Happy Places : Puglia, Italy
I travelled to Puglia in great need of rest, space and some TLC (tenderness, love, and care).
Serenity and contentment seemed to allude me during the majority of my visit; depression slowly creeping it's way back in. Yet despite this there were many places where I felt happy.
We visited many places during our trip but you'll see that many of my most favourite places were located in or around Ostuni.
These are my happy places in Puglia and you can check out the Photo Journal for this trip here:
1. The roof terrace at ‘Carla's Gallery’, Ostuni
For the first four nights of our trip we stayed at THE most beautiful Airbnb that I have ever had the pleasure to call 'home'. Whilst Puglia is renowned for its interesting architecture, namely the trulli of Alberbello, I preferred the understated charm of Ostuni AKA 'The White City'. Street upon street of undulating stone, ancient cobbles and white-washed walls; amongst clean linen blowing on the Adriatic breeze Italian women call to one another from their verandas high above.
Carla's 'Gallery' was just that (and more) in every way. Her artistic attention to detail is evident in every nook of the apartment; from the cleverly selected pieces of local art, to the restored furniture and accompanying contemporary additions. The thoughtful touches such as the lace bed throw made by her grandmother, to the chalk wall decorated with messages of love from previous travellers, to the rooftop terrace named after Carla herself - the entire experience felt welcoming. We were locals even if only for a while.
Mornings were spent drinking coffee and eating fresh peaches for breakfast on the terrace. Sat under the sun-bleached bamboo, surrounded by aerials and flowering cacti, we would later curl up on beanbags with books and a bottle (or two) of local Primitivo. Pure contentment watching the sinking sun cast shadows across the tightly packed houses. And that breeze. A wind that you cannot help but imagine travelling across the sea from places afar, dancing across the ancient flat fields of olive trees below the city walls, being forced to rise to us sat amongst the rooftops and television aerials.
I would highly recommend Carla's gallery. You can find a link to her Airbnb property here.
2. Lunch at the Ristorante di Pesce, Lido Bosco Verde
On our first day in Ostuni we decided to jump in the hire car and head to Lido Bosco Verde. Having spent the morning reading at the lido we walked back through the carpark, sand underfoot and vines intertwined above heads providing welcome shelter from the midday sun, and relocated to a garden table at Ristorante di Pesce. It was Sunday and so this sophisticated, yet relaxed, fish restaurant was full of Italian families enjoying long, slow lunches. We were sat at a table in the charming garden and I (as usual) managed to convince Mr G to allow me to sit overlooking the long grasses swaying in the sea breeze wiping across the Adriatic.
Given that the restaurant specialises in fresh fish and seafood (and that I don't eat meat anyway) we shared barley with cuttlefish on peas cream and scamorza smoked cheese to start and opted for the risotto red shrimp with lemon to share. When the food finally arrived (this is south Italy during late summer; a time when Italians and locals travel to region for well-deserved respite after the hoards of tourists return home) it was thoughtfully presented and most important of all, tasted of the sea.
A truly magical, beautiful afternoon spent embracing the slow-paced Mediterranean lifestyle fuelled by Puglian white wine, happiness and laughter.
3. Sunset drinks at Borgo Egnazio, Fasano
After having spent the day relaxing at Canne Bianche Hotel and Spa, we decided to stop by Borgo Egnazio en route back to Ostuni. Little did we know what lay hidden behind the heavy gates and high security! The security guard asked that I telephone through to reception in order to arrange access as we didn't realise that prior approval was normally required. After a brief explanation (and by now feeling a little put out) we were permitted entry and invited to take drinks in their Bar del Portico.
Wow! There is literally nowhere quite like this hotel anywhere else in Puglia. Think relaxed glamour, shocking-pink flowers crawling up the cool stone walls, the chinking of wine glasses and vistas out over the pool terrace, beyond the hotel walls to the seemingly endless fields of olive trees.
A splurge by comparison to the majority on offer in the region but seriously worth it! This place is truly special.
4. Drinking red wine and nibbling taralli at Gipas III
During a couple of our evenings in Ostuni we sat on bean bags in the stone court passage underneath the bell tower of Concattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta. Many glasses of Primitivo were enjoyed whilst sitting back looking up at the ancient stone walls surrounding Gipas III, watching passersby walk to dinner whilst nibbling on taralli; salty, crispy nibbles (think: cross a bread stick with a pretzel and then shrink it).
Many people raved about Cafe Ricardo located just a short walk from Gipas III but whenever we passed by it was always quiet and lacked ambience. I'm sure that it ramped up during the early hours but we always preferred to revert to the Gallery after dinner to sit under the stars.
5. Pizza at Impasto Napoletano, Ostuni
On our first evening in Ostuni Aaron really wanted pizza. It's something that I often crave but am wary of eating due to it normally rendering me in digestive agony for hours afterwards. But whilst in Italy... :)
We searched online for the best pizza in town and Impasto Napoletano seemed to be the obvious choice (later to be confirmed by a local sommelier at a wine store). I can safely say that I have never tasted pizza quite like that created at this understated, extremely popular pizzeria. We were welcomed warmly by the owner each time we visited during our trip (a total of three dinners in eight days) and concluded that the Siciliana (grilled aubergine and tomato) was by the far the tastiest pizza I have ever eaten in my life(!!!) and the Caprese salad for starter was also pretty damn good too.
(and for the record my tummy loved the pizza too which only confirmed my opinion further that my reactions to gluten often occur with only processed, compromised bread products).
6. Beach hangs at Baia dei Turchi, Otranto
The beach at Baia dei Turchi was by far my favourite in all of Puglia. After a short, enchanting walk through a pine forest, the dense Mediterranean vegetation and vibrant ferns opened onto a 180-degree vista of the crystal clear, vibrant blue of the Adriatic Sea. We walked a little further along the craggy rock face, above tiny coves of white sand or the enticing turquoise warm waters lapping at the fallen rocks below. We positioned ourselves on our beach blanket, snoozed, read, swam and then read some more. Content. Relaxed and surrounded by Italian couples both young and old.
7. Lunch and Tommy’s at Carlo Quinto, Monopoli
After an extremely disappointing trip to see the trulli of Alberbello (an unfortunate example of what could have been a truly beautiful and authentic travel experience destroyed by tourist crap lining the streets and hoards of organised walking tours chaperoning baseball caps and bum-bags around the narrow lanes) we ended up in Monopoli for a spontaneous lunch. In typical 'Laura G' style, we walked past the most inviting cafe located along the harbour walls of the town within the first five minutes of our arrival, yet I decided that we should keep exploring in the event that we miss out on something better. We returned 15 minutes later having covered most of Monopoli.
The food at Carlo Quinto's was amazing and exactly what we were expecting when we booked our trip to Puglia. We ordered grilled zucchini with stracciatella, parmigiana, pomodoro and fresh basil bruschetta, a green bean and olive salad and a refreshing, yet punchy, Tommy's in the prettiest, cut-glass martini saucer. Perfection!
Check out my Photo Journal of Puglia here.
Have you visited Puglia before? Where were your happy places?