Off-the-Beaten Path in Italy: Staying at a Masseria in Puglia
When planning a trip to Italy, three regions seem to get the most attention: Tuscany, the Veneto, and the Amalfi Coast (in addition to, of course, the capital city of Rome). But there’s oh so much more to explore in this vibrant country, where traditions run deep and families have passed down recipes for generations.
This week on social media, we’ll be talking all about some of our favorite off-the-beaten path destinations, particularly in regards to culinary travel. And at the top of our list? A visit to the south of Italy: namely Puglia (or Apulia in English).
The region is popular with Italians during their own vacations, mostly during August, in large part due to the Puglia’s amazing sun-drenched coastline. Yet to many outside of Italy, Puglia is considered largely undiscovered, meaning there’s few tourists during the rest of the travel season. But that’s just one reason of many to discover this beautiful part of Italy. (Read more about why we love our Puglia cooking vacations).
The masserie are another reason. While you’ll find agriturismi around all of Italy, the working farms here go by another name: masseria, or plural masserie. They’re mostly country homes, and as a masseria, they’re also a working farm, where they grow food as well as, more likely than not, produce olive oil. After all, Puglia is home to the highest concentration of olive trees in all of Italy.
We currently offer two cooking vacations in Italy that include accommodations at charming masserie. Both are, unsurprisingly, surrounded by olive groves and vineyards, but as guests learn during a stay in the area, they both very much have their own unique characteristics.
A Culinary Adventure in Puglia
The ancient fortified farmhouse, where our Culinary Adventure in Puglia takes place, is part of an expansive estate that has a long and storied history, one that includes stories of defending themselves against pirates. The property was expanded in 1600, and that’s when many of the olive trees were planted. Over the years, the property’s structure changed to accommodate the needs of the farm, and in the late 1700s, a chapel was added to the estate.
Today, the masseria features a number of rooms and apartments. Some of the quarters were once noble rooms, others were part of the sheepfold and barn, and still others were part of the stables. All today, of course are fully renovated and offer modern amenities. But the history of the property is still evident throughout, and antique furniture truly makes it a charming accommodation. See the property’s photo gallery.
Our second cooking vacation in Puglia takes place in a masseria that overlooks Mola di Bari, and similar to the first it preserves a piece of history, while still offering comfortable accommodations in a renovated building. Built by the chef and owner’s ancestors, the masseria was once an olive oil mill, and today the main stone room – the heart of the old mill – is now a lovely living room, a perfect place to relax after a day of exploring the countryside or following a cooking class with Chef Rita. The property features just six bedrooms for guests, all too with antique furniture, and each have been named after women who have lived in the masseria over the years. See the property's photo gallery.
No matter which masseria you decide to stay at, they’re steeped in history and gastronomic traditions; and, perhaps best of all, they’re a wonderful place to get to know the locals who are dedicated to the land and food of their home.
By Liz Hall