The under-the-radar foodie delight of Puglia

The locals of Puglia are passionate foodies.
The locals of Puglia are passionate foodies.

I am not sure that the local folk in Puglia, or Apulia as it is sometimes known, won’t be too happy with this yarn. It’s not because they aren’t proud of their lot. Or that they aren’t a welcoming bunch. I just think that a lot of Puglians are happy with their life, just the way it is.

Fairly relaxed, uncomplicated and in a way, insular to themselves and their respective villages and towns. If my story has the impact that I always hope they do, and results in a sudden influx of visitors, then I myself might not be able to return for a while, and I would not like that at all, because I absolutely love the place.

The Puglia region is a bit of an undiscovered treasure in Italy. Certainly not as popular as trendy destinations like the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre or Tuscany, Puglia in some ways has – and might still be – thought of as the poor relation to the country’s northern inhabitants, although that tune is starting to play a little different of late.

Resting in semi-siesta mode, Puglia is literally the ‘heel of Italy’ and from my experiences there it is rich in many more ways than its relations north.

Picture perfect accommodation in Puglia ticks all the boxes.

Picture perfect accommodation in Puglia ticks all the boxes.

As you may know, every region of Italy has its own way of life. Each has its own flairs and philosophies when it comes to, food, beverages, architecture – even coffee! – and Puglia is no different. One thing is for sure though, I reckon they have got plenty right!

Sticking with my airline loyalty I was once again delivered safe, sound and relaxed by the team at Cathay Pacific, who fly into Milan and Rome via Hong Kong every day of the week, so it was easy to plan my journey. From Rome it was easy an hour ten-minute flight to the southern seaside city of Brindisi.

The 'cityscape' is truly a step back in time.

The 'cityscape' is truly a step back in time.

During this exploration I had planned to stay in an Airbnb and had come across an absolute gem via a good friend in Australia. The Australian owners had been so magnificent in communicating and giving me suggested locations and attractions to visit that I knew I would have a full itinerary and I would definitely need a car to experience it all at my pace.

On landing I used my poor Italian language skills to organise my vehicle and I was ready to get my first taste of the Italian way of driving. I don’t want to put you off taking this option, but I must warn you that Italians drive like they eat and drink… with extreme passion and no fear!

But honestly, if you are a fairly confident driver and you are prepared to drive like an Italian, then you will be totally fine. Also make sure you get full coverage on the car, not because of the chance of an accident, but more for your peace of mind. This comes from first-hand experience. The streets and laneways of some of the Pugliese villages are very narrow and well let’s just say I may have taken a little of someone’s door step off! You never stop learning.

The kitchen was stocked perfectly and looked a treat.

The kitchen was stocked perfectly and looked a treat.

It took me about ten minutes to get into the required driving style and just over half an hour of navigating through some lovely countryside before I arrived at my accommodation on the outskirts of the delightful town of Ceglie Messapica.

As I drove up the stone covered driveway embraced by cherry, fig and olive trees up towards the main property I was immediately drawn to the alfresco entertainment area that sat between the two accommodation houses. I had arrived at Trullo Rosemarino.

The original Trullo and the more modern addition, the Lamia, compliment each other in the most perfect way possible, and would ideal for a romantic couple’s escape, a family of four adventure or the ideal setting for four like-minded friends to call home when exploring Italy’s south. The two separate houses ensure total privacy for each couple, meeting for meals and drinks mid-way on the stone terrace.

A very comfortable place to rest a weary traveller's head.

A very comfortable place to rest a weary traveller's head.

The Trullo is just super cute and has a charm all of its own its a unique experience for sleeping and living. It’s like a step back in time with its stone cones and thick stone walls providing insulation from the summer heat and the winter chill.

The Lamia is beautifully styled and decorated and has a fully equipped kitchen as well, although with the delightful foodie adventures on offer just up the road in Ceglie then I doubt you will be spending too much time cooking, I sure know didn’t!

Outside of the cosy accommodations, the grounds of Trullo Rosemarino are a pleasure to engage in as well. Two pools, one a plunge style and the other a countrified above ground classic they are both so inviting in the spring and summer months. Wander through the grounds and pick fresh cherries and figs or have a couple of beverages while having a laugh challenging you friends on the Bocce arena as the suns sets over the Trullo.  

Tender cured meat in is basically a staple of Italy.

Tender cured meat in is basically a staple of Italy.

Another appealing point to this choice for me was the opportunity to explore some of the amazing villages and towns in the near vicinity. Martina Franca with its old town area surrounded by stone walls with prominent Baroque gates leading to piazzas and narrow, winding streets.

Ostuni, with its whitewashed old town region might give you the feeling that you are in Greece and not in Italy at all. Maybe that’s because seventy odd kilometres across the Adriatic Sea and you would actually be there. The towns Piazza and its surrounding labyrinth of tiny streets will have you enthralled. Of course, the welcoming osterias and trattorias will delight you in the utmost. You are in foodie heaven, my friends.

A treat for the tastebuds in Puglia.

A treat for the tastebuds in Puglia.

The world heritage listed Matera is also a beauty and I suggest you visit here just after lunch and stay to see the lights at night as they are magnificent.

You must also visit the gorgeous beaches that lie between Monopoli and Brindisi and are easily accessible in under an hour. The Adriatic Sea is so inviting, with its turquoise waters and white sand beaches and rocky outcrops. When you visit them and join the locals in their love of the sea, you will feel part of the family.

IF YOU GO

Cathay Pacific has numerous flights to Rome and Milan weekly visit www.cathaypacific.com for the latest special deals and times.

Gastronomical musts: Osteria Giuseppe and Trattoria Piaceri Tradizioni in Ceglie Messapicca not only deliver food from the Italian gods, your hosts Giuseppe and Federicca and Giuseppe respectively will treat you like you are one of the locals.