I’m happy to have connected with Cinzia Rascazzo, a native of Lecce, who with her sister Marika founded the Stile Mediterraneo Cooking School. The school celebrates southern Italian cuisine, that’s been handed down in their family from mother to daughter for generations (As Cinzia says: “No Italian men were ever admitted into the home kitchen!”).
Cinzia has a beautiful blog, with great travel advice for the area and also recipes, for such classics as Orecchiette with Cime di Rapa , that was featured in La Cucina Italia magazine. And check out the ebook they wrote: The Cuisine of Southern Italian Women: Mediterranean Secrets for a Happy and Healthy Life.I’m so grateful she’s joined in to give advice for a Golden Day in Lecce:
When friends come to visit me in Lecce and ask what to do, I always answer: “Follow the locals’ schedule and have fun! And mostly importantly, do not skip naps!”
Yes there are many beautiful baroque monuments in the old town of Lecce, but what I think really makes it special is the general lifestyle–a relaxed way of life, partly due to the sunny weather, but also to the way people are, eat, and live.
Leccese are very proud of our beautiful town and if you come here you will notice that we “live” our town fully. We spend most of our day in the old town, going for coffee, buying food, meeting friends (and working!). In the evening we go out for food and drinks and stroll around until late. You will never feel unsafe. Moreover, we love foreigners so everybody will be super friendly.
To have a day like a local start with caffe at Alvino bar, (Piazza Sant Oronzo, 30)
Here you should try our typical coffee (we call it espressino) and pasticciotto (this is a pastry with custard cream). At Alvino, you should sit in one of the outdoor tables and read the local newspaper (Quotidiano) where you will find information about local events. Or if you don’t read Italian, have fun watching the locals.
Next, spend the morning strolling around the beautiful old, baroque town.
First, go to the Roman Amphitheatre in the Sant’Oronzo Square.
From there head to the Santa Croce Church (Via Basilicata), that is the best example of Baroque architecture in Southern Italy.
Then visit the Duomo (Piazza del Duomo).
*Note that all churches close at 12:30pm.
From the Duomo, you can walk all the way up to Porta Rudiae, which is the ancient gate to access the old town.
Now it’s time to eat!
Lunch is the most important meal for locals. Most go home, and then take a rest from 1 till 4:30pm, when all shops and activities close.
You can get delicious snacks from gourmet coffee and pastry places in the Sant’Oronzo square. Try a rustico (savory and round dough filled with mozzarella and cheese) from Alvino caffe, or a stuffed focaccia from the little bakery, Il Fornaio, in the Piazza Sant’Oronzo. Don’t miss a gelato from Natale Pasticceria, Via Tevere. My favorite flavors are nocciola (hazelnut) and pistacchio.
You can also visit the shops in the morning and buy good things to bring home, such as Puglia’s red wine (look for primitivo or negroamaro grapes), excellent extra virgin olive oil, or the taralli bread.
After your afternoon nap, it’s time for activities…
Of course, I recommend a cooking class at the Stile Mediterraneo Cooking School. My sister Marika and I run it from a beautiful ancient olive oil press that we turned into an elegant cooking school. A driver can meet you in Lecce, and then drive you from the old town to Squinzano.
In class, you will learn how to taste extra virgin olive oil with me (I’m a certified extra virgin olive oil taster) and make Puglieses classics, such as home made orecchiette pasta (taught by my mamma), the famous Rascazzo’s fresh tomato sauce, and almond cake that my grandmother invented. I’m also a wine sommelier and will teach you about the best local wines.
The mission of our school is to improve people’s quality of life through the Southern Italian’s Mediterranean cuisine, so we do not just teach traditional recipes. Marika (a cardiologist) and I promote a way of eating, cooking and living that can contribute to the improvement of people’s health and wellbeing–not just through the healthy ingredients (extra virgin olive oil, seafood, etc), but also partly due to our specific cooking methods.
After dinner (and wine!) the driver will drive you back and you can enjoy the evening passeggiata in the Lecce old town. There will be people walking around and chatting until very late.
Grazie Cinzia, for the delicious day in Lecce!
AND for more Lecce advice, check out the Lecce post by Country Walker’s Guide Marcello Polignano–he’s also a Caffe Alvino fan!
How about joining author Susan Van Allen for a Beautiful Italian Adventure this fall?
2014 will be her Third Annual Golden Week in Italy...
Raves are in for the last two:
“A wonderful Italian experience of a lifetime for all of us!!”–Gayle, from Chandler,
Arizona, Golden Week guest 2013
This year we’ll discover Southern Italy, aka The Mezzogiorno...
“Susan’s humor, knowledge, and surprises really made this vacation one of my very favorites!”–Lynda, Boston
It will be an inspiring week, where the elegant soul of Bell’Italia bursts forth with stunning sights,
“Italians really know how to enjoy life. I would love to do this once a year!”–Cynthia, Madison, Mississippi, Golden Week 2013 guest
The tour is based in the seaside town of Sorrento, at the legendary Imperial Hotel Tramontano, where the famous song, “Come Back to Sorrento” was composed.
Each day Susan will lead you to discover treasures and pleasures of this region that has enchanted travelers for centuries, and was a Jackie Favorite!
FOR DETAILED ITINERARY, etc… CLICK HERE
For Inspiration, CLICK HERE…Come Back to Sorrento on You Tube..
Dates: October 10-18, 2014
Space is limited to 14, so reserve now
Prices: $3700 per person for double occupancy/$4150 single occupancy
In Collaboration with Perillo Tours, America’s leading tour operator to Italy
Grazie Mille to All of You
Who Shared ONE of your Favorite Places in Italy with us
I loved reading every comment.
It had me dreaming of places I’ve stayed,
and scheming to get to ones I have not yet experienced.
My husband picked 3 names at random out of the pasta bowl…So drumroll…
Annette Piper will receive a One Year Subscription to the Award Winning Newsletter Dream of Italy, plus fresh Olive Oil from Puglia
Lynn Goodman will receive a signed copy of Letters from Italy: Confessions, Adventures, and Advice
Anne Woodward will receive a signed copy of 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, 2nd Edition
Best Wishes to You All
for Happy Holiday Celebrations!
Felice Anno Nuovo
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!