Welcome to the land of la pizzica, burrata cheese, endless olive trees and don’t forget our favorite, taralli.
Let us start off by saying, this trip was an adventure like no other. In 4 short days, our Italian speaking abilities were proven sufficient, our tempers were put to the test and we finally figured the amount of taralli we can eat without actually turning into TARALLONI.
Dragging along our Italian roommate, Laura, we hopped on an overnight train from Bologna (Emilia-Romagna) to Lecce (Puglia). We arrived in the wee hours of the morning in desperate need of a caffè, which we discovered in the South costs only 80 euro cents (whereas in the North costs a whole euro… SCONTO SCORE!). After the caffeination process was completed and we became quasi human again, we trekked with our bags to go pick up our pre-booked Hertz rental car.
Here begins the test of our problem-solving skills. We got there ready to pay and everything, only to discover that the only acceptable method of payment was credit card. As you all know, we are just a couple of youngins, so we were ill equipped with international Charles Schwab DEBIT cards (money in da bank, shawty whatcha thank?). Due to our lack of adulty-ness, we ended up not being able to go through with the reservation, and found ourselves stuck without a solution because public transportation in the South is anything but reliable. Luckily, southern hospitality is a real thing and the Hertz guy, being a local, called up his buddy and just like that, we got a car. FREEDOM WAHOOOOO!!!!!!! *side note: we don’t know how to drive manual (thanks America). Thankfully, we had a European-trained chauffeur, a.k.a. our roommate/dear friend, Laura.
Laura headed straight for the coast. First stop, Otranto.
The clear, blue water stunned us – literally making our jaws drop to the floor (well, not literally, but you know what we mean). As we dipped our toes in the warm Adriatic sea, we realized the only thing missing was our beloved taralli. If we could write love letters to taralli, we would. Now, you’re probably wondering what are these mystical taralli? Well my friends, lasciaci spiegare un attimo (let us explain a minute). Taralli are basically the Italian equivalent to a pretzel and the PERFECT compliment to a glass of wine. We found a local market, purchased some tarallini al finnochio and speciality dried figs with an almond center, and called it a lunch.
After we refueled with a beautiful view and some yummy snacks, we headed over to our 11 euro a night beach view apartment in Terme di Santa Cesarea. After dropping off our stuff, we hopped back in the car and drove down to the southern-most point of the heel of Italy, Santa Maria di Leuca.
Being the young techies that we are, we tried using internet to attempt finding a place for dinner. After calling a few places that decided they weren’t going to be open that night, we resorted to Laura’s old school tour guide book. We ended up in a small town that was composed of one main street, a church, and this guide book recommended trattoria. As we walked up that one main street, we got stares of unfamiliarity, sticking out as the only non-locals in town, apart from a french couple who were following the same guide book suggestion. Although it was a strange experience, let us assure you, it’s true what they say… si mangia bene in Puglia (you eat well in Puglia).
After a nutritious breakfast of Pan di Stelle biscotti and fresh grapes, we headed for the famous port town of Gallipoli on the Ionian sea. Composed of a castle on the water, fresh fish stands in every direction and quaint little streets, we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. We treated ourselves to a new pair of locally made sandals and a seafood lunch.
We then followed the coast line and ended up in Porto Cesareo. Within the first 10 minutes of walking around, a shady but charming fisherman offered us an hour on a pedal boat for a couple of euros. We peddled across and docked ship on the natural reserve island a couple meters away. We soon discovered that we were the only people there and proceeded to obnoxiously snap a million polariods and even some high tech camera shots. We took in some sole (sun) and headed back just before the rain. We ended the day in the beautiful baroque town of Lecce, winding down with a plate of fresh Pugliese burrata and the Salento specialty Negroamaro red wine. For those of you who have had the misfortune of living your life this long without trying fresh burrata, we feel deeply sorry for you. Burrata is like the better looking and better tasting, creamier cousin of mozzarella. It’s pure cheesy bliss and should go on your food bucket-list immediately. Ok, enough about cheese (though tbh we could talk about it all day).
We returned our car the next morning and hopped on a train to Bari, where we found ourselves in quite the debacle. Our Airbnb apartment was initially booked with the intent of having a rental car, but things didn’t work out according to plan and we had to resort to public transportation. Upon our arrival we found that buses decided not to go to Adelfia that day, so we spent the 30 minutes in the taxi ride from hell. We finally made it to Adelfia, a quaint traditional little town, where our host Max welcomed us into his anything but traditional apartment. It was stocked full of local wine, taralli and even a Coachella-esque soundtrack from his iPod dock.
He offered his company and car to transport us to Alberobello and Polignano a Mare, two towns we’d been wanting to see. We graciously accepted his offer, hopped in the back seat and enjoyed our time. Instead of blabbing on about these wonderfully unique towns, take a look for yourselves at the pictures below.
The next morning was bittersweet as we had to make our way to the airport, but nothing will beat the sweetness of the strawberries from the farmer’s market, just due passi (two steps) away from our apartment. Visiting the South was a challenge, due to the lack of infrastructure, but it’s genuinely worth a visit. If we had to choose one word to describe the South, the first thing that comes to mind is warm; not only temperature warm, but a certain warmness that you find in the people. Southern Italians are incredibly hospitable and friendly, making it impossible not to fall in love with the charm and beauty in the South. In fact, we have plans to go back soon, this time in Sicily (blog post to come).
Thinking about going to Puglia soon? Click here for contact info and feel free to send us an email!
Lily & Shelby
Intanto (for now), enjoy this video of “Volare” by Domenico Modugno, Salento (Puglia) born singer.