We didn’t meet many Americans in Puglia. They haven’t discovered it yet. They will soon! It’s a thriving charming area of Italy located in the heel and Achilles’ tendon of the boot shaped Italy. Their wines are a favorite, known as Primitivo. It is Italy, so the food is all fantastic!
Most interesting are the trullo style homes built as sheds and barns in the 16th to 18th centuries and now renovated into homes. I’ll post more on this later! We stayed in a trullo apartment just outside of Cisternino for a week and took day trips from there.
To get here we drove from Messina to Villa San Giovani and then on through the regions of Calabria and Basilicato to Puglia. We then drove through the towns of Taranto to Martina Francis to Locorotondo and on to our trullo outside of Cisternino.
Our first dinner was in Cisternino at Osteria Bell Italia. We went back the next day for lunch!
Grilled super thin sliced zucchini and eggplant, and radicchio wedges with a balsamic glaze
Rigatoni cooked al dente with a shrimp and tomato sauce
Grilled lamb chops with a strong mustard
Limoncello and an herby liquor that tasted like bay leaves. Possibly Mirto which is made with a bay leaf like plant called myrtle
Local pasta with fresh tomatoes here with a special ham and grated cheese on top
Pasta with seafood and a parsley and asparagus pesto like sauce.
Here are some cheeses we bought at a market. The white is a cows milk mozzarella that’s tied into a knot. The darkest is an aged cheese and the yellow a mild medium aged cheese. And there is the prosciutto. The bread is a light yellow color. It has sesame seeds on it and has no other additives besides the local flour.
Bright green crisp olives stored in brine with a fresh taste and black wrinkly oil cured olives.
Cisternino has an active market life with venders coming in from all over the region. It’s white washed buildings and stone streets are charming as are the people and shops.
Our first day trip in Puglia was to 3 towns. Locorotondo is a pretty quiet white painted town splashed with bright pots of flowers. We met a tour guide who was shocked and pleased to meet American tourists traveling here on our own! On to Egnazia, a Greek and Roman archeological park. They have a museum with pieces from the Bronze Age and earlier. Located on the sea and next to an ancient olive grove. Fantastic! The 3rd stop was Alberobello, a larger town filled with trullo built in a city neighborhood style. We toured one of the only two story trullo. All of these towns are worth visiting.
We were exploring Alberobello and stopped for wine and dessert. Their Primitivo wines are super. The grape is related to the California Zinfandel
Tiramisu with a real strong coffee flavor
Almond cookies are popular. Lots of almonds grown in this area, as in Sicily.
While driving near Cisternino we came across a stunning olive grove which sold their oil on property. The owner gave us a small lesson in growing olives. This tree is 600 years old! They teach classes in the olive and olive oil production and use!
Look for Masseria Pezze Galere Extra Virgin Olive Oil
We took a day trip to Lecce, known as the Florence of the south. It has beautiful baroque churches, Roman ruins and big open spaces for people to gather. Lecce has a walkable old town area where you meet more tourists. The Roman Amphitheater is in the center of town and is used today for public and private functions. The Intourist office is a cool modern glass building located overlooking the amphitheater. Many baroque churches and the duomo are all worth a visit too.
First stop was for the famous pasticciotto at Martinucci Laboratory. I chose the ricotta and pistachio filling. We also tried a fruttone later on, but did not get a pic of that.
Martinucci’s beautiful displays of gelato and cakes
Martinucci’s makes their own gelato in their shop!
We stopped for lunch at Nonna Tutti’s, recommended by a few sources.
Fresh burrata, a mozzarella cheese filled with cream over a lettuce, carrot and tomato salad.
Pasta with a tomato fish sauce
Grilled lamb chop, skewered beef and pork and sausage. Served with a salad.
On our way out of town we stopped at a famous geletaria for gelato. Pastitcceria Natale. This one is cayenne flavored chocolate and ricotta gelato.
Another day trip was north to the sea. Poltignano a Mare, a lovely town with dramatic cliffs and is the birthplace of the composer of the song Voláre. It has beautiful views of the coastline and it’s high steep cliffs and also has Roman ruins including a Roman road. Definitely worth exploring!
Here is a darling cafe in Poltignano. Bar Beija Flor Cafe.
This pastry is called Sbriciolata. It’s a crumbly crust filled with ricotta, Nutella and pear and covered in powdered sugar.
We stopped at a restaurant overlooking the sea in Poltignano for lunch, right next to the Volare statue.
Dave enjoyed these squid ink orecchiette, a pasta shaped like little ears and also made with the black squid ink. Here it’s served with seafood over a fava bean purée.
This is a red tuna seared and marinated in a soy ginger sauce with pistachio.
Here is a cafe in back in Cisternino called Barfod. They make the best cappuccino I ever had! Also these pastries filled with ricotta were scrumptious!
We tried the best wines at this cool enoteca called Il Cucco in Cisternino. The owner had on display this mirror frame made from his grandmothers old washboard!
Pizza is everywhere. Here was an inexpensive 4 cheese pizza in Cisternino at a place called Happy Point.
For lunch one day in Cisternino we stopped at Le Chicche Di Zia Rosa. It was a tiny place that served authentic local food
In Cisternino we ate lunch at Le Chicche di Zia Rossa, a tiny outdoor restaurant serving local classics. Fava beans are a staple in Puglia. This is a classic dish from the region: Puréed fava beans and potato puréed with water and served with steamed chicory. Fava beans are not as starchy as Lima beans, but look similar. I will definitely try to make this at home!
Pork sausage and rolled veal filled with breadcrumbs at Le Chicche di Zia Rossa
We have been eating well on this adventure! There were so many more towns we wanted to visit, but did not have the time or energy to. On to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast!