Lecce at night
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I am in Puglia, Italy, and specifically in the area called “Salento,” the southern territory of the region. My pre-tour of Puglia in search of the finest, most symbolic, and uniquely different locations for my food and culture tour in April 2022, is fascinating. The tour has only a couple of spots left, with 34 guests already registered, and excited to discover one of the most striking regions in Europe.
A sun-kissed territory all year round, Salento is a treasure trove of unique art, exquisite Mediterranean cuisine, and genuine hospitality. In addition, the area boasts a fabulous landscape, ranging from the Adriatic coast along Melendugno, Santa Cesarea Terme, and Otranto, to the Ionian Sea and the golden beaches of Porto Cesareo, Porto Selvaggio, and Gallipoli.
Tinged with a Middle Age Oriental hue, the area called Grecìa Salentina is a magical land of ancient nursery rhymes in the Griko dialect. At the same time, in towns like Melpignano, primeval rhythms are turned into contemporary beats at the Notte della Taranta folk music festival.
In this green peninsula fringed by two seas, mysterious, ancient monuments like dolmens and menhirs lead to millenary olive groves, and drystone walls dot the countryside between Giurdignano and Minervino di Lecce. Take a hike across century-old masserie (manor farms), often turned into sophisticated hotels, and discover Early Christian churches and underground olive mills. While here, do not miss the fantastic sea caves in Castro and Santa Maria di Leuca.
A stroll through Lecce is a journey into Baroque architecture, with churches and palazzi embroidered in stone, alongside courtyards, secret gardens, and a stunning Roman theater at the heart of the city. In Brindisi, discover two castles and spectacular views from the Regina Margherita seafront.
Secluded villages unveil paper-mâché workshops and stone-carving artisans. The local cuisine boasts the most delicate Salento flavors, best savored with excellent local wines. Among them the tria (homemade pasta prepared with chickpeas), wild vegetables, and delicious sweets such as pasticciotto (filled with pastry cream) and spumoni (artisanal ice cream).
I will return to my regular posting schedule next week. Meanwhile, if you are considering traveling to Italy with a chef-inspired tour, consider our 2022 offerings here.
Note: Lately, our latest Covid-related variant has made us increasingly nervous. All I can tell you is that they take the issue very seriously here in Italy, and the country stands behind all necessary precautions, and at times even excessively. However, I am much more nervous about our behavior in the USA than the one I encountered here!
Talk soon, Chef Walter
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