The region of Puglia, or Apuglia as it is known in Italy, covers much of the heel and the boot of the country. There is a lot to see of interest in the area including the capital city of Bari, known as the ‘Milan of the south’, the famous baroque city of Lecce, the white town or ‘citta bianca’ Ostuni, the fishing villages of Polignano a Mare and Monopoli and a stunning coastline of beaches and coves for swimming. Puglia is also renowned for it’s specialty food and wine. It is known as the ‘breadbasket’ of Italy as it produces more than eighty percent of the country’s pasta. Orrecchiete pasta, shaped like small ears, can still be seen being made on the old streets of Bari by local women. The region also produces the famous primitivo wine, much of the country’s fish and more olive oil than the rest of the country combined.
With all of this and more on offer I have flown down from Milan to spend a couple of weeks holiday. For the last few days I have been in the town of Martina Franca. This is another Puglian town with a noteworthy centro storico, famous in the summer months for it’s belcanto festival. I was lucky enough to see my friend, soprano Jessica Pratt, singing the lead role in the rarely performed Giovanna d’Arco by Verdi at the Palazzo Ducale. It was a wonderful night’s entertainment in a stunning setting. But now it is time for us to take a ‘real’ break.
We arrive at Masseria Fumerola early one afternoon at the very beginning of August. It is hot. Very, very hot. There is not a breath of air and it is siesta time, so the silence is palpable. The heat is almost a tangible thing. It eminates off the bright white of the conical trulli rooves, off the white, rough hewn stone walls and off the incredible, sparkling blue water of the swimming pool. The initial impression is one of stark beauty. Beautiful, gnarled olive trees offer shade from the unrelenting sun, gigantic flowering cacti grow in the hard earth and the scent of wild rosemary hangs in the air; it is possible we have arrived for a few days in paradise.
We are shown to our accommodation and settle in to our surprisingly cool trullo. Originally constructed out of dry stone as simple farm dwellings or shelters for animals, they feature one room under each cone and extra rooms in additional alcoves. In the 19th century the dry stone was easily deconstructed when the property tax inspectors paid a call. I think to myself that hopefully the 21st century Italian tax men are on holiday in August and that with any luck we can keep the roof over our heads for the next five days! The decor is authentic and neutral, in keeping with the rustic style. Trulli are notoriously difficult to heat in winter and our lounge room features a large, stone fireplace which we won’t be needing. The bedroom is comfortable and the bathroom is large and modern. We have a private terrace complete with a lush, green lawn.
Staff at the masseria are unobtrusive and unfailingly helpful and smiling. Nothing is too much trouble during our stay. This place has the feel of a small, country house rather than a hotel. We spend much of our lives in hotels and this is exactly what we are looking for…the feeling of a home away from home. Breakfasts are on the terrace and feature home made Italian style cakes and pastries. Leisurely, simple lunches are taken near the pool in the former pig sty, no evidence of the past remaining. A friendly girl named Paula delivers fresh salads of mozzarella and bright red tomatoes with barley bread from Lecce accompanied by glasses of crisp, cool white wine. We sit on white painted chairs at rustic wooden tables. It is a perfect setting and I am reminded of my childhood Enid Blyton books in which food consumed outside by the Famous Five always tasted better. I can’t disagree with them here. Every flavour and colour seems brighter and more enhanced. Dinners are a simple affair on the terrace beginning with a spread of delicious antipasti: marinated artichokes, grilled zucchini, eggplants and peppers, creamy mozzarella cheeses, frittata, homemade focaccia, prawns and salamis. After a main course of fish or meat a gelato is offered, followed, if you so desire, by a limoncello in the lounge room. We chat amicably with other guests after dinner…it is almost like a family occasion and we thoroughly enjoy the intimacy of the whole experience.
The long, incredibly warm summer days are spent by the swimming pool. As the sun moves through the cloudless blue sky so we move our sun lounges to follow the shade. There are bikes for hire at reception although I notice they are in the same place when we leave as when we arrive. I am glad we are not the only sedentary ones. It is too hot to move too far or too fast. We both have plans to learn some music for upcoming jobs but the scores lie closed next to our sun beds and remain there unopened all week.
Evenings are glorious. A faint breeze blows and the sun turns the fields to a golden yellow. Swallows swoop down to the empty swimming pool looking for insects, wasps buzz and bats fly silently overhead. The joy here is in the simple pleasures.
More information at masseriafumarola.it