In the blue in Polignano a Mare

Posted in Italy, Polignano a Mare, Puglia with tags , , on May 1, 2015 by gannet39

I spent a blissful Saturday in Polignano a Mare, walking around the old town on my day off. It’s the next station towards Bari from Monopoli so it only took me a few minutes to get there, although you should check the timetable as trains aren’t very frequent.

The town is famous for a few things, in particular the spectacular construction of the inhabitant’s houses which are built flush with the sea cliffs, and below them the natural sea caves which the waves have cut out of the limestone over the eons. You can take a boat trip to see them if you want to.

Polignano is also the hometown of Domenico Modugno whose famous song ‘Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu’ (‘In the blue painted blue’ aka ‘Volare’) was the 1958 Eurovision entry for Italy, back when they still took part. Most people are probably more familiar with the Dean Martin version. Modugno’s beautiful lyrics were apparently inspired by the vivid natural blues of the sea and sky at Polignano and you can see his ecstatic statue on a clifftop with the Adriatic as its background. I spent the day wandering around the old town looking at the pretty old buildings and taking in the views.

Unfortunately a fair few of my photos didn’t come out well as the sun wasn’t in the best position and I was still learning how to use my camera, apologies for that. There are lots more pretty sights than the few I show here.

I wasn’t planning to do any shopping but I found it hard to walk past Oro Della Terra at 41 Piazza Vittorio Emanuele without stopping in to look at their local food products. The nice lady working there pressed me to taste their De Carlo olive oil www.oliodecarlo.com which was fantastic. I left the shop, walked round the town but just couldn’t get the fragrance and taste out of my head, so I went back and bought four bottles, much to her amusement! I’m currently trying to source it in the UK as it really was some of the best I’ve ever had.

The main reason I’d come here though was to eat…

Grotta Palazzese (Advanced B), 59 Via Narciso, www.grottapalazzese.it This is a stunning venue, a hotel perched on the cliffs above a restaurant built into a cave overlooking the sea. This ‘summer cave’ was converted into a banqueting space by a feudal lord in the 1700s and it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever eaten. It’s definitely the kind of place you would go to propose to your loved one. Please click on the images for the best view.

Sadly though, I have to agree with many of the comments on Tripadvisor that it’s overpriced and the food and service are sub-standard. Despite knowing all this I still decided to go to sample the setting. Overall it was a good experience and I wouldn’t want to put anyone off from going, just don’t expect everything to be perfect.

I was ready for some attitude from the waiting staff, especially as I was by myself, wearing jeans and trainers, and clutching a plastic carrier bag full of bottles of olive oil. Instead I caught them on the hop by arriving exactly on time, while some of them were still in a state of undress. Although they tried to tell me they weren’t open, I asked them what their opening time was and pointed out it was one minute past. I hadn’t told them I had a reservation as I was still deciding whether to just have a drink at the bar but I had to play that trump card too when they then tried to tell me they were full (which wasn’t the case as many tables were empty throughout the evening despite it being Saturday).

So with no means left for them to prevent me, I made my way to the bar and befriended the bartender who made me a fairly decent Negroni. Later a less than pleasant waiter tried to seat me at a table where the floor moved every time anyone walked past but a nicer one let me change to a different table further towards the back of the cave, where you can see the waves coming into the lower cavern under you. Tables right next to the rail at the front, overlooking the sea, must be highly coveted so you’d probably have to be popping the question, or be a big tipper, or both, to be seated there.

Not all the staff were arses but I took great pleasure in making the ones that were run around for me constantly, changing dirty cutlery and so on, while giving the nice ones an easy time. The most enjoyable experience though was watching all the colours around me change as the sun began to set and everyone else began to arrive. There was also the great sight of feeding swallows darting in and out of the high roof of the cave, although one silly Englishwoman on an adjoining table thought that they were bats and started freaking out. Fortunately a sax player came out to soothe everyone by playing an instrumental version of Volare on a high ledge above us.

Having established I wasn’t going to take any crap off anyone, in the nicest possible way of course, I prepared to dine. Despite the warnings, I went for the €90 Menu Degustazione which I matched with one of my favourite Campanian wines, the Falanghina Terredora DOC 2011, even though it was overpriced by about a third at €30.

The welcome entrée of a cherry on a cube of raw tuna was actually the best thing they served me (A), probably because it didn’t require any cooking.

The following ‘Burrata di Andria con lo Scampo marinato alla Maggiorana e Riduzione di Negroamaro’, or mozzarella with scampi, courgette flowers and blueberries, with a reduction of a local red wine, was pretty good too (B+).

Sadly things went downhill after that. ‘Busiate Integrali mantecate alla Mousse di fave Bianche, Battuto di scampo e Fava Novella’ or wheat flour pasta (a local speciality) with scampi, broad bean mousse and fresh broad beans was oversalted and overcooked, so I sent it back (D).

They replaced it with a badly-made risotto which was completely unsalted so I had to put the cellar to work. It was watery and the peas in it weren’t fully cooked and I didn’t finish it (C-).

Next the ‘La Variazione del Tonno Pinna Gialla con le Zucchine crispy, Salvia e Fior di Sale alla Vaniglia Bourbon’ or lightly grilled tuna, fried courgettes, sage and salt scented with vanilla Bourbon (?), was badly prepared and completely over salted again.

This started to make me paranoid that the kitchen were taking revenge on me, but it is a salty dish anyway, although too much so even for this big salt lover. It scored a D and I didn’t finish it.

The final ‘Sfera al Riso Soffiato con Chutney di Fragole e Basilico’, or a ‘rice crispy’ strawberry chutney with fresh basil, was unmemorable (C+).

Having burnt out a few waiters with my demands and complaints, Fisher Wanduragala the restaurant manager became my main server. As his name would suggest, although not his seemingly Puglian complexion, he’s actually from Sri Lanka and speaks good English. He fielded my rejections of his kitchen’s food with aplomb and gave me my Negroni and final Amaro di Capo for free, although not the food which I think he should have done. Despite this, I think he actually quite liked the way I’d played them and he even offered to take me on a personal tour of the local area the next day. Sadly I had to work on my day off so we never met up, but it would have been very interesting to have chatted more with him.

After eating I went for a short stroll and an ice cream at Bar Turismo, at 7 Via Sarnelli Pompeo, an old school gelateria recommended by a teacher as being the best in town. Can’t remember what I had except that at my colleague’s suggestion, I had it topped with Panna del Café, or fresh whipped sweet cream, which was delicious (A). The teacher also liked Caruso at 3 Via Martiri di Dogali, which is a bit posher apparently.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Polignano a Mare and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone for a day trip. You don’t have to go to the restaurant I went to, there are plenty of others. A friend liked Osteria de Chichibio www.osteriadichichibio.it I’m sure there are others.

Baking in Bitonto

Posted in Bitonto, Italy, Puglia with tags on April 14, 2015 by gannet39

I came to Bitonto on the train from Bari just for a day’s work. After the graft was done the local teacher very kindly gave me a lightning tour of the old town.

20140630_132415First stop was the Porta Baresana, one of only two of the original city gates still standing. Although the original gate was Roman, the current one is Renaissance style, with a 20th century clock added. I think the current council should get with the times and update it with a digital flip clock.

Next we went to see the 11th century Romanesque cathedral in Piazza Cattedrale.

Please click on the photos below to get a full screen slideshow.

There are two lion’s heads either side of the cathedral door but their ancient features have been worn away over time. The teacher (a fellow Northerner from Blackpool) told me that it breaks her heart to see the local kids hanging their coats from the heads to make goalposts.

20140630_133939

On the way back to the station she also took me to the best bakery in town, Pannetteria la Sfornata at 117 Via Matteotti. I bought a ham and cheese panzarotto, to keep me company during my wait on the platform.

20140630_133856From my research I know Bitonto has a strong food culture. Its known as ‘the City of Olives’, but Bocconotto cakes are also a symbol of the city, some of which were on display in the bakery. Bocconotti are also typical of Abruzzo where they are often filled with chocolate, however the local variation, made by the Benedictine nuns of Bitonto, has a filling of ricotta and candied fruit.

My brief impression of Bitonto is of a pretty historical town with a strong food tradition. Hopefully I’ll be back to eat some more someday!

On a burrata mission in Andria

Posted in Andria, Italy, Puglia with tags , , on April 13, 2015 by gannet39

I commuted to work in Andria by train from Barletta for a couple of days.

First impressions are that there’s not much to see and there’s not a lot happening. This town has great culinary significance for me though as this is the home of mozzarella burrata, one of my most favourite foodstuffs ever.

Burrata was invented by Lorenzo Bianchino in February 1956 at the farm Piana Padula farm near Castel del Monte, just a short distance from Andria.

He had the idea of injecting the waste from the mozzarella making process (cream and scraps of mozzarella known as ‘stracciatella’) back into the centre of the mozzarella ball. The little bags of creamy goodness caught on and the rest is cheesy history.

Apparently a shuttle bus runs from Andria station to Castel del Monte seven times a day should you want to go and see the famous castle.

On my second day I finished work early and rather than hightailing it back to Bari as most in my situation would, I asked the local teacher to drop me off in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, the main square in the centre of town.

I had wanted to eat at Il Turacciolo (4 Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, Tel. 388 199 8889, ilturacciolo.blogspot.com) but unfortunately it was closed at lunchtime.

However, another place on my hitlist, Confettiria Mucci at 30 Piazza Vittorio Emanuele www.confettimuccialberto.it, was open and I bought a large bar of high quality chocolate to take home.

Mucci is a traditional name in sweetmaking and there’s also a museum bearing their name around the corner, the Museo del Confetto, at 12 Via Gammarrota, www.museodelconfetto.it. If you telephone ahead on 0883 591871 you can book a short tour but I didn’t find that out until I got there. It’s also still a functioning sweetshop so I just contented myself with a few pictures instead.

You’ll find the cathedral nearby in Piazza Duomo. It’s very plain on the outside but a teacher told me the crypt is quite special, although I don’t know how you would get in to see it.

There’s some nice stonework on another side of the square. Please click on these pics to appreciate them fully.

I eventually had lunch at my second choice restaurant just a short walk away…

Locanda de la Poste (Advanced B), 49 Via Giovanni Bovio, www.locandadelaposte.it

A small modern place with a good rep, recommended in Gambero Rosso.

I had a good lunch here which began with some stringy ‘stracciatella’, the base ingredient for burrata, which was the main reason I’d stayed in town. I’d never eaten mozzarella this way before, it looked like Spaghetti Carbonara one second and tripe soup the next! It was very fresh, as it needs to be, and the flavour was fantastic (A+), much creamier than previous mozzarellas I’d tried.

The following three seafood based dishes were okay as well but not amazing (B/B+). They seemed more about form than flavour, and we were in a baking hot town a fair way from the sea.

I had a bottle of Bombino Bianco, from the local Castel del Monte DOP which was good if I remember correctly (B) and a glass or two of excellent Muscat de Trani dessert wine (A).

With a dessert the bill came to €60 which was reasonable for the amount I had but given the choice  I don’t think I’d go back as the food could have been a bit better.

From here a nearly straight walk to the station down Via Settembre for the train back to Barletta.

Here’s my Google map to help you get around.

 

 

Monopoli – la città nuova

Posted in Italy, Monopoli, Puglia with tags , , , , on April 12, 2015 by gannet39

I’ve used this post to lump together anything not in the old town or on the coast (see separate posts).

Here’s my Google map to help you get around.

I’d been debating whether to go to this place for my whole stay but I couldn’t resist it on my last night…

Angelo Sabatelli Ristorante (Advanced A), 27 Viale Aldo Moro, Tel. 340 510 1419 www.angelosabatelliristorante.com

This Michelin starred restaurant features in most of the guides and is the Trip Advisor #1 in Monopoli, all for good reason. You would pay several times more for food of this quality in the UK.

I saved myself a €15 taxi ride by walking there from the hotel which was a little unsafe as there are no pavements but it was ok while there was still light. It took about 30 minutes from the Hotel Clio. The restaurant called me a taxi for the return journey.

20140625_200244It’s located on an old country estate, now subsumed into the industrial suburbs of Monopoli. Once you turn up the drive the scenery becomes more rustic with old twisted olive trees along the wayside.

20140625_200635The restaurant building is old but decorated in a modern style, which reflects Chef Sabatelli’s philosophy of reworking traditional dishes and ingredients in new imaginative ways.

All the staff were very friendly and English-speaking and indeed about half of the twenty or so customers on the Wednesday night I went were from the UK.

I was sorely tempted by the €100 tasting menu but couldn’t really justify it on my wages, even though I’d just had pizza the night before and no lunch that day in preparation for a blowout. The €50 four-course seafood menu, which came with a few little extras, proved to be more than adequate though.

After an amuse bouche or two, the names of which I forget, I had Ricciola Crema Soffice di Patate Affumicate Capperi e Croccante di Amaranto’ translated as marinated kingfish with smoked potato cream, capers and amaranth crisps (A).

The bread basket included Taralli made with five different cereals, but I found these rather dry (C).

Next, ‘Spaghetti Benedetto Cavalieri Aglio, Olio, Peperoncino e Capesante su Salsa di ‘Maraschiuolo’ or spaghetti  with garlic, oil, chilli sauce and scallops in a wild broccoli sauce (B). The Benedetto Cavalieri company have been making pasta in Maglie Lecce in the south of Puglia since 1918. www.benedettocavalieri.it

And then, ‘Ombrina Arrosto con Zabione di Ostriche e Carciofi’ or roasted seabream with oyster sabayon and artichokes (A).

After this, ‘Zuppa Calda di Cioccolato al Latte e Bergamotto con Arancia e Crostini al Miele’ or warm milk chocolate and bergamot with orange and honey crostini (A).

Finally an assortment of sweets on slabs of marble and slate which I found to be a rather disjointed combination of flavours (C+).

I enjoyed the wine even more than the food thanks to the help of the knowledgeable sommelier, although most of that knowledge was transmitted in floral Italian. I requested all the drinks to be Puglian and he came up with a local organic Fiano called ‘Minutolo’ by Cantine Polvanera. www.cantinepolvanera.it

Fiano is a favourite grape of mine due to its beautiful fragrance, although I’ve usually only drunk it in Campania. It was fantastic (A), the best white of my four-week trip and I couldn’t stop lifting my glass. A snip at €23, compared to most of the other pricey wines in the eighty page wine list. Back in Bari I posted a dozen bottles home of the same wine, at about €7 a bottle.

For dessert the 2008 Muscat di Trani, appropriately named ‘Estasi’, was perhaps the best I’d ever tasted (A+) but I couldn’t find it in the wine shops in Bari sadly.

I also got to try a local Rosolio, a sweet liquor derived from rose petals, around 35% in strength. This base is then flavoured with other fruits, in this case ‘Gelso Rosso’ or red mulberry (B). It came from Gravina as so many Puglian liqueurs seem to do.

The bill came to €86.

Overall this was a great experience. Even if I have been a bit picky about some things, it will be a lasting memory of Monopoli.

Enoteca Il Tralcio, 33 Via Daniele Manin, open 9am till 1 and 5 till 9pm, www.enotecailtralcio.it

This place was recommended as the best wine shop in town by the local owner of a school I worked at, and he’s a guy who likes his wine so he should know.

20150408_085841Pierluigi the helpful owner chose for me a special bottle of Primativo di Manduria DOC for €22. This was a 2004 ‘Il Sava’ from Vinicola Savrese www.vinipichierri.com, that had been aged in terracotta jars using methods the cantina claim to be 2000 years old. I still haven’t opened it as it’s so special!

20140615_150324I also picked up a bottle of ‘Gariga’ amaro (again made in Gravina) that had impressed me at Terranima in Bari for €29.

Fratelli Meo, 53 Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II (the main square in the new town).

Also recommended by the school owner as being the  best deli in town, or certainly one of the oldest. A good place to pick up some nice ham and cheese to take home.

Caseificio Gioia In Tavola, 17 Via Paolo VI, Tel. 080 930 6720

According to the head waiter at Sabatelli, good burrata is also made in the Monopoli area (it’s most famous in nearby Andria) and ‘Joy in Table’ is the best place to get it. I haven’t been but I’m sure she’s right.

Hotel Clio (Intermediate C), 20 Via John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Tel. 080 802 711 www.cliohotel.it

I stayed at this fading hotel for six nights. The location isn’t too bad, it’s next to the sea, about 15 minutes’ walk from the old town (see separate posts for the Borgo Vecchio) and the train station.

The room I stayed in was basic but spacious and the Wi-Fi worked most of the time. The breakfast is unremarkable yet adequate but I’m told the food in the hotel restaurant is to be avoided.

The younger receptionists were very friendly and helpful, especially Analisa (studying for our exam), but the two miserable old toads who seem to run the place really could do with finding some other vocation in life.

The best thing about the hotel is the large outdoor pool area which was empty when I was there in mid-June. It’s also a stone’s throw from the sea should you fancy a dip in salt water instead. There is no beach just here but a lot of people swim off the rocks.

A colleague who couldn’t walk very well was put up at the Palazzo Indelli in Piazza Garibaldi which is right in the thick of things and looks much posher. Their restaurant was on my hit list but it was a bit pricey and the restaurant never seemed busy so I left it.

I’d happily put up with the Hotel Clio though if I could get to visit Monopoli again.

Monopoli – Sunday lunch by the sea

Posted in Italy, Monopoli, Puglia with tags on April 10, 2015 by gannet39

As I mentioned two posts ago, after a walk along Lungomare Santa Maria till you get to Porta Vecchia, you can walk out of the town and go to one of several little beaches and inlets along the coast.

The beaches are quite small and many people also swim off the rocks.

The first rocky beach is Cala Portchia, under the town’s sea wall, and right next to it, the sandy Cala Porta Vecchia.

The next beach is Cala Cozze and then two inlets; Porto Bianco and my destination Porto Rosso, probably not more than 15 minutes’ walk from the old town.

 

In Porto Rosso I went to this excellent restaurant for Sunday lunch. You can find the it on this Google map.

 

Lido Bianco (High Intermediate A), 3 Via Procaccia, Tel. 080 246 2030 www.ristorantelidobianco.com

This is a great place, I had a wonderful life-affirming experience here.

The first thing you see when you walk into this large restaurant is a spectacular display of seafood, some of it still very much alive. A team of workers were beavering away preparing it for the kitchen.

Having done my research I knew to walk to the back of the restaurant and walk up the stairs outside to ‘the secret garden’, basically a patio with a handful of tables on the top of the headland. A really wonderful little spot overlooking the azure Adriatic sea. I’d made sure I was the first one there when they opened so I got to pick my table.

I was in full on treat mode for this one after a hard week’s work so with the help of my friendly young waiter I ordered a seafood banquet *(the bill final came to €48) starting with their fantastic Piatti di Frutti di Mare Assorti (salmon, octopus, prawn and more) (A).

The Taglioline al Nero di Seppia con Vongole Veraci Pomodorini e Pesto di Basilico (squid ink pasta with clams, cherry  tomatoes and basil pesto) was also stunning in every way (A).

Finally, some simple grilled prawns, one of my favourite things in life (A).

The Salento Chardonnay ‘Numen’ from Canitna Paol0 Leo www.paololeo.it was the best I’d had so far from the region (B+).

After a homemade limoncello (B+), and some dark chocolate and amaretti, I think I found true contentment. I insist that you come here for lunch on a sunny day if you’re in town.

Please click on the photos to see a full size slideshow.

 

 

Monopoli– Borgo Vecchio – stuff to eat

Posted in Borgo Vecchio, Italy, Monopoli, Puglia with tags , , , , on April 9, 2015 by gannet39

This post is about food in the old town, please see my previous post for other stuff, and the next ones for other areas.

Here’s my Google map with all the places mentioned.

Osteria Perricci (Low Intermediate A), 1 Via Orazio Comes, Tel. 080 937 2208, closed Wednesday

Lauded in several Italian guides, this was the best place in the old town for me in terms of good food at a good price. They serve authentic, rustic local cuisine, and plenty of it.

I came twice and had ‘the sea’ and ‘the earth’ menu which were available for both lunch and dinner. Of the two the seafood is the best, as you would expect being so near the sea. Once I spent just €20 and another time I paid €38, because I had a bottle of wine and four courses, instead of house wine and 3 courses

Invariably you start with complimentary olives (B) and bruschetta (A) before moving onto a host of antipasti. Most of it is great except for the green gloopy Crema di Rucola on a rusk which is virtually tasteless (C+) and the dried tomatoes are a bit bitter too (C) but the sausage and young provolone are ok (B). The fried courgettes are great (A).

The green vegetable that has been fried and tossed with breadcrumbs in the picture was described as ‘asparagi di mare’ but it’s very different from samphire which gets called ‘sea asparagus’ in the UK. It was okay, a bit bitter, but certainly edible (C+).

The primi are very simple, such as their Oricchiette al Pomodoro (A), and Linguine agli Scampi (B+), served with a bowl of hot chillis in oil on the side.  The secondi similarly so, in my case chargrilled Gamberoni alla Griglia and another time Spiedino Misto alla Griglia (grilled kebab of squid and king prawn) (both B+). The house red is ok (B) but next time instead of trying the house white I upgraded to a bottle of fruity Malvasia (B+).

Dessert on one occasion was melon. I didn’t try their cakes as they looked a bit dry. To finish you could have a homemade ‘liquore di alloro’, a bay leaf liqueur (B), or a clear and quite sour limoncello (A).

The old lady running the place is a bit stern but who cares when the food is as good as it is. The other waiters are nice enough (a glum youth and a smiley man) and Roy Orbison is alive and well and working in the kitchen.

Remember you can click on these pics to get a full screen slideshow.

La Vecchia Taverna (Low Intermediate B+),33 Via Argento, Tel. 080 777 779, www.lavecchiataverna.it

Another cheap, authentic and rustic place that attracts a fair few tourists. The food is good although not quite as good as Perricci, but the owner is more friendly.

I had the €25 set menu for lunch involving some good antipasti (B), Linguine ai Frutti di Mare (B) and grilled prawns. House white (B). Can’t remember the dessert but I got a glass of Muscat di Trani dessert wine to finish.

I sat inside as it was so hot but they open a terrace at the back in the evenings. A bit of a walk from my hotel but worth it.

Il Cavaliere (Intermediate B+), 17 Via Cavaliere, Tel. 080 930 3106

This is a very good place foodwise, but the atmosphere doesn’t feel very comfortable. Mind you that might be because they gave me a table in front of the TV so I could watch England get knocked out of the 2014 World Cup by losing 2-1 to Uruguay. I didn’t let this spoil my appetite though.

I started with the Antipasti Crudo della Casa which was very fresh, and tasted even better with some local Favalosa olive oil. I can’t help wishing for some Kikkoman soya sauce and a dollop of wasabi when I eat raw seafood in Puglia though (B).

Then Malagliati (‘badly cut’) pasta with Crema di Ceci, Vongole i Gambaretti (B+), followed by a Frittura Mista (B+). They serve everything on warmed plates, a rare occurrence in Italy. All this with a bottle of Salento white (B).

I finished with a large slab of Spumoni a layered Neapolitan icecream cake (B+). Also a couple of glasses of Passito di Pantelleria dessert wine from Sicily and some complementary Sfoglia con Crema Pasticcera (pastries with vanilla custard).

The bill came to €45. A good place with good food but slightly lacking in atmosphere.

Osteria Il Gozzo (Low Intermediate C), 5 Piazza Garibaldi, Tel. 080 930 1997

In many ways the opposite of Il Cavaliere above; a pleasant atmosphere but substandard food! It looks lovely both inside and out, and the people are nice, but they need a new chef.

The only nice thing about the antipasti was the dish it was presented in. The courgettes were brackish and undercooked (C-), as was the vinegary aubergine. The octopus salad was unremarkable (B-). Carpaccio di Bacalau was a new concept for me, and not a particularly nice one (C). The following gratinated mussels were too salty (C).

Wanting to relive well known southern dishes I ordered Orechiette (little ears) pasta con Cime de Rape (‘turnip tops’). It wasn’t until it arrived that I remembered how much I dislike the bitter green vegetable, and it was particularly unpleasant here. I picked out the pasta and left the green gloop (C-/D).

Mind you the Italians probably feel the same way about turnips. Funny how two cultures can eat different parts of the same plant.

Thankfully the Negroamaro got better as it breathed (B) and the final Sorbetto and Limoncello were both fine (B).

A place to avoid unfortunately.

Pizzeria The King (Elementary B+), 31 Via Orazio Comes, www.facebook.com

I like this place. They sell good pizzas and fritti but the best thing is that you can eat al fresco under an awning in a nice little square. I had their pizza and fish & chips on separate occasions, both were very good (B+).

They also sell Puccia, spelt flour breadcakes baked in a wood-fired pizza oven and which are used to make sandwiches filled with ham, cheese, rocket etc.

NB the previous link lists lots of other interesting Puglian dishes too. Just run the text through Google translate.

The middle aged guy who owns it (an Elvis lover?)  is very friendly and will practice his English on you. He also makes excellent homemade limoncello and he sold me a bottle to take home at a very reasonable price.

La Dolce Vita (Intermediate B), 29 Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, Tel. 080 410 7816 www.ladolcevitamonopoli.it

A popular pizza bar on the buzzing Piazza Garibaldi. I don’t know why I came here, probably because The King was closed and I wanted something easy and simple after a big lunch somewhere else. My Margarita was fine, but so it should be (B).

I had a Poretti beer here for the first time (B+). Produced in Varese in Lombardia, they’re now owned by Carlsberg quelle surprise.

Wunderbar Café (Intermediate A), 31 Corso Pintor Marneli

The name is cheesy but this German pub seems to be the buzziest place back street place in town for a midweek drink. They do food as well but I haven’t tried it. Their cocktails are good though and the atmosphere is fun and friendly.

Monopoli – Borgo Vecchio – stuff to see

Posted in Italy, Monopoli, Puglia with tags , , , , on April 8, 2015 by gannet39

I really liked Monopoli. Everyone I met was very friendly, the old centre is lovely and it’s right by the sea. It’s just about perfect in every way.

The population is about 50,000 but this doubles in summer with the influx of tourists. You’d think they’d be a bit jaded with such a large influx of outsiders but people got to know me quickly and I was greeted on the street regularly, even though I was only there for six nights.

One theory of how Monopoli got its name was for being the ‘only city’ to give sanctuary to the survivors of the destruction of neighbouring town by the Visigoths in the 6th century.

20140622_114601The hub of the Borgo Vecchio (old town) is Piazza Garibaldi which has a concentration of bars and restaurants, for more of which please see the next post dedicated to grub.

20140619_195858The Torre Civic is in one corner of the square. Please click on these photos for a better view.

To get to the harbour, take Via Porto out of the square and turn left down a short passageway. There are several fishing boats in the picturesque Porto Vecchio, which is definitely a good sign for what’s available in the restaurants.

Overlooking the harbour is Castello Carlo V, built in 1525. It was used as a jail until 1969 which is surprising given how small it is.

From the castle it’s a nice walk along Lungomare Santa Maria till you get to Porta Vecchia.

From here you can follow the coast and go to one of several little beaches and inlets (see separate coast post).

Or you could turn back into the old town. The cathedral is not far from here. The roman crypt was being excavated when I was there. For information on tours and events have a look at this website for the local cultural association.

It’s quite amazing just how many churches you can squeeze into such a small area.

One rather spooky one is Chiesa di Santa Maria del Suffragio also known as ‘Il Purgatorio‘, which is dedicated to the cult of death. The church is famed for having the mummies of dead monks hanging on its walls! It was being renovated when I was there so I couldn’t go in, and I’m not sure if it will go back to how it was. The church is near the cathedral, on Via Argento.

I loved just wandering around the maze of streets, stumbling across little gems at every turn.

I liked it so much that I spent a lot of time fantasising about living here. I even looked up a few places on property websites!

A couple of links are here and here if you’re interested. And here’s my Google map of the town.

Now for the grub…

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