Ciao a tutti! A year ago I moved to Helsinki, but little did I know that I would end up becoming friends with a great group of Italians (Sicilians, Apuglians, and Romans). Despite being so many miles away from Italy, I managed to immerse myself deeply in the Italian culture. When summer came I decided it was the perfect opportunity to discover face to face the beauties of southern Italy. In this post, I will talk particularly about places located near the city of Noci in Apuglia.
Apuglia is an Italian region located in the extreme south-east of Italy, we can say that it is the heel of the boot. It is surrounded by two seas: the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic Sea that confer the area with a typical Mediterranean atmosphere with large cliffs and small crystalline beaches. The central part is mainly agricultural with beautiful small towns, large plains with olive trees, vineyards, and farms.
1. Walking in the countryside of Noci
We are at the beginning of October and I returned to the small town of Noci to spend my birthday. Being a fan of hiking on nature trails, we headed one morning to the outskirts of the town to explore the surroundings.
On the way, we met people working the field. We also crossed a beautiful hacienda: the Masseria di Sorresso. The masserie (plural of masseria in Italian) are large parcels of land that are mainly dedicated to agriculture and livestock.
In the course of the last century, many of them were abandoned. However, today many of these haciendas have been recovered and converted into restaurants or hotels that continue to use some of the products produced on their land to prepare their dishes.
2. On our way to the sea
The sun shines as if it were still summer, so it is inevitable to take advantage of a beautiful sunny day to go for a walk in the sea. At 10 o’clock in the morning, we set off to some beach in the Monopoli area. On our way we decided to stop at the Chiesa di Santa Maria di Barsento.
This small church was once part of a convent that was converted into a masseria and today it also works as such. Its origins are uncertain but it is believed that it was built between the sixth and the ninth centuries. In the following centuries the property was modified several times. Its facade is characterized by three cusps that recall the technique of pre-Romanesque construction that characterizes the trulli.
¿What are the trulli?
The trulli, limestone dwellings found in the southern region of Puglia, are remarkable examples of drywall (mortarless) construction, a prehistoric building technique still in use in this region. The trulli are made of roughly worked limestone boulders collected from neighbouring fields. Characteristically, they feature pyramidal, domed or conical roofs built up of corbelled limestone slabs.
Apparently, this church is a very frequent stop for all tourists who visit or ride a bicycle through the area, thus finding the friendly local people.
3. Walking along a beach on the Adriatic coast
After a half an hour drive we arrived at the Capitolo, one of the busiest coastal areas of the city of Monopoli. The beaches of the Capitolo are characterized by being much flatter and more sandy than the north coast of Apuglia. Although there are also places where rocks predominate. During our walk, we found incredible views like this beach with a mixture of sand and rocks.
In Apuglia many of the beaches are private and are commonly known as lido. Most of these lidi (plural of lido) offer services such as showers, bars, towels, and umbrellas. A little hidden you can also find small roads that lead to public beaches, which are always more natural.
After a magnificent walk along the beach, there is nothing better than going to eat at some Osteria. In these coastal restaurants, you can try local dishes such as fried fish, raw fish, pasta allo scoglio (pasta with mollusks) and raw ricci di mare (sea urchins). The latter is a typical dish of Apuglia and are eaten simply by bathing bread inside the urchin.
4. Back home: fresh pasta
To end a good day, back to grandma’s house to prepare a delicious fresh pasta. In the province of Bari are famous the orecchiette (little ears), so-called in reference to their small ear shape. Generally, they are eaten with cime di rapa (turnip tops) or with sugo di pomodoro (tomato sauce) and grated cheese.
How to prepare fresh orecchiette?
* for each serving of flour put half of water
- 100 ml of water
200 gr of semolina flour or unrefined hard wheat flour
- Mix the water and flour little by little on a flat surface until there is a big uniform and elastic ball. Cover with a cloth for 10 minutes.
- Spread some flour on the surface where you will work the mixture. Cut a piece of the mixture and mold strips of a thickness of about 1 cm. If the strip is not so elastic or breaks easily, you can add a little more water and work it again.
- Cut a small piece of the strip (0.5 – 1 cm), crush it and drag it forward with the tip of a knife.
- Once you have a kind of elongated shell and tucked inside itself, you should flip with the tip of a finger so that it has the shape of a belly button.
- Sort the ears on a table so they do not touch and leave to dry for at least an hour before cooking. Once dry they can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 days.
Click here to see a video of its preparation.
If you would like to know more about Italy through its gastronomy, I recommend the blog of the illustrator Yaansoon.