Travel. Puglia Special In the countryside between Bari and Brindisi

Dec 21 2015, 14:18 | by Elisabetta De Blasi

From Ostuni to Ceglie, in the Parco delle Dune Costiere. Far from the slick resorts catering to Italian actors and politicians is a rustic, autumnal Puglia, its trees laden with olives awaiting the first cold days before yielding their precious green and gold oil. This is the season to enjoy the flavors of traditional peasant dishes and cheeses.

Landscapes of Puglia

The countryside of Puglia has many faces, and lies around the provinces of Brindisi, Bari and Taranto, unconcerned about administrative niceties. A particularly fascinating strip of land is tucked between the two seas, the Adriatic in the east and the Ionian to the southeast, and preserves authentic agricultural memories. The Parco Regionale delle Dune Costiere, the Coastal Dune Park, encloses a humid zone, an olive grove, a river, and fossil dunes, as well as a well-marked bicycle path and five walking trails. (See the park site for maps: Beneath Ostuni, the Masseria Brancati is easy to find. It’s clear that this is a protected zone: Parco Agricolo degli Ulivi Secolari (Agricultural Park of Centuries-old Olive Trees) lives up to its name and venerable trees stretch to the horizon.

The culture of olive trees

These are monumental olives, counted and carbon-14 dated, often supported with tufa blocks. They bear witness to the undaunted ability of thisplant to thrive, twisting itself in unexpected directions. Corrado Rodio is in charge of protecting the memory and presence of an ancient olive mill with visible strata that help us understand the different methods of extracting oil through the ages, from the pre-Roman Messapic civilization up to the Renaissance. Rodio himself also produces a fascinating extra-virgin olive oil from the ancient trees of ogliarola salentina and a monocultivar of coratina from a more modern grove. He offers a mini oil-tasting course. Further along, visitors can stop to eat in the courtyard of the Masseria Il Frantoio, with its white-washed walls, cascading flowers, and stone-paved floor. Here the proprietor, Armando, introduces his guests to the zone and its dishes, all based on his land’s produce: homemade pasta, vegetables from the house garden and fruit from the 17th- century citrus groves. Above all, he exploits his knowledge of the science of wild products by producing an excellent liqueur based on herbs, berries and fruit. 

Organic products: from fruit to cheese

In the lower part of Ostuni, a cooperative organic urban garden project is in full swing, I Giardini della Grata, and sells its kilometer zero, organic products. Towards Ceglie Messapica, between its white and red walls, stay at Dimora Antonella, a country bed and breakfast in a little citrus grove. Driving further, among dry walls and cultivated fields, you find Masseria Aia Antica, where owner Enza and her husband raise cows (pezzate rosse and bruna alpine breeds), goats and sheep, feeding them with the farm’s own hay. Every Friday, the couple produce ricotta from mixed cow’s and ewe’s milk suited for grating on a dish of orecchiette topped with fresh tomato sauce, as well as a aged cheese with. aromas and flavors that suggest pine nuts. A few kilometers away, Masseria Fragnite, besides making both fresh and aged cheeses, also prepares focaccia and onion calzone.
Near the sea, thanks to the untiring labor of an entire agricultural community, this thin-skinned tomato, pomodoro fiaschetto, with its natural sweetness and low acidity, flourishes. Mario Di Latte, on his Calemone farm in the heart of the natural reserve of Torre Guaceto, grows an excellent product that gives great satisfaction either fresh, dried, or transformed into a tasty bottled puree. You can purchase the tomatoes, both fresh and processed, directly at the farm.

Where to stop: from breakfast to dinner time

Ceglie Messapica itself is a rural town, which Pamela Filomeno has interpreted lovingly in her Sant’Anna bed and breakfast. Its five rooms have been decorated to provide an experience in time travel. The building was an aristocratic home in the center of town until the last century. After being abandoned for a long time, it was restored intelligently, respecting spaces and sensations that tell a story through its objects. The name is in homage to the saint of birthing mothers, a reference to the one-time use of a large space designed for housing peasant mothers having their babies. In Cisternino, stop and visit the bistrot of Giardini 36, where Catia and Davide prepare Pugliese tapas with products from their organic vegetable garden. Their countertop was built from old, recycled wood by a local architect, the table decorations are from prickly pears, and a collection of farmers’ tools are exhibited appreciatively in another room.

Cured meats: in the name of Capocollo from Martina Franca

It was the passion for capocollo, a product that is generally made at home in this area, that led three friends to found this up-market company.  They built up the firm quickly, and today they make by hand, artisanally, all the typical cured meats of the zone. Capocollo, from pork neck and shoulder muscle, exploits the natural smoke from a fireplace, and is available in various degrees of aging. The one aged for six months has fragrances that suggest toasted walnuts and almonds. Larded fillet is made with meats from a cooperative farm that raises heritage black pigs, maiale nero, in Aspromonte. The color shades from an antique rose to ivory white, and the meat is juicy, soft and firm at the same time.

Time for dessert: Puglia's baked goods

The traditional biscotto cegliese, today a product protected by Slow Food, is a sweet that interprets its specific home territory well. A soft cookie, made with almond paste naturally flavored with citrus fruit, it is wrapped around a cherry jam center. In the rural past, it was the holiday sweet, meant to be served to guest.

Elisabetta De Blasi



Where to sleep

Dimora Antonella | c.da San Benedetto | Ostuni (BR) | tel. 393 561 0182 | | double room with breakfast 60-100 euros

B&B Sant'anna | via G.B. Caracciolo, 61 | Ceglie Messapica (BR) | tel. 333 397 8524 | |double room with breakfast 70-130 euros

Where to eat

Botrus | via Muri, 26 | Ceglie Messapica (BR) | tel. 0831 377817 | | average price 45 euros without wine

Giardini 36 |  via Giardini, 36 | Cisternino (BR) | tel. 080 2471829 | average price 20 euros without wine

Masseria Il Frantoio | ss 16 km 874 | Ostuni (BR) | tel. 0831 330276 – 380 432 9301 | | average price 50 euros without wine

(2 forch.) Ristorante Cielo | Relais La Sommità | via S. Petrarolo, 7 | Ostuni(BR) | tel.0831.305925 | | average price 80 euros without wine

Where to shop

Masseria Aia Antica | c.da San Benedetto Piccolo | Ostuni (BR) | tel.0831.308293 – 333.3702506 | always open

Masseria Fragnite | via Ceglie-Ostuni, 102 | Ceglie Messapica (BR) | tel 0831.376365 |

Azienda Apistica Alveus | via Castellana zona B/2 | Martina Franca (TA) | tel. 080.4324034

I giardini della Grata | coop. Bio Solequo | via Custoza, 20 | Ostuni (BR) | tel.0831.305303


Cantina Albea | via Due Macelli, 8 | Alberobello (BA) | tel 080 4323548 | | guided visits – reserve ahead

Tenute Girolamo | via Noci, 314 | Martina Franca (TA) | tel. 080 4402088 | | guided visits – reserve ahead

Vini Classici Cardone | via Martiri della Libertà, 32 | Locorotondo (BA) | tel. 080 4312561 |

Extra-virgin olive oil

Olio Intini | c.da Popoleto | ALBEROBELLO (BA) | tel. 080 4325983 | | guided visit and tasting

Profumi Di Castro |  Via Lecce di Speziale - fr. Speziale (BR) | tel. 080. 4810989 |

Cured meats

Salumi Martina Franca | s.da  Tre Piantelle, 20 | Zona F |Martina Franca (TA) | tel. 080 4490533 |

Baked goods

Forno Allegrini | via Pisanelli, 14 | Ceglie Messapica (BR) | tel. 0831 383050 |


Azienda Agricola Calemone | c.da Baccatani, 36 | Serranova di Carovigno (BR) | tel.0831.555807 – 333.4561929 |

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