the outskirts of town. We showered and dressed for dinner, grabbed the car from the garage, and were pulling off the main road into Masseria Il Frantoio in no time. Once on the property, the drive to the main residence was very peaceful. The sun was setting as we eased along the stone-walled drive through gorgeous olive groves. Mel snapped some terrific pictures. Dinner was scheduled to begin at 8:30pm, but we arrived early so that we could get the 8pm tour of the property.

We sat in the nice courtyard and enjoyed a couple of cocktails. Mel made friends with a sweet kitty and enjoyed loving on her as she was curled up in Mel’s lap. The owner of the masseria, Armando, gave the group a very interesting tour of the main residence and some of the gardens – quite a place. The peacock cawing in the background from somewhere on the property was funny, and just seemed right!

It was finally time for dinner. I’d made reservations a few months in advance, having read somewhere that the 8-course meal was something “not to be missed” if you found yourself anywhere near Ostuni. The dining room was large, yet cozy. There were multiple 12-top rectangular tables set up. We were led to our seats, where a nice hand-written place-card was found. We had the pleasure of making new friends (with couples from England and Germany) as we enjoyed the many tasty courses and accompanying wines. If we ever find ourselves in Ostuni again, we’ll be staying at this masseria – it seemed like a very low-key and relaxing place to stay and it’s literally just outside of the city."

We would go back to Puglia in a heartbeat. It was beautiful and really fun to explore.

You're welcome to check out my TR - lots of good info.

Have fun!

Robbie
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Jun 10th, 2016, 12:20 PM
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Wow! Thank you so much. We too have dinner reservations at Masseria Il Frantoio and are very much looking forward to it. Thank you for the great info. I will also look at your trip repot...much appreciated. We're very excited!
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