Puglia – a blissful stay in Trani

Trani is an absolute gem, a beautiful little fishing port, originally founded by the Greeks but with examples of several architectural styles in the old centre. The unusual Romanesque cathedral should certainly be visited.


Local food products include fruit, olive oil, and the famous Muscat di Trani, a fortified dessert white wine, for which the town has its own DOC. The hotel is next to the harbour, and there are several restaurants around the marina, although I avoided these as they were empty and looked like tourist traps (I was there in November). The better places are generally down the backstreets but there is a huge choice.

Corteinfiore (Advanced A), 18 via Ognissanti, tel 0883 508402, closed Monday. GEM ALERT!

This is a wonderful place, bright and modern with an internal garden which is heated in the winter. The service is excellent and the owner very friendly and helpful. We went for a shared €10 Antipasti di Mare Cotto, which included ricotta wrapped in smoked swordfish (A), cod (stockfish) and potato patties coated with polenta flour and fried and served with sundried tomatoes and a hint of chilli (A), marinaded tuna with zucchini (B), roast octopus with rape (B), seared tuna (B) and prawns wrapped in pancetta (C). I also had some Antipasti di Mare Crudo which consisted of tuna, swordfish and prawn sashimi (B). My first course was “Caramelle” di Zucchine e Ricotta con Gamberi su Vellutata di Zucca Gialla (A), which was homemade ravioli stuffed with ricotta and prawns and served in a seasonal pumpkin sauce, for €10. Alison Slade had some huge langoustines, fresh from the quay, which were €20 for 250g. To drink we were recommended to start with the very original and different tasting Come d’Incanto (€10, B+), a white made with the Puglian red Nero di Troia grape from Cantina Carpentiere who have only been making it for the last two years. We followed with “Canonico” (B+), a Negroamaro from Cantine due Palme in the Salento IGT (B+). It cost €13 but my friend Nicky saw it later for €4 in the supermarket. To finish we had a glass of delicious Muscat di Trani, a famous local dessert wine with a lovely perfume and not too sweet (see enoteca note below). A real winner overall for service, ambience, food and value for money. Also Gambero Rosso recommended.

Trattoria U’Vrascir (Intermediate A), 9 Piazza Cesare Battisti (near the cathedral), Tel. 0883 491840, closed Tuesday.

Nicky went here and said it was even better than the place above! You can opt for Antipasti from the sea or the earth. She went for the latter and had six delightful vegetable and meat dishes.

Locanda Pesevenghi (Intermediate A-), 80 via Marittimi (on the harbourfront), Tel. 347 0303458, closed Tuesdays.

This tiny place (20 seats) was recommended by reception, but I didn’t get in the first time I went as there were no single tables. I went again for lunch and had an excellent local spaghetti-like pasta dish with squid, tiny prawns and baby clams. The house white would have been nicer more chilled but it was ok, and the homemade bread was some of the nicest I have tasted in Italy, soft and still warm. The attractive interior has the feel of a library, shelved books interspersed with knick knacks and nudes. The lady proprietor was very friendly and helpful. A nice little spot.

Ristorante Torrente Antico (Advanced A-), 3 via E.Fusco (bit hard to find, it’s on a backstreet near Piazza Republica).

Found this place by chance and went in for lunch, even though it was empty, due to the window being plastered with guide book stickers. On entering I was hit with a slightly musty old-building smell but it wasn’t intolerable. The walls are covered with shelves bearing a huge array of wine bottles and grappas so I think it doubles as an enoteca. The bow-tied silver service waiter was a very pleasant and helpful chap who spoke a little English. I received a complimentary salt-cod pattie while I was waiting for my Mezze Maniche ai Frutta di Mare (half tubes of medium-size pasta with several clams, squid and a solitary prawn) which was very nice (A-) although the pasta was a little hard. The menu had only three meat options but twice that number of ‘sea fruit’ dishes. Would definitely go again.

La Locanda (Intermediate B), 10/12 via Zanarelli (off the harbourfront, just after Piazza Teatro).

I chose this place because it was busy when all other places were empty, but with hindsight many of the customers were probably staying at the inn, rather than being locals. The ancient stone interior is very atmospheric if a little cramped; I had to change chairs to allow the portly (but very friendly) waiter to squeeze past my table. The decor is unusual, ranging from beautiful tablecloths to more dodgy ceramic smiley suns, still life drawings of fruit, pictures of Glenlivet dray horses and displays of bar utensils in glass cases. I took a chance on the Antipasti Vari con Mare Cotto, without knowing what I was going to get. There were six dishes of cooked seafood, including smoked salmon and swordfish (A), battered chunks of white fish (A), heavily salted prawns (B), squid in tomato sauce (C), oyster mushrooms (C) and the rather tasteless Cernia con Crema di Carciofi (white fish in a puree of artichoke hearts) (C) accompanied by a bottle of non-descript €13 Puglian Chardonnay and two grappas (one complimentary). Total cost €35 with water and cover. I’m sure you can get better dishes here though, a neighbouring table’s scampi looked amazing, so don’t let my C’s put you off going, just choose something else.

Osteria ai Platani (Intermediate B), 16 via E.Comneno, left and left out of the hotel, it’s on a crossroads)

Pleasant enough food, nothing special. After complementary arancini and bruschetta, three of us had a hard time getting through all six dishes of the Antipasto Completo which included marinaded anchovies (from the tin?), prawns and barley, smoked fish with potatoes, mussel gratin, and something lasagne like. House white was fine and the Muscat di Trani dessert wine was wonderful. Nearest decent non-touristy place to the hotel.

You should really take a bottle of Muscat di Trani home with you and there is a good enoteca at #16 Corso Regina Elena which had a choice of two 500ml bottles for €10 and €8.60. However, if you go a couple of doors down to #8 and go through the bead curtain, you will find a chap sat on a plastic garden chair selling his own wine on tap out of four large tanks. He sold me 1.5 litres of nouvelle Muscat in a plastic water bottle for €6, bargain! He also has Aglianico and Montepuciliano. GEM ALERT!

Probably Greek in origin, venerated by kings and Venetian traders, the ancient Muscat di Trani comes in two varities. The ‘sweet’ (dolce)is a golden yellow with an intense aroma and an alcohol content of 12.5. The second ‘liquerish’ (liquoroso) variety is aged for at least a year and has an alcohol content of 18. It should be served at 10\12 degrees and goes well with almond cakes, fruit salads and mild cheeses.

We stayed at Hotel San Paolo al Convento, a very pleasant former convent on the harbourside. Room 204 was the best of three, with two balconies and sea views on two sides. There’s free internet access in all the rooms, just ask for a connecting lead from reception. There’s no gym but I had a pleasant run in the nearby Villa Communale and around the harbour, cathedral and castle.

Written November 2009.

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