For some inexplicable reason, I had long wanted to visit the region of Puglia, Italy. Sometimes I can trace my chosen destinations to a travel article, a recommendation from a fellow traveler, or even to an overheard comment, but in this case, I have no idea why the heel of Italy’s “boot” held such fascination for me. Perhaps what drew me was my eternal search for places that have not yet been ruined by tourism. Puglia qualifies in that regard, as it is little known in travel circles outside of Italy. Certainly, I knew next to nothing about it. I pictured rainbow-hued houses cascading down high rocky cliffs and pocket beaches where brilliant white sand beaches cozied up to turquoise seas. The reality was not quite what I had envisioned.
My journey began in Split, Croatia, where I hopped aboard a Blue Line Ferry for the overnight sail to Italy. Twelve hours later, having suffered a sleepless night in a cabin that reeked of sewer gasses, I disembarked in Ancona, located midway down Italy’s east coast. A short walk took me to the train station, where I hopped aboard Italy’s famed Adriatic Railroad. Within minutes of pulling out of the station we were rolling alongside the sea, with only a few feet separating our track from the water.
Town after town flew by, each less interesting than the one before it. With their unadorned facades, flat-roofs, and dull colors, the houses and apartment buildings reminded me of the Soviet architectural style referred to as brutalism. Many appeared to be vacant, as if they had been put up in haste during boom times and left to decay during the ensuing bust years. Beyond the towns, not even a molehill interrupted my view over an endless baked plain dotted with cactus.
A few hours into the ride, the train crossed into Puglia and veered inland to skirt the city of Bari, considered to be the gateway to Puglia. By the time I arrived in Lecce, thunderheads were threatening a deluge. I raced through the ancient stone streets, stopping every few blocks to check my GPS, hoping I would find my hostel before the storm let loose. Exhausted from 36 hours of continuous travel, I collapsed into bed without so much as a stroll around Lecce’s Piazza Saint Oronzo, heart of the city known as “Florence of the South.” Read More
I cannot cook. More accurately, I don’t cook. As a full-time traveler with no home, cooking skills are rarely necessary. However, with my nine year anniversary of being on the road fast approaching, I’ve been toying with the idea of settling down again, of renting an apartment somewhere in Europe or Asia where I could take a break between extended trips. A place where I could cook a meal instead of eating in restaurants every night. So when Flavours Holidays invited me to experience one of their custom cooking, painting, or Pilates holidays in Italy, I chose cooking in Puglia, the southern region of Italy otherwise known as the “heel of the boot.”
I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into. Cooking, you see, has always been a chore for me. Not only do I find prepping food to be tedious, I seem to be incapable of following a recipe. Recently, a friend who has attended cooking school suggested I try my hand at soups, as they all start with a simple stock made from celery, onions, and carrots. Last December, during my annual holiday visit with family, I took his advice. Five hours after chopping the first onion I ladled out a surprisingly edible bowl of split pea soup.
Encouraged, a few days later I attempted butternut squash soup. My online search for a recipe turned up nary a one that called for a stock made with onions, celery, and carrots. In my infinite wisdom, I assumed all the recipes were wrong and made the stock as before. Into it I tossed smallish chunks of the squash and set it to simmer. Eight hours later, the squash had finally reduced enough resemble soup, but it tasted truly horrible. I threw it down the disposal and gave up. Read More