We always arrived in towns just as they quieted for the afternoon—every day between 1 and 5, when people, sensibly, eat lunch then nap.
Serragambetta. The house has been in Domenico’s family since the 18th century—like Il Leopardo!
Monastic rooms blessed by the Madonna.
Olive oil cake for breakfast.
Hectore! The farm dog who became our great protector and guide.
The fabled and mysterious Trulli.
Okay, this is only here as a cautionary tale not to snuff off any vocabulary words while studying with the Rosetta Stone because you think they’re useless. If you’d only attended more to the Italian word for “ladder” you could have rescued this poor kitty!
Locorotondo: the round city upon a hill.
Myyyy what big Eye you have.
Matera: the ominous, winding city where the dwellings were originally caves dug in the cliff rock. Also the film site of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”—equally ominous.
A Matera church hanging over the ravine.
The ramparts at Monopoli: useful in sieges by the Saracens, Longobards, Normans, Byzantines, Venetians, Spaniards, Turks, and male sunbathers in Speedos.
Gallipoli, on the western, Ionian sea-side of Puglia.
Wandering the lamp-lit streets of Lecce, where teenagers snogg behind Roman ruins.
The best! Bike ride on the country lanes.
As we pulled the bikes into Castellana Grotte, we ran smack into a parade for the Madonna. The women threw rose petals from the balconies and a marching band, of clarinets and tubas, played what sounded like old Hollywood scores. Fellini would’ve been stoked.
Our last meal with the illustrious cooks Gina and Elia. The pie in the foreground is for breakfast.
And after all that, we took the train to Rome. What else can be said? Rome: city of ancient, beautiful things.
Words by Tamara Llosa-Sandor, Photos by Nora Beckman
Nora and I were initially drawn to Puglia’s terrain. I hadn’t been to Italy before, so my mind held those postcard images of Tuscany—green hills, gold hills, purple hills, stuff like that. But Puglia, the mighty heel of Italy’s boot, what strange pictures it revealed: Sprawling cacti over limestone walls? Olive trees in a tilled desert? Mysterious cone-shaped houses? It looked equal parts Roman outpost, New Mexican chaparral, and, well, the secret realm of David the Gnome.
In mid-April, we arranged a week-long Agriturismo stay at Serragambetta, an organic farm just inland from the Adriatic Sea. One of the main appeals of Agriturismo, besides taking an Enchanted April rest-cure in the countryside, was having big home-cooked family meals with the farm owners and other guests. In between eating, we adventured to nearby medieval towns. Nora at the wheel and me with the map, a new one prepared each night with red pen lines by our farmer-host, Domenico. Italian pop-radio became our soundtrack as the car dipped and climbed on the skinny roads lined with cacti and blooming fennel. And sometimes, if sun hit at the right angle, you’d swear there was a little peak-hatted figure in the distance.