Tag Archives: Puglia

Autumn tour part 3: Glamping under the Puglian sun

Some 1500 kilometers from home when we finally reached Puglia and the southernmost part of our trip, we simply could not wait to settle down, settle in, eat, drink, and be off the grid for 3 whole days. We booked a pajara, a thick stone building which is basically a trullo in another name. Most people are familiar with the cone-roofed trulli of Alberobello. Ours by comparison had a simple flat top but it held more character and charm that I could have ever imagined. It actually felt like having a second home.

Trullo lu Ruezzo

Trullo Lu Ruezzo has everything for a self-catering holiday: fully-equipped kitchen (small fridge and gas tank stove), breakfast table, sitting room, bedroom, bathroom, 2 outdoor dining areas, hammocks, outdoor shower for rinsing off after the beach, clothesline, barbecue area (perfect for an open wood-fire paella), AND a small garden from which we were welcome to pick as many vegetables as we wanted. Paradise!

Trullo lu Ruezzo

The pajara sits on a large parcel of land dotted with olive trees, fig, and prickly pear, with the nearest neighbors being the owners who lived a stone’s throw away. Absolute privacy, tranquil, and 100% rural by all definition, yet within easy reach of beaches and major towns like Galatone and Gallipoli. Where the glamping part comes in is how you need to step outside when going from room to room. Kitchen, bedroom and bathroom all face the foyer on 3 sides, so it had a sort of camping vibe but upgraded to the most basic of creature comforts.

Kitchen with a view
A kitchen with a window from which I could call out to the MotH – a tavola!!! (come and eat!)

View from kitchen window
He hung around a lot between meals.

Ricci di mare for lunch
But he was totally hands on when it came time to crack open the sea urchins we picked up from a roadside vendor in Gallipoli. Not a lot, but you don’t need much for spaghetti ai ricci di mare.

Sleeping in a trullo


A cool experience that we nicknamed “hunkering down in the cave”. Even though the roof is flat, the ceiling slopes up into a conical shape which gives a sense of height. Simple details like the lampshade below is made from a dried cactus leaf.

Cactus leaf lampshade


Even the bathroom rocked! Note the prickly pear cactus leaf decoration nailed to the wall. There were a couple of geckos in there that looked like the common house geckos in Hawaii.

The best part though, was creating meals and drinking wine

Mixed antipasti platter
We popped into the Conad grocery store in town for daily antipasti.

Calamaretti and spaghetti
Made spaghetti with baby calamari and enjoyed a taste of Calabria (the only region we didn’t pass through) with a bottle of Greco Nero rosato (Statti).

Sweet peppers and bombette
The next day we picked sweet peppers, fried them with bombette (meat roll-ups made with pork and a tiny cube of cheese inside), and enjoyed them with a big bowl of salad. SO GOOD!

Ital-english Scrabble

Since there was no internet available, I brought the Scrabble board along and we played in both languages. It was the first night in a long time where we weren’t glued to the tv, tablet, pc, or phone. Liberating, but I LOST!

Trullo lu Ruezzo outdoors

Last day

Mister B at Trullo lu Ruezzo

It was a very sad day when it was time to leave, but we hope to be able to visit again and soon. The proprietress saw us off and we left with a bottle of her own homemade tomato sauce – a generous and lovely gesture that we will treasure for always. Mille grazie e Mahalo!


Taieddhra: potatoes, rice and mussels

Puglia’s cuisine left such an impression on me that here I go picking out a recipe with a name that I don’t know how to pronounce. The ingredients are simple, and taieddhra refers to the pan (teglia) used for this oven-baked meal of potatoes, rice and mussels. Cooking taieddhra is a matter of personal taste: I’ve found recipes varying from province to province and cook to cook. Should it be with or without zucchini? That’s up to the cook, but I believe zucchini are a definite must in the version from Bari province. Intent on getting it right on the first go, I’ve enlisted the help of a few grandmas via YouTube who say to…

• At the bottom you need to put garlic, onions, parsley, tomatoes, salt and oil.
• Then you put the potatoes, tomatoes, pepper and parsley.
• Then you put a handful of rice…
• And the rice goes inside the mussels.
• And zucchini, you see…
• Plenty of zucchini.
• Certain old folks put eggs in the middle.
• Let’s say we make three layers.
• You add the water and then you cook it.
• And see what you eat! The teglia…potatoes, rice and mussels!
• I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but mine is very good.
• The way I make it, it’s out of this world.
• Is it ready? [Very ready] Well then!

3 large potatoes, sliced into approximately ¼-inch thick rounds
1 small white onion, sliced into thin rings or wedges
2 medium tomatoes, rough chop
generous handful of chopped italian parsley
1 large clove garlic, minced and stirred into the parsley
1½ pounds fresh mussels, scrubbed and halved (reserve juices and discard remaining shells)
1 cup carnaroli rice, soaked briefly for 10 minutes (opt.)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano
olive oil, salt, pepper and a handful of bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 390°F. Amounts will ultimately depend on the size of the baking dish as it needs to be deep enough to comfortably hold 3 layers (veggies/mussels/veggies) – I used a 9½-inch pot. Some recipes ask that you pre-soak the rice but I personally found the texture to be a bit overdone after the cooking time was up. Timing can also vary – count on at least 45 minutes to an hour until the dish is finished. Between the MotH and myself, a quarter of the pot remained after we had our fill. This makes a great Sunday lunch!

1st layer: Drizzle olive oil to coat the pan. Scatter onions in a layer on the bottom, then add half of the potatoes and 1/3 of the tomatoes. Sprinkle 1/3 of the parsley-garlic mixture over all then 1/3 of the parmigiano. Season lightly with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

2nd layer: Place mussels in their half shells in a tight layer over the vegetables and sprinkle the rice over the top to cover. Add half of the remaining tomatoes and half of the parsley, plus a third of the parmigiano and season lightly with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

3rd layer: Layer in the remaining potatoes, tomatoes, parsley, parmigiano, salt and lastly the bread crumbs. Drizzle with olive oil. Pour the reserved mussel juices along the side of the pan (so as not to disturb the layers) and add enough water in the same way so that it comes to just within the level of the top layer; about 2 cups. Baked, uncovered, until liquids have been absorbed and potatoes are tender; approximately 45 minutes to an hour.

Opening mussels does take some careful skill (and nerve!) and what worked best for me was to hold the curved side in my palm and insert the tip of a paring knife about 1/4 inch from the top where the shells connect. Once the knife is securely in, run it around the perimeter of the mussel to open completely. By a stroke of luck I didn’t hurt myself on any one of them.

Eating in Puglia: I ate what I didn’t know how to pronounce

FACT: you won’t find a decent trattoria/pizzeria in Salento that caters to diners looking for early-bird specials. It just doesn’t swing that way in the south. But to be fair, not all northern italians eat while there’s still some light left in the sky. The norm is 8:30pm from what I’ve witnessed in restaurants, yet in some places you can walk in at 7pm and no problem. It was different in Puglia when MotH called for 7:30pm reservations. The man on the other end of the line said it wasn’t possible. Can we do 8? 8:30? The voice informs, “We open at 8.”

Left to right: ciceri e tria (a very simple but well-flavored soup dish with chick peas and short strips of both boiled and fried tagliatelle *tria*), grilled imperial prawns, fave e cicureddha (fava bean puree with braised wild chicory).

With only 4 days to fill up on pugliese cooking, I dove right in and went for dishes that I had no idea how to say correctly. Grecanico or griko is a neo-greek dialect spoken in the historical language of Greek Salento (Salento’s past is very interesting). Some of the names reflected that influence, as in fave e cicureddha (fava bean puree w/ braised chicory and fried bread), turcinieddhri (rolls made with lamb’s liver, heart, lungs, etc and cooked over hot coals), and taieddhra (a rice dish with zucchini, potatoes and mussels). I couldn’t manage desserts since dinner portions were generous and because we ate so late. Our favorite place was Olo Kalò in Corigliano d’Otranto. It means “all the best” which is to say that everything they put out are among the best dishes of the Salento area.

Pastry shops and gelato

I may have skipped dessert after dinner but I didn’t skip dessert before lunch. We made a visit to Pasticceria Chèri in Campi Salentina (Via San Francesco, 3) just outside of Lecce for these pasticciotti and walked out with 4 chocolate, 4 pistacchio, and 4 cream. The chocolate was the best.

And what’s an eating tour without creamy gelato in the heat of the day? We didn’t search for a particular address – just plopped ourselves like heavy stones and ordered whatever looked good. The gelati in these images were taken at cafes in Galatina which says how much we loved hanging around this beautiful town.

Sit-down at the Caffè della Basilica: cream and cherry gelato; shakerato with the addition of almond milk – it was delicious.

On the 2nd visit to Galatina: no calorie-counting when on vacation.

On silent streets there were churches with intricate carvings and curious histories. Directly below, La Basilica di Santa Caterina di Alessandria was right next to the cafe/gelateria and is worth visiting for its narrative frescoes. It’s easy to recognize as soon as you see Jesus and the 12 Apostles above the entrance.

Taken from the description fronting another church:
The Church of the Most Holy Trinity is an interesting example of both Renaissance architecture of the Salento area and religious life in the territory of Otranto. Its construction, commenced in 1579, is attributed to the Nardò-born architect Giovanni Maria Tarantino, and the edifice was the seat of the Brotherhood of Mercy or the Flagellants as they were called because of a severe regulation that obliged the brothers to practice bloody self-flagellation and to wear the cilice.