Puglia, Italy

Every year, I love sharing a collection of my favourite snapshots from our family summer holiday and this year we headed to Puglia in Italy. This region in the south, usually referred to as the heel of Italy, is a popular destination for Italian holidaymakers but less known to the rest of the world. We only had two weeks to explore Puglia and because it’s a really big region I definitely would’ve liked more time to see everything. I would love to return to Puglia in the future because I had such a brilliant time on my recent trip.

Adriatic sea views in Polignano a Mare

As we do every time we go abroad we stayed in our own private accommodation. It’s worth it for total relaxation and a chance to completely switch off, I prefer it to staying in a hotel because I love the freedom of being able to buy local ingredients and being able to cook, it’s not only my profession, but also one of my main passions in life.

Instead of staying in a villa, this year we were extra adventurous and rented a traditional Puglian trullo in the middle of countryside for our fortnight stay. If you were wondering, trulli are whitewashed stone huts with conical roofs, something this region of Italy is famous for and one of the many reasons tourists want to come and visit Puglia.

Alberobello has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the vast quantity of trulli. We all adored Alberobello, it really is one of the most magical places I’ve ever been to especially when it’s all lit up at nighttime. There are several trulli, some converted into enoteche (wine bars/shops), restaurants, gelaterias and shops selling local produce and souvenirs.

Trulli houses in Alberobello

Whenever I’m visiting a different country I love to embrace and delve into that country’s culture. Every region in Italy has its own cuisine, so it was fun to discover a few foods I hadn’t yet tasted before. The reason I keep coming back to Italy is because of the outstanding cuisine, I cook Italian food like homemade pasta and sauce, gnocchi and risotto on a regular basis so I always feel totally at home whenever I’m in Italy.

Taralli pizzaiola – authentic Puglian olive oil breadsticks flavoured with tomato, paprika and oregano

Our holiday rep, Donatello, provided an amazing welcome pack with an array of goodies including prosciutto crudo (Italian dry-cured ham), sweet and juicy cherry tomatoes, rustic crusty bread (perfect for dipping into olive oil), fresh fruit, coffee, biscuits (paste e latte/Italian milk biscuits – pictured below), Puglian rosé and best of all, fresh buffalo mozzarella which we ate on the day it was made. If you love mozzarella, then you’re in for a treat in Puglia because burrata (mozzarella with a delicious creamy interior) originates from this region.

There really is nothing quite like Italian hospitality, if you’re a foodie then there’s no better travel destination than Italy. Italians are passionate about their food and they want you to enjoy and experience the very best of their cuisine and produce. The fresh fruit and vegetables taste so good because they haven’t travelled far and have usually been grown locally, which makes a huge difference.

Puglian olive oil is recognised for its exceptional flavour, taste and quality. Puglia was one of the first places in Europe to produce totally organic olive oil. Fantastic olive oil means this region also harvests amazing olives and no apéritif is complete without a bowl of olives and taralli, which are crunchy ring-shaped breadsticks and available in various flavours. It’s safe to say I got addicted to these delicious snacks during my holiday. Every time we ventured to the supermarket to stock up on groceries, I picked up another pack and I even took several packets of these home, and I’m going to attempt baking some of my own homemade taralli.

Taralli caserecci are plain olive oil breadsticks – an enjoyable evening snack with marinated olives and a glass of wine

If you love seafood, then Puglia is the place for you because it has miles of coastline along the Adriatic sea. Our favourite pasta dish combines gamberi (prawns/shrimp) with garlic, lemon and fresh chilli/peperoncino. All you need to do is add a little butter and a drizzle of olive oil and serve that with cooked linguine or spaghetti. Simple flavours, but amazingly tasty.

Most regions in Italy have their own pasta and in Puglia, Orecchiette is the signature pasta of the area – it’s the ear-shaped pasta slightly heavier in texture. If you visit the old town in Bari you might see people perched on stalls sitting outside in the streets rolling and shaping this pasta.

focaccia al pomodoro

Focaccia Barese – focaccia al pomodoro / tomato focaccia

Focaccia Barese is a traditional focaccia from this region. I didn’t know this before, but foccacia dough in Bari is made with mashed potato and semolina. Every single piece of focaccia I tasted during my trip was exquisite. Perfectly chewy and crisp around the edges and the tomato topping was gorgeously sweet and lightly flavoured with herbs. If you’re tempted by this, try my recipe for Tomato Parmesan Focaccia!

There were a few foods I didn’t get to try during my trip, but would’ve loved to. Since getting back from Puglia, I was reminded of a traditional Puglian pastry, Pasticciotto, which is a pastry filled with custard. I cannot believe I didn’t get an opportunity to try these as they sound and look like something I would really enjoy. However, I will definitely endeavour to try these on my next visit!

To end this foodie section, I thought I would talk about the incredible gelato. Anywhere you go in Italy you’re guaranteed to taste the best gelato. I particularly enjoyed the fresh and fruity flavours to cool down with during the daytime. During the evening I usually went for something richer like pistachio and nocciola (hazelnut) – this is one of my favourite combinations! The gelato pictured here is from Gelateria Gentile in Alberobello, I highly recommend this shop, the service was wonderful and there’s a fantastic selection of gelato.

The hardest part is deciding which flavour/s you’ll pick!

Strawberry and mango ice cream from Gelateria Gentile in Alberobello

Beach views at Polignano a Mare

Pictured above is Polignano a Mare, which is a town on the coast of Valle d’Itria. The crystal clear blue waters are very inviting and everyone is having fun jumping off the cliffs all day long. Along with Alberobello, this was possibly one of the most “touristy” areas we visited during our trip, but it was still a lovely place to explore and snap some brilliant pictures of the beach.

Flowers on a seaside balcony in Monopoli

Harbour in Monopoli

Monopoli is a highlight from our visit. It was nice to walk around the streets and also to sit back and enjoy a refreshing drink along the seafront in one of the many bars and restaurants.

The harbour is a nice area to stroll around and also the old town streets were perfect to get lost in.

Pretty flowers in Locorotondo

Countryside panoramic views from Locorotondo

Beautiful Bari

For me, Puglia is a region that has the perfect mix of everything, a beautiful coastline, picturesque countryside, lots of history and quaint towns to have a leisurely stroll through. Puglia might just be the your next travel destination if these are all the characteristics you look for in a holiday!

Rundown of my top places to visit during a trip to Puglia:

  • Alberobello – UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996 (the year I was born!), visit Alberobello and experience the famous and unique trulli houses. An absolute must see in Puglia! 
  • Locorotondo – This picturesque town is known for its wine production. The town itself is the main sight, so you might find it pleasant just taking a walk around the streets, capturing some photographs, looking in the shops or even relaxing in one of the cafés and restaurants. There’s also a few churches to look around too. Locorotondo certainly deserves its title ‘Borghi più belli d’Italia‘, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Also, as it’s situated on a hill, Locorotondo is a wonderful place to see the stunning panoramic views of the countryside.
  • Monopoli – One of the places we visited on more than a couple of occasions, we enjoyed wandering around the streets and sitting along the seafront. Sit back, relax whilst sipping on an Aperol spritz or a nice chilled glass of wine taking in the stunning sea views
  • Taranto – This is a commercial port and the main Italian naval base. We had just a quick visit here, but if you have more time you can take a look at Castello Aragonese, where parts of the castle date back to 900’s when the Byzantines rule this region of Italy. Also, the National Archaeological Museum of Taranto and Taranto Cathedral are both worth a look around.
  • Ostuni – I thought I would save one of my favourite places in Puglia until last. This is a lovely town to walk around the cobbled streets, known as the “White City” for its white washed walls and is more reminiscent of neighbouring Greece but still showcases pure Italian charm. We purchased a lot of pottery and locally made ceramics here. I have some new beautiful bowls, plates and a utensils jug for my kitchen. Buying ceramics during my travels is one of my favourite things to do as it’s always unique to the area you visit.

trulli in alberobello

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading!

jess

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Cyprus Snapshots

I’ve just recently got back after spending a fortnight holidaying in the Mediterranean on the island of Cyprus. This wasn’t my first visit to this beautiful country, I’ve previously shared a blog post with pictures from our last visit two summers ago and before that I’d already visited Cyprus on two other occasions before starting this blog. Here I’ve put together a collection of my favourite snapshots from my time away. It was yet another fun and memorable trip to a destination that’s very close to my heart.

Panorama viewpoint looking down on Paphos

Our journey to Cyprus started early (wakeup call was 1:45am), I only managed a few hours sleep before we headed to the airport and I think this was due to excitement! Once we boarded our flight, four and half hours later we landed in Cyprus to be welcomed with predicted sunny and warm weather. After collecting our suitcases and sorting out our car hire we departed the airport and drove to our villa.

We stayed in Argaka, a small village located near the town of Polis. This is my third visit to Argaka, the village is barely touched by tourism and that’s what appeals most to me. It’s a great place to get an experience of Cypriot life.

Before arriving at our villa we stopped off at Limni Pier where we ate lunch and took in some breathtaking views and the deep blue sea. Upon arrival at the villa we were totally blown away, we had our own private beach just outside the villa (the perks of not saying in a complex), a pool and even a tennis court – my sister and I both made good use of these to work off the ice cream we ate and the scrumptious galaktoboureko (Greek semolina custard pie with syrup) the villa owner, Savvas, brought round for us on the first night. The sweet pie was very delicious and successfully devoured in less than 24 hours!

For a food lover like myself having a bakery right next door to us was fantastic, but as you can guess there was always temptation from all the delicious Cypriot and Greek treats like cakes, loukoumades (fried pastry balls soaked with honey), sweet and savoury pies such as tiropittes (flaky pastry cheese pies) and spanakopittes (cheese and spinach pies) – imagine a mini bitesize version of spanakopita.

On this trip we travelled around a bit more and visited some of the attractions we didn’t get to see previously. Below I’ve added some snapshots of what we got up to and saw this time around!

Harbour at Agios Georgios 

Agios Georgios is a village situated in the Paphos (Pafos) district of Cyprus. The church and stunning views are just a few reasons why this is one of the best places to stop off. There’s also a pottery stall which sells lovely hand-painted bowls and plates among many other things.

Stone built church of Agios Georgios in the village of Pegeia 

You might already know this, but Cyprus is known as the island of love. Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love and Cyprus was her place of birth. Aphrodite’s Rock is also known as Petra tou Romiou (“Rock of the Roman”). Located between Paphos and Limassol, it’s well worth a visit and popular with tourists visiting Cyprus. A swim around the rock is definitely something you might like to tick off your bucket list, but a warning, the water is very cold!

Views at the Kourion Archaeological Site

Kourion (Curium) is an archaeological site located on the west coast of Limassol in the town of Episkopi. Here you can see an expansive collection of mosaics and monuments that date back to the Roman period and the remains of the ancient city of Kourion. Just make sure you plan a visit here before the midday heat and sun arrive and come prepared for the walk around with a hat, lots of water and sun cream!

The Troodos mountains are the largest mountain range in Cyprus. As you drive through you can see lots of different wildlife like snakes slithering across the road and you can even visit a mouffalon enclosure. Mouffalon are wild sheep native to Cyprus and other Middle-Eastern countries. The first time we went we weren’t lucky and didn’t manage to spot any mouffalon, however this time luck was on our side and I captured this picture above!

Next I’m moving onto one of the best parts of travelling to a different country, the food. Cypriot and Greek are two of my favourite cuisines. Both cuisines are similar, but they do have some differences. Cyprus is famous for halloumi, a cheese that’s made from either goat’s or ewe’s milk. It’s eaten raw or cooked in Cyprus, but I prefer it either grilled or fried and garnished with oregano and fresh lemon juice.

Cyprus is also home to several yummy treats, kattimeri is a sweet crêpe-style pancake that’s traditionally filled with sugar or honey and cinnamon. We bought these almost daily when we visited the supermarket to stock up on groceries. The pancake is quite big so we’d cut it into quarters and topped with Greek yoghurt and fresh sliced peach – I don’t think that’s how Cypriots serve the pancake, but the flavours worked well together and we turned it into a great dessert. I love these pancakes so much that I even packed one to eat on the plane journey home!

Kattimeri is a traditional Cypriot pancake

As we were self-catering we visited the supermarket to get ingredients every couple of days. We ate Greek salad every single day and it’s one of our favourite salads to eat all year round. Authentic Greek salad is simply made with refreshing cucumber, tangy red onion, juicy tomatoes, chopped bell pepper and olives can sometimes be included along with extra virgin Greek olive oil, salty feta cheese, oregano and finally, salt and pepper to season. Lunch most days consisted of a small mezze, a portion of Greek salad, pita bread or Lebanese flatbread and dips like hummus and tzatziki. We bought some tzatziki and unfortunately we were disappointed by the flavour, so I ended up making my own recipe instead.

The country also has a great street food scene. At the roadside you can grab some buttery corn the cob, souvlaki (beef, chicken or pork kebabs marinated in olive oil and oregano) and also sheftalia, which is a Cypriot lamb and pork sausage.

I already knew how well the Cypriots do sweet treats after my last visit and this time we enjoyed several delicious ice creams. There was an endless choice of ice cream flavours available at the shop where we ordered ice cream each time we were visiting Paphos, the picture below shows a scoop of chocolate stracciatella and a scoop of cookies and cream.

Ice cream definitely helped cool us down when Cyprus was experiencing a heatwave on the last few days of our holiday when temperatures soared beyond 40°C!

Ice cream in Paphos 

Cyprus is also home to a sweet treat, loukoumi and this is more commonly known to the rest of the world as Turkish delight. We got some lemon flavoured loukoumi, which was made in Geroskipou.

Geroskipou meaning “sacred garden” was the mythical sanctuary of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The factory in Geroskipou is actually close to Aphrodite’s birthplace, Petra tou Romiou. I’ve personally never been a fan of Turkish delight, but I decided to be adventurous and give it a try. I don’t usually like anything that’s been flavoured with rosewater, so this lemon version was much more pleasant for me.

Nighttime scene along Paphos seafront

Sunset in Argaka 

Argaka on the western side of the island is the perfect place to take pictures of the sun setting. Experiencing the sunsets is something really special.

I really hope you’ve enjoyed looking through my photographs from this years holiday. Sharing travel blog posts is something I’m really passionate about and I love doing just as much as sharing recipes. If you want more travel reads, take a look at this article I wrote about Ibiza!

Thanks for reading!

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