I have, for seemingly ever, wanted to add a gastronomic tour of somewhere in Italy to our list of destinations, but never seem to have had the time to do all the hard work. It had to be really special, different, and also fit in with our ethos and way of doing things. So when my producer, Jane Avery, and I were invited to Puglia by Southern Vision Travel in April it seemed like the perfect opportunity to kick start the project again. I returned in early July this year to research it more fully and am thrilled to announce that I will be leading a fabulous tour there in 2014 (14th to 21st September 2014).
Check out the video Jane Avery made in April on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSPtbkJBnXs&feature=youtu.be]
and Jane's article in the Otago Daily Times http://www.odt.co.nz/lifestyle/travel/266616/passionate-about-puglia.
Also the story in the AWW on Puglia - http://www.petamathias.com/pdf/aww-june-2013.pdf
Puglia is a rather well kept secret agricultural and cultural paradise right in the heel of Italy’s boot. It is absolutely “me” as a destination: very authentic, a little different, and strong on tradition. Long a favourite with Romans and other northern Italians, and like most of the south historically poor, it has in recent years benefitted enormously from greater access to Europe and investment from the north. The result is a region with exciting new takes on traditions, particularly in food and wine, chic places to stay and an infectious but professional enthusiasm by the locals to really take care of incoming visitors.
The Puglians are a proud and adorable people, perhaps more prone to reflection than their excitable northern cousins. There is certainly no horn tooting on the roads! This is attributed, perhaps fancifully, to the influence of the Normans. Surrounded by the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, there are lovely beaches, sensationally fresh and varied seafood, robust pastas, meats and breads. The fabulously preserved architecture, from the baroque magnificence of Lecce and other smaller but no less superb towns to the delightfully eccentric cone shaped trulli, is also a major highlight.
It is here we will learn to make orrecchietti (ear shaped pasta), semolina bread, burrata (mozzarella filled with cream, a speciality of Puglia) and pasticciotto (lemon cream pie). Puglia produces the most olive oil in Italy and has trees over two thousand years old - everywhere you drive you see ancient olive groves and low stone walls. It also produces enormous amounts of wine - more than any other Italian region - notably Negroamaro reds and rosés, inky red Primitivo and a delicious mix of the two. I visited a beautiful vineyard called Liveli and fell in love with their enchantingly named ‘Susumaniello’ made from an indigenous Puglian grape variety, and saved from extinction.
Although Puglia is scorching hot in the summer there are lots of sea breezes from both coasts. Our tour, timed for the middle of September is ideal with the edge taken off the heat a little and the countryside groaning with produce. Although we have yet to finalise every single detail, we will start our culinary adventure in the Baroque city of Lecce - surely one of the most gracious and beautiful little places in the world. Here we will eat home cooking, have a cooking class and wine tasting, eat fabulous seafood and leave time for shopping (which trust me, you will want to do) and wandering around this captivating and extremely clean city. In the countryside we stay in a masseria and visit wineries, olive oil estates, learn how to make the famous semolina Altamura bread and the traditional pastas of Puglia, eat more fabulous seafood and BBQed meats and enjoy the heart-warming hospitality of the lovely Puglians. You don’t know how much you miss Puglia till you leave it then you long to return to their gentle ways and honest food. This is sure to be one of our most popular and delicious tours, so rev up your friends and book your places to foodie heaven now!