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 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.

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.

 

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.

 

A Dreamers coastal town, Polignano a Mare

Slightly less known than its other coastline neighbours, Polignano a Mare is one of those tiny idyllic fishing villages in the heel of Italy (Apulia) that pulls you straight into holiday mode. With views like no other, the sunbleached stone buildings create a fairytale-like feeling into the city, where life seems one step more peaceful than else where. I could listen to the church bells of Chiesa Matrice every hour, sip on aperols in a cozy corner cafe on Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II and get lost with the poetry left on numerous doors that capture lovers’ confessions.  However, the true beauty lays right in front of you, the panoramic view of the crystal clear waters that seamlessly mould with the rocks beneath it. The sound of the majestic waves crushing against the cliff is the best therapy, human can ask for. This town is a place for dreamers

Polignano a Mare certainly lives up to its name as it could not be anymore “at sea“, as it is perched high over a 20 metre limestone cliff that opens up to the turquoise waters of the Adriatic coast. It is another post-card perfect location where you easily get lost in the winding white-washed streets. Splashes of blue details and rusty iron balconies enchant the lanes and it is easy to see why this place is made for lazy strolls with gelato pitstops and balmy nights with no worries in the world.

The origins date back to the 4th century BC during the time of Greek settlers, but it flourished under the rule of the Romans. History has left an imprint on the walls and the rough sea has formed beautiful coves and mouldings in the rock over time. I’m sure you have come across restaurant Grotta Palazzesse (that is built into a cave) on pinterest, that attracts people from across the globe because of its unbelievable views that send chills down your spine.

I remember five years ago my hubby and I sailed past Polignano a Mare from Monopoli and the view from sea took my breath away. It looked surreal with the built-in-houses on the steep cliffs and the beach that is wrapped around the walls of the old town. The waves rocked back and forth despite it being a calm day at sea and they danced around the white town creating the most magical backdrop for the locals. It’s no wonder, this place attracts swimmers and cliff jumpers during the summer and I can see why italians have made it their secret playground for utter relaxation.

Eat: Mint is the cutest little cafe for something small to nibble on and despite its mixed reviews, restaurant Grotta Palazzesse is a must because its views. Otherwise eat in the old town, not many speak english here, which makes it all the better of a dining experience as it is not tainted by tourist demand. Order seafood, preferably sea urchins or the catch of the day, grilled and whole with a splash of lemon.

Wander: There is much to explore around here that is only a scenic car ride away. Explore Monopoli as it is right next door along with Martina Franca, Ostuni, Loccorrotondo.

Rest: We stayed in Monopoli that is only a 5 minute car ride away that is slightly larger than Polignano a Mare. It makes a great base for exploring the coast line.

Love: Order some coffee flavoured ice cream and get lost in the old town in between the crispy white walls and witness the magical clear waters. Don’t forget to look up and admire the perfect white laundry that blows in the sea breeze and smile at a local elderly that will show true warmth back at you. Shop at the cute hand-made boutiques for summer sandals and sun hats and find a boho dress that no one else will have back home!

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Getting lost in Ceglie Messapica ♥

‘Welcome to the cute little, less known town of Ceglie Messapica’

The drive to Ceglie Messapica through the Itria Valley countryside is enough to win your heart if you are new to Apulia. With scattered cone-shaped trulli, farms and century old forests of olive trees lead you to quiet little roads that are marvellous to drive through. This area is characterised by historic towns (AlberobelloMartina FrancaLocorotondo,  Cisternino, Ostuni) that are all worth visiting, charming villages, wooded slopes, vineyards and mile after mile of lush beauty. Being the epitome of slow lifestyle, pumpkin covered gardens pass us along the drive, while shepherds stroll along the hay fields with their sheep and chickens roam freely in backyards. The pot-hole and ravine filled landscape surrounds with streams and natural caves that rests between the Ionian and Adriatic seas.

The drive passes quickly with such beautiful scenery. As we scribble along the country roads in the province of Brindisi with our blue fiat 500 (that we named riccio di mare as it looked like a little sea urchin), we reach our hilltop destination of Ceglie Messapica when the Ducal Castle dominates the skyline. The town has a slight Moorish style to it that dates back to the 15th century making it one of the oldest towns in Puglia. The whitewashed light shines from the old town and immediately I’m taken back by the beauty of the well-preserved historic surroundings. At this point, iphone with instagram rests in one hand and my camera dangles from my shoulder as we are ready to enter the dreamlike town.

ceglie M.4 (1 of 1)

 

With pots of flowers and vines hanging from the tattered baroque balconies, snaking passageways guide us from piazza to ancient churches to the 14th-century Piazza Vecchia. We witnessed a beautiful wedding in one of the smaller churches and the sound of the bells echo along the narrow lanes bouncing from side to side. I could get lost in these alluring streets for hours, with faint pink and smoke blue doors embellishing the limestone walls with iron balconies just above your heads with something green, always hanging down.

The cracked walls and chipped paint from windows and doors are outrageously beautiful, just like in all Apulian old towns. You know when the location is photogenic is when the hanging laundry matches the buildings facade. I could spin along these idyllic streets a little longer, just to get lost in the old beauty…

Not knowing much about Ceglie Messapica, we were however drawn to the food culture, with its supposedly great restaurants that are regularly visited by food critics. After scrolling through pinterest/Michelin guide and seeing a review in the Cucina Italiana magazine we decided to book a table at Cibus restaurant for lunch. Greeted by yellow and red vine tomatoes that hung on the wall for the winter and salami and capocollo are cured above dining tables, Cibus was an amazing dining experience! The chef believes that through food the soul of the region is discovered. We ordered way more than we could eat, from all kinds of antipasti to lamb, roasted rabbit and local sausages.We loved the atmosphere, the philosophy behind the food, the dining experience and left well satisfied

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The hospitality in Ceglie Messapica speaks for itself and the less-crowded town compared to its fellow neighbours is equally as charming. It makes the perfect place for a relaxing stroll where you easily lose yourself in the white spiral lanes. This should be followed by a long lunch and drinks in one of its many great tavernas.

Cibus restaurant: Via Chianche di Scarano, 7, 72013 Ceglie Messapica BR

Here you can see the roasted rabbit dish and on the right behind the table is a nut cabinet! How cute is that?!

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Prior to lunch, we sat down in a whimsical cafe/bar for a glass of prosecco that was hidden between white curtains overlooking the whitewashed facade of the old buildings. The gentle breeze blew against the curtains and a chow-chow kept eye contact with us, that was resting on the balcony.

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Sea Urchin Heaven

Il Principe del Mare Ristoro, Torre Canne

If you are a seafood lover, this little place is a must see! I originally found this restraunt tip via Masseria Moroseta whom described this place as a hidden gem right by the seashore that is home to sea urchins. Right on the Adriatic Sea, the place looks like a shack, it is super tiny and basic with 360 views of the sea, plastic chairs and tables that are totally outdated but the place was fully packed buzzing with locals. We were lucky to get the last table and ordered a bunch of great stuff from the menu. Everyone was feasting on sea urchins, prosecco was served from plastic cups and the feeling here was fantastic! Naturally we also started with a mountain of fresh sea urchins that were purely mouth-watering, best I’ve had thus far! We also ordered a lobster linguine, white wine mussels, anchovies in lemon oil, grilled octopus and scampi, tuna tartar and buttery oysters. Everything was excellent in flavour, fresh and simple with a splash of lemon to give it that acidic perfection. Yes, it can be a little chaotic, but that is all part of its charm serving the most perfect, simple seafood. After our feast we drove off to a nearby secluded beach and took a relaxing swim in the arms of the Italian shore. Pure perfection!

beach walk

 

The slow-chic Masseria Palombara, a hidden escape

‘A mecca of authentic beauty with a luxurious feel to it’

As the sun pushes through the turquoise door of our beautiful room, the countryside awakes to a Apulian dream. For a visual addict, this location will hit you in all the right spots with its tasteful mixture of rustic charm blended with the ideology of ecological living. Masseria Palombara is a kaleidoscope of old and new interior with immense attention to detail that is as photogenic as the lemons in Positano.

As I tiptoe out of bed from a well-rested night, the vaulted ceilings have a calming effect to the entire space. I creak the door open greeted by the brightness of the sun to see the little limes on the tree still damp from the nights mist. The low sun creates that ‘oh so desired lens flare’ as it peaks through the fig trees, prickly pears casting shadows on the white washed walls as it rises gracefully to another cloudless day. The harmonic hues of blue and green blends with whites and creams giving our room that mediterranean vibe that is taken one step further with the salt water taps that does wonders to my Scandinavian hair. The enchanting Masseria Palombara allows for its guests to disconnect from it all in the heart of the Southern Italian countryside.

‘A breakfast dressed for pinterest’

As we walk to breakfast, we are immediately greeted by the friendly staff that lead us to our table. The slow-food breakfast includes fresh fruits, home-made yogurt (that is just amazing), jams & honey and a savory treat from the kitchen that varies on a daily basis finished with a round of cakes. With eggs straight from the hen-house, ricotta pie, and a fig basil mousse spread on bruschetta (with own pressed olive oil of course), the breakfast was one of the best I’ve ever had. It doesn’t hurt when the table setting looks like it’s made for instagram with splashes of colour set on driftwood tables. In fact the plates and cups were so beautiful, Mr. N and I we drove to Grottaglie, the town where the ceramics are made and created a set for ourselves that should be arriving next week!

As you enter the white archway into a large sun-baked courtyard, you are greeted with singing birds, a spa to your left and a calming view of the grounds. The limestone walls protect the yard where cactus lined corners, cozy nooks and haybeds spread on the fields creating a tranquil adults only setting, that offers you numerous places to unwind. The mood at poolside is perfect, with jazz playing in the background and silhouettes lounging on the chairs reading their holiday novels, we sip on our glass of rosé and soak in the sun that still is so hot in late September. Tea is served in the most beautiful pots and service is immaculate straight from the start as they great you at your car when entering the premises.

‘Eco-friendly & organic’

Converted into an elegant luxurious hotel, this organic farm covers about 100 hectares, with a relaxed philosophy of slow-chic culture. Set within acres of untainted beauty, it is situated 2 km from the Medieval town of Oria. The estate surrounds with almond and olive groves and gardens that cater to the kitchen on a daily basis for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Palombara is a working farm that prides itself on being self-sustaining. Most of the food on the menu is grown here or otherwise locally sourced from nearby smaller businesses. The food is robustly chic with the right amount of authenticity allowing the flavours to speak for themselves. This gem was set up by the very humble Angelo and Fabiola that make the place feel personal throughout the stay. They epitomise everything that a host should be and the presence contributes to that wonderful homely feel. The service throughout was top-level and Palombara offers value for money in every single aspect, creating that luxurious getaway retreat.

‘Nearby towns’

There is vast opportunity to explore cute nearby towns via car that are a must! This time, Mr. N and I decided to visit Martina Franca, Locorotondo and Grottaglie that are all in decent driving range from the masseria. All towns are worth visiting to soak up the beautiful white streets of the old towns that are more picture-esq than the next. Oria is also very close and one night decided to eat dinner there in a great fish restaurant. However, I do recommend to eat dinner at the masseria as the experience is fabulous. All the lit candles and soft music echoing from the arched walls add that ambiance on top of a delicious dinner.

As I took of my suede peacock slippers and dipped my toes into the pool, I collapsed onto the lounger, sipped on some green tea and got lost in the pages of my book. With palm trees casting shadows in the backdrop and green vases lining the white sunbeds, Mr. N and I embraced the chic poolside in pure relaxation. I love how accidentally the tea set matched my book and kaftan in the opal green tones… just heavenly and can’t wait to go back next year!

 

 

Read more here: Masseria Palombara
In collaboration with Masseria Palombara *

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Grottaglie “citta della ceramica”

‘On the hunt for some ceramics…’

Also known as the “citta della ceramica“, Grottaglie is a small town dedicated to pottery. Grottaglie became familiar to us through Masseria Palombara that had the most beautiful colourful ceramic dishes. We liked them so much that wanted some for home and ended up in this town through the guidance of the masseria. There is a whimsical feeling to the place, partly perhaps because of the funky wall art and cute streets. unfortunately I didn’t capture any pictures of the art as it got dark fairly quickly, but rest assured there was a bit of a “willy wonk feeling to the place”. The town’s name stems from “grottoes” for the limestone caves that lay in ravines and hills in northern Puglia. Once you enter the old town, we walked to the quartiere delle ceramiche, that is an entire area dedicated to the ceramics. There are numerous manufacturers and shops to visit and can even see the technique of the crafting. We designed some dishes along with some pasta plates with beautiful side details with a unique coloring that gives us a piece of Puglia to have back home.

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