Finally, after recovering from our shame of knowing so little about Matera we were back in the car and completing the last leg of our journey across Italy to Puglia.
But here’s the thing and I feel a little weird about this. I’m not sure I want to share the tales of our trip to Puglia. I mean, one of our most favourite things about this place is that it wasn’t completely overrun with goofball tourists. It feels a little bit undiscovered still. And if I tell you about it and you tell two friends and they tell two friends and so on and so on, then BAM! Its Cinque Terre and we won’t be able to get a hotel room to save our lives.
FINE, alright. I’ll tell you. But you need to pinky promise that YOU WON’T TELL ANYONE. Ok? Deal? Deal. Can you tell? We really love Puglia. But not at first…
After our adventurous drive across Italy seeing the rest of the Amalfi Coast and Matera, we were pretty pooped when we arrived at the Masseria. It is a beautiful property, an old farm that’s been converted into a hotel. The farmhouse was now the gift shop and reception area, the stable now the spa and restaurant. Inside the barnyard now the swimming pool and bar. Surrounded by a lovely golf course (which no one ever used but provided lovely green space) and many ancient olive groves. It was quiet and peaceful. Maybe a little too peaceful? We were booked here for the next 8 nights. Would we get bored?
That’s right, we never got bored.
Puglia is littered with some incredible little towns and some very important big towns (like Lecce or Brindisi – the latter is the legendary end of the Roman’s Appian Way). All along the Adriatic is a smattering of cute little fishing villages that are now home to great restaurants, cute hotels and still plenty of locals to keep it real. We loved spending time in Monopoli (especially their old town) and Savelletri. Next time we need to check out Brindisi and Polignano Al Mare. In land, you’ll find a thriving agricultural community especially on the top of the escarpment looming over the shoreline, as well as cool towns like Ostuni, Fasano, Locorotondo and the amazing Alberobello. There is literally so much to do and see in this part of Italy. And of course, the people are warm and welcoming. We met some of the most amazing, kind, genuine folks here that we vowed to come back if for no other reason than to catch up and see how everyone is doing.
We did a lot over our eight days here, so I won’t bore you with the all the details. But here are the real stand out moments for us.
Grottaglie – On this trip I have become obsessed with ceramics. Old ceramics, new ceramics, whatever. I’m just in love with the artistry in this medium that you find here in the Mediterranean. The town of Grottaglie is the ceramics capital of Puglia so we ventured there to visit the “Ceramiche” District. We visited one studio, Enza Fasano. We were introduced to her work through the Masseria as many of her pieces adorned the walls and shelves around the property. We were not disappointed. Enza is a true artist designing incredible and special pieces. She is joined by her husband and two adult children who all work with her in the studio. Her studio is a vast warehouse of several rooms with bowls and platters and lamps and plates piled high. It was epic.
Alberobello – In researching Puglia, one of the top sites that comes up is the town of Alberobello and its well preserved Trulli Houses. Like something out of a Tolkien novel, the perfectly preserved Trulli Houses are now restaurants, shops and B&Bs. We were amazed at how many Trulli there are in Alberobello and in this area, with their whitewashed round walls and conical roofs. So charming. After our visit to the Trulli Houses, we took the kids to a waterpark. They were a little bemused that the waterpark consisted of only about 6 water slides and was not the vast complexes they are used to at home. They were also a little unimpressed by the Italian health authority requirement that all swimmers wear bathing caps. I think I rocked mine perfectly. But at the end of the day it was a fun activity that didn’t require historical learning so they were happy.
The Masseria – this little haven, a kilometre from the beach was such a great stop for us on this big trip. We were grateful for the very kind staff, our comfortable and cozy room, the lovely amenities, the delicious food and the heavenly setting. We often opted to stay in and have dinner in the patio bar of the Masseria. It was such fun as we were hosted by Carmelo, The King Piano Player who played requests all night and roped us into all the fun. We also took a fantastic cooking class with the executive chef Nicola and learned the best technique for making pasta.
On one of our final days in Puglia we were very lucky to coincide with the celebratory feast day in the small nearby town of Fasano. This was a big deal in the region and many of the staff in our hotel were looking forward to a return of the holiday after the long two year Covid break, including our new friend and concierge F. He offered to show us around the parade and town so we could experience all the best Fasano has to offer. The festival honours the town’s patron saints of Madonna del Pozzo and San Giovanni Battista. It also celebrates the battle on June 2 1678 where they defeated the Turks.
The main event of the festival was the parade through the city where many locals dressed in costume and re-enacted the battle with the Turks. It was impressive and we managed to follow the parade along and catch it in a few places. F and his lovely girlfriend S, guided us through the town eventually meeting up with F’s parents and family who invited us to join them for dinner.
As part of the Festival the local butchers set up large BBQs and tables on the streets. F’s sweet family showed us the ropes. Inside the butcher you buy several large spears of meat. Steak, chicken wings, sausages, livers and beef wrapped with intestine (we didn’t partake in the latter). The butcher then takes your large spears to the BBQ and grills them up, eventually delivering plates of grilled meat to your table. F apologized; no salads, no vegetables, no dessert – just MEAT. And a lot of it. We stopped into the cafe across from the Butcher and bought large bottles of beer, water and cokes for the crowd that was starting to join us. F was born and raised in Fasano, so he has plenty of family that were stopping by. All of them wondering, who were these random people sitting with their family eating all their meat. ”Canadianos!” answered F’s delightful mama. None of them spoke much English and our Italian is embarrassingly sparse but we managed to enjoy a lovely a meal and a wonderful connection with this sweet and hospitable family. We were so grateful for this chance to experience this important day in Fasano just like a local!
After dinner, F and his family guided us to the amazing light show that filled the main square and street of the town. It was one of the most incredible light displays I’ve seen, all choreographed to music. We were fascinated by this whole experience and were so grateful to F and his lovely family for playing host to us.
Finally it was time for us to bid Arrivederci to beautiful Puglia and all the new friends we had made at The Masseria. You know it’s been a good stay when the staff comes to the gate to say goodbye. After a month in Italy, we were sad to say Ciao to such a warm and inviting country. We loved every minute of our stay here and we vowed that we will be back before too long.