The region of Puglia can be neatly split into three zones; the flat north plain and Gargano, the heel known as Salento, and the iconic central zones of Bari and Brindisi.
Delicious Italy has been to the Gargano promontory in north Puglia, province of Foggia, on two occasions. The first was a short 2 day trip organised by the parish in Rome with a pilgrimage to San Giovanni Rotondo, where we stayed, and further short visits to Monte Sant'Angelo for the Sanctuary of San Michele Arcangelo, and the Abbey of Santa Maria di Pulsano.
The second trip was courtesy of the SIAFT (Southern Italy Agrifood and Tourism) invitation we received in June 2011. But with one big difference, the visit this time was by light aeroplane over the whole Gargano zone. For the record, the flight track list was the following:
This short historical itinerary in the deep south of Salento winds it way around the town of Felline di Alliste in the province of Lecce.
It represents, in just a few square kilometers, a visual record of the history of the zone from neolithic times to the recent modern era. The route can be also done by bicycle.
Near the historical centre of the town there is an ancient olive tree which is believed to be between 800 and 1000 years old. A symbol of the power of nature.
An old construction offering protection to doves and where the birds would nest.
The territory of Leuca, the very tip of Puglia, the so called heel of Italy, is characterised by stones walls, straw stacks and secular olive trees.
These are powerful images made all the more evocative by the smell of origano, thyme, wild fennel and the salty sea.
Spectacular beauty which can be taken in with a round trip of the folliwng towns and hamlets.
Start in Cagliano del Capo where the roads are squeezed between the sea and the bare sun drenched rocks before arriving at the promontory of Ciolo.
Here you can admire a series of gorges which head deep inland. They were natural shleters for the first primitve inhabitants of the zone, in particular the Cipolliane and Prazziche coves or caves.
This recipe has been sent to us by the Hotel Salsello located on the Bari coast in Bisceglie and you can eat it in their fine restaurant.
The full title of the recipe is 'octopus pie with potatoes and celery with salmon escalope marinated with citrus fruits served on wild rocket leaves'.
200 gr steamed octopus (remove its gelatinous substance and cut it in pieces), 300 gr potatoes cooked with peel (wash and mash them with a fork), little dill bunch and minced parsley, 4 slices of marinated salmon, tomato rinds dried in oven, orange and lemon pulp, salt and pepper, traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena, 100 gr extra-vergin olive oil.
Greek Salento or 'La Greca Salentina' is a cultural and linguistic island in the heart of south Puglia with a history as old as the first invaders of the Italian peninsular.
It is formed of the comuni of Calimera, Martano, Martignano, Castrignano dei Greci, Corigliano d'Otranto, Soleto, Sternatia and Zollino. Here they still speak "Griko".
This itinerary takes in Otranto, S. Cesarea Terme, Castro, Tricase and S. Maria di Leuca. Otranto is one of the many fortified cities of Salento, a region for centuries known as 'Terra d'Otranto'. The name derives from the River Idro (water) which in Latin becomes 'Hidrun-tum' as it meets the port.
Lampascioni or 'vampagioli' are a type of seasonal onion in Puglia which were once always prepared during carnival in certain areas of the region. Now, because onions are available throughout the year, the tradition has faded somewhat but they still make a tasty addition to the table.
We have discovered two ways of preparing them. The first is as a 'sweet and sour' dish; the second dipped in fig 'vincotto' or mulled fig wine. This is roughly how to do both:
SWEET AND SOUR LAMPASCIONI
Firstly, clean and wash the onions well. Shake them to remove all the drips then coat in flour and a beaten egg.
Next, fry them in boiling extra virgin olive oil. Once done, place the cooked onions on a serving dish which has been previously sprinkled with sugar.
Finally, squeeze lemon juice over the onions. Serve cold after at least three hours.
That combination of faith, superstition, folklore and religious ritual linked to the countryside can still be experienced all over Italy. Not least in Puglia where the annual festivals devoted to the patron saints are still celebrated with intensity and local pride.
This is because such events still mean something and are rooted to the land and values of the local people. In the province of Bari, the best time to see them is during the holiday periods, especially mid summer when they coincide with the return to the homeland of many people who work far away during the rest of the year.
Puglia - Beautiful to See. Delightful to Taste' is the name of a new brochure produced by the Regione Puglia - Assessorato Risorse Agroalimentare.
To give you an idea, the cover features the region of Puglia made from a piece of bread, or bruschetta, rather like the logo of the mysterious 'Città del Pane'.
The recommended period for tasting Salento is July to August. We quote loosely.