Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Our journey to finding Puglia, Part Two

Our journey to finding Puglia, our natural home

Part two

After our brief encounter with Italy on our whistle stop tour of Europe we were left with a strong desire to revisit and spend more time exploring this wonderful country and its interesting people. The opportunity did not arise for a few years, other things got in the way like buying a house, doing it up, having a baby, starting a business – normal everyday stuff.

Our daughter was 8 months old when the opportunity to go back to Italy came up. Ray and myself had always travelled a lot and never missed a year without having a holiday abroad. Normally we would do something adventurous and not particularly child friendly so having to consider a baby was new territory for us. We didn’t want to risk flying in case our daughter screamed the whole way, too many times we had been subjected to that ourselves.

So we decided that we would drive somewhere instead, our daughter loved the car and normally went to sleep as soon as the engine started and with a bit of luck we might have an easy drive. Good plan! We had no desire to go to France, Belgium (even though we remembered the cute little seaside towns) Germany, Holland, Switzerland and we definitely didn’t want to stay in England so we decided on Italy and set about planning where to go. It was just over 900 miles to get as far as Italy, quite a trek and we had no idea how our daughter would travel, so we decided on a place called Pietrasanta, in Liguria in the north.

The plan worked beautifully, Mikyla slept most of the way and when she wasn’t asleep she was happy looking around her. As soon as we reached Italy, with it's scruffy towns and crazy drivers. it immediately felt right and comfortable just like it had on our first visit.

Pietrasanta is a pretty seaside town where the Italians go on holiday. We had rented a private villa which we found quite easily and arrived to a warm welcome from the owners, an Italian family who we later discovered lived in the garage area at the back of the villa! We now know that this is quite normal in Italy, Italian houses are usually built so that they can accommodate two families - in anticipation for when the children grow up and have their own families. It worked beautifully; we had the main house with our own private access and only saw the owners if we needed them or one time when Ray helped lift a barrel of wine (and we both helped drink some)

Pietrasanta was everything we remembered about Italy and more. Friendly locals, fun atmosphere, amazing food and great shopping and we also discovered it was the most child friendly place in the world. Our daughter,being blond and cute was an instant success especially in the restaurants where she was usually kidnapped by one of the waiters and spent the evening being cuddled and fussed over by the locals, leaving Ray and myself to enjoy our meal undisturbed.

Our love of Italy grew stronger during this fabulous holiday when we got our first glimpse of the ‘quirkiness’ of the Italian people (we have since discovered it exists throughout all of Italy). There was the evening we were taking a stroll through the town when, after noticing some locals carry their armchairs down the street, we decided to follow them, only to find ourselves outside a television rental shop where there was a crowd of thirty or more sitting in the street watching Italy play in the world cup, cheering and clapping, in the comfort of their armchairs. The cars just reversed and took a different route, they had no choice. Nothing was going to disturb the football game!!! Or then there was the very wet Sunday when we abandoned the beach and went up the mountains to explore the old towns. Later we were sitting in a little restaurant surrounded by noisy Italians, waiting for lunch to arrive (we had no idea what was coming as there was no menu) and Mikyla, who was starting to get tired and grisly dropped her soother on the floor. Ray, without thinking picked it up, dipped it in his glass of wine to clean it and popped it back into Mikyla’s mouth (I should say at this stage that we didn’t generally give our 8 baby alcohol!). The table next to us erupted, shouting and gesticulating in our direction – oh no we had offended them – and then one of the women reached across and took Ray’s glass of wine ………. only to replace it with her own seconds later and then pointed to the baby, nodded and smiled. Apparently the wine we were drinking wasn’t good enough to give to babies – note to self ‘make sure we get the right vintage next time.

I think we truly fell in love with Italy on this trip and began what became for us an annual pilgrimage to this wonderful country.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Our journey to finding Puglia, our natural home

Part one

My name is Maura and I live in London with Ray my husband. Four years ago we bought a wonderful villa in Puglia, right down on the ‘heel’ of Italy and totally unspoiled in terms of mass tourism.

I have always been a foodie and a keen cook as are all my friends so after many months of passing on the delicious recipes and simple cooking tips taught to me by Yolande, my Italian neighbour, my friends finally convinced me that I should be sharing this with other fellow foodies and therefore I have set up a business offering cooking holidays and culinary tours to this wonderful part of Italy.

Italy has always been our natural home, the people, their friendliness and warmth and their pride in their culture. Ray and I first experienced Italian lifestyle nearly 30 years ago when we decided to take a road trip with some friends around Europe – a whistle stop tour for just two weeks. It was the early 80’s, the yuppie culture had just began in the UK, and our friends who thought of themselves as ‘ultra trendy’ wanted to visit the Burgundy wine growing region of France to start their wine collection! The yuppie trend hadn’t caught up yet with Ray and myself and we were just treating the trip as an adventure. As you can imagine the original list of places to visit was way too ambitious so we decided to break it down into countries and each one of us would chose a country we really wanted to visit. Our friends had already chosen France, and for some obscure reason also wanted to visit the Belgian sand dunes and seaside towns (it was November!). I chose Italy (easy) and Ray chose Germany after his suggestion of Scandinavia was vetoed – it was November for goodness sake! – and to get from Germany to Italy we chose to go via Switzerland. All agreed, we packed up our camper van and set off on a bright, crisp, frosty November morning full of excitement and anticipation.

We finally arrived in Italy eight days into our trip after visiting the (deserted) Belgian seaside towns (admittedly they were cute despite being mostly closed for winter so we penciled in a return visit) and staying overnight with Ray’s brother in Germany for a much needed shower after Ray accidently dismantled the shower cubicle in the campervan just 10 minutes after leaving home. The trip so far had been fraught with minor accidents, morning visits to service stations to wash, parking in the most obscure and interesting places (hmmm – worthy of its own story) and lots of laughter. After being warned by a tram driver in Turnin to be careful of pickpockets and given our recent catalogue of mini disasters we decided it would be just our luck to lose the small amount of pocket money we had so we decided to get back in our van and venture further south ending up in a small town called Cuneo about a hundred kilometers south of Turin completely off the tourist track.

We stayed three wonderful days visiting markets, shopping, drinking and eating the amazing local cuisine (sometimes in quite dubious surroundings but that’s a story for another day) and only just managed to fit in a barely sufferable two days in Dijon & Beaune, traipsing from wine producer to wine producer finding that ‘prized’ white Burgundy for our friends to showcase at their next dinner party!

For us this trip was the beginning of our long love affair with Italy which is how we have come, many years later, to buy a house in Puglia, ‘the heel’ where the love affair with the Italian people continue. To be continued . . . .


Sunday, 27 June 2010

Tastes of Puglia

Traditional Italian Pizzas

Making yummy Mozzarella

Typical Puglian house- a Trullo

Trulli land

Typical Puglian house - a Trulli

Explore Puglia - what it is all about....

Hello all,

We are very excited about this blog as it is going to be based on the gorgeous region of Puglia in Italy. If you are foodies then the blog will be pefect for you. It will include delicious recipes and opportunities for you to visit the area and learn to cook the local cuisine for yourself.

Please keep checking for updates and information that will be posted regulary.