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Venturing into Southern Italy – A Short TR

Venturing into Southern Italy – A Short TR

Old Oct 14th, 2012, 08:59 AM
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Venturing into Southern Italy – A Short TR

All I can say is Puglia is wonderful – go now before it truly gets discovered which it will. People are delightful, friendly and wanting to help. It’s very scenic with lots of villages with interesting sites to visit, beaches to lie on, seas to swim in, fabulous food to eat and wine to drink and all this at a price I doubt you will find elsewhere in Italy.
We began our trip mid September and had great weather - not a drop of rain, clear, blue skies every day. Our second weeks temps did get up ion the 90's which is apparently warm for that time of year or so we were told by the locals.

Again, I want to thank all the fodorites who wrote such great TRs and answered my many questions as I planned. Throughout the trip we constantly referred back to various reports. Below are the logistics of our 3 week trip.

4 nights at Albergo Palazzo Decumani
Piazzetta Giustino Fortunato,8 Naples
http://www.palazzodecumani.com
Loved this hotel – quiet, peaceful in a great location within the Centro Storico with easy access to many sites in Naples. Good buffet breakfasts offered.
After reading for many years about the crime and garbage in Naples, we found Naples to be a crazy, chaotic fun – and safe -city. Absolutely loved it!

2 nights at Villa Casa D'angelo
via Canosa 150
http://www.villacasadangelo.it
Wanted to stay near the Masseria Barbera & Antichi Sapori and this was well located. Old villa with 4 rooms, but we were the only people staying. Vittora was a great host, offereing lots of information. We had a large room with big bath. Wifi reception was in the public areas right outside our room. Breakfasts were individualized as you requested and served outside in the lovely garden area.

3 nights at Masseria Serra dell'Isola
S.P. 165 Mola - Conversano, n. 35
http://www.masseriaserradellisola.it/
Rita, the owner is wonderful and clearly makes this place. What it is, a homey, gracious home. Beautiful old masseria with nice grounds pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but only 20 minutes drive from the main roads once u figure out the tiny country roads leading to Rita’s. Again we were the only guests. Room was nice, but bathroom very tiny. I had debated whether to stay here or move further south closer to Ostuni, Martina Franco area, but Rita enticed me so in our emails, that I went against better judgment and stayed here. We adored Rita, had one fabulous dinner here and did enjoy our stay with her. Her breakfasts were unreal, started with coffee and a big bowl of fresh fruit and was followed by one plate of goodies after another. We had to stop the parade of delicious baked goods. But re location it not far enough south to efficiently visit the area, but hey, it’s Italy, who needed efficiency???

5 nights at Escape to Italy apt
30, Via Robertini Galatina
http://www.escapetoitaly.co.uk
I have to thank Kodi for telling me about this great apt in Galatina. We used this as a home base to explore the Salento and loved our apt and the charming town of Galatina. Galatina is about 20-30 minutes south of Lecce and about 30 minutes to either coast. It made a perfect spot from which to day trip and explore the area. We had easy parking near our apt and getting into and out of town was easy peasy. Our only complaint was the unreliable wifi which we did mention to the owners and they have decided to go ahead and fix their wifi this winter. BTW owners are fabulously helpful and easy to deal with – they are in England.

3 nights at Residence San Giorgio
Via Fiorentini, 259 Matera stayed in suite della bifora http://www.sangiorgio.matera.it
This was a converted cave dwelling in a dispersed hotel. Quite luxurious. The cave (American pronunciation) had a cave (French pronunciation) – a wine cellar! Unfortunately, it didn’t have wine. We literally ran right into the reception area where we could leave our car. The walk with luggage t our suite was quite a walk. And I might add the staff did not offer to carry anything, so we trudged up 100 mts consisting of stone steps and walking on slippery stone walkways with our 2 suitcases and miscellaneous stuff to get to our room. While we really liked this place, be wary of the walk to the rooms with your luggage. Perhaps other staff would help?

1 night at Boutique Hotel Palazzo Marzoli Resort
Via G.Marconi, 334 Positano
http://www.palazzomarzoli.it/index.php?lng=en
this was a last minute switch to go to the Amalfi coast and we had trouble finding a place to stay. We found this nice hotel on the Internet and it was recently renovated and quite nice with beautiful views. It had very friendly, helpful staff. But it’s way too far from the main part of Positano to realistically spend time here. We have always stayed more in town or in Ravello, but we were unable to get any reservations, so we took a chance on this place. I couldn’t imagine spending any time at this location. It’s not that it is a far walk up and down the windy hills, but the traffic is so heavy that walking feels dangerous with cars and motorcycles whizzing about 6” from you. Amalfi Coast was way too crowded and we left after one night.

2 nights at Orsini 46 Naples
http://www.orsini46.it
We had planned to spend just our last night here before flying home, but we ended up with the last two nights. The B&B is inside the owner’s apt bldg and has 3 rooms. Our first room, which we had not reserved in advance, was tiny, but nice. We were moved the next morning into the room we had reserved and it was about twice as big with two small balconies. This B&B is located in the Port area that has a very different feel then the Centro Storico where we stayed upon our arrival. The area is convenient for visiting old palaces and castles, but felt a touch sterile to me and I think I preferred the location of our first hotel in Naples. Nonetheless, this is a lovely B&B with very nice owners and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in staying in the Port area.
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Old Oct 14th, 2012, 09:02 AM
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I like Puglia. I suspect it has been an attractive place for getting on the last 500 years, but the affect of the mafia continues to destroy whatever hope the area has to become wealthy. So sad, still I see in Calabria a town council were sacked last week for all being criminals.
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Old Oct 14th, 2012, 09:25 AM
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Great info, yestravel. DH and I never got to Puglia. Yet another place to add to the list.
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Old Oct 14th, 2012, 09:30 AM
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ttt
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Old Oct 14th, 2012, 09:50 AM
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I'm am settling in for a great read, about an area that I love!

Looks like you chose very well on the lodgings....cannot wait to read more!

I think that we shared the same feelings about Positano. As beautiful as that area is, I found it almost an unpleasant shock after the blissfully uncrowded far south. The trouble is, now that I've discovered the joys of Puglia and Basilicata, it will be difficult for me to travel to Italy again without including those areas. We are already thinking about a 4th trip for next year!
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Old Oct 14th, 2012, 10:15 AM
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eks - where did u go in Puglia this year? We're thinking of a trip to Croatia and using Bari for the ferry to get us back to Puglia next year. And yes, felt very sad about Positano/Amafi coast -- it is just way too crowded to enjoy esp as u said after the "blissfully uncrowded" south.
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Old Oct 14th, 2012, 12:09 PM
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I look forward to reading details. We are just back from Naples, the Cilento, Positano and Rome. We loved all our places but especially the Cilento. We're considering a trip next year to the Cilento and Puglia.

We loved Positano, because we stayed far from the madding crowd, on a farm on a hill several ravines away. We hiked and swam and used our little kitchen. I'd stay at this place (Rifugio degli Dei) again in a heartbeat. We only went to Positano to take the ferry or to go to the grocery store. It was jammed with people and clothing stores!
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Old Oct 14th, 2012, 12:42 PM
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rosetravels - funny u stayed there. That was one of the places that kept showing availability, but we really wanted to be able to walk around town - whether it be in Positano or Ravello -- the agriturisomo had looked really nice and hearing about your time there, sorry we didn't rethink and stay there. For us, it was having such wonderful memories of visits to the Amalfi coast being way less crowded and having magical times wandering around it...oh well, everything changes. Glad u had such a good stay.
Did u write up anything on Cilento? Haven't spent any time there and would love to hear about it.
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Old Oct 14th, 2012, 01:13 PM
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YesTravel: From another thread, this gives a summary of my last trip, a few weeks ago:



We just returned from our third trip to Puglia. This time (September, 2012), we flew into Bari and drove immediately to Marconia, in Basilicata, where we spent two nights in a grape and orange-growing estate, the agriturismo of San Teodoro Nuovo.

http://www.santeodoronuovo.com/


From there, we visited the town of Bernalda, a food mecca that I fell for immediately and to which I have to return. Food highlight: Dinner at La Locandiera, in Bernalda.

The main focus of our stay was to track down my beloved Senise peppers and I am glad to report that our mission was successful. We spent several hours at the farm of Sr. Giuseppe Pennella, just outside Senise, and we departed with armfuls of peppers in several forms.

From Basilicata, we drove through Taranto, stopped in Gallipoli, and arrived at our next destination for a three night stay: Masseria Don Cirillo, between Ugento and the Ionian coast at Torre San Giovanni. (I wrote a review on TripAdvisor)

http://www.masseriadoncirillo.it/


From here, we visited the Ionian beaches, a few gorgeous, sun-baked Salentine towns, and the lower Adriatic Coast. A food highlight was dinner in Taviano, at A Casa Tu Martinu.

Finally, we returned to which my favorite Italian hotel, the splurge-worthy Torre Maizza, in Savelletri di Fasano.

I will try to put together a brief report about this trip when I get time.



I traveled through the Cilento last September (2011) (began in Lamezia Terme airport, in Calabria, and ended on Amalfi Coast; trip was just over two weeks in length) but never did write a report. We had planned on having two bases, but because we checked out of our first B&B after only one night, we ended up staying in 3 places--in Palinuro, in Pisciotta, and in Sta Maria di Castellabate. Will be happy to discuss details, but for now, this might help:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...re-to-stay.cfm
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Old Oct 14th, 2012, 01:42 PM
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Ah, thanks, sounds nice...we probably passed u on the road at some point!
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Old Oct 14th, 2012, 08:39 PM
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Ah, Bella Napoli – for years I avoided this city believing what I had often read about it – a city full of crime and trash. But what I learned is that these overblown characterizations have kept prices down and tourists away.

We arrived in Naples on 19 Sept which is Festa de San Gennaro. The city was aglow celebrating the day. The festival is centered around the Duomo, a 13th century Gothic cathedral dedicated to Naple's patron saint, San Gennaro. The festival is held when a vial of his blood is taken out of its storage place in hopes that it will liquefy. We arrived too late to see this event. Everybody loves a good party and Naples thrives on them so it made for a fun evening to just walk thru the streets and enjoy the celebrations going on.

We spent the next 3 days wandering about the city visiting the usual sites: my favorite being National Archaeological Museum of Naples

Other interesting places included Santa Chiara Church which is part of a large complex that includes a monastery with beautiful cloisters decorated with majolica tiles and frescoes and an interesting archaeological museum

The Capodimonte Museum and Park which we had a difficult time finding for some reason after getting up to the area of the museum we couldn’t seem to find the actual building walking back and forth along a roadway lacking a sidewalk. Finally we hailed a taxi and to our embarrassment, the driver took us less than a mile around a curve in the road. After all this, I was wasn’t particularly wowed by the museum.

Cappella Sansevero holds major 18th century sculptures and paintings, including the Veiled Christ by Sanmartino.

Gesu Nuovo Church who’s plain exterior belies its baroque interior is lovely.

We took the funicular one day and spent our time in the Vomero neighborhood which has wonderful views back over the city.

We left other parts of the city to explore upon on return at the end of the trip.

Naples surprised me in that at night it seemed to quiet down in the Centre Storico. Walking back from dinner some evenings there were very few people out on the streets. Perhaps that's not where the night life happens.

I have to dig out the information on the places where we had great pizza and other food.

If you're looking for a picture perfect city, like Camelot, Naples is not for you, but if you're looking for a vibrant city, a touch on the gritty side, but interesting and fun, go to Naples.
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Old Oct 15th, 2012, 06:02 AM
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Food in Naples -- Naples has delicious, inexpensive food. What we ate was mostly simply prepared food with the freshest ingredients. Our first meal – a pizza, of course – was at a place the hotel recommended right down the street from the hotel. While I thought the tomatoes luscious and the mozzarella to die for, I thought the crust a touch soggy. But nonetheless it was a pizza to remember. We also sampled zeppole and decided while quite good, I needed to avoid them or I would look like a zeppole by the end of our stay.

We enjoyed pizza for dinner two other times, once at Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente (the one with the picture of Pres Clinton.) at Via Tribunali, 120/121 For some reason we waited forever for our pizza, the Italians sitting next to us were getting very disturbed about the wait. Anyway, the pizza was once again very good. Our 3rd & best pizza in Naples was at the famous Sorbillo on via Tribunali, 32. This is another pizza “temple” in the “centro storico” of Naples. We got there a bit before 8 and had no wait. When we left there were lines out the door.

The day we explored Vomero we had a good lunch at Donna Teresa on Via Kerbaker 58. We were giving 2 choices for each course, but we noticed that Italians seemed to have more selection. We probably needed to ask. I had the fish course that turned out to be sardines, one of the few seafood that I do not care for. A slab of mozzarella replaced it. Recommend this tiny place for a good quick lunch which cost of €25 for two of us.

We wandered on afternoon into a restaurant at lunch and had a fabulous meal, pretty much letting the owner bring us whatever he wanted. Food was just divine in Naples. I don’t think we had one bad thing then entire 4 days.

Coffee was excellent everywhere, but we stumbled upon Caffe Mexico in the Vomero area and loved their coffee.

We had planned to take the train to Paestum one of our days in Naples, but there was so much to see and do, that we never made it. Just wandering the streets and alleyways could take days---so much atmosphere and so much to eat!
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Old Oct 15th, 2012, 09:25 AM
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yestravel - your enthusiasm for Naples is infectious.

we went for a day trip from Sorrento more years ago than I care to remember, [DH and I's first holiday together before we were married - how daring we were in those days] and i remember being fascinated and worried by it in equal measure. you're making me think i want to go back!
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Old Oct 15th, 2012, 10:31 AM
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HI yestravel - I haven't written anything up on the Cilento but I will. We stayed in 2 amazing places there and thought the entire region was gorgeous (and so affordable.) I was just on the Agriturismo website looking for great places in Puglia and Basilicata for next September.

We also really enjoyed Naples! We stayed across the street from Santa Chiara and we loved our neighborhood. And, like you, enjoyed the restaurants and the sites.

We also had trouble finding the Museo Capidomonte! We overshot our stop on the bus, then wandered the streets following signs. The first sign was a nice metal sign, the 2nd was a bent, rusted metal sign, the 3rd was handwritten on white copy paper tacked to a wall and on the 4th corner there was no sign. Just some guys outside a bar. One of them looked at us, smiled and pointed left. We turned the corner and there it was. I'm an artist and thought the museum was fantastic. I especially enjoyed the 2 Bruegel paintings and the small room with the full-size drawing and painting by Michaelangelo, side by side. And of course, great Caravaggio paintings!
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Old Oct 15th, 2012, 12:19 PM
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annhig - yes, u r a brave one & u must go back. I bet it has really changed.
rosetravels -- there are so many well priced places to stay in Puglia, it is hard to pick one. We walked from our hotel to Museo Capidomonte and once we past that park like circle I don't believe we saw any signs. If they were there we missed them. We did run into a wedding down the hill -- always nice to watch for a bit. Glad you enjoyed the museum so much.

Waiting for our first meal in Puglia
We picked up our rental car at the Naples airport to avoid having to drive the streets of Naples. Although since we left on a Sunday am, the streets were relatively empty. A note here – I had asked on this forum about renting thru Auto Europe on a site other than the US site. I did do that, renting through AE, Italia. I provided all the accurate info about me and used my US credit card to book. Doing this saved several hundred dollars. We had absolutely no issues picking up the car which was through Budget.

It was an easy drive to our next planned stop. While Naples may have shined so brightly because of my very low expectations for it, perhaps this stop had the opposite problem. I had read and read about all the glorious meals at Masseria Barbera and couldn’t wait to taste my first Puglian meal and it was to be at MB. My expectations were sky high.

In late July our hotel made the lunch reservation for us. We arrived at MB around noon, early for our 1 pm reservation. We had planned to wander the grounds, but wanted to use the rest room. We looked around for someone to direct us to them. A woman came over to us and said they were completo. We tried to explain we had a reservation for two people at 1 pm. She said they had no reservations for singles only for three families that afternoon. I might add we do not speak Italian and she had minimal English. After much back and forth using sign language and whatever else might help, finally we gave her the name and phone number of our hotel that had booked our reservation. She called and seemed to have a very animated conversation – of course in Italy everyone looks as if they are having animated conversations. She kept looking at her book and nodding her head while gesturing. Our fate was in her hands. She finally came back to us and said to return at 1. This entire interaction took the better part of a half hour before it all got cleared up.

We walked around and attached ourselves a large group. At 1 we ventured forward with this group wondering what they would do with us. Another woman motioned to us and took us to the only table set for two in between two large tables. They began serving us almost immediately. Service was outstanding and one person or another was constantly checking in on us.

Now for the long awaited meal. Having read about the huge quantities of food that would be served, I valiantly tried to pace myself merely tasting some dishes and eating small portions of others. I thought the 2 pasta dishes were outstanding, but the meat course was just so so. We were not served donkey as others had mentioned and I was glad about that. Dessert was fruit & cookies and almonds, all okay, but by the time I finished I was nowhere near stuffed which is a good thing, but I regretted not eating all of my pasta dishes which were outstanding or perhaps eating more of the many antipastos, which were also quite good. As the two tables began to fill up in our smaller room and others poured into the larger adjoining room I wondered what event was being celebrated. Turns out we were seated in the kids area, one table with teenagers and the other with small children – kind of funny & a very long time since I was seated in the kids area. It was an anniversary party that we were sitting in the middle of for the very end of our meal. Our cost for lunch for two of us was €70, clearly a bargain for all the food and wine we had. So while I wasn’t overwhelmed by our meal, it was certainly very good and service was outstanding, it just didn’t live up to my high expectations. I worried the rest of our meals would be the same. I began lowering my expectations for food in Puglia. In retrospect I believe that no restaurant could have lived up to my high expectations for this one lunch. It’s a lovely restaurant and definitely one to try.

Onwards to our first nights stay in Puglia. After being misdirected by my goggle map print out, we finally found our villa – our home for the next two nights. We took a short drive to Castel del Monte a 13th century castle built by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II . Its not clear what the purpose of this 8-sided castle is. We read multiple purposes for it and since it lacks a moat or drawbridge it is doubtful it was used for defensive purposes.

After returning to our villa (I love writing that!) we read up some more on the area and decided to go to the Gargano Penisula instead of Trani for the next day. We thought this would be a nice change from city life. It was a Sunday and we were told most places were closed and we had eaten a big lunch, so we passed on going anywhere for dinner.
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Old Oct 15th, 2012, 10:38 PM
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Thanks for the report. This is one area we haven't explored and your report is very useful.
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Old Oct 16th, 2012, 06:38 AM
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packed - glad its helpful

A Day enjoying the Rocky Gargano Promotory
After a lovely breakfast in the vlla’s flower filled garden we were off for the Gargano Promotory. Shortly before we left for Italy, the NYT had an article on this area
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/02/tr...nt&tntemail1=y
We had decided to make Monte Sant'Angelo located in the hills on the Gargano promontory as our destination. We avoided the autostrada hoping for an interesting drive there, but until we hit the Gargano area, there was not much to see. Our drive took us through the fantastic landscape of Puglia which is very arid at this time of the year. It is mostly flatland or low rolling hills with literally millions of century old olive trees carpeting the land as far as the eye can see. Properties are fenced by dry stonewalls. Once you reach the Gargano there is a spectacular rocky coastline. The road up to Monte Sant’Angelo is steep and winding, with fantastic views out to the Adriatic sea. There was no traffic and it was a pleasant drive up the mountain. The NYT article makes comparisons to the Amalfi coast and I didn’t see that. It is much less dramatic & spectacular and not nearly as steep, but there are no buses, motorcycles or other cars to impede your view or enjoyment.

Monte Sant' Angelo is the highest point on the promontory. The town has a charming and picturesque historic center. It was our first of many sun drenched, white villages. The streets were lined with shops that I imagine are quite busy in the summer. This was not the case today.

There were several sites that could be visited including a castle, Tancredi Museum of traditional life, 13th century frescoes in the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, and the interesting Sanctuary of the Archangel Michael . However it was a Monday with some sites closed and fast approaching siesta time so we needed to make a choice of what to see. We chose the Sanctuary of the Archangel Michael that was quite unique. We descended down the long stone staircase constructed in the 13th century and arrived in the nave with frescoes and murals and a small book shop. On the Bronze doors, made in 1076 in Constantinople, are 24 panels depicting Bible scenes. The Sanctuary in the grotto dates from the 5th - 6th centuries and is the site where devotion to the Archangel Michael began.

By the time we ascended from the sanctuary it was siesta time and everything was shutting down. We sought out one of the restaurants mentioned in the NYT article, Li Jalantuumene, where we had a small lunch. On the little balcony we shared a fabulous eggplant appetizer and a good main course. The owner was a quite humorous and we enjoyed chatting with him.

Time did not permit us to explore other parts of the promontory, but I would have loved to have spent a couple days in the region….next time! We took the autostrada back and unfortunately overshot our villa and ended up in Andria, which we somehow managed to navigate our way thru and find our way back to our villa. That night we had reservations at another highly regarded restaurant, Antichi Sapori. Although I must say, my expectations were considerably lowered for this meal.
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Old Oct 16th, 2012, 03:00 PM
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Living up to Expectations
All I can say about dinner at Antichi Sapori is FABULOUS! This was easily the best meal of the trip. It was so good that I kept plotting how to get back even if it meant driving 50 miles for a dinner.

We shared an antipasto which consisted of burrata & olives, hot ricotta with carmelized vegetables, pecorino with carmelized onions, onions topped with breadcrumbs, foccacio of gran arso, zucchini with mint, melanzze with potato rice, bread with fava puree and black olives, squash blossoms stuffed with cheese with tomato sauce, sautéed peppers with tomato sauce.

Believe it or not we followed this with primo’s, but we either didn’t take notes being in a food coma or lost them. I do remember the dessert we shared which was served with limocello and Moscato di Trani (a sweet wine): sugared almonds of which they also give you a little pouch of to take home, 
tiramisu, 
Baba au Rhum
 and a simply delicious cassata encased in chocolate. This one I still fantasize about. This feast with a bottle of house wine, coffee & water cost €70 and was well worth every euro and more. Service was impeccable. This restaurant is well worth seeking out.
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Old Oct 16th, 2012, 03:18 PM
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Thanks for such a great report and for starting an interesting and helpful thread.
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Old Oct 17th, 2012, 02:50 PM
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Thanks, Sassafrass!

More Food and Another Village
After another nice breakfast in the lovely garden at our villa, we took off for our next destination. As I said in my logistics section while I enjoyed our stay at the Masseria Serra dell’Isola, it really was not the best location for our planned explorations in the Valle d’Itria. This was partly due to the 1 pm - 5pm siesta where everything and I mean everything except restaurants closed down. By the time we got up and drove to a destination it was always creeping toward that magical 1 pm hour and we would rush to see a site or two and then move onto lunch. We were not inclined to stay out until after 5 when sites begin to reopen so we tended to head back home after our lunch meal. I realize we could have simply gotten up earlier but that’s not our style.

After making arrangements with Rita to be met under a bridge and led to the Masseria by Rita, we settled in and then took off for Polignano a Mare. We really liked this small coastal village with its location on top of the limestone cliffs overlooking the Adriatic sea. Ever hear of Domineco Modugno? We hadn’t, but in a little circle in town there is a statue of him – he wrote Volare.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domenico_Modugno. Honestly, the things I learn as I travel. We had a nice lunch and of course some gelato for me. From another thread, thanks to ekscrunchy, here’s the great gelato place, Il Super Mago http://www.mariocampanellailsupermagodelgelo.it/

We decided to stay in our first evening and asked Rita, a member of the Slow Food movement) to prepare a meal for us, which she was more than happy to do. This feast consisted of huge & delicious quantities of the following
pasta with mushrooms, drunken sausages,(sausages cooked in primotivo wine) eggplant parmesan, moussaka (Rita informed us she had Greek heritage), cooked mozzarella with speck, zucchini circles sautéed with mint, bread, red wine & limoncello and the some of best gelato of the trip. Cost for this meal was €60. Rita was an obliging and delightful hostess as well as chef for our evening at the Masseria It was very nice to wander thru her beautiful home upstairs to bed and not have to drive anywhere. At this point we decided Slow Food is really mo food...

We spent the next two days driving throughout the Valle d’Itria and visiting various villages.
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