In a previous life, back when I punched the clock and earned a bi-weekly paycheck, I used to travel frequently for business departing the Veneto for the sun-kissed Salento, the Greek-influenced area within Italy’s lengthy Puglia region, the country’s breadbasket, that lays claim to the southeast corner of La Penisola. And with each passing visit it became just a bit more difficult for me to close the briefcase and return home.
The pull of the Salento, the carefree spur jutting out from the Bel Paese‘s stiletto-shaped heel, was strong, very strong. So much so, that now, decades later, I’m throwing caution to the wind, packing my bags, grabbing my shades AND appetite and heading back down permanently to savor her slow pace and slow food, 24/7.
With a new home build — Villa Allegra — well underway atop a hill just outside the city limits of Ostuni, La Città Bianca (The White City), in the Alto (Upper) extent of the spur, and the inaugural dip in the pool and rooftop aperitivo planned for early September, I’m “all in” on the Salento, and why not?
The Salento, where the Adriatic and Ionian Seas embrace, is best savored with a knife, fork and wine goblet as its grassroots la cucina povera (kitchen of the poor), the quintessential Mediterranean diet, comes straight out of the “zero kilometer” soil and nearby seas and right onto your plate and into your glass.
In the short time that I’ve been shuttling back and forth to the Salento, mainly to check on the progress of Allegra, but to sightsee a bit as well, I’ve been pleasantly and consistently surprised by the mouth-watering dishes and excellent wines — bianco and rosato (my fave) — plated and poured before me.
From the signature hill towns dotting the Valle d’Itria (like Alberobello and Locorotondo) to the old port of Gallipoli; from Santa Maria Leuca, the so-called De Finibus Terrae (End of the Earth), to Castro and its cobalt luminescent grottos; and, from Otronto to Ostuni, not a single bite nor sip has disappointed. And, I’m just getting started in my discovery of this ascendant region within a region!
Famous for its grapes and olives, its Greek and Baroque architecture, and its long, hot summers and mild winters, the Salento, where the Second Punic War was waged, is the less hectic, unpolished alternative to its more crowded and trendier postal codes up north.
Just one look at a slow-fading, pastel-colored sunset, while enjoying a cool glass of rosato, and you, too, will want to pack your bags, leave your cares and worries behind and bolt for the Salento.
Buon appetito e buon viaggio!
©The Palladian Traveler