At The Slow Road we pride ourselves on getting in deep and up close. If knowledge of a region is power, access is authenticity—and we’ve spent decades forging the relationships that grant us both. But the road, like so many of life’s great pleasures, is better shared. So allow us to give you a head start for getting in deep by sharing some of the insight we’ve gleaned about our favourite places. As for the other half of the immersion equation—getting up close—well, it should go without saying that we highly recommend it.
Puglia: An Introduction
During its early history, Puglia, in Italy’s southeast (if Italy is a boot, Puglia is the heel) was highly sought-after. It has changed hands many times, having belonged to the Greeks, Romans, Venetians, Normans and Spanish, among others, many of whom left hallmarks that continue to influence the region today. Today Puglia produces more olive oil and wine than any other region in the country. With its golden wheat, citrus trees and abundance of fresh seafood, you’d be hard-pressed to find another region that offers such a range of gastronomic delicacies. And since it’s relatively undeveloped, Puglia is also the perfect place to bike.
The gastronomic pleasures of Puglia are among its greatest assets. Between the fresh groves of olive, almond and citrus, the vineyards, the wheat fields and the fruits of the sea, Puglia offers an abundance of healthy, fresh and—most importantly—delicious regional specialties. The absolute favourite pasta dish of the Pugliese is orecchiette—named for its shape, which translates into “small ear”— a homemade noodle that comes from the cucina povera tradition, which emphasized local ingredients harvested for nourishment and flavoured with regional herbs and spices. For more about Pugliese cuisine be sure to check out Cuisine 101: Puglia.
Orecchiette e cime di rape
350 g of orecchiette (“baby ear” shaped pasta)
1 kg of small broccoli heads (or turnip tops)
3 anchovy filets extra-virgin olive oil salt, to taste
Wash the broccoli heads and cut them into small pieces. Boil water, add broccoli and salt. Add the orecchiette halfway through cooking the broccoli. In the meantime, heat oil in a pan and fry the anchovies. Remove pasta from pot when it is al dente and sauté everything in the pan with the anchovies.
Good to Know: Tipping in Italy
Tipping is common in Italy and fairly similar to our own practice in North America. Of course, there are some exceptions. A few helpful guidelines to follow:
Taxis: The usual tip is 10% of the fare.
Porters: Give €1.50 to €3.00, or slightly more if you have several bags.
Restaurants: A bit more complicated. A 15% service charge is added in most restaurants and is indicated on the bill by the term ‘servizio compreso.’ In this case, if the service was very good, or especially if you intend to return, leave a few extra euros. If the bill does not say ‘servizio compreso’ then you should leave about 10% of the total bill.
Very few people know that Puglia produces more wine than any other region in Italy. The reds tend to be dominated by Negroamaro, which is cut by Sangiovese and Malvasia Nero. The sweet grapes, such as Primitivo, Moscato and Aleatico, produce some delicious dessert wines; their natural sugars can send the alcohol content to 15% or even 17%. We’ve included a few of our favourite Pugliese vintners below. For more about the vines and wines of Puglia, be sure to check out Vines 101: Puglia.
A Few to Try:
Conti Zecca’s Nero is made of 70% Negroamaro and the rest is Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in barrique of French oak. The Primitivo di Manduria produced by the Felline winery also gets high marks. The Vallone winery makes the famous Graticciaia, a very potent wine, almost sweet, made of Negroamaro and Malvasia grapes. The Francesco Candido cantina produces three great wines: Cappello di Prete, Duca d’Aragona, and Immensum. One of the oldest wineries is the Leone de Castris, which makes the Salice Salentino Majana Riserva and Donna Lisa Riserva. Leone de Castris also makes one of Italy’s best rosés: the Five Roses.
We’ve partnered with Longitude Books, experts in travel literature, to prepare a comprehensive list of books, from novels to great guidebooks, that have really opened up the region to us. Find our Essential Reading List below, and check out the full list at Longitude Books.
A Traveller’s History of Italy
A brief history of Italy through the 1990s: wide-ranging, accessible and necessarily condensed. With a useful chronology and historical gazetteer, this book marches confidently through the centuries.
The definitive portrait of the Italian people, a classic, scholarly essay on the Italian character. Though first published in 1964, it’s still worth reading for its insight, grace and wit.
Touring Club Italiano
The locals’ map of Puglia, at a scale of 1:200,000.