Travel must be one of the best things in the world! It brings joy, it’s relaxing and gives you new perspectives. From a weekend city trip to a 6-month-backpacking-Asia-tour, do whatever works for you, because it is definitely worth it. No. Regrets. Ever. We at TFE think that travelling is essential and we love exploring new places, grabbing every opportunity we get to do so. Since it’s something we both love, we decided that it should be a part of our blog, as we want to share this all with you. First up in our TFE Travel Log: Apulia – Italy!
A few years ago I read an article in a magazine about the most southern region of Italy, called Apulia (Italian: Puglia). Looking at the map, it’s the heel of the big boot. I was mesmerized by the pictures of their stunning white sand beaches, the historic sites and their authentic cuisine. From that time it had always been on my travel bucket list carefully stored in the back of my mind. So when I started brainstorming for summer destinations I had quickly made up my mind and Apulia it was!
Day One & Two
The day I left The Netherlands was a rainy, grey one, which made my arrival at sunny Brindisi add that extra touch of ‘summer-holiday-has-officially-begun’. With a quick car pick-up, I was on my way to Lecce, the main capital of the province, also known as Florence of the South, and the place from which I was going to explore the country. As soon as I was settled in my amazing AirBnB apartment in the middle of the historic center, (with awesome rooftop, including view of Il Duomo!) I felt right at home and ready to immerse myself into the slow-paced Leccese lifestyle.
The first two days I spent exploring Lecce and eating ice cream! Pistachio is still (one of) my favorite(s), but what a crazy elaborate selection of flavors! There were many gelateria, but I think my favorite was the gelato of Natale Pasticceria. If you’re more into cakes, macarons and other sweets, no problem, Natale is still the place for you!
I loved wandering around the historic center of the city with many churches, cobbled streets, cute little shops and restaurants with the most friendly people ever. Since it was over 34 degrees Celsius during the day it was rather quiet and slow paced, but around 5 p.m. Lecce turned into a vibrant city, with everyone going for a stroll, doing some shopping, gathering around the main square or going for drink and listening to live music. Best place to do so is Urban Café at Piazza Vittorio Emanuelle. Great food, the best staff and, oh how I enjoy a good Aperol Spritz Cocktail….
I had my mind set on seeing the beautiful emerald green sea and wanted to spend some time at the beach. When vacationing in Apulia, the sea will never be far. First I drove up to Gallipoli which is a city located by the Ionian Sea, originally known to be a part of Greater Greece way back in the day. The old town is beautifully pitoresque. You can see fishermen repairing their nets on their boats, see people soaking up the sun at the beach and it’s also the place where I had my first caffè con ghiaccio con latte di mandorla, which would be my favorite (morning, afternoon, after dinner) addiction, and which I still long for being back in NL. It’s espresso poured into a glass of ice cubes and mixed with sweetened almond milk. So simple, but just such a delicious coffee fix during summer temperatures.
After lunch it was beach time at Marina di Pescoluse, with its sandy beach and clear water. Relax, read, soak up sun, nap time….
Since I figured it would be awesome to have been at the very southern point of Italy, Sta. Maria di Leuca was the next destination. It was just great seeing the sun set, gazing at a full moon and going for a drink with a selection of typical snacks, such as pickled bell peppers, eggplant, the freshest mozzarella and squid all prepared by the bar owner’s mother and with vegetables from his dad’s garden, as he so kindly explained.
After Otranto I visited the cave of Zinzulusa near St. Cesareo Terme. The coast on the eastern side of the province is rocky which means beautiful coastlines and caves. The water is so clear and has an amazing blue color, best seen by the reflection of the sun on the rocks from inside the cave. After driving around for a while, dinner was back in Lecce, where I had the best fresh fish from the grill, grilled squid and fresh muscles and oysters at Ostrica Ubriaca. It’s a fish store by day and turns into a restaurant in the evenings, only serving seasonal produce and preparing fish and seafood as it’s supposed to be prepared; as simple as possible. Delicious!
A lazy day of reading, sleeping, late lunch and a bit of shopping in Lecce followed by coffee and pastries at Caffe Alvino. They have such a large selection of pastries. Try the pasticciotto, a typical custard pie from Lecce and the Salento region. It’s a must try!
There are a lot of cultural activities that take place in Lecce. When I was there, it was the weekend of the Locomotive Jazz Festival. And so I attended a performance in the Amphitheater. It was such a great experience to have a jazz café vibe in the arena, and so cool that a historic monument can still be a stage for entertainment, although this time luckily everybody gets home safely…
I had only one beach day a couple of days before, so it was time to find another location to maximize that tan! This time is was Litos beach near Porto Selvaggio. No white sand beach here, but what a view! If you’re looking for peace and quiet, this is the place to be. It had a serene, alternative vibe and was located at a small bay. They serve snacks, light meals and delicious drinks (try the yoghurt slush with fresh fruits). Optimal Relax Modus at Litos!
At night dinner was at Ristorante L’Arte dei Sapori. Deborah and her family just make you feel right at home and will give you the ultimate Italian food experience. Their plate of various appetizers is amazing (sweet shrimp!), their pasta dishes are so fresh and full flavor and their Chardonnay fruity and crisp. It was without a doubt one of my favorite restaurants in Lecce and I’ll definitely return when I can. It was the perfect finale of a great stay in Apulia. The south stole my heart and made my affection for Italy that much bigger. Writing this Travel Log just makes me miss the place all over again…La vita è Bella….