Two pieces of advice were given before arriving in Puglia – eat lots of mozzarella (Puglia is famous for this) and try ‘pasticciotto’ (a quick google revealed this is a traditional Apulian pastry filled with custard). Sounded pretty good to me. What I hadn’t expected though was the wild countryside dotted with pretty old stone walls enclosing swathes of olives groves which produce some of the finest Italian golden olive oil, interspersed with vineyards giving us the deliciously deep earthy Negroamaro wine.
I hadn’t, however, come on a foodie tour of southern Puglia, but to visit Baglioni Masseria Muzza. This latest resort opening of the Baglioni collection is set in the relatively unknown Salento region of southern-Puglia, so we are talking down on the tip of the heel of Italy! The hotel has cleverly and sympathetically converted an 18th century farmhouse (Masseria) into a luxury boutique hotel, whilst still maintaining the character – the huge thick white stone walled buildings with vibrant bougainvillea and rosemary clad courtyards. The pool is one of the most beautiful I have seen, overlooking the Alimini lakes (lago Alimini piccolo) and the surrounding countryside.
Aside from the culinary highlights, there is so much more to do in the area! I made full use of the hotels transfer service which ferries guests to the beach in one direction in just 5minutes, or to the elegant city of Otranto in the other. For the beach, I was dropped initially at the ‘Baia del Turchi’ where I meandered through pine clad pathways on to small rocky inlets, then eventually leading out on to a stunning 3km white sandy bay, backed by pine forests and overlooking the turquoise Ionian sea.
Otranto was equally delightful – a beautiful seaside town with an imposing Aragonese castle, an 11th cathedral with a very sobering story, buzzing restaurants spilling out onto pretty, narrow alleyways, artisan shops, and a fabulous gelateria (Gelateria Fisotti – worth seeking out!).
It was a wrench to say goodbye to the bright whites, shades of turquoise and shimmery olive greens, but it has given me a longing to return to explore so much more of what this charming region has to offer!