Puglia is one of the most interesting regions in Italy, and its remote position in the ‘heel’ has helped to preserve its secrets. Ruined Saracen towers line the coast – remains of an early-warning system against sixteenth-century marauding pirates, and the large, local farmhouses used to hide women, animals and harvested crops behind strong fortifications. Occasionally the walls enclosed a citrus fruit garden, small church and a bread oven , and traces of drawbridges and portcullis can often be found. This was part of Magna Grecia and the great secular olive trees dominate the landscape, while the sea is ever-present.
Im October 2013 I will be running a cooking school in Monopoli, which was established in the Middle Ages around a small fishing port. It is halfway between Bari and Brindisi so an ideal base from which to explore the region. We will stay in the lovely Don Ferrante hotel and I will teach 3 cooking classes and invite local women to show their traditional dishes in two other lessons.
Places to be visited (some as optional extras)
1. Polignano, a small town founded by Greeks, a superb natural fortess on the sea, with a hotel and restaurant possessing a historic cave used for aristocratic, amorous revels in the seventeenth century.
1. Alberobello, a hill-side town famous for its conical, rustic trulli, built with an easily-collapsed roof to enable the landowner to avoid paying taxes to the Spanish Vice Re
2. Ostuni, white-washed, medieaval hill-top town which floats like a mirage above the highway along the coast
3. Castel del Monte, the mysterious sumptuous, octagonal building dominating the plains of Andria from the top of a hill. Built by Frederick II, no one is quite sure whether it was used for meetings of scholars, astrologers or falconers.
4. Trani with its Romanesque cathedral built on the sea for crusaders returning from the wars.
5. Lecce, known as “the queen of the Baroque”. It was under Spanish domination and the capitital city of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The local churches are built from the soft yellow limestone which lends itself to intricate carving. Santa Croce must be visited. Hadrian built a road linking Rome to the historic port of Brindisi – the old Appian Way – and bombing in the Second World War unearthed a magnificent ampitheatre seating 2500 spectators.
Dates – October 5-11 2013
Price – 1800 euros to include 6 nights, breakfasts and dinners, 3 hands-on cooking classes with Diane Seed and 2 demonstrations of local specialities. There is a small supplement for single use.