Category Archives: Puglia

Trabucchi – The Rustic Restaurants of Puglia

A trabucco soars above the waves near Peschici, Puglia

A trabucco along the coast of the Gargano Peninsula

From the winding, coastal road along the Adriatic Sea in Puglia, a giant spider-like structure appears ahead. As we approach, an enormous net rises from the water, carrying with it a mass of wriggling fish. It is a trabucco, one of the traditional fishing contraptions that pepper the coast of the Gargano Peninsula.

The Gargano Peninsula north of Vieste

The Puglia coast between Vieste and Peschici

Known as the spur on the heel of Italy’s boot, the Gargano Peninsula is a rocky promontory in northern Puglia, characterized by white limestone cliffs, crystal green seas, olive trees, medieval castles and picturesque white-washed villages. Unlike the rest of Puglia, here, steep mountains rise directly from the water, providing expansive views over the sea.

Throughout history, the region has attracted its share of conquerors including the Greeks, Normans and Frederick II of Prussia (who lived here for most of his reign). And let us not forget Hannibal, who fought the Romans at Cannae, a few miles from here.

Other foreign visitors (possibly the Phoenicians) are credited with introducing the trabucco to the region. The earliest references to these fishing devices date to the 1600s, although some sources say they existed already in the 15th century. Whatever their actual origins, along the 44-mile stretch of the Adriatic Sea, known as the Costa dei Trabucchi (the Coast of the Trabucchi) these intricate contraptions are a throw-back to ancient times.

The trabucchi consist of a wooden platform attached to the nearby rocks with wooden antennae-like arms that extend over the sea. The fishing net is attached. One or more giant capsans and pulley wheels, on a large, fixed pole, are used to drop the net into the water where the currents make it favorable for fishing. Also on the platform is a small weathered wooden hut that serves as a shelter for the fishermen.

A portrait of Mimi above the Trabucco that bears his name.

The Trabucco di Mimi restaurant

Watching the fishermen at work is fascinating. A lookout sits on top of one of the antennae, sometimes for hours, waiting for the shoals of fish to approach. He alerts his companions who drop the net (known as a Trabocchetto) before stamping on the platform. One fisherman explains to us that the noise stuns the fish long enough for the net to capture them and then bring them to the surface.

Unfortunately, this age-old tradition of the Adriatic Sea is now endangered. Apart from the fact that the waters here have been overfished, recent studies show that the Mediterranean Sea is warming up at 2-3 times the rate of the rest of the world’s oceans. The impact on the fishing industry is dire.

Most of the people we speak with tell us that they can no longer earn a living from fishing. Increasingly they are turning to an alternative – using the trabucchi as  rustic, open-air restaurants.

One of the most well known of these is the Trabucco di Mimi, (located on the hillside a few miles south of Peschici above the Bay of St. Nicola on the Gargano Peninsula). A winding, steep road leads down to a collection of wooden buildings, festooned with fishing nets, driftwood, and shells, presided over by the trabucco on which hangs an enormous portrait of Mimi, the patriarch of the Ottaviano family, who passed away a few years ago. His sons and grandsons (Mario, Carlo, Domenico, and Vincenzo) now continue the tradition.

Cable spool wooden tables line the terrace, flanked by wooden benches facing the sea. Bottles of white wine sit in ice buckets. Simple paper place mats line the table. A nearby enclosed area with tables and chairs offers shelter for cooler evenings.

A  chalkboard near the entrance lists the menu. It changes daily depending on either what has been caught in the net or what is available at the local market.

Menu at the Trabucco di Mimi

The daily menu

You order your food at the counter and find a seat overlooking the crashing waves. Come late in the afternoon to secure one of the best tables and watch the sun settle into the sea while you sip your aperitivo. Then tuck into your al fresco meal.

The preparation is traditional and simple, similar to what fishing families might make for themselves – Oysters from Manfredonia, prawns, mussels, spaghetti alle vongole (clams), and our favorite – tiny sardines, fried in extra virgin olive oil. You eat them whole, spritzed with some lemon juice.

This rustic dining experience in one of Puglia’s trabucchi is probably one of the most unique that you will find in your travels in Italy. Don’t miss it!

IF YOU GO

If you are driving down the Adriatic Coast, take the A14 (Bologna to Taranto) and exit at Poggio Imperiale. Continue on the SP144 towards Peschici until you cross the SS89. The Trabucco di Mimi is located on the SP 52 less than 1 km south of the center of Peschici.

If you are coming from Vieste (south of Peschici), take the SS89, merging onto the SP 52 or directly from the SS89, taking the last exit on the right for the Bay of St. Nicola just before Peschici.

Buoys festoon the Trabucco di Mimi restaurant, Puglia

The Trabucco di Mimi

Reservations are required at the Trabucco di Mimi. Book on line. The restaurant is open from April to October, seven days a week. Lunch is served between 1215 and 1400; Dinner is from 1900 to 2100.

For additional images visit the Italy/Puglia gallery at Allegria Photos.

 

 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2017 Diana Russler

Driving Across the Length and Width of Italy

Recently renovated Fountain of Trevi, Rome

The Fountain of Trevi, Rome

There is nothing quite like the freedom of a road trip, trundling along to wherever serendipity takes you. Perhaps more than any other country, driving across Italy lends itself to this type of exploring. The ever-changing succession of remote hill towns, winding mountain roads, coastlines, and castles ensures that there is always something new to see.

View of the Colosseum from the Hotel Palazzo Manfredi

The Colosseum by night

Our trip is ambitious – driving across Italy in a month, from Rome north to Tuscany and Liguria, from Liguria south along the Adriatic coastline, through Le Marche and the Abruzzo into Puglia before heading back to Rome. As winners of a seven-day Auto Europe Road Trip Sweepstakes (which is part of this journey), there are three specific locations we must visit – Rome, Camogli (Liguria) and Puglia. For the rest, we wander freely, visiting iconic landmarks and unknown corners, sampling the various regional cuisines, and enjoying life on the road.

ROME

The adventure starts in Rome on a beautiful sunny autumn day. No matter how many times we visit the city, there is always something new to discover or revisit. This time, recent renovations to the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Circus Maximus and other iconic treasures make Rome shine.

Our hotel, the ultra-luxurious Palazzo Manfredi, overlooks the newly restored Colosseum. From its rooftop Michelin-starred restaurant, Aroma, spectacular sunrise and sunsets over the ancient arena, as well as mouthwatering cuisine, are a treat.

Sunrise over Monteriggioni

Hilltop town of Monteriggioni, Tuscany

A food walking tour of Trastevere (part of the prize) takes us through cobblestone streets with ivy-covered buildings to the neighborhood where the traditions of Roman cuisine are still preserved. Along the way, we stop at a restaurant/wine bar with a cellar that is 150 years older than the Colosseum, a trattoria with an eclectic menu and mismatched chairs, a shop specializing in pork sausages and a hole-in-the-wall selling Roman street food — fried rice balls and pizza! A cookie bakery and a gelateria round out the walk and our “meal.”

TUSCANY

Driving out of Rome is an adventure all on its own; however, we eventually find ourselves heading north to Monteriggioni. This spectacular Tuscan hill town near Siena is entirely surrounded by a wall, protected with 14 watchtowers. We make this our base for a week exploring the iconic areas of the Crete Senesi and Val d’Orcia, the wine country around Montepulciano and the Strada Chiantigiana between Siena and Florence, including a stop at the Castello di Verrazzano (home of the famous explorer) near Greve.

Iconic image of Pienza, Tuscany

Pienza, Tuscany

LIGURIA

From Monteriggioni the road takes us northwest towards Genoa. South of the city, the Riviera di Levante (Sunrise Coast) with its cliffs and bays is home to picturesque towns and villages. A hair-raising drive down the cliff road leads to the charming Cenobio Dei Dogi Hotel in Camogli. Its terrace overlooking the sea is the perfect spot to enjoy an evening aperitivo as the sun dips into the Mediterranean. Steps lead down to the beach where the water is warm enough to swim, even in October.

From here, a short walk along the colorful seafront promenade takes us to the harbor where ferries leave for Portofino, the quintessential, most luxurious, coastal village favored by the rich and famous, whose super yachts dot the harbor.

An aperitivo at sunset, Camogli

Camogli from the porch of Cenobio dei Dei

Just south of Camogli are the legendary Cinque Terre – five dramatic medieval cliff-top villages accessible only by train, ferry or on foot. Basing ourselves at the Hotel Pasquale, a delightful family-run residence on the edge of the harbor in Monterosso al Mare, we hike to the village of Vernazza and take the train to Manarola, Riomaggiore and Corniglia. Each has its special charms, and it is difficult to tear oneself away from the magnificent vistas.

ABRUZZO

From Camogli the road leads all the way east, to the province of Abruzzo, one of the least known in Italy. Its national parks, high mountains, deserted hilltop hamlets, medieval villages, coastal towns, and castles provide some of the most spectacular panoramas in Italy.

One of the five medieval villages of the Cinque Terre

Vernazza in the Cinque Terre of Liguria

In the mountaintop village of Civitella del Tronto, we are the only guests at the Hotel Zunica, housed in a 17th-century building under the brooding walls of the Fortezza, the largest medieval fortified castle in Europe. The views from our room extend from the Grand Sasso Mountain to the blue Adriatic coastline, shimmering in the morning sunlight.

Considered to be one of the best in the province, the hotel restaurant serves a menu that changes with the seasons. A private three-day cooking school provides a hands-on experience shopping for fresh ingredients and then working with the chef to prepare dinner.

The hilltop town of Civitella del Tronto, Abruzzo

Civitella del Tronto

LE MARCHE

Most recently in the news because of the spate of earthquakes that have devastated part of this area, Le Marche is another of Italy’s lesser-known regions filled with national parks, medieval villages, castles and a rich history. For us, it is a day-trip to visit the picturesque town of Ascoli Piceno.

Located on the banks of the Tronto and Castellano rivers, Ascoli Piceno is even older than Rome. Known as the ‘City of 100 towers,’ 50 medieval structures still stand over the “City of Marble,” with its expansive piazzas and unique architecture.

PUGLIA

The traditional fishing equipment in the Abruzzo.

A Trabucco in the Abruzzo, Italy

Puglia looks like a short drive from the Abruzzo. However, distances are deceptive because the narrow roads serpentine up and down the cliffs. What looks like a short 30-minute drive turns into a two-hour odyssey.

Our first stop is Vieste on the Gargano Peninsula, the spur on Italy’s boot. Built on top of the steep Pizzomunno cliffs, the city perches on a promontory jutting into the azure Adriatic.

Basing ourselves here, we explore the area with a number of day trips, including to the magnificent Castel del Monte, a 13th century citadel and castle built by Emperor Frederick II. Trabucchi, the old, traditional, fishing contraptions dot the coastline, while the rarely visited Tremiti Islands sit a few miles offshore in the Adriatic.

Our last stop in Puglia is the fantastic Masseria Il Frantoio near the so-called “White City” of Ostuni (in the Salento region). The region is filled with fantastical, conical, stone Trulli structures, medieval castles, and beautiful white sand beaches. Olive trees, some over a thousand years old, stretch to the horizon between ancient stone walls. From here you can explore the iconic towns of Alberobello and Locorotondo as well as several coastal towns, including Ostuni.

The rain washed entrance to the Masseria Il Frantoio, Puglia

Courtyard of the Masseria Il Frantoio, Ostuni, Puglia

The Masseria is a 500-year old fortified farm, its unique rooms decorated with some of the artifacts that Armando Balestrazzi and his wife, Rosalba, found when they bought the property some years ago.

The dining room is the scene of lavish eight-course meals prepared by an army of grandmothers in the kitchen, using the homegrown produce from the farm. In all our travels there are few places we have found as welcoming as the Masseria Il Frantoio. We leave reluctantly, having adopted a 1,000-year-old olive tree as part of a plan to preserve them for future generations.

Our road trip to Italy ends all too soon with a long drive back to Rome for our flight home. There is so much more to Italy than the major cities. If you are the slightest bit adventurous, have an open mind about wandering aimlessly with no firm destination and don’t mind getting lost from time to time, then consider an Italian road trip.

IF YOU GO

We spent a month traveling across Italy. Although this itinerary can certainly be done in a shorter period, there are some constraints such as the speed you can travel on the back roads and mountain roads, the sheer number of places to visit, and the desire to make the adventure about the journey as well as the destinations.

The following is a brief outline of where we went driving across Italy, and some of the places we stayed.

ROME

Ascoli Piceno in Le Marche, Italy

City of 100 Towers, Ascoli Piceno

Hotel Palazzo Manfredi
Via Labicana 125
Tel +39-06-7759-1380

Eating Italy Food Tours

1 Rome to Monteriggioni – Driving time 3 hours (156 miles)

MONTERIGGIONI, TUSCANY

Hotel Monteriggioni
Via Primo Maggio 4
Monteriggioni
Tel +39-0577-305009

DAY TRIPS FROM MONTERIGGIONI

Greve and Castello di Verrazzano (This is the correct spelling of the name)
Strada Chiantigiana
Pienza
Montepulciano
Val d’Orcia
Crete Senesi

2 Monteriggioni to Camogli, Liguria – Driving Time 4 hours (175 miles)

The Gargano Peninsula, the spur on Italy's boot

Vieste, on the Gargano Peninsula, Puglia

Hotel Cenobio dei Dogi
Via Nicolo Cuneo 34
Camogli, Genoa
Telephone: +39-0185-7241

SOME OF THE DAY TRIPS FROM CAMOGLI
Genoa
Portofino

3 Camogli to Monterosso al Mare driving time 1 hour (50 miles).

Monterosso al Mare is the only village in the Cinque Terre where you can park. Many hotels have parking available (for a fee) but you must be sure to reserve your spot when you book your room. They go very quickly.

Hotel Pasquale
Via Fegina 4
Monterosso al Mare
Tel +39-0187-817477

4 Monterosso al Mare to Civitella del Tronto, Abruzzo – Driving time 6.5 hours (400 miles)

Hotel Zunica 1880
Piazza Franciscus Filippi Pepe 14
Civitella del Tronto, Teramo, Abruzzo
Tel +39-0861-91319

SOME OF THE DAY TRIPS FROM CIVITELLA DEL TRONTO

Castel del Monte built by Frederick II

Castel Del Monte, Puglia

Ascoli Piceno in Le Marche
Gran Sasso National Park Abruzzo
Santo Stefano di Sessanio Abruzzo
Atri Abruzzo
Vasto Abruzzo

5 Civitella Del Tronto to Vieste, Puglia – Driving Time 4 hours (186 miles)

Vieste is a resort town with many luxury hotels but they are seasonal. When we traveled in October, very few were open. We stayed at

Rocca Sul Mare Bed and Breakfast
Via C. Mafrolla 32
Vieste, Foggia, Puglia
Tel +39-0884-70-27-19
Although the rooms are quite basic, the views from the seafront rooms are spectacular.

The best restaurant with the freshest, most delicious seafood  is just around the corner
Osteria Degli Archi
2 Via Ripe
Vieste, FG, Puglia
Tel +39-0884-705199

DAY TRIPS FROM VIESTE

Ostuni, Puglia

Ostuni, the White City on the Hill, Puglia

Peschici
Isole Tremiti (by boat)
Foresta Umbra
Mattinata
Trani
Bari
Castel del Monte

6 Vieste to Ostuni Driving Time 3.5 hours (167 miles)

 Masseria Il Frantoio
Strada Statale 16, Km 874
Ostuni, BR
Tel +39-0831-330276;

DAY TRIPS FROM MASSERIA IL FRANTOIO

Alberobello near Ostuni, Puglia

Trulli rooftops in Alberobello, Puglia

Ostuni
Alberobello
Locorotondo
Martina Franca
Brindisi
Polignano a Mare
Monopoli
Lecce

7 Ostuni to Rome – Driving Time 6 hours (335 miles)

For additional photos from this trip, visit http://www.allegriaphotos.com/EUROPE/Italy

 

 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2017 Diana Russler