Why Puglia is the Perfect Place for a Cooking Vacation in Italy
Puglia is in some ways the example par excellence of Southern Italy. Visions of sun-drenched fields, archaic customs, and remnants of ancient times seem to find their manifestation here. Perhaps this is simply because it is a fertile plain, and agriculture—so long associated with the South—is its primary source of income. Or perhaps because of its hot sunny climate, and the fact that you can find mile after mile of olive trees, wheat fields, and vineyards. Regardless of what images and stereotypes these things conjure, they make Puglia the primary source of the Italian culinary Holy Trinity: wine, bread, olive oil.
Puglia is eccentric. One place, with its fiery sun and white washed villages, might seem plucked from a Greek Isle. Others, like Lecce, are so rife with baroque churches and buildings they remind one of the region's many conquerers: Lombards, Bourbons, Normans, etc. And then there are the trulli, the traditional Puglian dry stone huts topped with a conical roof, and the rural areas, whose landscapes put one mind of an early Pasolini film.
Puglia surprises, time and again. As Dick put it after his first trip there, in November 2011: "I was pleasantly surprised. I thought Bari was a beautiful city, right on the water. Great waterfront. The old town is very cool. Great shopping, and when we around to see the Trulli, Lecce, the whole region was very impressive. I didn't know anything about it before that. Delicious food. I liked Puglia very much as a matter of fact. Not expecting to, but I did."
Puglia is always a harder sell to our clients, since it is not as well known as many of Italy's other regions. But our clients always come back happy, in large part because of the amazing food. Puglia has some of the best pastas in Italy, from the ever popular orecchiette con cime di rape (ear-shaped pasta with broccoli rabe sauteed in garlic), to troccoli con funghi e salsiccia (square spaghetti with mushrooms and sausage), to sagne 'ncannulate con ricotta e pomodoro (long twirled pasta with ricotta and tomato sauce).
And that's not to mention the seafood. There are many good seafood soups and stews ("brodetti"), excellent shellfish. And the seafood is so fresh, they frequently eat it raw as an Italian form of sushi called "il crudo Barese".
But there is also no need to get "fancy" with meals in Puglia. Freshly made bread drizzled with the region's pungent olive oil, accompanied by a fine glass of Puglian wine, is pretty much sheer heaven.
By Peg Kern