I’m in the southern Italian city of Lecce, in the region of Puglia. Lecce and I have a long history). I left the city several months ago for a job, and though I thought I’d be back often, this is my first time back.
My girlfriend and I arrived yesterday and visited the Antica Masseria Salento wine store, run by my friend Maurizio. He was excited about a new product, orecchiette made with Negroamaro wine. The purple pasta certainly offers a colorful dining experience. Kristin and I wanted a bottle of prosecco (Italy’s sparkling wine) to celebrate the beginning of our travels. Maurizio had a bottle from a local producer. I asked if he had a couple of plastic cups, and he gave us two wine glasses, which he told us to keep.
We decided to go to the park and drink the bottle of wine over a calzone fritto: a fried calzone stuffed with mozzarella and tomato sauce. Afterward, we strolled through the centro storico, hitting all of the best architectural spots in Lecce, beginning with Chiesa di Santa Croce.
In the evening, once the prosecco had worn off, we went to our favorite wine store in Italy. Enoteca Nocco is located on Via Marco Basseo between Via Guglielmo Paladini and Via Teatro Romano, and it’s easily found thanks to the crowd of old men who are always standing around outside sipping drinks. Since I’ll be visiting friends in the coming days, I wanted to purchase one or two bottles. I exited the store with nine. The shop owner offered us two drinks, so we stood around with the old men drinking gin.
At around 10 pm, the usual time for dinner in Italy, we went to one of the most famous restaurants in Lecce: Cucina Casareccia . The food in Puglia has been shaped by poverty and most dishes are brimming with flavor, yet simply prepared. Some of the best are marinated and cooked – sweet bell peppers, polpette (deep-fried mini meat balls), orecchiette with broccoli raab, and involtini made with beef and stuffed with Parmesan and parsley. Puglia’s antipasti are absolutely massive and cannot be missed. My favorite dish of the night was the marinated and cooked bell peppers, which were cooked expertly, with the perfect amount of balsamic vinegar to balance their sweetness.
Today, I’m off to reserve a couple bicycles. Soon we’ll hit the road for Salice Salentino, where I’ve scheduled a wine tasting at the winery that invented Italian rosé. I hope to find a detailed map of Puglia’s bike paths before then.
Written by Mattie Bamman for EuropeUpClose.com