Spanning Italy’s south coast, on the heel of its famous boot, Puglia’s warm climate and fertile soil make it the ideal place for farming. The home to hundreds of olive trees dating back as far as 3,000 years Puglia has a rich farming history. It's hospitable residents give Puglia its distinctly rustic charm.
The taste of the food is just as important as it's "genuine" nutrition to the people of Puglia. It's delicious cuisine made from organic, local produce is the most popular kind. The cuisine of Puglia is based around vegetables, meat and fish with a fantastic range of organic wines. This weekend we visited a Masseria near Otranto which was buzzing with local families and Apulian cuisine at it's finest.
The Masseria which homes a working farm produces everything for it's restaurant organically and at 0km within it's attractive grounds. The restaurants set menu boasts the homegrown vegetables in the antipasto to the fruits and meat right down to the wheat that is used in their handmade fresh pasta and the jam in their homemade dessert. It's no wonder Puglia is proving so popular as a holiday destination for food and wine enthusiasts across the world.
The limited-numbers tour is fast becoming the best way to get to know a place like Puglia. With a maximum of only 8 travellers on a tour, our members enjoy a travel experience which is intimate enough to get them into that small family run Masseria's to eat with the locals and the small artisan workshop's not to be found on the main tourist tracks. Experiences that can be enjoyed with like-minded travellers and local experienced guides.
In a region like Puglia, which is best enjoyed by car, a group tour offers the comfort of transport by local qualified drivers who know how to reach the hidden gems down the narrow winding olive tree lined roads without names. Our customers don't only visit locations, they discover destinations, immersing themselves in another culture, indulging in the wonders of the rustic local cuisine and experiencing breathtaking moments in comfort with the added luxury of a local expert to guide their experience. Of course Puglia can be discovered alone but it would be a pity to visit and miss the magical places known only to the locals.
In Italian: È questo il momento migliore per gustare l'uva che é finalmente di stagione. Dolce, Ricca di gusto e anche di virtù salutari, si trova in più colori e molte varietà. Ciascuna con un aroma e una consistenza cararreristici. Tutte tipologie deliziose per il consumo a crudo e alcune adatte a preparare ricette dolci o bevande.
In English: This is the best moment to savour grapes and finally they are in season. Sweet, rich in taste and also good for your health, you will find them in many colours and varieties. Each with its own aroma and characteristic consistency. All varieties are delicious to eat raw and some are adapted for dessert recipes and drinks.
Grapes are a fruit which is largely underutilised in cooking with most people associating them only with wine and simply as a fresh fruit to be enjoyed as a snack or after a meal. Grapes are very tasty in this way of course but there are so many more ways to enjoy grapes. With all of the wonderful varieties that can be found in Italy from the white "Pizzutella" cultivated in the South of Italy and admired for their sweet and salty flavour to the red "Americana" known for their sweet, delicate taste and strong aroma.
But why are grapes so good for you? White grapes are the most consumed variety but the red grapes with rich colour pigments are where you will find the most antioxidants. The vitamins and minerals that they provide are magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus with detoxifying qualities from the levels of potassium. The nutrients that they provide are great heading into the colder months. Not to be overlooked however is their high sugar content and as with everything in life they should be enjoyed in moderation.
So why not celebrate the grape this Autumn as part of a roast vegetable dish with courgettes, aubergines, peppers, onion and tomatoes or in a delicious ciambella cake with ricotta and white grapes?
The blog post today was inspired by the grapes i found this weekend growing out of the wall at Maurizio's house our lovely host and chef in Alberobello. Here is a photo below!
One of the many things I love about Lecce is the constant new discoveries and natural local produce. Just when you think you know the area that you live you come across a wonderful new find. Today for me that was “Formaggi da Rosa” the “cheese by Rosa”. The sign pointed off the little roundabout, where goats often cross the road, down a little winding road near our house.
We decided to check it out. After a little longer than anticipated and stopping off at several wild fig trees along the way for some free organic figs we arrived at a traditional masseria. This was not the sort of high class Masseria that is now so popular with tourists but a rustic, working, family run masseria. There were children roaming around, tractors parked up and linen hanging on the washing line. You really had the feeling that you were wandering into someones home.
To the left there was a little orange building with the “Formaggi da Rosa” sign and just inside Rosa was waiting. We found a wonderful selection of hard and soft cheeses. On Rosa's direction we tried a selection. For me the hard Ricotta was the star of the show. It was salty and delicious. For sure it was going to go perfectly with our figs!
Just as we were about to pay we noticed some fresh eggs on the counter and asked if there were anymore. Rosa said “certo!” and left through the front door. It didn’t take us long to realise that she had gone to take the eggs fresh from the chickens. She returned with basket full of fresh eggs.
There is something so satisfying about buying fresh organic produce from local people. The cheese and eggs that we bought were so fresh, organic and had travelled 0 km. This is something that is prominent in Lecce. There is an awareness of the environment and the health benefits of buying local organic produce. Health and the environment is taken so seriously and the good food is protected by the people.
Zero km food (0 km food) is a concept which first appeared in Italy a few years ago. It indicates the food produced, sold and eaten locally, food which has travelled zero kilometres. It mainly refers to non-industrial fruits, vegetables, cheese, meat and honey which does not go through global trade chains, therefore it does not have the big price margins and quality lost during long storage in international supermarkets.
0 Km food is serious business in Lecce and also has an important ecological aspect which can not be overseen. Since there is no transport involved the environment does not suffer from direct and indirect pollution.
It is wonderful to see the hard work and dedication of the Italian people for preserving and protecting their food sources. Visiting these wonderful places is like stepping back in time, living a simpler life and a welcome reminder that our health and family are the most important things that we have.
This little podcast is going to be a little bit different from the previous one.
It will be actually composed 2 video podcast... The first one is an English version and the second one is the same version but in Italian.
We think it is a good occasion to make some practice of Listening to an Italian mother tongue.
Hope you will like it and as usual if you have any comment we will be very happy to read them..
....and down below you can listen to the Italian version of the podcast
According to scientists at Leicester University, people stay healthier for longer, in Italy, compared with those in other European countries. And the differences in the Euro health league tables are really quite striking with Italy appearing first for good health. But why is this? Why do Italians live longer? And why do they also seem to be happier? There is a lot in the media about loneliness, mindfulness and stress but this seems to be something that Italians have been aware of for centuries.
In this first podcast episode Emanuele will talk about Family in Italy which is the first Secret of Living like an Italian that we have identified..
A trip down the Prosecco Road should be on the bucket list of every sparkling wine fan. For more reasons than the bountiful glasses of the UK’s favourite fizz – and there is a lot of it available here - the Prosecco Road is stunning in its own right. Unbelievably almost tourist-free it has a few amazing surprises tucked along its twists and turns.
Here are some of the must-see spots along the Prosecco Road.
Prosecco Vending Machine
Fancy a sip of something fizzy on the go? Up in the hills of the Prosecco valley is a vending machine – that’s right, a vending machine – that dispenses perfectly chilled bottles of Prosecco. The hill you need to find is the famous Colline del Cartizze. Perched at the top will be a little wooden shelter, and underneath it the famed vending machine.
Here you can pick up Prosecco, glasses and a selection of tasty snacks. Settle down on one of the nearby benches and soak in the amazing view as you sip the good stuff.
There is one piece of bad news: You need an Italian ID to operate this amazing vending machine. But if you're on one of The Italian School tours we are very happy to use our ID for you to sit and enjoy a glass of bubbly Prosecco and take in this fantastic view.
The Serve-Yourself Osteria
No trip down the Prosecco Road would be complete without stopping in at Osteria Senz’Oste, the “tavern without a host”.
This Prosecco Road legend is run by a local salami maker who stops by only occasionally. On most trips to this old stone cottage you’ll find a fridge stocked with bottles of Prosecco, lovely local meats and cheeses and, of course, salami! Your finds can be enjoyed on the shady terrace, which overlooks the region’s beautiful vineyards.
When it comes to the time to pay, this establishment operates on the honour system. You simply pay what you owe at a self-service till and leave!
Note that the Osteria Senz’Oste can be difficult to find, so plan ahead and ask for directions at nearby San Stefano.
You can’t go to the Prosecco Road without visiting a winery or two. The wineries producing the Prosecco Superiore are situated right in the middle of the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG region, where the highest quality Prosecco's are produced.
You can visit these artisan wineries by appointment only all year round and partake in a tasting in their wine cellars.
The family run artisan wineries that make up The Italian School tours offer a magnificent range of sparkling and still wines which are produced using traditional processes which have been passed down through generations. These high quality prosecco's are produced in small numbers so are rarely found outside of the region - you’re sure to find something you want to take home.
The Hiker’s Dream Trail
The L’Anello Del Prosecco is a nature-lover’s dream come true. This 8km hiking and biking trail, whose name translates into ‘The Prosecco Ring’, starts and finishes in the sleepy village of San Pietro di Barbozza. In between it snakes through some of the region’s most spectacular small towns and past truly remarkable scenery.
A two hour walk or 45-minute cycle, it’s of medium difficulty but well worth the effort. Be sure to bring a camera; you’ll see stunning views of old churches and vineyards alike. On clear days, you can even see the city of Venice shimmering in the distance.
Explore Conegliano and cathedral
A visit to Conegliano can start from the Corso Vittorio Emanuele - this road was built outside the original defensive walls and known as the Refosso. Along this route you can see some important monuments such as the Church of San Rocco (17th century, with a façade in the Neoclassic style); Piazza Cima; and the Teatro dell'Accademia (Academy Theatre - a 19th century building also in the Neoclassic style).
Enter the old town of Conegliano through the Porta Dante (Dante's Gate) with the beautiful Fountain of Neptune, or the Porta Monticano.
The Cathedral in Conegliano dates from 1491 and is divided into three aisles, with curved archs.
It is very rich in important frescoes and paintings, including the renowned and evocative altarpiece by Cima from Conegliano (c.1459-c.1518) with the fine 'Virgin Mary with the child between angels and saints', and continuing with Iacopo Negretti (aka Palma il Giovane) and his Santa Caterina fresco, and the altar piece of the Saints Bonaventure and Catherine by the local painter Francesco Beccaruzzi.
Other artistic highlights in the cathedral include the 16th century 'Baptism of Christ' by Francesco Fringimelica and 'The Annunciation' by Belgian painter Ludovico Pozzoserrato.
For more information about our Prosecco Road Tour and Spa weekends click on the link below!
According to scientists at Leicester University, people stay healthier for longer, in Italy, compared with those in other European countries. And the differences in the Euro health league tables are really quite striking with Italy appearing first for good health. But why is this? Why do Italians live longer? And why do they also seem to be happier? There is a lot in the media about loneliness, mindfulness and stress but this seems to be something that Italians have been aware of for centuries. Social interactions are deeply ingrained into the Italians lives and they negotiate these issues with ease, and perhaps without even being fully aware that they are addressing them at all on a daily basis. Social relationships both quantity and quality have been proven to affect mental health, health behaviour, physical health, and mortality risk. But is this secret to a longer life? We believe it is a very important factor and it is for a combination of reasons that the Italians are living “La Dolce Vita."
1. Family values
Family is the most important thing to Italians. They are proud of their relations and family get togethers are a treasured event. Relatives welcome each other with open arms, kisses and an enthusiasm which never falters. Any occasion is an opportunity to get together and eat together. Disagreements are had of course, sometimes even often but they are aired (loudly) and openly and resolved usually just as quickly. There is no such thing as biting your tongue and bottling it up. Italians get things out there preventing built up bad feelings and let’s face it they are family after all so that is just fine.
2. If you’re going to love someone, Love Them Passionately
When an Italian falls in love they want the world to know! Every other word they speak becomes “amore!” They embrace each other often and with passion. Public signs of affection are met with smiles by onlookers. People are happy for them. The relationships are usually long but when marriage finally arrives so does a very large wedding! With all members of the family being invited from far and wide the love is celebrated in true Italian style with a feast fit for a king and music and dancing.
3. Show your emotions
Italian men do not shy away from their emotions. Neither are emotions seen in any way to compromise their masculinity. Emotions are there to be shared and if an Italian man or woman wants to cry then they will. Crying, shouting and laughing are all parts of natural expression. And why would you try to supress that right?!
4. Take a walk
Taking a “Passeggiata” is still the most popular past time of the Italian people. For the young and old it’s not just taking a walk, it’s more of a wander. A wander around the town to admire the architecture and to say hello to passing friends. A great form of exercise it can be done before dinner to build up an appetite or after dinner to digest and maybe get a “gelato” along the way. The “Passegiata” is done only for pleasure like most things in Italy but it has many health benefits from improving circulation to relaxation and reducing stress.
If somebody looks good Italians will tell them. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t really know the person. If the compliment is thought, it is said. Compliments flow all day for various reasons with “bello” and “bravo” being heard all over town. Compliments are really great for self-esteem and for feeling good about yourself too.
There seems to be endless health warnings about coffee but there is no prising Italians away from their coffee. Millions of Italians rely on a morning espresso to get started so perhaps it is something to do with the way it’s being drank? More recently coffee has been claimed to prevent depression. Because of the way it is made and its concentration, an espresso is thought to contain two to three times the number of healthy antioxidants of coffee made by other brewing methods. Outside of Italy we are pretty keen on coffee too, but 85% of the stuff we drink is instant, which is not only, arguably, disgusting, but contains few of the alleged health benefits associated with an Italian espresso. So there it is, Espresso is the answer!
7. Eat well
It will come as no surprise that eating is taken very seriously in Italy. It is at the very centre of Italian life. But what may not be so obvious is the importance of good quality food. Good food in the sense of healthy and wholesome food. Food in Italy is very closely monitored by the government and the people alike. Expectations for food to be good quality and free from nasty additives and preservatives are high. Italians eat food for pleasure but they also understand nutrition. They are meticulous about food combinations and eating balanced meals. Meals are served in a series of smaller dishes with long waits in between courses. This prevents people getting overly full and helps to aid digestion. Fruit and vegetables are eaten when they are at their best and in season. And this way they are also at their most delicious.
8. Respect your health
Italians are known for being hypochondriacs. But what is more important than our health? They treat their bodies carefully and if they fall ill a good recovery is of upmost importance. You would never catch an Italian with a cold “Soldiering on”. They will be tucked up a home recovering with mamma’s homemade broth.
9. Get out of the house
Italians love their homes but they don’t spend much time in them. Traditionally Italian homes do not have sofas but large dining room tables instead. The evening is spent around the dinner table eating, chatting and being with your family. Then after dinner they go to bed or they go for a walk. There is no culture for sitting in front of the television.
10. Take it slow
Italians take the word “slow” to a whole new meaning but they don’t see it as slow. It’s more of a take it easy. They walk slowly taking in their surroundings wandering with no particular place to go and they started the Slow Food Movement. It can be difficult for people outside of Southern Europe to adapt to this new way of life but eventually you realize just how relaxing and carefree life is if you just slow down. The days are longer as they start earlier and finish later with a good “siesta” in the afternoon to recharge the batteries after a long lunch. Lunch can last for hours and this is a great way to de-stress and reconnect with your friends and family. The food is wholesome and a pleasure to eat, you know while you are eating that it is nourishing you. Not like grabbing a sandwich on the go! Life is so much better if you aren’t flying through it and you take the time to really breathe it in and enjoy it.
The wonderful Food and wines of Treviso are rustic, traditional and largely undiscovered by people outside of the Veneto region. It is a land of loved oils and meats with a particular alluring flavour. From fragrant garlic salami to a local variety of large salami called “sopressa” the meats are best served warmed and sprayed with a dash of balsamic vinegar. Many of the traditional foods are accompanied perfectly with slices of grilled polenta or fresh bread. Something that all of the products here share in common are the family run findings at which they are produced. Made by artisan producers to the highest quality they follow generations of expertise.
This really is place of charms with its gentle rolling hills, fascinating vineyards and its rich fierce plain. The home of the Prosecco Road it has a character of its own. The woods offer a refuge for many species of animals and the fish-rich waters of its many rivers and streams offer an abundance of trout and even eels.
Ancient flavours can be found in the small farms, family run vineyards and traditional restaurants that are characteristic places with a welcoming style. The rustic appeal of the local fooderies derived from old peasant dwellings often keep their original style which dates back to the beginning of property. It is hard to imagine that an area so rustic and traditional can offer such a beautiful cuisine to accompany it's fine quality Prosecco. All can be enjoyed with amazing panoramic views of the Prosecco hills whilst tasting delicious recipes made from the natural ingredients of the land and drinking the award winning locally produced wines.
Pizza! One of the most loved foods in the world.
But do you know where to find the very best Pizza? The Pizzeria that makes the best Pizza in the world?
Well, let’s start at the beginning in 16th-century Naples, when a flatbread called a galette was originally referred to as a pizza. Known as the dish for poor people, it was sold in the street and was not considered a kitchen recipe for a long time. Eventually Pizza was replaced by more expensive ingredients like oil, tomatoes and fish. Then on 11th June 1889, to honour the Queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, a Neapolitan pizza maker called Raffaele Esposito decided to create a pizza in the queen’s honour. He called the pizza the "Pizza Margherita". Esposito garnished the Pizza with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, to represent the national colours red, white and green of Italy’s flag. Since then the Margherita Pizza has been held in the hearts of Italians as the traditional, original Pizza of choice.
Fast forward to today and most people have an idea of where to find the best pizza in Italy but all agree that it comes from Naples. So where can you find the best pizza in Naples? Many say that it can be found at the famed Naples pizzeria “L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele”. Made globally famous as the star Pizzeria in the book/movie Eat, Pray, Love, when Julia Roberts eats pizza there. Hmmm, A Hollywood phenomenon I hear you say? Well, I decided to try it for myself. Surrounded by hungry Neapolitans I queued outside the busy Pizzeria for 2 hours. During the bustling two hours waiting for my number to be called I chatted with the locals who reassured me that this was the best pizza in Naples and it will be worth the wait. Despite my rumbling belly and the Pizzeria next door visibly having seats available I stood my ground. Once inside I enthusiastically took my seat, there are only two types of pizza on the menu, a regular Margherita and a Margherita with double mozzarella. I chose the same as Julia Roberts in the movie, a Margherita pizza with double mozzarella. And oh my goodness was it good. In the words of Julia Roberts in the film “I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair”. So there you have it, if there is a better pizza out there I just couldn’t imagine how it would taste! Try Pizzeria Da Michele for yourself! It can be found on Via Cesare Sersale 1, 80139, Naples, Italy, just a 15 minute walk from the Naples Train Station.
Italy's famous sparkling prosecco wine comes from vineyards that cover a picturesque valley, just north of Venice. While Champagne refers to a region, prosecco is the name of the grape that is grown on rolling hills that stretch from the town of Valdobbiadene past Treviso and Conegliano, as far as Vittorio Veneto. A couple of days driving along this "strada del vino" combines wine tastings in village cantinas, staying in charming B&Bs run by winemakers, and the chance to discover the local Veneto cuisine in rural osterie and trattorie.
Valdobbiadene is the capital of prosecco country, and the perfect place to start a trip through the vineyards is the historic Bar Alpino. It is difficult to believe that this osteria opened more than 80 years ago because the friendly young owner has recently renovated the place into a smart wine bar where over 50 different prossecos can be tasted by the glass. The clientele hasn't changed though – colourful winemakers stop off here at all times of the day. And the food is as traditional as ever, with delicious "polpettine" meatballs on sale all day, while locals crowd in around 6pm when the "porchetta" - roast suckling pig - is brought in from the baker's oven and sliced up at the counter.