The Baroque city, Lecce

‘Lecce, the city is rich in art and architecture that is ever present on a wonderous stroll’

Begin your morning with an iced almond milk, as the locals do and step through the arches into the walled old town. Let your eye do the work and soak in the detail of the town and let the rustic charm do its magic. Known for its baroque style buildings, Lecce is refered to the “Florence of the south” that is the main city of the Salentine Peninsula. The limestone historic center dates back 2000 years and is a beautiful place to wander around for a few nights. I couldn’t get enough of the flower-filled balconies & the parma ham pit stops on our strolls. Just like any city in Apulia, the place is for experiencing. Thus no sightseeing guide needed, as the entire historic area is made for wandering. Lecce has a heavy aura to it; with a glimpse of Roman ruins, a 2nd century amphitheater, 22 churches with ornate baroque designs and a grand Piazza del Duomo that leads you to many beautiful little streets.

Feel the history in the walls and get lost in the narrow streets of golden sandstone. Lecce invites you to stop for many lazy lunches or a glass of wine with antipasti as the town scatters with many cozy restaurants and wine bars perfect for winding down. In the evenings, you find that Lecce is a lively town where people sit in small bars, walk around or visit the plethora of shops.

Stay in the charming hidden gem Mantateluré (Via Vittorio dei Prioli, 42), the rooms are beautiful and the terrace where we enjoyed breakfast was simply charming. The staff is so helpful in suggesting restaurants, for instance Nonna totti, that is robust and rustic just who your grandmother would cook it in Italy.

‘Bleached Beauty, Cisternino’

‘Charming little Gem in the heart of the trulli region’

Cisternino is a sweet little town in the province of Brindisi located right next to other gems, such as Martina Franca and Locorondo. It is in the heart of Puglia’s trulli region that makes the most scenic (and my all time favourite) drive when exploring the little towns of Valle d’Itria.

Surprisignly we have put a blind eye to Cisternino’s existance, even though we have been driving around (and criss-cross) the region for many years, thus we were happy to discover something new! We randomly drove to Cisternino from Masseria Palombara one morning and came back for lunch another day as we were curious to try their butcher style restaurant.

Listed as one the most beautiful small town of Italy, Cisternino has its obvious charm with a hint of Greek influence (originally found by greek settlers), Medieval style architecture where streets intertwine with beautiful archways, bleached streets, hidden courtyards and balconies awash in flowers. The Torre Civica is the gateway to the historic centre that seems to be remained virtually intact for centuries. Visit the 13th century Church of San Nicola sits on the foundation of the former Greek orthodox monastery and breath in the countryside views spotting cone-shaped trulli roofs in one of the cozy parks. Elderly men sit in shaded park benches in little groups and elderly women often sweep in front of their homes arranging flower pots keeping everything in pristine condition. Cisternino has a similar look to Locorotondo and it’s easy to fall in love with its understated charm.

The day starts with locals sipping on espresso at little piazzas with large white umbrellas, when the town only starts to awake. Boutiques open far later in little towns in the South and here, it’s perfectly acceptable to enjoy a slow morning while reading the paper. Nobody is running around and there is a respect for time here. As evening progresses, people gather for an aperitivo to wind down from the day. Community seems to be tight, a bit artsy and the ambiance is charming. For the size of the little town, it seems to have a numerous amount of different cafes and restaurants, and macelleria-eateries, meat markets where you choose what you want and they grill or roast it for you while you wait. Little did we know that this town is famous for its barbecuing butchers, this was a total treat for my meat lover husband. We ate ourselves into a total food coma from having a 1kg t-bone steak, local sausages/parcels (filled with mince, cheese and ham, carpaccio, baked potato etc. We sat outside with a carafe of local wine and indulged in total goodness, finishing the meal off with a strong espresso from little plastic cups. Not only is this eating style economical, it brings a sense of togetherness, you see the fresh produce in front of you and it’s simple, the way it should be.

The darling square of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele seems to be the heart of the town. With a tiny chocolate shop (chocolab) to your right and the clock tower in front, let the little roads lead you its tiny charming streets. Start your morning at the tiny cafe ‘Bistrot food art & design’ and sip on some rich cappuccino sitting in the light sun in one of the mosaic tables observing people go by. Have a bruschetta and extra avocados and let the coffee work it’s magic on you. Stroll around the beautiful town, make sure to stop at the Via Giulio II for the most envious flower spilling balconies. Visit the little boutiques and make your way to lunch at the butcher style Al Vecchio Fornello.

Read more about its neighbouring towns; Locorotondo and Martina Franca.

The limstone town, Vieste.

The white washed cliff town”

Vieste is the type of niche place where you can slide into your summer loafers, let your hair soak the seaside air and take a breather glazing into the turquoise sea. While you seek for shade under the bougainvillea, shop for local produce from little trucks and buy olive oil, cheese and spices from the market to take back home. Tuck your fingers into the most delicious seafood or orecchiette and let your legs get lost in the all white streets that need no introduction. In all honesty, the slow cooked seafood stew and tuna tartar brought us back to this town that I have been craving the last four years.

The Gargano Peninsula exists about 5 hours from Rome via car in the province of Foggia, Apulia. The “less known” region differs from the more visited areas like Salento or the Valle d’Itria with its lush pine forests, olive groves, limestone cliffs, seacaves and endless beaches. From the region we have visited Vieste and Monte Sant Angelo, the last time four years ago. We always wanted to come back to Vieste, so this time around it was perfectly on route on our drive down to Puglia. Apparently other cute towns in Gargano include, Vico, Manfredonia, Rodi and Peschici.

Nevertheless, Vieste is a pretty seaside town that sits on a limestone cliff with a picture-esq old town that lines with beaches and overlooks the Adriatic sea. It’s a typical lazy town built from a maze of steep stairs, where washing hangs from simple white houses that surrounds with a panoramic walk around it all. Just like any other Apulian old town, it is made for wandering. Visit the 11th century Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, but in Romanesque style and snap the cutest pictures just below the stairs. Here you are surrounded with white brick, darling arches, you can hear the canary birds singing from inside someones house and the gentle sea breeze pushes through the narrow streets giving some form of comfort on a hot day. Stop for cappuccino at carpenter on the little piazza of Largo Seggio, have lunch at box 19 (order the seafood stew) and dinner at a cozy cave restaurant called al dragone.

Due to our itinerary, we only stayed for 1 night & the following day but it was enough time to explore the cute streets, shop at the market for spices and experience the amazing food that the South has to offer. Vieste is a total summer town that makes a great base to explore the Gargano region.

The seaside Gallipoli

‘An old island town with surrounding transparent water’

It was a brutally hot day for being late september when we visited this little seaside town for the first time and all I could remember was, how amazing it would be to dip into the crystal clear waters! We took a drive from Oria to Gallipoli as we were staying in Masseria Palombara and decided to make the most of visiting beautiful places near by. The beauty of Apulia is that it is scattered with breathtaking towns all across the coast making it an ideal holiday destination as there is much to explore at a leisurely pace.

Gallipoli is located in Puglia’s Salento peninsula on the Ionian coast. Famous for its beaches and island lifestyle, this little fishing village is home to impressive baroque churches and a grand palazzi that is a reflection of the towns former wealth as a trading port. The charming limestone old town surrounds with a seafront promenade that circles around the town. The labyrinth-like old town spills with little cafes and restaurants during the summer months allowing time to stand still for a while.

We saw people lounging in the clear water and seeking shade under the umbrellas on the beaches as we walked up to the little old town through the port front. We pass through a little fish market that sold fresh oysters, sea urchins, mussels and all kinds of fish, fresh from the morning catch. From the moment I saw people buying fresh sea urchins and eating them on the go, I knew I would like the vibe of this town…

Both the north and south coastline surrounds with transparent water beaches making Gallipoli a seaside summer escape for holidaying Italians. This place is an evident summer town that comes to life during the warmer season, just like the town of Vieste.

Gallipoli translates to “beautiful city” in Greek and beautiful it certainly was.  The town breathes the salty sea air, while the paths fill with rusty iron balconies and aquatic doors. Elders sit at their door step, others are enjoying drinks in little nooks and fisherman unwind their nets by the sea and the slow pace of this town invites you to stay. A relaxing stroll and a stop for a wine, espresso or a cooling lemon-gelato that almost instantly melted in our hands was a great way to spend the afternoon. We visited during siesta hours just post lunch time, so the town was peaceful and calm beating to the rhythm of the waves.

‘Immersion of all senses, Masseria Palombara’

‘The hidden gem shows Puglia in all its authentic beauty that is an immersion of all senses’

Puglia, wildly preserved with authenticity is a beautiful world of its own that only has opened its doors to the rest of us in the past decade or so. In May, the fields scatter with wild flowers, in June the wheat ripens, August is full of figs, September brings the start of grape harvest and October brings olives. The Italian heel is a collection of white-washed towns with narrow streets where handmade Orecchiette exists and is home to seductive luxury farmhouses. Tucked away in the countryside of Oria is a picture-esq escape, Masseria Palombara, a chic leisurely resort, where simplicity blends into humble elegance. Life is easy here, designed for unwinding where comfort meets indulgence that surrounds itself with olives, almond trees, vineyards and Southern beauty.

Sitting underneath the shaded pergola, I sip my coffee from a ceramic cup that is blue and yellow in colour and listen to the birds in the horizon. A few lizards brush by and I breath in the gentle country air and watch as the sun rays make their morning debut. The limestone tiles beneath my feet provide a cooling sensation and I take in these slow Apulian mornings, that capture your heart. Angelo, the owner of the masseria and his wonderful family aim to provide a human experience that feeds the soul. An ambiance that encourages slow and sustainable living, being connected to nature and yearn its surroundings, the way the locals do. Palombara understands the appreciation of small things and how collectively they make a cultural enriching experience.

Surrounded with Pugliese hospitality and true Mediterranean spirit, wine and food play a big role as almost everything you’ll find on the table was grown up in Palombara. Sustainable and ecological are what the Apulian mentality is all about and it’s beautiful to watch how the rich gardens provide it’s customers with a great culinary experience. Lunch is eaten at poolside if the weather provides and dinner is served in candlelight in the coziest atmosphere. The menu is small, just the way it should be and each mouthful is a dance to the taste buds. Its romantic, unpretentious and peaceful where the guests are treated like a little family, all hidden inside the walls of a luxury resort.

Visually impeccable, every corner is stimulating to the eye, it’s simple and not excessive with much attention brought to details. Flowers arrangements spill off antique wooden tables, bold grottaglie ceramics add extra punch, washed-out carpets, glass vase lined nooks and rich mandarin trees cast shades on the lime stone walls. The detailing is infectious creating a serene space to call your home on holiday. Linen clothes lay on tables and carefully picked out pots and candles rest in every spot and the imperfect perfection reflects upon every detail. Rooms are left with the spirit of the farm, but are comforting and made to rest your soul. Start the mornings with a hammam steam room, read a book by the pool, eat amazing local delicacies, visit a few towns and let the Apulian way of life spoil you.

Related article: read more The slow-chic Masseria Palombara

I have my white jumpsuit on and sipping on a glass of wine on our terrace waiting for the sun to go down and getting ready for dinner. Look how beautiful the napkins are here? Angelo’s wife as amazing taste and a strong aesthetic sense.

Lemons and olive trees as table decorations

Just the right amount of rustic beauty, where fresh fruit from the trees are served in tin pots and the linen garments on the staff match seamlessly to the interior and style of the masseria. It’s simple but full of elegant flair. Every moment is an instagramers setup and a photographers dream.

Related post: read more Tea sipping to Puglian Mornings

A farmers plate for lunch with freshly picked produce during sunrise. We were lucky enough to experience the vegetable picking with the farmer early morning and he showed us his garden route as the sun was rising to the sky.

Related post: read more from Apulian Garden mornings

Related post: read more Palombara poolside relaxation

Possibly the most beautiful breakfast setup with homemade beetroot toast and peaceful espresso’s by the pool

Related post: read more from Mind at rest over morning coffee

Rich mandarins making their way into the world…

Mind at rest over morning coffee

‘Apulian mornings in Masseria Palombara´

Dawn is a different kind of dark, one full of possibility that captures the satisfying silence and beginning of a the day.  It’s a moment to experience no rush, even if you’re not busy. The camera loves a peeking sun behind the trees, the soft light makes its way for the AM debut. We are in Puglia, in the beautiful countryside of Oria surrounded with almond and olive trees where your mind is at full rest. You feel connected to nature in an environment like this, there is no noise of traffic and your body feels at rest. I can hear the chirping of birds while I have my first cup of coffee in hand and see butterflies looking for sweet nectar and the new day feels like a fresh start. My hubby and I are really similar when travelling, we love to experience new things and love to start the day bright and early when the golden hour is amongst us and maximise the time. We could never lounge by the pool for many days straight! Apulia is beautiful in the mornings, the countryside erodes to life, farmers are already hard at work and breakfast is being setup in the masseria. I hear sheep in the background and even smell the delicate fragrance from the flowers around us. I hear, for breakfast we will have ricotta beetroot toast, freshly squeezed fruit juice and homemade yogurt… sounds just perfect. But now, another sip of coffee before the day begins.

 

Palombara Poolside Relaxation

 

‘sipping on tea & lounging by the pool’

Lunch is eaten in the shade on the cutest wooden tables that range in all antique hues from light pink to grey. The staff simultaneously fit into the atmosphere with their linen garments, whom all are incredibly friendly, full of southern hospitality. After a few laps in the pool and lounging on the sunbeds, lunch is served. Freshly picked tomatoes with burrata, traditional mussels or baked cod-fish, lunch is refreshingly simple yet elegant, washed down with some dry white wine. I sip on espresso in the shade and have more tea by the pool while dipping my feet in the water enjoying the warmth. The poolside is lovely and calm, perfect for getting lost in the pages of a book and letting go of whatever is going on and falling into complete relaxation.

The younger labrador ‘Joy’ was naughty and snuck into the pool when no one was watching, yet I thought it was the cutest thing ever and gave it tones of kisses on its wet face. Moments like these give Palombara the right amount of ” homey” feeling, it’s cozy, almost like a little family. poolside never disappoints here…

 

 

 

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‘Apulian Garden Mornings’

 

‘when you get to start the day picking fresh vegetables at sunrise in Italian gardens’

It was barely sunrise at Masseria Palombara when my alarm went off & I rolled out of bed into the shower. With the sun slowly rising, I threw on my most casual attire and made myself a cup of tea while my hubby was waking up at a much slower pace. Angelo, the owner of the masseria had arranged a morning for us with the farmers, to help them pick the days produce from the garden. We picked up zucchini flowers that were going to be used for breakfast ricotta pancakes and a bunch of imperfect vegetables, organic and self grown. From tiny eggplants to all sorts of chilis, the experience was beautifully calming yet raw, a blissful way to start the day in the south. Before 7 am, farmers were hard at work picking away all sorts of vegetables and almonds were drying on the grounds that had just been picked from trees and Angelo’s labs Joy and Blue accompanied us in the gardens as we did our thing. The golden sun rose beautifully in this picturesque countryside and dried the moist of the leaves. Post garden, it was time for a dreamy breakfast that included everything from lots of coffee to home-made yogurt to pancakes and eggs, fresh fruits and freshly baked bread. The breakfast setup is incredibly photogenic, which makes it not only a feast for your taste buds but for the eyes as well.

Everyone loves the idea of sustainable ecological living and it’s quite the treat in Masseria Palombara, where you get to experience the authentic Apulian way of life and dip your hands in soil first thing in the morning and see where it all comes from.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tivoli’s Secret Garden

‘Finding the secret garden of Italy in Tivoli that breathes art & history’

Providing the perfect country escape, Tivoli is a small medieval town situated on the Aniene river, about 30 kilometers from Rome that is filled with beauty and history. Perched on a hilltop with an abundance of natural beauty, the town offers panoramic views of manicured gardens and archaeological sites. Driving from Apulia, our last night in Italy needed to be situated close the airport as our flight to France was early morning, so we decided to stay in Tivoli, instead of Rome. However, if you are staying in Rome with days to spare, I would recommend a relaxing day trip to Tivoli to get away from the hassle of the city.

Tivoli is considered to be one of Lazio’s most beautiful countryside villages and therefore it was once the playground for the wealthy Roman elite during the Renaissance and classical times. This era has left the town with villas and gardens that has made Tivoli famous today and therefore is a UNESCO site because of these three; Villa d’Este, Villa Gregoriana and Villa Adriana.

We arrived to Tivoli during the afternoon and checked into the hotel upon arrival. We loved our room, so cozy and romantic! We missed lunch hour and ate on the road but after a quick shower, we headed out exploring. Feeling a little parched, we stopped for some antipasti and prosecco and walked around the beautiful old town. It seemed like a religious little place, nuns walking around, church bells ringing in the background, views like-no-other and tiny piazzas here and there. We stopped for ice cream and accidentally came across to Villa D’Este, that took our breaths away. If I envision what a secret garden would like, this would it.  Villa d’Este is something like no other, it is a masterpiece of a huge garden estate. It has the most whimsical ora to it, dancing fountains, stone sculptures, grottoes, nymphs, beautiful ponds and hidden nooks that much represents european gardens in the baroque style. There is landscape, art and history to see and includes important ruins of ancient villas such as Villa Adriana

Stay We stayed in a super cozy junior suite of B&B Al Palazzetto, where the hotel was beautifully restored. The location was perfectly centred in the old town and we were able to leave our car in a secured parking in the base of the town. Great price quality ratio and highly recommend the place.

Love Walk around the picturesque old town and stop for processo and a cheese platter in one of the spilling terraces hidden in the cutest corners. Have some icecream desert and explore the gardens of villa d éste. Snuggle up in a cozy piazzas for dinner over a full-bodied red wine and steak.

Wander Walk around the sophisticated crown jewel, Villa D´Este and get lost in the gardens. Experience the natural beauty of it all, the art, landscape design and be impressed by the numerous fountains. The handwork of the Romans is impressive and I was in heaven seeing all the ancient tiles and beautiful architecture. Villa d’Este is situated across the main square of Largo Garibaldi and was originally the country estate of Cardinal Ippolito d’Este. The villa itself is a display of history; exploring the original marble floors and mannerist frescoes that then opens up to the hectares of gardens.

 

 

Tea Sipping to Puglian mornings.

‘Sipping on morning tea to the movement of the sun’

I’m curled comfortably on our terrace chair listening to the intense noise of the birds that have awakened to another beautiful morning in Masseria Palombara in southern italy. It’s early morning, around 7am and as my hubby is still inside our room, I wanted a calm moment to myself before the start of the day. Little butterflies land on the rosemary bushes that are blinded by the low sun and the delicate wild flowers in front our terrace are gently swaying in the much-loved breeze. The green oranges on the tree soak up the sun and little by little, the sunlight elevates to the sky.  I’ve made a darling pre-breakfast setup aka. reading corner on our terrace with black tea and a generous slice of freshly made almond ricotta cake. Almonds have the most intense woody flavour here as they have an almond grove in the premises, where they pick and dry them this time of year. So the lovely tangy and sweet tea cake has a strong earthy flavour to it from the nuts. As I’m sipping on my tea from the most beautiful cup, I get lost in a few pages from my book and enjoy nibbling on the cake with no rush at all. Mornings here are quite magnificent, its peaceful and cozy, the epitome of morning bliss, the southern way.

 

One morning we went to the gardens to help the farmers pick fresh produce for the day and we saw the freshly picked almonds drying on the ground.