Ciao Belissimo Gastronomads,
I've just finished my first culinary tour of Puglia. Some of this group I knew from previous tours, some I was related to and some were Peta tour 'virgins' – and together this was one of the most harmonious tours I have ever experienced. I was assisted by the wonderful Ali Pike (or Aleeee-son as they call her there) of Southern Visions Travel in Puglia and together we developed a special schedule for my tour, which was unique and far away from the well-trodden tourist circuit.
My tour is very authentic, personal and small (around 10 people), and is about really understanding the 'cucina povera', bio-diversity, the way Puglians live and eat and understanding the ways of the land and sea. We experience things I doubt other tours do – owners of palaces playing the piano for us, Ali and I singing, helping with harvests, seeing inside people's homes, and learning to cook with Mama out the back of restaurant kitchens.
As soon as you hit Puglia you realise something is different – they are not like other Southern Italians – they are very chilled, there is no tooting, everyone is polite and everyone is very nice. When they meet you they kiss and hug you and nothing is ever too much trouble. A stranger would get up at 4am to help you fix a stalled car; people in cafés invite you home for a drink; they overfeed you as if lives depended on it.
Baroque Lecce, the most beautiful pale yellow city in Puglia was a pleasure to walk around and shop in. We learned how to make orrecchiette ear shaped pasta by hand, make sugo (sauce) from scratch with only tomotoes and how to deepfry halved eggplant in an ocean of olive oil and survive to tell the tale. We did lots of different pasta classes and I am inspired to go home and make pasta again. They make it from different flours - white, wholemeal, semolina, burnt wheat, barley and don't use eggs.
The Masseria Montenapolone is a working organic farm – olive groves, vineyards, citrous grove, animals, fruit, vegetables, wheat, capers. In the middle of all this is a gracious white washed masseria with rustic/chic rooms and suites, limpid swimming pool looking out to the sea, cooking classes and the most sumptuous breakfast this side of the Negresco Hotel in Nice. From here we drove off every day for adventures both culinary and cultural.
We fell for Caffe Lecce – shot of espresso, almond syrup, lots of ice
We fell for Spritz – Aperol, Prosecco, tonic, ice, orange
We fell for Susumaniello, Primitivo and Negraomaro wines & Puglian rosé
We fell for our pretty, charming, efficient manager Ali
We fell for Giuliano the owner of the Masseria whose good looks and humour seem only to be exceeded by his knowledge.
Puglia 2015 tour dates are 6 – 13th September – check out my Puglia video and book soon or miss out on developing the uncontrolable urge to kiss strangers. AND it's NEVER been cheaper to get to Europe!!