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 . . . .


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