A special Italian wine and food experience
12.10.2015 - 16.10.2015
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 were in London and the only opportunity to fly at short notice was with Ryan Air . If ever there is was an airline that understands Customer service, it is definitely NOT Ryannair. This journey could have destroyed our 5 days in Paradise, it didn't, my only lesson learnt, spend a little more and avoid Ryanair , plan ahead and find another airline. Anyway enough of that.
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 let us through a labyrinth of lane-ways to our old town accommodation.
Our car remained on the perimeter of the old part of Martina Franca.
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 .
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!!
Now, Red Bull uses Polignano's soaring cliffs for its Cliff Diving World Series, and visitors from around the world come for shops, a beach club and a gelateria so authentically local. The beach is part of the illustrious Costa dei Trulli, a collection of coastlines that meet high standards for water quality and environmental excellence.
Back in Martina Franca for passagienta , 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.
there is the area the size of a football field with a really good selection of local produce, or certainly Puglia grown and produced.
We picked up some delicious local cheeses , Marzicota, Galbari Gorgonzola, and Burrata of course.
Here is a list of when and where every market takes place in Puglia.
Altamura, piazza Matteotti. Mainly fruits and vegetables
Taviano, fruits, vegetables and flowers
Andria, Vieste,Lecce ,Laterza
Monopoli, piazza Vittorio Emanuele
Sant'Agata di Puglia, corso Vittorio Emanuele II
Morciano di Leuca, piazza San Giovanni,Massafra
Palo de Colle, corso Garibaldi,Manfredonia, via Scaloria,Gallipoli, viale Bari,Martina Franca, campo Boario and piazza d'Angio
Alberobello,Brindisi,Mattinata,Porto Cesareo,Grotteglie, via Marconi
Locorotondo, via Roma and corso Garibaldi,Torchiarolo,San Giovanni Rotondo, corso Nazionale,Taurisano,Faggiano, via Scandebeg
Castellana Grotte,Ceglie Messapico ,Apricena,Matino,Monteparano
Casalvecchio di Puglia
Other than food there are streets of clothing stalls, and how the local shops compete is beyond me, although the market stalls are very local in the fashion stakes.
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 truly 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. The golden age of trulli was the 19th century, especially its final decades marked by the development of wine growing.
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 all 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. Its name comes from the legend of a Queen who, having found a cache of buried jewels, had them made into a necklace, thus giving Gioia it’s name of ‘Jewels of the Neck’.
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 (now Gioia’s Police headquarters) and later planting them in the surrounding fields. Primitivo is increasingly popular in the UK, and is already a favourite in the United States, via its genetic twin Zinfandel, which is grown in California.
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 Cevello is
Mr. Michele Spinelli and his wife Carmela Picerna after years of working as farmers in a company with a short chain, have given rise to this dairy that takes name Masseria Corvello, from the district where it is located its own farm, where there are herds of cattle from which the milk is obtained for the production of fresh dairy products. The dairy is very modern colors and furnishings, beige walls and brown floors and a large counter that exposes delights only high quality, 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.
Wi Fi is not easy in the heavily walled houses so we started Wednesday trying to pick up on wi fi connections outside one of the trattoria's we had visited earlier in the trip. A breakfast in the Piazza and we are off again. Thats where we are heading first, to the Olanda family
We head to Andria, another town producing an amazing array of products, Olive Oil, and cheeses .
this taken from the history website for Olanda;
'in the hills of the Apulian Murgia adjoining the manor Federiciano of Castel del Monte, in the municipality of Andria where Michael Holland and his wife Carmela breeders and milk producers, give birth in 1988 to the Netherlands dairy artisan family, devoting their entire family experience farmers and cheese makers in the processing of milk and dairy products, carefully selecting the raw materials, ensuring product quality.
Since then the family Netherlands devotes with passion and commitment to the craft of milk, respecting the traditions and carefully selecting the right ingredients.
Today the current workshop provides maximum safety and hygiene of food according to the strictest laws.
No matter how it is produced but how it is produced, we are putting the maximum attention and dedication to the product and the customer.
"The high quality of small production" It is the hallmark of the culture and tradition of the dairy Netherlands.
Jealous guardians of a technical day work wise and environmentally, the Netherlands Dairy white delights prepared every day, every day ensuring freshness and authenticity to their customers.
we are 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. ( check his hands out in the pic)
Most of their product is used locally, but in recent times the export trade has grown remarkably.
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 Mediterranean climate, the location amidst a landscape of low hills, the presence of oak woods, the non-intensive cultures contribute to preserve the biodiversity and the precious balance of this ecosystem. 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. With an eye toward innovation,
Ceci is working on a proprietary method of producing top quality wines without any sulfites added which will allow future sales of 100% organic wines . The resulting award-winning wines are sold throughout Europe, and selected local varieties are available in the United States, under the Castel del Monte DOC/DOCG label. All Ceci’s wines are organic, moreover the Bombino Bianco Panascio, the Parchitello Bombino Nero Rosato and Almagia Rosso are organic and biovegan, that means that no animal finings are used.
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
A brief history lesson, Puglia is one of the richest archaeological regions in Italy. It was first colonized by Mycenaean Greeks. In the 8th century BC, the Ancient Greeks expanded until they reached the area of Taranto and Salento in Magna Graecia. In the 5th and 4th centuries BC, the Greek settlement at Taras produced a distinctive style of pottery known as Apulian vase painting.
Apulia was an important area for the ancient Romans, who conquered it during the course of wars against the Samnites During the Imperial age, Apulia was a flourishing area for production of grain and oil, becoming the most important exporter to the Eastern provinces.
Robert Guiscard set up the Duchy of Apulia in 1059. After the Norman conquest of Sicily in the late 11th century, Palermo replaced Melfi (just west of present-day Apulia) as the center of Norman power.
After 1282, when the island of Sicily was lost, Apulia was part of the Kingdom of Naples.
With the rest of the Kingdom of Naples, Apulia was part of the Austrian Empire from 1714 until 1735. The Battle of Bitonto of 1734 was a Spanish victory over the Austrian forces, and Apulia was held by a branch of the Spanish Bourbons from 1735 to 1806, when Naples became a client state of Napoleon's French Empire until his final overthrow in 1815. The effective French control of the region resulted in the abolition of feudalism and a reform of the justice system
In 1861 the region became part of the Kingdom of Italy.
In comparison with the country as a whole, the economy of Apulia is characterised by a greater emphasis on agriculture and services and a smaller part played by industry. The share of gross value added generated by the agricultural and services sectors in the total gross value added of the region is above the national average in 2000, whereas the share of industry is below
Highly specialised areas have developed, producing on a scale not only of domestic but also of international significance: food processing and vehicles in the province of Foggia; footwear, textiles, wood and furniture in the Barletta area north of Bari; wood and furniture in the Murge area to the west; engineering, rubber, wood and furniture and computer software around Bari itself; textiles and clothing at Monopoli-Putignano to the south; and footwear and textiles in the Casarano area. In certain of these sectors – especially textiles, clothing, footwear, vehicles and food products – the region has attained a significant degree of competitiveness with foreign producers.
The region has a good network of roads but the railway network is somewhat inadequate, particularly in the south. Apulia's 800 kilometers (497 mi) of coastline is studded with ports, which make this region an important terminal for transport and tourism to Greece and the eastern Mediterranean.