Golden Day Ninety-Two: Enjoy the Salento with Joyce Falcone, The Italian Concierge
Joyce Falcone is one of my favorite Italy travel experts. She was brought up in an Italian American household in New Jersey, took her first trip to Italy over 30 years ago, and in the 1990s began working as a tour guide for such top-notch companies as Country Walkers and Smithsonian Journeys. More recently, she founded, “The Italian Concierge” which specializes in custom vacations for individuals, families, honeymooners and groups. With her passion, extensive background in Italian travel, frequent trips to Italy where she’s always keeping up to date and discovering new places, Joyce creates itineraries that give travelers extraordinary trips–a chance to truly “Live the Experience.” Client testimonials sing her praises, and since 2008 she has consistently been recognized at the top of her field as an Italy Specialist by Conde Nast Traveler and on the Travel + Leisure “A-List” for Italy since 2009.
I love when her newsletter arrives in my email box, and her blog posts, where she opens up her “Little Black Book”, sharing advice such as what are the best salumi and cheeses to bring home or tips for summer travel.
I am honored and thrilled that Joyce has joined in to give us advice for a Golden Day in Salento...In her words:
When traveling in Italy, I like to combine five elements into each day. When all five have been attained, that is what I would call “My Golden Day”.
*Physical activity: in the form of walking , cycling, shopping,
*Gastronomy: having one wonderful meal a day, which includes a regional plate and a glass of local vino with a grape that is indigenous
*Storia: A visit to a historic site
*Cultura: Speaking with a local person to learn about the area or find out what are the current events
*A Great Hotel: A historic property that reflects the architecture of the region, with fewer than 35 rooms.
Here is my advice to attain all five, for a Golden Day in The Salento:
The Salento refers to the Salentina Penninsula located in Puglia, the region referred to as the “heel” of the boot. The Province is Lecce, being one of five that encompass the Puglia region.
The best time of year for the Salento is before or after the summer crowds have come and gone; during the months of Late May, June or September, early October when you can still enjoy a dip in the sea.
Physical Activity: The topography of the Salento is slightly hilly, and predominately flat, and aside from the disrepair of many of the roads presents a wonderful opportunity for cycling. The coastline road S358 that leaves Otranto and heads south towards the tip and Leuca follows the Adriatic, and on a clear day one can see the mountains of Albania. Not much traffic and beautiful views.
Storia: A favorite stop along the way is Otranto.This is a city founded by the Messapicans , that was dominated by the Byzantines and a prominent seat of Christianity in southeastern Italy for centuries. La Cattedrale was constructed in 1068, and was continuously modified through 1500’s.
Noteworthy is the mosaic floor which dates 1163-1166. Due to the religious importance, and sadly, the city was sacked on August 14, 1480 by the Turks (Ottoman Empire) and all 800 inhabitants were beheaded one at a time, for refusing to converted to Islam. Only a few months ago, on May 8, 2013, Pope Francis made all 800 martyrs saints.
North of Lecce, you will find the Abbey of Santa Maria Di Cerrate. I mention this simple Romanesque church due to the position near Masseria Giampaolo in the middle of hundreds of olive trees. Dating from the 12th century, it is considered one of the most significant examples of Romanesque Architecture in the Province of Lecce and is worth a visit. It is now under the control of FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano-The Italian National Trust) and is the first FAI property in the Puglia region.
Gastronomy: It is easy to dine well in Puglia and in the Salento, as the area is known for the cultivation of vegetables and for the production of olive oil. The Salento was part of Magna Grecia, and left as testimony to their rein are miles, miles, and miles of olive trees–some 600 years old.
Least we forget to mention that burrata is also a product of Puglia. Burrata is mozzarella combined with butter or butter and cream. Best to stay on the bike and stay away from the burrata!
An excellent place for Otranto dining is Peccato del Vino (Via Randachi, 7/9, 0836 801488). It’s located within the walls of the old city of Otranto, and everything is fresh and local.
Vino: Puglia is know for their hearty red wines and their production of Rose. Regional grape varietals you’ll find are Negro Amaro, Salice Salentino, and Primitivo, which is said to be a distant cousin to Zinfandel. Many wineries are located west of Lecce, one of the largest being Leone di Castris who have been producing wine since 1665. (Address: Via Senatore de Castris, 26, 73015 Salice Salentino, phone: 0832 731112, guided visits by reservation).
Cultura: Plan your stay to be able to go to Lecce on a Friday or Saturday night when the entire town is out socializing, drinking, dining, and strolling. It is one of the liveliest places I have ever seen. Lecce is a college town, and a beautiful city, some call it the “Florence of the south.” Baroque buildings line the streets, there are chic shops and even a Roman Amphitheatre from the 2nd century, in the center of the piazza.
Masseria Montelauro (SP Otranto-Uggiano, 72038 Otranto, 0826 806 203)
Grazie mille Joyce, for these treasures of advice for my next trip to Salento!
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