Traveling has become a second job for me and Italy is the country that we have had the pleasure of traveling to the most in our few years in Europe. We’ve been to Milan, Venice, Verona, the Italian Alps, Val D’Aosta, Piemonte, Cinque Terre, Tuscany, Lucca, Turin, Rome, Florence, Bologne, Pisa, Sienna, Lake Como, Lake Maggiore and many more tiny little villages in between. You name it, we’ve been there. Usually we end up in Italy somewhere because the draw of the sunshine and the delicious food always wins out over other options. Not only that, but there is so much to see and do as the country is very diverse from top to bottom.
However, we realized we had really been missing out on a very important part of Italy. THE SOUTH. We have heard so much about this magical place (most of all about the beautiful beaches and abundant fresh veggies) and were dying to explore. So when a couple of our Italian friends were visiting Puglia for a long holiday, we were lucky enough to be invited along and as you can imagine we jumped at the chance.
Puglia is relatively untouched compared to the more well known parts of Italy. The landscape and architecture in this corner of the world is beautiful in its own right and the weather is absolutely amazing! The sun shines most of the day and blue skies are the norm. The people are incredibly friendly and the food is so fresh and flavorful. You can see tomatoes getting red in the intense sun, huge watermelon fields on the sides of the roads and olive trees just about everywhere you look. If you look a bit closer, you’ll be sure to see fig, lemon, orange, almond and pomegranate trees and zucchini and chili plants growing in every tiny untouched piece of earth. The super sunny climate is perfect for growing some of my favorite fruits and vegetables and you can very much taste the difference. The tomatoes are especially flavorful and should most definitely be eaten with every meal in some shape or form!
Though all the locally grown produce is absolutely delicious, the seafood must not be forgotten. Mussels, clams, calamari and fish of all sorts are in abundance. The best place to indulge is right by the sea where you can either buy the super fresh catch of the day to take home or find a little restaurant that will serve some up for you. We couldn’t resist doing both many times!
Life is slow and relaxed and you can very quickly find yourself adapting to this way of life! You don’t ever need a watch, you can tell the time of day by when people take a lengthy afternoon siesta and when they rise again. Long afternoon naps in the heat suited me just fine.
We stayed in a beautiful tiny little village close to the very tip of the boot where the Adriatic and Ionic seas meet. With either sea only 15 minutes east or west, Patu is the perfect place to spend your days by the sea and your evenings enjoying the cooler temperatures, watching the locals slowly come out and catch up with each other about the days events.
I’m always so amazed at the kindness of people, especially the ones who invite you into their homes to share cooking secrets and their favorite local foods. I suppose it’s not really that surprising because food is a thing to be shared and culturally it’s natural to eat with others. Especially here in this part of Italy where food is given with love and in huge quantities.
I was so excited to spend the afternoon with Francesca, her mother and a couple of her local friends. Francesca owns a little B&B in Patu called Buongiorno (how fitting) and loves cooking and food as much as I do! She has a cellar full of all her organic canned tomatoes and fruit jams- all done at home from local produce of course. She is passionate about the quality of her ingredients as much as she is about the end product itself.
We spent the afternoon making a very local pasta that is made without eggs and twisted up into lovely long twirls called Sagne Torte. After I had some lessons in the correct twirling form, I tried my hand at the most delicious (and incredibly fattening) traditional pastries from the area, called Pasticciotto Leccese. These were also lots of fun to make using local ingredients along with the homemade mandarin jam that was delectably hidden in the middle of these beautiful sweets. They were delicious right out of the oven and just as delicious a couple hours later when we snuck another yummy bite! Even though we didn’t share any of the same languages, the language of food is strong enough and we had a lovely time cooking together!
Most parts of Italy are amazing, but if you’re looking for the more untouched, less touristy and very authentic part, then Puglia is where you must go. You will find yourself enjoying the slow ways of life and very obvious connection to the land and sea that all the people seem to have. Theres a lot of passion about this place and if you’re lucky, you might find someone that will share theirs with you. Can’t wait to return!
Where we stayed
A Patu in Corte – A beautifully decorated apartment right in the middle of the village behind a very unassuming door. Great cooking facilities, beautiful decor and lovely stone sinks! Perfect place to spend a week and very very close to both the Adriatic and Ionian Seas.
Where we relaxed
Lido Gold Beach Club – A relatively small quiet piece of beach overlooking the Ionian sea compared to the huge and full beach clubs on either side. Great beach chairs and umbrellas and much nicer design than some of the competition and a little farther down the beach to escape some of the crowds!