To Celebrate the Holidays:
Will be given away to commenters selected in a RANDOM DRAWING
It’s NOT a CONTEST, anyone who comments can win!
TO PLAY: Complete This Sentence In The Comment Section Below:
ONE of My Favorite Places in Italy is ________________________
Write the first thing that comes to your mind. It can be a city, village, museum, restaurant, monument, shop, caffe, garden… For example…
The Sistine Chapel in Rome OR
Trattoria Sostanza in Florence OR
Villa Cimbrone in Ravello on the Amalfi Coast
I’ve never actually been to Italy, but I dream of riding a gondola along the Grand Canal in Venice…
Three Winners will be picked in a Random Drawing…
DEADLINE: SATURDAY, MIDNIGHT, DECEMBER 14
One of These Can Be Yours…
They all make great holiday gifts…
Letters from Italy: Confessions, Adventures, and Advice
DEADLINE: MIDNIGHT, SATURDAY, DECEMBER 14
The THREE WINNERS WILL BE ANNOUNCED: SUNDAY, DECEMBER 15
It’s a pleasure to connect with Catherine Faris, who turned a dream of living in Italy into a reality. Eighteen years ago she visited Puglia with her husband Brian and three children and they fell in love with it. Today the children have grown, Catherine and Brian have quit their jobs, moved to Italy, and immersed themselves into life in Martina Franca. Catherine beautifully chronicles their experiences on her Nuovastoria blog, bringing us an insider’s experience of the place, with posts such as a recent one about making a traditional Pugliese condiment: Plic e Plac.
In 2013, Catherine and Brian delved deeper into joining in with Puglia’s traditions, launching the Pascarosa company, that exports a prized product of the region–extra virgin olive oil, produced by small farms that use traditional harvesting methods. Their company also offers one day culinary tours, olive harvest and culinary weeks, for travelers to have an authentic and delicious experience of Puglia.
I’m so grateful Catherine is joining in to give her advice for
a Golden Day in Martina Franca:
Martina Franca is a jewel in Puglia’s Valle d’Itria, 30 kilometers from the Adriactic, set on a hill with stunning Baroque architecture. Stop by the tourist office to pick up a walking tour map so that you can discover Martina’s treasures, keeping in mind that many close for a long afternoon lunch break.
Stay at Villaggio In, which offers beautifully furnished self-catering apartments in the historic center=centro storico.
Or if you prefer a more rural experience, close by is Masseria Fumarola, a family farm complete with trulli=cone-shaped roof dwellings for which the Valle d’Itria is famous.
Plan to arrive on Wednesday so you can visit the outdoor market in Piazza d’Anjou and its surrounding streets. Walk to the market through the old town, stopping for a morning cappuccino and bocconotto at Caffe Tripoli, Puglia’s historic cafe famous for its ethereal bocconotti, a breakfast pastry filled with sweetened ricotta and pear marmalade (Via Garibaldi, 35; 080-4805260).
After the market, stop in at l’Acropoli di Puglia (Via Votano, 5; 080-4303302) the only olive mill in the city center. There you can learn how olives become olive oil, a centuries-old tradition for which Puglia is famous. You can taste many varieties available and purchase some to take with you.
Martina Franca is also famous for its delicious capocollo, a salume made from dry-cured whole pork shoulder or neck. Stop by Romanelli Macelleria (Via Valle d’Itria, 8/12; 080-4805385) and ask Nino for a taste—you’ll be treated to great food and exceptional hospitality—and will leave having made new friends.
To learn more about Martina Franca’s storied wine industry and its D.O.C. (Denominazione Origine Controllata) zones, visit Cantine Miali, a fourth generation winery now making some of the best wine in the region (Via Madonnina, 11; 080-4303222). Call ahead for a visit and tasting, which are also conducted in English.
For lunch, there is La Tavernetta, a small, subterranean trattoria that gets the classics just right–including orecchiette al ragu (handmade ear-shaped pasta with tomato sauce; fave e cicoria, pureed fava beans with sautéed chicory; and braciole, thinly sliced veal stuffed with parsley, cheese and garlic then long-cooked in fresh tomato sauce). Trust yourself to waiter Cesare, along with the husband and wife chef team of Pino and Daniela. (Via Vittorio Emmanuele, 30; 0804306323).
Another great option is La Tana di Nicola, located in a corner of Martina Franca’s Ducal Palace (Via Mascagni, 2/6; 080-4805320), where classics are reinterpreted with sophistication and the wine list is exceptional.
When you finish your espresso and perhaps a thimbleful of liquore d’alloro (bay leaf liquor), explore Martina Franca’s historic center. Must-see highlights include: the Basilica di San Martino (Via Masaniello, 1; 080-4306536), a Unesco World Heritage site and a breathtaking example of Baroque and Rococò architecture;
the Palazzo Ducale (Piazza Roma), built in the second half of the 17th century and home to the 18th century tempera wall paintings of Domenico Carella; and the site of the first Martina Franca settlement dating from the 13th century, Montedoro (Vico Montedoro).
After your walk, you might feel like you’re falling in love with Martina Franca, so stop by the studio of Vincenzo Milazzo (Via Garibaldi, 13; 080-4831330), a naïf artist who captures Martinese life in his paintings with whimsy and heart. The painter is often on hand to talk with you about his inspiration.
along the meandering Corso Vittorio Emmanuele, and into Piazza Santa Maria Immocolata, which looks like an opera stage set. The passeggiata offers superb people watching, so stop for an aperitivo at Super Bar in Piazza Roma, that’s famous for its panzerotti, heavenly little pockets of fresh mozzarella and tomatoes encased in fluffy pizza dough and deep-fried in olive oil.
For dinner, experience Martina Franca’s justifiably famous meat by dining at a fornello pronto establishment. Many of Martina’s butcher shops operate as restaurants in the evening, roasting local meat in wood-burning ovens and serving you inside or outside, weather permitting. Traditional specialties include bombette (thin slices of veal stuffed with provolone, caciocavallo or gorgonzola), local sausages and tiny lamb chops. The best is Macelleria Granaldi (Via Bellini, 108; 328-3218371) located just on the edge of the old town center. In the summer, you can eat outside, but call ahead to reserve, because Granaldi is very popular with the locals.
For something lighter, try Convivum, a wine bar that features small plates, salads and samples of local meats and cheeses (Via Pietro Barnaba, 7; 368-561630). Located on a little alleyway just off Piazza XX Settembre in the ground floor of the Ducal Palace, this is the place to be during the summer when you can eat outside—the people watching is unparalleled here since the clientele tends to be young and chic Martina residents.
End your golden day in Martina Franca with a leisurely stroll or short drive back to your hotel, reveling in the luminous nighttime glow of Martina’s limestone-paved streets and stately, Baroque palaces.
Grazie mille Catherine–you have me looking forward to my next visit to Martina Franca…
AND I’ll check out that EVO from Puglia for wonderful holiday gifts: www.pascarosa.com…
One of the many great things about CW Adventure (formerly Country Walkers) trips is their native guides. I loved a trip to Sicily I went on with them, where along with the spectacular scenery and food, we had full on cultural immersion with the wonderful Loredana Grasso, who grew up right near Mount Etna. Her stories about cooking with her grandma were great, also her hit on Italy’s political scene, and her passion for her homeland–from every flower on the trail to the delicious almond cookies of Taormina.
I’m grateful a CW Puglia Guide and Lecce native, Marcello Polignano has joined in to give his advice for a Golden Day in his beloved city, a baroque gem that’s often called “The Florence of the South”:
Since a lot of Lecce is zoned as pedestrian only, and it’s flat, you can bike ride or walk around the ancient town comfortably, to admire the major sights:
Basilica of Santa Croce…
Or you can take a ride on a sightseeing hop-on/hop-off little train that reaches all these places. July, August and early September can be very hot and uncomfortable to enjoy the visit, so you may consider getting up a little early and taking your walk around 9:00a.m.. There’s a tourist information office at the Carlo V Castle with maps and leaflets of the city.
Stop in at Caffè Alvino, in Sant’Oronzo Square, to taste a local pastry, the “pasticciotto”, which is a sort of tart closed on top and stuffed with custard, to be served fresh from the oven or warm.
My favorite restaurant for simple, excellently prepared food is Alle Due Corti, close to Sant’Oronzo Square (Corte dei Giugni 1, 0832 242223). You can try the full round of starters, which is enough for everyone, and then have a “ciciri e tria” (fresh pasta with chick-peas).
And be sure to join the Leccesi (the locals) for the passegiata and to peek into beautiful shops.
The two best hotels in town are the Risorgimento, a 5-star resort…
and the Patria Palace Hotel.
For more info on Lecce, check out this recent New York Times Travel Section: 36 Hours in Lecce.
My dear friend Carol Malzone, a dedicated Italofile, author, and founder of Flavors of Rome, was singing the praises of her new Italian teacher, Sandra Sicolo. Sandra grew up in Bitonto-Bari, Puglia, moved to the USA in 1989 with her husband and two children, and immediately began teaching Italian and doing translation work.
The family now lives in Boca Raton, Florida, where Sandra has founded a popular cultural organization: All Italian Things, Inc., that promotes and preserves Italian culture, through entertaining events, cooking and language classes, AND group trips to Puglia that are designed and led by Sandra.
I’m so grateful she has joined in to share her advice for a Golden Day in La Baia dei Mergoli…
My favorite place in Puglia is the Gargano province specifically, La Baia dei Mergoli also known as Baia delle Zagare. This place is enchanting, with crystal blue waters and rock formations rising from the sea–scenery that rivals the Amalfi Coast!
It was such a pleasure last spring to finally meet Rossella Rago, host of a web series I adore: Cooking With Nonna. In each episode Rossella brings in a Nonna from a different region of Italy, who tells the story of how she learned to cook in the old country, and then demonstrates a specialty. In some episodes Rossella brings in her very own Nonna Romana, who along with Rossella’s parents, came from Mola di Bari, a tiny fishing village in the region of Puglia.
My caffe date with Rossella at Lavazza in New York’s EATALY stretched into entertaining hours. Rossella regaled me with stories of her Italian family, visits to her homeland, and life in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where her family settled, joining many who came from “Mola.” Rossella is an amazing young woman who has turned her family traditions and passion into a beautiful, successful business: Cooking with Nonna is in its 4th season, Rossella travels around the country presenting live cooking demos with local nonnas, and she will be leading a Culinary Tour to Sorrento this fall.
I’m so grateful she is joining in to give her advice about the place where her family originated: A Golden Day in Mola di Bari:
Ever since I was 7 years old, my mother Angela would ship my brother and I off with my Nonna Romana to Mola di Bari to spend the summer at my Zia Chiara’s villa. Yes, I began to ”summer” as a verb at an early age, and could later scoff at kids who told me their months off from school were spent in the Hamptons, or the Jersey shore.
I remember my very first time arriving at Bari International Airport in Palese, which was only a 20 minute drive from Mola di Bari. I immediately began speaking Italian again, which I had learned as a baby, but had stopped, switching to English, in an effort to assimilate into American childhood. “Nonna! Mi piace l’italia!” I exclaimed as we rode in my zio Cesare’s 1986 Peugot down a busy Italian highway. Nonna’s face lit up when she realized I had felt the connection with the motherland.
I was lucky enough to have an aunt who had an apartment in town and a summer home 5 minutes away in the beach community of Cozze, so I was able to immerse myself totally in the environment.
However, it wasn’t until my late teens that I found myself asking the same question young women ask themselves when they find themselves drunk on the enchanting cocktail of sun, gelato, and Italian men. Why don’t I move here? Yes, the thought had crossed my mind, and I even thought about becoming an Italian teacher so I would at least have summers off!
Even though I never ended up making the big move, I can still appreciate Mola every time I visit.
My golden day in Mola begins with a classic Cornetto and Cappuccino at Bar Moderno, (Piazza XX Settembre 57)…followed by a trip to Lido Calarena for a swim.
Calarena, known for its sandy shore is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Mola area. It’s located just five minutes away from Mola in the beach community of Cozze. The beach offers a day rate for umbrella rentals or season passes. You can also visit some of the beaches in Mola– the Braccio is a long cement pier in the town itself, particularly frequented by locals.
After a swim you’ll probably be due for lunch. I recommend Ristorante Nicolo Van Westerhout (Via De amicis 3) for some classic Peppata di Cozze or fritto misto. This restaurant keeps a traditional Pugliese menu and an 1800′s-style, named after Mola’s most famous composer.
This Theater is special to me because this is where my mother first took to the stage as an actress, at age 16!
Mola takes pride in its beautiful Piazza, which distinguishes itself from others with its fountain and circular structure. The piazza is the lifeline of the town, connecting everything together.
Off the piazza is the Castello Angioino, which was built to protect the town from pirates. The castle now serves as an art gallery and meeting place for the youth of Mola.
When you’re in the mood for a Gelato, which is all the time for me at least, head across the Piazza to L’arte del Gelo (Via Bovio 2) Where Master Gelataio Mario Palumbo and his wife Sabrina run one of the most successful gelaterie in southern Italy. Every flavor is hand crafted by Mario and is absolutely perfect.
For an evening aperitivo, or late night cocktail, All’Angolo Bux (Via Giuseppe Parini 54) is small hole in the wall bar that is always lively and entertaining. Owner Mimmo Bux will make sure you’re having a memorable time.
A pizza at Da Angelo Pizzeria (Via Van Westerhout 34) is not to be missed in Mola. Tourists and locals gather there nightly to taste the classic panzerotti, pizza, and medaglioni. Seats usually fill up so I would suggest getting there earlier than planned.
For a traditional Molese meal, try Rosticceria Zio Luigi (Via Dalmazia 4), overlooking Mola’s port. Zio Luigi serves its patrons the catch of the day (usually fresh tenderized Octopus) or a selection of meat that changes daily. The seating is communal and I assure you you’ll be best friends with the people next to you by the end of the meal!
There are a few great places to stay in Mola. Both are centrally located and convenient. One is the Hotel Gabbiano (Via Piero Delfino Pesce 24), which is located by Mola’s Lungomare. The Gabbiano is a 2 minute walk to the Piazza and close to the beach.
For a more intimate stay you can try B&B Donna Flor (Via R. Sanzio 7). The rooms at this charming bed and breakfast give you a cozy Italian feel inside, almost as if relatives were letting you crash at their place for the day. Their rates are very reasonable and include breakfast.
Grazie Mille Rossella! I WILL get to Mola di Bari someday with your delicious advice, and in the meantime, I’ll be enjoying Cooking with Nonna…
I’m so grateful to have met so many fellow Italofiles through the Blogosphere. One of the most fascinating is Melissa Muldoon. Many know her as La Studentessa Matta=The Crazy Student, who writes a wonderful blog, in Italian, featuring her funny and passionate reportings about Italian current events and culture, including such goodies as a colorful recent post about La Festa della Bruna in Matera.
It was great to finally meet Melissa in person last month when we joined in with Le Donne d’Italia in San Francisco for a Passport to Italy event at the Museo Italo Americano. She’s as charming in person as she appears in her blog and on her Facebook page.
Melissa studied painting in Firenze, received her Masters in Art History, and now works as a graphic designer in the San Francisco Bay area. Her love for Italy brings her back there often. Years ago, regretting that she didn’t learn Italian well as a college student, she began to self-teach herself the language. The La Studentessa Matta blog is one of the ways she flexes her language skills and connects up with other Italian language students.
She also co-leads Language and Cultural Immersion trips to Italy. This September, she’s offering two trips–one based in Matera (Basilicata), and another in Puglia. Spots are still available, so click here for more info.
I was enchanted and amazed when I came upon the blog, A New Life in Italy (Puglia in Fact). The posts are hilarious–from Isabelle Duranceau Jowett–a French Canadian who moved to the UK in 1997 to pursue a career in motorsport marketing, which lead to a career in event marketing and sponsorship (Formula One then Coca-Cola), a husband, and two children…
As if that’s not enough for one life’s adventure, in 2006, Izzy and her family headed to Puglia for a better life and to build a dream: a glampsite in Castrignano del Capo, just up the hill from the seaside town of Leuca, in the province of Salento. From the looks of her Facebook photos, the glamorous campsite is coming along quite wonderfully…Deluxe tents are set up so you have views of the sparkling turquoise sea.
There’s a trampoline, swimming pool, tree house, BBQ and fire pits, rows of olive trees, 7 kittens and two dogs.
And hammocks…this one is calling my name…
I’m so grateful Izzy has joined in to give advice for a Golden Day in Leuca:
Leuca is where two seas meet: the Adriatic and the Ionian.
A good place to start the day is the town’s busiest social spot, Martinucci, (Tommaso Fuortes 6, 73040 Santa Maria di Leuca). They have good coffee, yummy gelato and cakes, though like many places in Southern Italy, smiling staff is not guaranteed…
A not to be missed sight in town is the Basilica-Santuario della Madonna di Leuca de Finibus Terrae (‘End of The Land’) and its iconic lighthouse.
If you’re feeling energetic, get there by taking the 284-step staircase by Punta Meliso, that runs along the (dry) cascade which used to be the final point of the impressive Apulian Aqueduct (Acquedotto Pugliese). Or, drive up to the Santuario…