As we roll toward 2020, and our little tours to Puglia start to fill I have been asked by some of my travellers, Why Puglia ? Very simply if you want to experience a part of Italy that is still very rustic, very affordable, and, most importantly, showing an abundance of wonderful produce, this is where you must travel to experience the real Italian Lifestyle. On our wine and food tours Puglia you wont have to worry about driving, and we will take you to places you wouldnt otherwise get to visit.
The following story is typical of a week in the region, and by no means exactly where our tours go to as we keep finding more producers.
If you are looking at travelling to Puglia we have dates set for 2019 & 2020. Puglia Tours
An opportunity to visit this magical region only took 30 seconds to say Yes, lets do it. As i am preparing to run tours , food & wine tours to be precise, i made contact with some specialists in the Puglia region to make sure our time was well spent.
We flew into Bari , collected a car with a dodgy GPS, and drove the 100 k’s down the coast to Martina Franca a gorgeous hilltop town in the Itria Valley. As with all trips we have done in Italy, you cannot rely on GPS to tell you ” you have reached your destination” most of these towns are made up of roads made at best for the little fiats and the 3 wheeled Ape Piaggio’s. Luckily (at 11pm ) some staff from a little cucina just closing up led us through a labyrinth of lane-ways to our old town accommodation.
Tuesday morning awakening to this beautiful town and the sounds of activity we are back to try to find the car , a delicious breakfast then on the road in daylight this time heading back to Bari to meet our host for the next couple of days. GPS totally confused and heading us South rather than North, ( maybe a preferred route?) is relegated to the bench and replaced by Google Maps, and a little help from the community police who escorted us into Bari and the waterfront, perfect welcome committee!!
We start our day of food and wine with a visit to Decarlo Olive Oil in Bitritto, Puglia The De Carlo family is olive oil; their passion and hard work are inspiring. They own 120 Ha in one of Puglia’s greatest and most historic zones, Terre di Bari. They live in the ancient village of Bitritto that is home to thousands of ancient olive trees planted primarily to Coratina and Ogliarola Barese. The family has produced olive oil since the 1600s but in the 1970s Saverio De Carlo blazed a path to quality that no one else was willing to take. The result of his work is evident in the family’s success as the estate has grown into, hands down, one of the world’s greatest producers of olive oil.
then we head into Bitonto a city and comune in the province of Bari, Italy. It is nicknamed the “City of Olives”, due to the numerous olive groves surrounding the city. Interesting to note that a lot of locally produced olive oil was shipped to Tuscany and sold as Tuscan oil. A local story but maybe a true one
We are here to taste Bocconotto A bocconotto is a pastry typical of the Italian regions of Apulia, Abruzzo, and Calabria. It is often eaten at Christmas. Its filling varies according to the region in which it is produced. The traditional one we tried was a combo of ricotta & lemon.
In another street we taste the local focaccia , very local and the oldest producer in the town.
Its only lunchtime, but a very important time of day where ever you are in Italy. And finding hidden gems unless you are in the know and travelling with a local will be difficult. Today we are to be introduced to one of the finest Slow Food osteria’s in Puglia. Perbacco is dedicated to the slow food movement and has the accolades and awards to show for it. Maybe 22 seats, incredibly well priced and oh so good. Its no wonder they all take extended time out for this ritual. Lunch was a tasting selection of Octopus, Flan of scrimp & riccotto , grano arso, a local burnt wheat pasta with bacon & tomato.
After a wonderful lunch and discussions about the slow food movement in Italy we headed South to Polignano to discover this beautiful coastal town about 30 minutes from Bari. this gem of an Italian beach town is situated on the edge of a craggy ravine, high above the electric-blue ocean. Home to humans since prehistoric times, Polignano oozes charm to this day. Its collection of stone streets, pleasant piazzas and mysterious sea caves practically begs you to come and explore.
Polignano’s dark, shadowy grottoes were home to people in the Neolithic era. The town later fell to Norman conquerors, and various families feuded over the village until the 19th century.
We have time here to explore some of the tiny streets, missing of tourists at this time of day and just locals chatting in their little groups as they have done for hundreds of years.And as have many before us we visit the famous Gelateria for some scoops of a delicacy a coffee gelato from heaven, definitely worth the visit. I think the gelato was Hazelnut & Pistachio and a liqueur coffee , excellently refreshing!!
Back in Martina Franca for passeggieta , a walk round the old hill top town centre, looking for one of the local specialties, butcher shops that change at night time to BBQ intensely flavored local beef, unfortunately we were too late, a pity as this is a very local experience and you need to know who is doing it on what nights. Not a vegetarians choice, but next time we will do it.
After an amazing day we walked the winding cobbled streets back to our little white house , a little lemoncello along the way ,helping sleep come quickly.
Day 2, and its market day in Martina Franca but first we walk the perimeter of the old city. The markets are huge , but dominated by clothing and other assorted “fashion” items, so if you are looking for the Farmers markets head right through to the far side from the central Piazza.We picked up some delicious local cheeses , Marzicota, Galbari Gorgonzola, and Burrata of course.
We checked the markets on Thursday at Alberobello, and they were smaller overall , but still worth a visit.
After a lunch time spread of the goodies from the market , washed down with a glass of Bambina Bianca, we head out on a trulli excellent adventure.!
We drive through the beautiful countryside past bleached hilltop towns like Locorotondo perched high on a dominant hill, enroute for Alberobello possibly the best town to view the Trulli culture.
A trullo is a traditional Apulian dry stone hut with a conical roof. Their style of construction is specific to the Itria Valley, in the Murge area of the Italian region of Apulia. Trulli were generally constructed as temporary field shelters and storehouses or as permanent dwellings by small proprietors or agricultural labourers. In the town of Alberobello, in the province of Bari, whole districts are packed with trulli. Many have recently been converted to wonderful accommodation for tourists.
Then we move on to Noci , yet another town with a beautiful walled town centre, more exploring, then on to meet another local food expert in Gioia del Colli, for another lesson in local history, dairy products and where to find the best local cuisine. Angelo Colluccia has supplied the following information.
If Puglia is one of Italy’s best kept secrets, then Gioia del Colle qualifies as one of it’s hidden jewels – literally!
Gioia del Colle is a little town in the heart of Puglia, strategically located half way between the Ionian and Adriatic seas to the east and west, and between the cities of Bari and Taranto to the north and south.
Typical foods from the area include mozzarella cheese, for which Gioia is justly famous in producing some of the best tasting varieties you will find, red and white wines, extra virgin olive oil, orechiette (small pasta shapes resembling little ears) and, believe it or not, pan-fried olives which have a taste not unlike aubergines!
Gioia is also the birthplace of the increasingly popular Primitivo wine. Local history records a 17th century Benedictine monk finding the first vines in the gardens of his monastery.
Today, a host of small family owned businesses harvest, bottle and sell their own excellent private Primitivo labels, many producing no more than 15,000 bottles a year.
Gioia also shares in the Puglian tradition of producing what is acknowledged to be some of the best olive oil in Italy, its quality attributed to the unique iron-rich soil of the land, the particular climate which sees dry summers and wet winters, and the long tradition of producing a product that unites advanced technology and equipment to centuries-old traditional methods of workmanship.
Its late in the day, but we find time to accompany our host to one of the local cheese specialty shops and come away with the most amazing selection of Burrata’s , mozarellas, cheese rolled with prosciutto, and an incredible ricotta. Masseria Corvello, from the district where the farm is located, there are herds of cattle from which the milk is obtained for the production of fresh dairy products, provolone sweet, spicy provolone, mozzarella, mozzarella stuffed with prosciutto, mozzarella rolls, hard cheese scamorza, and other delights. Definitely coming back . Some of the best cheeses I have tasted.
Another wonderful day exploring Puglia. We will be back in this region of Puglia tomorrow.
A breakfast in the Piazza and we are off again. We are heading first to the Olanda family, in time to watch the daily production of the wonderful Buratta, all done by hand, and take note of the temperature of the water these guys are working in, one chap has been doing this daily for the past 43 years.
We are heading out of Andria to try some of the best Organic wine in the region. Giancarlo Ceci
In the surroundings of Andria, near Bari in Apulia, at an altitude of 250 metres a.s.l., lies the farm GIANCARLO CECI, run for the last eight generations with the greatest respect for nature and traditions… The vineyards are situated just above the famous Italy boot on the Adriatic Sea, an area that is perfectly suited for the production of fine wines. For eight generations and 200 years, the Ceci family has cultivated the land with the greatest respect for nature and traditions.
The farm experienced a significant upturn in 1988 when Giancarlo Ceci upon his return from agricultural school, converted the acreage to organic. He developed the AGRINATURA brand, focusing his efforts on innovation, quality and operation of a full-scale fresh produce growing, packing and shipping facility, along with organic olive oil, which is grown, pressed and packed on site.
Giancarlo Ceci with AGRINATURA was a pioneer in growing and marketing organic products and was one of the first certified organic producers in Italy. In 2000, new grape vines were planted over an area of 70 hectares and the first organic wine production took place in 2004. The vineyard received USDA organic certification in 2006.
The winery is equipped with vast cellars for the aging of the wine underneath the 400+ year-old family mansion. The resulting award-winning wines are sensational. All Ceci’s wines are organic, moreover the Bombino Bianco Panascio, the Parchitello Bombino Nero Rosato and Almagia Rosso are organic and biovegan.
Time for a special lunch, just down the road from the Ceci family wines at Montegrosso is Antichi Sapori. Here is what I wrote on Trip Advisor after our visit , the dishes just kept coming, the flavours incredible, in the middle of nowhere, you have to be in the know, otherwise you would never find it, nor would you think to find a place like this where it is.
“Possibly the best meal I have eaten in Italy”
5 of 5 starsReviewed October 16, 2015
A 30 seat osteria practising the best in slow cooking
A blackboard shows what was picked from his massive garden that morning and a team of 8 & directed by Chef Peitro they prepare the best of regional/ local dishes with pride and passion
Andria is a tiny community 30 kl inland from Bari and not far from Trani
Definitely seek this out but book in advance its full every day