Archive for the Italy Category

Calabria – Lamezia Terme – a great meal in Nicastro

Posted in Calabria, Catanzaro Province, Italy, Lamezia Terme, Nicastro with tags , , on March 19, 2019 by gannet39

Lamezia Terme is home to the second main airport in Calabria. The municipality is in fact an amalgamation of a few small towns and villages including the former municipalities of Nicastro, Sambiase and Sant’Eufemia Lamezia. My map is here.

I was working in Nicastro where I stayed at the Hotel Savant for two nights. The hotel is a bit old and faded but the breakfast is okay, and the staff, like everyone else I met in Nicastro, were very warm and friendly.

I didn’t see anything of note (although there is a Norman castle which I didn’t get round to visiting) and I didn’t have any expectations but I was really bowled over by the lovely people of the town who made me very welcome.

For instance, when I was doing a bit of fruit and veg shopping for stuff to take home (check out these lovely ‘datterini’ tomatoes, so called because they are the size and shape of dates)…

…I asked the old guy (not sure if he was the farmer or the grocer) if I could take a pic of his lovely apricots which had just arrived and ended up having a couple pressed into my hand for free. Such is Southern Italian hospitality and I love them for it.

The shop (at 16 Piazza Felice Sacchi) was also taking delivery of several crates of local cherries which were being stacked up high anywhere there was space, the fruits covered by fern fronds to protect them from the sun.

After finishing my last day of work I felt in the need to celebrate with a couple of beers. There are several bars in the main square but I noticed that in the kitchen of one ( Bar Bottega 89 at 87 Corso Numistrano) they were frying homemade Arancini so I hung around waiting for them to be done.

My patience was rewarded with a still warm, ragu-filled Arancino with the mozzarella just having melted. So, so good, especially with a cold beer.

On the last night of my trip I decided to eat at this little restaurant as it was the Tripadvisor #1 at the time of writing in early June 2017, for good reason as I discovered…

Alla Pentolaccia (High Elementary A+), 17 Salita Fratelli Maruca, www.allapentolaccia.it

This is a pretty little place tucked away on a back street. A Pentolaccia is similar to a Mexican piñata; a game where you break a container with lots of treats inside. It’s definitely a very apt name for this establishment.

I was given a very warm welcome by the friendly owner Franco who was assisted front of house by his son while his wife is the creative talent in the kitchen.

They specialise in ‘cucina territoriale’ and all the ingredients are locally sourced.

All the food on the menu is excellent (I should know, I ate most of it), as is their house red wine which Franco insisted I have rather than purchase a more expensive bottle as I had originally requested.

We kicked off with the antipasti; first an earthenware dish with a stuffed zucchini flower, a red onion frittata and a meatball, all deep fried deliciousness.

Next small dishes of green beans, a stuffed aubergine and a small mozzarella with tomato sauce served with rocket. Also a cheese board with two kinds of pecorino; fresh and aged, the latter, from Crotone, being one of the most powerful I’ve ever tasted as it had been matured for two years.

Can’t remember what this was but I could eat it right now.

This I think is Friarelli, a bitter cruciferous green.

I’d skipped lunch so I could have a proper feast and I followed up with one of the specialities of the house; Morzello made with tripe, heart, lungs, tomatoes, tomato puree, pepperoncino and oregano, which was wonderful. It’s served with a special bread called Pitta (it’s the big round loaf with a hole in the middle that you see in local bakeries, here sliced into short curves) which is especially good for sopping up the sugo.

I was in full beast mode so I had another main dish of Salsiccia con Porcini, sausage with boletus mushrooms (ceps) which even though it wasn’t in season and the mushrooms were a little hard from being soaked from dry, was still delicious (blurred photo, sorry).

After 3.5 hours of eating I crawled over the finish line with a slice of cherry pie and a glass of sweet wine.

So what do you think I paid for all ten dishes, a litre of wine and three homemade shots of Amaro? A mere €30, which is absolutely stunning value. I should know a bargain when I see it as I calculate that I’ve eaten in over 400 restaurants in Italy in the last seventeen years and this is definitely one of my favourites, both for the food and the hospitality.

Franco and I had become good friends during the time I was there and he sent me off with a kiss on each cheek and a warm glow inside. Many thanks to you Franco and to your lovely family, it was a real pleasure from beginning to finish. I must return one day!

I also went to another restaurant during my stay, but it wasn’t a patch on Franco’s place…

Novecento (Advanced B), 5 Largo San Antonio

This is the only Michelin recommended (not starred) place in the area. It’s okay but a bit posh and pricey for my tastes. The service was good, especially from the older chap, but I wasn’t overly impressed by the food.

I’d come hoping for local delicacies done well but I think it caters more for locals who want a change from the norm. Local ingredients are used but they are relatively far and few between. They do a good bread basket though.

To begin I was given this complementary creation, not sure what it was, but it didn’t impress. It’s the kind of fussy preparation that I detest (C).

I followed on with the Stroncatura Calabrese al Baccala e Peperoni Arrostiti (B). Stroncatura is a type of local pasta made with the flour and bran residues from milling grain. The whole wheat and rye gives it a coarse appearance. The pasta is generally seasoned with typical peasant ingredients such as olive oil, olives, garlic, Calabrian chili peppers, anchovies, and toasted breadcrumbs but here with saltcod and roasted peppers.

Then the Tonno in Crosta di Pistacchio, Sedano Rapa e Radicchio alla Soia, tuna steaks grilled and coated with crumbled pistaccios (B).

The Fiego Bianco white wine failed to make much of a mark on me (B) even though it was recommended by the head waiter, but I am a fussy bugger.

I enjoyed the dessert more; Cannoli alla Moda Nostro, or their house deconstructed cannolis (B+).

With these I had with a glass of 2011 Passito sweet wine called Bristace (B+), from the famous Tenuta Iuzzolini once again.

Finally I tried a trio of Calabrian amari. First a new kid on the block called Jefferson which I really liked (B+) and the more venerable Manfredi which was just okay (B). I contrasted these to all-time favourite Amaro di Capo (A). Capo is a bit sweeter than the others which might explain its commercial success (you’ll see it in most Italian airports). These were all complimentary as is often the case in Calabria.

With water and cover, the bill should have come to 60€ but they gave me a 5€ discount for some reason and I noticed while I was writing this that the dessert doesn’t seem to have been charged for, so I can’t really complain too much about paying 50€.

An okay place, perhaps good for a date, but I won’t be rushing back.

So a great time was had in Nicastro! I really look forward to going back one day. Off to Spain again next…

Calabria – a short stay in Cosenza

Posted in Calabria, Cosenza, Cosenza Province, Italy on March 18, 2019 by gannet39

Cosenza doesn’t have the greatest rep amongst my colleagues as there’s not much to see except seemingly endless blocks of modern flats.

There is a rather scrubby looking old town, on the slopes below the unimpressive looking castle on the hill (top left in the pic), but I didn’t have time to walk up to it so I can’t really say what it’s like.

I stayed at the Hotel Italiana Cosenza www.hicosenza.it (the former Holiday Inn) which met all my requirements; a good breakfast with handmade coffee, strong Wi-Fi, spacious modern rooms and pleasant staff. They also have a gym which I didn’t have time to use but I imagine it must be pretty decent as it’s open to the public.

The only downside is the hotel is at the other end of town from all the restaurants and Cosenza is very linear so you’re looking at a 45 minute walk to get to the good places. However I don’t really mind that as I’m sitting down all day and it’s good to stretch the old pins and walk up an appetite.

My map is here.

There’s not a lot to see that I’m aware of. If you fancy a wander anyway, Piazza Carlo F. Bilotti seems like an interesting modern take on what a square should be. The main shopping street Corso Mazzini runs off the square and gets quite busy in the evenings.

For more serious holidaymakers than me, Cosenza is the main jump off point for Sila National Park. The symbol of the park is the wolf so you might see it around, especially as it’s the nickname of the local football time is also the Lupini.

As far as restaurants go, here are my favourite places in order of preference…

Cantina Cosentina (Elementary A), 12 Corso Plebiscito

It says they are closed on Monday on their business card but it was open when I went. They were #1 on Tripadvisor when I went in June 2017, probably because it sells good but simple local fare at a very reasonable price. I went twice and really enjoyed it both times.

The ebullient owner will most likely greet you and ask whether you’d like to sit inside or out. As the June evenings were quite warm I always chose one of the tables on the pavement.

Not a lot of English is spoken and the menu is delivered verbally in strong dialect so it would make things easier to brush up on your Italian food vocab.

As soon as you arrive some Peperoncino Nduja mixed with olive oil hits the table.

I’ve lost my notes but from the looks of things went for their Antipasta di Terra which involved some cheeses, salami, grilled aubergines and courgettes, a tomato and red onion salad and some kidney beans mixed with tuna and onions.

You can also have meatballs without sauce as a starter.

The paccheri with tomatoes, nduja and grated ricotta is pretty decent.

I think this is stewed veal. It was fine, if not very photogenic.

I remember the house red was okay, and it could stand up to heat of chillies. Much preferred their Ciro though as I recall. It’s generally considered to be Calabria’s best DOC.

Liquorice is another famous ingredient from Calabria so I was intrigued to try it in this dessert. It was fine as I recall but not mind blowing.

And for the road, a shot of Amaro Silano boscoliquori.it which is made in Figline Vegliaturo, a village on the edge of town (note the wolf symbol). It was okay but nothing amazing (B).

So no grades sorry but I remember it being a really enjoyable experience with good, rustic food and a pleasant ambience. My top pick in Cosenza.

Antica Locanda dal Povero Enzo (High Intermediate B), 42 Via Monte Santo, www.anticalocandadalpoveroenzo.com

A local gourmet recommended this higher end place to me and as it had already come up in my own research I decided to give it a whirl. It’s about forty minutes’ walk from the town. You have to press the buzzer to be let in by the snooty MD.

I can’t say I was particularly impressed by the service or the food but the latter was partly my fault due to my poor choices. I went for the dishes on the menu that had local ingredients but, as the restaurant is primarily aimed at giving locals Italian cuisine made with international ingredients (eg Scottish and Australian beef), I didn’t do very well.

To start, some antipasti including Cubi di Mortadella di Cinta Senese Tartufata, or cubes of grilled mortadella which were lovely (A-). Also, Crostino Caldo all Nduja di Spilinga; hot toast with best quality pepperoncino spread, Pecorini Calabro Toscani al Miele di Catagno del Cosentino; two kinds of pecorino cheese from Tuscany and Calabria and some Soppressata Calabrese Gentile and Coppa di Cinta Senese charcuterie (all B).

Next the Guancia; beef cheeks stewed in a liquorice sauce. Not actually as bad as it sounds as the liquorice was quite subtle. Give me the Spanish version over this any day though (B-). The baked potatoes they were served with didn’t do much for me either (C).

Next the Maccheroncini Saltati al Juice di Salsiccia Calabra, Pepi Cruschi dell’ Esaro e Polvere di Pane Croccante; aka small macaroni tubes sautéed with the juices from Calabrian sausage, crushed peppers and crunchy breadcrumbs. It was an interesting example of cocina povera but I wouldn’t reorder it (C+).

The Cariglio wine started as a B+ but declined to a B. The stong berry nose and the very dry finish means it’s not for everyone.

By this time I’d made friends with the Swiss and Japanese couple on the next table so I had a couple of grappas as we all reminisced about Tokyo. The white Sicilian grappa wasn’t up to much (C+)…

…but the aged grappa from Trento in the north was better (B).

I also enjoyed their soundtrack of old soul music. With water the bill came to 56€ which seemed fair.

Galliano Industrial Bistro (Intermediate B+), Via Galliano (no number)

A slightly forbidding name but it’s actually quite a decent place for food and at the weekend, cocktails and music, or so I was told. I was pulled in by the fact they were playing an Erykah Badu album on loop which is not a problem as far as I’m concerned.

I began with the a Sicilian classic Pasta alla Norma made here with Cortecce pasta (B+).

Then Tagliatas di Picanha; rare rump steak (at my request) with diced roast potatoes and rosemary (B+).

The young guy serving was very nice and I had a good chat with him at the end, even though he was quite hard to understand; a combination of his fast delivery and local dialect.

He recommended a hearty Calabrian red from Cantine Odoardi called Savuto which went well with the meat (B+). It’s a blend of 45% of the Gaglioppo grape (called Arvino locally) and 25% Aglianico to give it structure, along with some other local grapes.

And for dessert, some nice cheeses.

And finally, a shot of Nero, a Calabrian liquorice liqueur, which wasn’t really my thing (C).

A good place which might be fun at the weekend. I’d happily go again.

If you’re on a budget and looking for somewhere cheap and cheerful cantine style place, try Pizzami at 19/20 Piazza Europa.

I also did a spot of shopping…

As I was nearing the end of the trip I went to Dok on Via Marconi, the nearest decent supermarket to the Hotel Italiana Cosenza, and got a few goodies to take home.

They had oregano still on the branch. It’s one of my favourite things to take back because it weighs virtually nothing. La Cosentina is a local business with an online shop.

Some other things that I couldn’t resist taking home were; some Nduja from Spilinga (the best stuff), a kilo of top quality dried spaghetti by Mezzani di Martino from Gragnano in Campania (again, the best) and also some of the famous liquorice from Amarelli in Rossano (do I need to repeat myself?) for friends who like that kind of thing. When added to my stash of choclates and brandy from Lyon, it was quite a haul.

Thanks Cosenza, you were very hospitable. I would like to go back, just to get to know you a bit better.

Just one more stop in Calabria before heading home…

Calabria – peaceful Parghelia

Posted in Calabria, Italy, Parghelia, Vibo Valentia Province with tags , , , on March 17, 2019 by gannet39

Rather than pay over the odds by staying in pricey Tropea, I got a place in Parghelia, the next station down the line. From here it’s about thirty minutes on foot if you’re going to the main beach, or fifty if you’re walking up to the old town in Tropea.

I stayed for two nights in May in a flat I rented from a friendly family via AirBnB. It was about £35 a night, which is very reasonable.

You could of course pay an extra tenner for an AirBnB in the old town and save yourself some walking. Hotels are £100 plus a night in Tropea, although I did find somewhere a bit out of town for £50. No idea what it’s like though.

What sealed it for me though is that Parghelia has two stunning little beaches right next to each other, just a few metres from where I was staying.

Not sure what the southernmost one is called but the slightly larger of the two is Spiaggia Michelino. Video here.

The water here is super clear so you can see shoals of small fish really well.

There were only about ten people on the beach when I went, a far cry from the much larger beaches which get busier and busier as you get nearer to Tropea.

Every morning I walked the short distance to the main street in Parghelia…

Bar Pepe (Intermediate B+), 51 Corso Vittorio Emanuele

This was my spot for my breakfast cappuchino and cornetto. The coffee is decent (B) and there’s lots of space with two seating areas outside, front and back. A friendly lady who speaks good English works here too.

I ate out a couple of times as well…

Pizzeria da Antonio (Intermediate B+), 10 Via Principe di Piemonte

Had a perfectly decent Pizza Margarita here. Enjoyed the atmosphere as well because you could sit outside and the young servers were friendly and helpful.

It was with heavy heart I had to move on to Cosenza on Sunday but I had a fair bit of time to kill after check out but before my train, so I went to this place on the main street in Parghelia and coincidentally ended up having one of the best meals of the entire trip.

Il Portale (Intermediate A), Piazza Ruffa but effectively on Corso Vittorio Emanuele, www.ristorantepescefresco.parghelia.vv.it

The Antipasto di Mare is really good here (A/B+) and beautifully presented.

The pacchieri with langoustine was also very good (A).

I was less impressed by the bottle of Madre Goccia But it was okay (B).

Friendly service was provided by a nice girl from Transylvania who had lived in London for seven years, so her English was very good.

With a draught beer and a limoncello the bill was around 50€, a bit pricey but good value given the quality.

Weekend over! Back to work in gritty Cosenza next!

Calabria – places to eat and drink in Tropea

Posted in Calabria, Italy, Tropea, Vibo Valentia Province with tags , , , on March 16, 2019 by gannet39

After breakfast in Parghelia (see next post) I’d walk about twenty minutes to the main beach which is about two thirds of the way to Tropea. Map here.

You can hire sun loungers and other kit here, and also eat at a beach restaurant, which you can’t do at the secluded beaches in Parghelia.

The best food I ate in Tropea was at this place on the beach…

Lido la Grazie (Intermediate B+), Contrada Marina La Grazia

I ate lunch here twice and was very well taken care of by the mother and son team on the bar who run the place and their friendly waiters.

I also rented the lido’s sun loungers (a lattina with an ombrello) which cost 5€ for half a day or 9€ for a full day.

On one occasion I had the Spaghetti alla Vongole con Zenzero, Buccia di Lime, Aglio e Clorofilla di Prezzemolo, or spaghetti and clams with ginger, lime zest, garlic and a ‘chlorophyll’ paste of parsley, which was really good (B+).

I couldn’t argue with the Grigliata Mista di Pesce either (B+).

For dessert I continued to make the most of Calabria’s cherry season (A).

On the second visit I had the Antipasto della Casa; from top left going clockwise; Cipolla in Agrodolce (sweet and sour onion), Polpette di Melanzane (aubergine balls), Zucchina Gratinata (courgette au gratin), Frittelle di Fiori di Zucca e Acchiughe (pumpkin flower and sardine fritter), Peperoni Grigliati (grilled peppers), Sformatino di Parmagiana (parmagiana flan), all of which were fine (B).

I followed up with a primo of Fettucine allo Scoglio e Pesto alle Alghe; pasta ribbons with mussels and two kinds of clams (vongole and fasolari) in a seaweed pesto (A).

With this, the best bottle of white I’d had in Calabria on this trip, a Chardonnay from Tenuta Iuzzilini (B+).

The bill for this came to 42€ which was very fair I felt. So, no hesitations in recommending this place. Great food and lovely service from waiters who were my friends by the end of the two visits.

Speaking of friends, my mate Nicole, who is Calabrese and comes to Tropea nearly every year, recommends Lido de Nonno next door to Lido la Grazie for its good, cheap seafood. However it hadn’t opened yet when I was there as it was only May which isn’t officially summer as far as the Italians are concerned, although the temperatures were in the high twenties which is quite hot enough for me! She loves good grub so it must be a good place to try as well.

On my first day in the old town I did a walk round of all the restaurants I had on my hit list (map here). There were a lot that supposedly had good food so I tried to be quite strict with my choices.

More recent 2019 research indicates that Osteria Del Pescatore at 7 Via del Monte may well have the best food in town.

Not knowing that in 2017, I chose this next romantic restaurant purely because their best table was up for grabs…

Pimm’s (High Intermediate A), 2 Largo Migliarese, www.facebook.com/RistorantePimms

Not sure why this lovely restaurant has the same name as an awful English amaro (perhaps comparable to Campari but not nearly as nice) but once you forget about that it’s lovely.

Earlier in the day I had snagged the table with the best view.

Although I do like a vista, I suffer slightly from acrophobia so when gazing out through the open window I had to avoid looking straight down the sheer cliff face and peer instead at the sun going down behind Santuaria Santa Maria dell’Isola.

I didn’t grade this meal as I was too busy chatting with the friendly young waiter (probably lost my notes) but I remember that seafood is the thing here. I kicked off with the Crudo de Pesce, raw fish, tuna I think, which I thought was more of a Puglian thing but maybe they like it here too.

Spigola (sea bass) were the catch of the day and they were brought to my table so I could choose.

The Spaghetti alla Spigola looks wonderful and I’m sure it was very good.

I remember being happy with the Contessa Emburgo white wine from Lento, a Malvasia Chardonnay combo from Lamezia Terme.

I did have a second fish course but the photo is to blurry to show, a bit like me at this point!

Cocktail Bar Tropea (Intermediate B), 1 Largo Migliarese

After eating I wanted to watch the Champion’s League final which fortunately was being shown here on a big screen in the square right next to Pimm’s.

They had a new amaro that I hadn’t tried before, Petrus Boonekamp. A great name, but it didn’t impress me that much (B).

I saw Real Madrid beat Juventus 4-1 in the company of a friendly Swedish couple. Madrid deserved to win but I did feel for the Italians, some of whom were over optimistically expecting a win. Still, they went home with flags flying high.

Not all my evenings out were good though…

Pinturicchio (Intermediate C) 2 Via Dardano

Pinturicchio is a modern restaurant located in a bright white cellar but they also have candlelit tables on the street which is where I sat. There’s no view to be had as it’s down an alley but it’s still a very atmospheric spot.

When I do my research, I do look at every resource available, so I know Lonely Planet, Conde Naste and CNT all like Pinturicchio. When using Tripadvisor, I’m more interested in the number of reviews a place gets rather than its ranking. So as Pinturicchio was the most reviewed place in May 2017, and had a #7 ranking (#28 now in 2019), I thought I had the odds on my side when I rolled the dice on this one, but sadly I lost badly.

There were two problems, the food and the service. The usual array of Antipasti was fine (B), but I had to send back the Fileja alla Tropeana con Cipolla Rossa, the town’s signature dish (more of which in the next post). The combination of insipid pasta and thick slimy slices of onion was actually inedible for me (D) which in Italy is highly unusual. I’d lost my appetite and couldn’t manage anything else except a semi-freddo and a limoncello for dessert (both B) which went a little way to cheering me up.

The second problem was the waiting staff who were very young and completely untrained. I got brusque service from the start from one young woman and finally exploded and asked her what her problem was when she literally threw a knife onto my table as she was rushing past. To her credit she came back to apologise and shake my hand but then I got very similar treatment from a different young guy and so my angry mood just continued and I left feeling very discontented. The contrast with the older professionals down at the beach was striking! I suppose approaching peak season there must be a local waiter shortage and all the best ones choose the nicer places to work.

Anyway, enough moaning, despite the odd restaurant blip, I love Tropea! I suppose any touristy place is going to have some restaurants that are all hype and no substance.

To avoid paying over the odds in slightly pricey Tropea I stayed in the next town instead…

Calabria – a golden weekend in Tropea

Posted in Calabria, Italy, Tropea, Vibo Valentia Province on March 15, 2019 by gannet39

Tropea is a gem. My favourite town in Calabria and one of my most favourite places in the whole of Italy. My map is here.

Of course, it’s not just me that thinks that, so in the summer it becomes one of Calabria’s most important resort towns as thousands of holidaymakers, many from the north of Italy, flock to its long expanses of golden sand. Thankfully I was there in May before the main season had started. I’ll write more about the beach and also restaurants in the following posts.

The old town sits on high cliffs overlooking the sea so the views are stunning.

Especially around sunset. Videos here and here.

At this time of the evening you can just make out the volcanic island of Stromboli on the horizon.

The town’s most famous landmark is the Santuaria Santa Maria dell’Isola Church which is perched on its own separate rock.

It makes for a good walk as you can get even better views of the old town. Video here.

The old town itself is very pleasant to stroll around.

There are many cosy restaurants tucked down side streets, of which more in the next post.

And a few more snaps from walking around. Click on them to make them bigger if you’re on a computer.

As well as its locations, Tropea is famous for a special ingredient, a red onion called la Cipolla Rossa di Tropea that I mentioned above. It was first introduced by the Phoenicians over two thousand years ago. You’ll see it in all the veg shops.

The onion is renowned amongst Italian chefs for two reasons, firstly because it doesn’t make them cry when they cut it and secondly because of its sweet flavour. The particular taste of the onions is attributed to the silty soils, the influence of the sea and an unusual microclimate of nearly constant temperatures all year round. The official website has some recipes here.

Now I think it’s time to eat…

Calabria – searching in Cittanova

Posted in Calabria, Cittanova, Italy, Reggio di Calabria Province with tags , , on March 14, 2019 by gannet39

I can’t say I’m much of a fan of Cittanova unfortunately (map here). It’s a bit of a grim place due mainly to the fact that it has been levelled a few times by earthquakes, hence the name.

The last one was in 1783 and I’d guess that that’s when many of the buildings date from. Many of them are derelict which gives the place quite an eerie feel at night.

However, all was not lost as I discovered that Cittanova was famous for Stoccofisso (stockfish), Norwegian air dried cod which, as a demi Noggy myself, I find quite gobsmacking. I even met locals in Lamezia who said they would happily travel long distances just to eat ‘stocco’ in Cittanova.

Both the following restaurants would be good places to try it…

La Mamma (Intermediate B+/C-), 33 Via San Giuseppe

I came here twice and loved it the first time but hated it the second time, hence the B+/C- grade. The atmosphere is very rustic and traditional and the lady proprietor (la mamma?) was very friendly and welcoming both times.

The first time I had the Fantasia Mediterranea, a fairly typical selection of antipasti including Caponata, Parmagiana, Crochette, Fritelline di Fiore di Zucca and some fresh Ricotta d’Aspromonte (B\B+).

This came with some yellow coloured bruschetta which I’d never encountered before. It seems to be a thing as they sell it in their bar. When I researched it, the closest thing I found was Pane Giallo from Lazio which is made with polenta (semolina).

After this I had the Tris de Stocco, or stockfish prepared in three different ways; fried (A), roasted (B) and stewed (B). I really liked the black olives it came with (B+).

I got a decent bottle of Calabrian white called I Gelsi by Statti for 9€ (B). Not sure why but they don’t seem to put the names of the grapes on bottles of local wine.

I finished with two Cannolini scattered with flakes of chocolate which was great (A).

The final bill with a strange tasting Bergamotto Amaro (B-) and cover was a reasonable 37€.

On my second visit I started with the Stocco Antipasti but unfortunately found the stockfish virtually inedible (C/C-).

And I wasn’t keen on the Greco Bianco/Malvasia white wine blend called Dragone from Lento (C).

But the Tagliatelle Fresche con Fungi Porcini, fresh tagliatelle with ceps saved things a little (B+).

However the final Lemon Cake wasn’t very good (C) and I was given the worst, funky tasting Limoncello I’ve ever had (C-).

Not a great ending then. Unfortunately I drew the conclusion that you can only scrape together one good meal out of what’s available on the menu here. Go with whatever mamma suggests because it’s most likely the best stuff.

This is another ‘good’ restaurant but it’s not really my cup of tea…

Baconchi (High Intermediate B), 1 Via Piave, www.baconchi.com

This is the place where Cittanovans come to celebrate special occasions. The décor is brilliant white with chairs covered in material that’s tied in a ribbon at the back, so you feel like you’re at a wedding reception.

There are several pages of Stockfish dishes but as I’d had it the night before I was in the mood for something different. I began with the Mozzarella di Bufala which was okay (B).

After this I enjoyed some Zeppoline, deep-fried dough balls (B+).

I asked about what meat was good locally and was directed to the Braciola di Maiale con il Manico, a hefty pork chop, which the waitress described as ‘colosso’, and she wasn’t kidding (B+).

I had it with chips and a bottle of their own label red wine (both B).

With water the bill came to 30€ which is very reasonable for what I had.

Although this place isn’t really my style it is good value and the food is okay so I’d probably go again if I was staying longer.

Il Vecchio Molino (Intermediate B+), 44-46 Via Circonvallazione Est

The Tripadvisor #1 at the time of writing in May 2017 and also recommended as the best pizzeria in town by the local school owner. Of all the restaurants, it’s the furthest away from the Hotel Casalnuovo, about twenty five minutes’ walk.

I only went once and had a Piazza Diavolo (with nduja the spreadable spicy Calabrian sausage, and salami picante) which was quite hot but enjoyable (B) if a bit thirst inducing. Their draught beer was a bit flat but still just about drinkable (C).

I meant to go back to try the restaurant menu but the extra distance and bland interior wasn’t enticing enough.

There’s a Guinness pub called the Garden Irish Pub just around the corner at 5 Via Ugo Arcuri , but I didn’t get time to try it out. It seems popular with the locals though.

One day after work the teachers took me for an ice cream to a bar over the road from the park entrance. I can’t find the name but it’s on the corner of Via Regina Margherita and Largo Calvio, opposite Gelateria l’Oasi which it shouldn’t be mistaken for.

I had my first experience of the Ice Cream Brioche here. It’s a Sicilian thing apparently so you can’t argue with it as they basically invented modern gelato. It got a bit messy with three balls of strawberry, pistachio and stracciatella but it was very enjoyable (B+).

I stayed at the Hotel Casalnuovo which unfortunately is the only hotel in town. I say unfortunately because it’s a bit of a dump. Brown rusty water came out of the bathroom taps, the Wi-Fi wasn’t great and the breakfast choices are cardboard cornflakes or cakes in plastic packets. If you ask him the grumpy old male owner will begrudgingly make you a substandard Cappuchino.

The worst thing for me was the cockerels who lived next door who started crowing at 4am with their mates the geese joining in a couple of hours later! I’m really not sure how this place awarded itself four stars! I was ecstatic when I managed to leave one night earlier than I was supposed to, by escaping to Tropea for the weekend (see next post).

It’s a tough call for my employer. The only other place, the Uliveto Principessa Park Hotel (no website, but it has a pool in the summer) is right out in the sticks but then again there’s not much to see in Cittanova anyway. The food is the decider for me though (it’s apparently not very good in the Uliveto Principessa) so if I had to come back I’d stay at the Hotel Casalnuovo again just so I can walk to get some decent food. The Agriturismo Da Peppone might be another option though.

There’s not a lot to see and do here although I did stumble upon a free concert in front of the main church, Chiesa Madre, in Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi.

They are quite proud of their park as well, the Villa Comunale on Via Carlo Ruggiero, as it has some unusual plants including a Californian Redwood tree.

On the plus side, I happily coincided with the local cherry season. I’d get a bag from a roadside stall to snack on when I was walking back to the hotel after work. Such a simple pleasure but one of my favourite ones.

Off to Tropea next which is much nicer!

Calabria – A short break in Scilla

Posted in Calabria, Italy, Reggio di Calabria Province, Scilla with tags , , , on March 13, 2019 by gannet39

Scilla was my first stop on this trip to Calabria. It is considered one of the prettiest towns along the southwest coast although for me Tropea wears the crown (more of which later). I just stopped by because it was on the way to the town I was working in, so I arrived in the country a day earlier than I was supposed to and stayed for 36 hours of R&R.

My map is here.

It’s divided into two parts; first there is the beach area…

… which has a wide lungomare.

Then you come to the pretty Castillo Ruffo sitting high on a rocky headland. Legend has it the rock was the home of the Syclla sea monster in Homer’s Odyssey.

Passing under the castle you arrive first at the small harbour…

…before you come to Chianalea, the lovely old fisherman’s district.

There is only one very narrow street leading through Chianalea.

It seems like every nook and cranny is in use here.

On my first evening I had a magical experience eating at this restaurant…

Glauco (Intermediate A+), 95 Via Annunziata, www.glaucoscilla.com

This excellent restaurant was the Trip Advisor #1 at the time of writing.

I arrived as soon as they opened at 8pm to snag a good table and as it was a midweek night in May (this place will be heaving in July/August) I got a table looking out over the sea where I could watch the sunset over the castle.

The cruise ships coming from Reggio had a similar idea but once they had sailed past the castle they turned in front of my view and headed out to sea, probably towards the Aeolian Islands of Lipari and Stromoboli, which were just about visible on the horizon.

My happiness was made even more complete by the arrival of some excellent seafood alongside a chilled bottle of white in an ice bucket.

I really enjoyed the Chardonnay/Greco blend called Costa Viola by Crisera (B+).

I started with the Antipasto Misto di Mare; marinated octopus, tuna and swordfish, all delicious (A).

Alongside this, some stuffed squid, a fish ball and some mashed fish and potato creation which looked lovely but in terms of flavour were just okay (B).

And continued with the Trofie con Frutti di Mare, which turned out to be just pasta with some mussels and tomato, but it was superb (A+).

With a Limoncello, the total came to 55€, worth every penny for a perfect moment in terms of food and location.

Il Casito (Intermediate B), 25 Via Annunziata, www.ilcasatoscilla.it

This was the Tripadvisor #2 in 2017.

It’s okay food wise (B) but I would have had a better experience if I’d reserved a table on their outdoor terrace which is built over the sea.

Unfortunately it was Sunday and the whole place had been booked out for lunch by the locals. Get in quick is the lesson.

I had the Compose di Mare, which is a posh way of describing an Antipasto di Misto similar to what I had above. It was all fine (B).

I wasn’t that keen on the ‘5 Generazioni’ Greco Bianco white wine from Tramontana (C) but at least it was cheap.

Fileja con Vongole, Zucchine e Pesto al Pistacchio, an unusual local pasta with clams, courgettes and a pistachio pesto, was interesting but sadly had little flavour (C).

To finish the Semi-Freddo alla Zabaglione con Amaretti e Cioccolato went down very well (B+).

A good place but I think Glauco is better.

Casa Vela (Elementary B+), Via Annunziata, www.casavelascilla.it

I only came to this place for a drink while I was waiting for Glauco to open and ended up really liking it. The location seems very popular as all the tables on the street had been reserved.

The friendly owner serving gave me a glass of an excellent white called Critone by Librandi, which was made of a blend of non-indigenous grapes (B+).

His olives were fantastic too (B+).

Casa Vela was one of the B&Bs I considered staying in (many didn’t reply as it was the off season) but eventually I chose a room at the Hotel U’Bais www.ubais.it near the beach. It was fine for 50€ a night but nothing special (C+).

Final tip: don’t trust the changing rooms at the beach bars.

And that was my brief break in Scilla. It’s a very pleasant spot but a couple of days were enough for me. It was certainly much cheaper than Lyon where I’d just come from so a good place for a few days cheap holiday. Off to work in Cittanova next…

Campania – historical flavours in Benevento

Posted in Benevento, Campania, Italy with tags , , , on March 1, 2019 by gannet39

Benevento has many fascinating ancient food traditions, and this first is a great place to experience some of them …

My Google map is here.

Trattoria Nunzia (Intermediate A), 152 Via Annunziata

Benevento’s most venerated restaurant, specialising in local dishes and ingredients.

I first came in 2005 and had a fantastic meal (see below) so I was very happy to return twelve years later. Nothing much has changed, it’s still very good (although I am perhaps more critical), but the old lady’s son Antonio, a good English speaker, is now working alongside her.

I began with the Bruschettina con Fagioli; a variety of white beans, which Antonio told me had no name, on good toasted bread, drizzled with olive oil and given a light sprinkling of oregano (B+).

To drink I tried a glass of a local Aglianico blended with Sciascinoso and Cabernet Sauvignon by I Pentri which was fine but nothing special (B). Nice label though.

Next the restaurant’s famous signature dish; Scarpariello (A); a square spaghetti tossed in tomatoes, Parma ham, pepperoncino and chopped basil, the exact proportions of which are a closely kept secret.

I also received an unordered bowl of Tagliatelle e Melanzana ‘just to taste it’. Sadly I found the artichokes to be quite bland and the pasta a bit overcooked but it was still okay (B).

After this Salsiccia rossa di Castelpoto (A); a wonderfully dense, spicy sausage which Antonio told me utilised the better cuts of the pig as well as the usual offal content. He also said that it was the only Slow Food Association protected-food in the area.

As usual my eyes were bigger than my stomach and I also ordered the Polpette al Sugo, a very dense meatball containing whole cloves of garlic (A) served in a perfectly flavouted tomato sauce (A).

With these a big plate of Contorno Misto Grande which included grilled courgettes, courgettes in vinegar, a local broccoli, chicoria, fried aubergine (all B+), and some grilled aubergine (A).

This nearly finished me off but I still found room for a large scoop of Mela Stregata, an ice cream made using Strega the local liqueur (see below), a local apple and a small piece of Baba sponge cake. Of course a shot of Strega on the side was the best thing to accompany it.

All this cost €64.50 which included water, cover, four glasses of wine and two shots. Pretty good value given the quality I’d say.

After a walk (more of a waddle really) and a snooze, I made it back a few hours later for dinner. I was still pretty full but I managed their Moscardini Affogati, a type of small squid stewed in a tomato sauce which was delicious (A).

To drink a glass or two of a very good Fiano from Sannio; one of my favourite wines (B+).

I also had a plate of fresh and crispy salad leaves (A) with this and followed with a small plate of Formaggi, all quite young. The Cachiocavallo and Provolone were very good but the Cabrito, goats’ cheese, was the star (A).

With this a glass of Piedirosso, also from I Pentri, but which failed to impress (B).

I had a final dessert of Semi-freddo al Torrone drizzled with a chocolate sauce containing Strega which was excellent (A).

With a double limoncello this took the bill to another €40. I was happy to pay this and more.

From 2005:

This is a fantastic place. Nunzia is the wonderful old lady who runs it; she’s very friendly and helpful. There’s no menu, she just comes and sits with you to discuss what you’d like to eat.

To start the marinated sardines are delicious. For a pasta course, try the Scarpariello (square spaghetti with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil) or the Cavatelli with cherry tomatoes and parsley. For a secondo the veal is good or the baby squid with cherry tomatoes and parsley. A great red is Aglianico del Taburno, and a good white, Fiano d’Avellino. For dessert choose between Macedonia with wild strawberries and a Passito wine or vanilla ice cream made with Strega, the famous local herbal liquer.

Back in 2005, three courses with wine cost me about €20 here, an absolute steal. Long may Nunzia reign.

On my last day in 2017, the teachers I was working with took me to this place:

Gino e Pina (Intermediate B+), 23 Viale dell’Università, www.ginoepina.it

This place is a restaurant, pizzeria and wine bar, founded in 1940 and frequented wholly by locals as it’s a fair way from the touristy areas at the top of the hill.

We shared the biggest Mozzarella I’ve ever seen (B+). Three of us only managed about half of it!

We also had a plate of antipasti each which were okay but nothing amazing (B-). The most visually spectacular were these stuffed peppers which I’m told are a local delicacy.

At the owners insistence I had a slice of his wife’s homemade Pasteira, a local tart traditionally made at Easter, which was very nice (B+).

And for a spot of food shopping…

Benevento is very famous for its Torrone (nougat) which is typically made from honey, sugar and egg white. Traditional Torrone di Benevento is sometimes called by its historic name Cupedia, which is a crumblier version made with hazelnuts. Softer versions are made with almonds. The history of Torrone pre-dates the Roman era and goes back to the times of the Samnites. Although well-liked by the Romans, the historian Tito Livio mentions it, torrone only became popular in Europe during the 17th century, when the Beneventan candy makers created today’s varieties, which have been dipped in dark chocolate or given a lemon, orange, or coffee flavoured icing.

I visited two confectioners. At the seemingly very traditional Russo Umberto at 17 Via Gaetano Rummo, I got some modern chocolate-covered torrone and a bottle of Strega.

At the bigger Euroliquori (formerly Alberico Ambrosino Confectioners) at 111 Corso Garibaldi I got some plain bars of traditional torrone and a bottle of Strega Crema.

As mentioned above, another famous local product is Strega liqueur whose 17th century recipe uses a secret mixture of seventy herbs and spices. It looks a bit like Galliano, due to the inclusion of saffron, and has a bittersweet taste with hints of fennel and mint. It’s probably best used in coffees and confections rather than being drunk straight. You can also get a crema version which is more drinkable. The word strega means “witch”, a reference to the ancient legend that Benevento is the city of witches.

So, lots of nice things to eat and drink in Benevento! Wish I’d had more time but no doubt I’ll be back at some point. Off to Naples next…

Campania – things to see in Benevento

Posted in Benevento, Campania, Italy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2019 by gannet39

I got to see a little more of Benevento in a couple of days in 2017 than I did during my even shorter stay in 2005 but please don’t consider this a guide, it’s just a quick round up of some of the things I saw in a very short space of time. My Google map is here.

The Arco di Traiano on Via Traiano is probably Benevento’s most famous monument as it is the best-preserved ancient Roman arch still in existence.

It was built in honour of the Emperor Trajan. It sits over the Via Appia, at the point where it enters the city, which during the Lombard era was known as Port’Aurea.

The bas-relief panels depict various imperial activities.

Over the road is Complesso Monumentale di Sant’Ilario a Port’Aurea; an unimpressive but very ancient church dating from around the beginning of the 7th century. The building is presumably of Lombard origin but was built on previous ruins.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is also of Lombard origin, dating from the 9th century.

It was rebuilt in the 1960s after it was destroyed by Allied aircraft in WW2. The façade takes inspiration from the Pisan Gothic style.

You can see a small exhibition of in the crypt and there are various other artefacts dotted about the place. The bas-relief of a pig wearing a stole has become a symbol of the city.

There’s a nice fountain next to the cathedral.

From here it’s a short walk to the Roman area. I think these supporting arches date from the Lombard period.

The Teatro Romano was built in the second century.

Although abandoned by the Lombards it has remained intact and is occasionally used for performances today.

My videos are here and here. Entrance was €2 in 2017.

Nearby is the Arco del Sacramento, a Roman arch dating to the beginning of the second century.

For a slightly longer walk, go through the Port’Arsa…

…and down to the Fiume Sabato where you can see the roman bridge, the Ponte Leproso.

Back on Corso Garibaldi at #139 is the Obelisco Neoegizio; an Egyptian obelisk, one of two erected, between 88 and 89 AD that stood on either side of the entrance to the temple of Isis, as described by the hieroglyphic inscriptions on the four sides.

Further up Corso Garibaldi is Chiesa di Santa Sofia, a hexagon-shaped church of Lombard origin dating to around 760. In 2011 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The castle of Benevento, known as the Rocca dei Rettori or Rocca di Manfredi, is also on Corso Garibaldi at the highest point of the town.

The Samnites and Romans had already used the site but in the Middle Ages, it became the seat of the Papal governors, the Rettori. Perhaps some of the purloined building blocks in the wall date from earlier times.

It has two parts; the Torrione (Big Tower), built by the Lombards starting from 871, and the Palazzo dei Governatori, built by the Popes from 1320.

The Palazzo Paolo V at 145 Corso Garibaldi, was the municipal seat during the papal control of Benevento. The facade is classical Mannerist. Construction began in the late sixteenth century, under the pontificate of Paul V from whom it takes its name.

I only looked inside briefly, but it was long enough to get another pic of the symbol of the city.

On the continuation of Corso Garibaldi at Viale Atlantici is the local park Villa Comunale, laid out in the late 19th century.

Nearby is this attractive building from a similar period.

On both my visits in 2005 and 2017 I stayed at the Hotel Villa Traiano. The staff are very helpful and the breakfast is great. It’s also well-placed for the Arco di Traiano which is just over the road and Corso Garibaldi is just a five-minute walk.

It’s a nice old former private residence that has been converted into a hotel and so the rooms are all different shapes and sizes. On my last visit in 2017 the room I had was large and spacious, although being in the basement meant the WiFi wasn’t great. In 2005 my room was much smaller with only a narrow gap around the wall. A good tip for all hotels in Italy is to look at the fire department diagrams on the walls to get an idea of they have should you want to change your room for a bigger one.

So, this beautiful hilltop town has heaps of history. I only had a short stay so I didn’t learn as much as I’d like to about the things I saw, but it’s always good to leave something for next time.

Please see my next post for Food in Benevento.

Puglia – Foggia – Where to Eat

Posted in Foggia, Italy, Puglia with tags , , , on February 27, 2019 by gannet39

As I mentioned in my Foggia – Things to See post, the upside of Foggia is the food.

In fact, I had one of my favourite ever restaurant experiences here…

Ambasciata Orsarese (Intermediate A), 53 Via Iorio Tenente

I came to this Gambero Rosso recommended local restaurant on a Sunday hoping that I would get a seat without having reserved. What I didn’t know though was that it was Republic Day in Italy, which is an excuse for a big feed for most Italians, and the place was packed out with no free tables at all.

Thankfully though, I was invited by another single diner to join him, which is typical of southern Italian hospitality. I had plenty to talk about with Antonio, an off-duty policeman from Naples, as we were both big lovers of food. I’ve been to Naples over a dozen times and know the restaurant scene well, so we had that in common as well.

Food lovers or not, I’m not sure if either of us were prepared for the food onslaught that was to come…

By the time we’d reached double figures on the courses we were both full to bursting and were were still only on the pasta stages. We hadn’t helped ourselves by asking for second helpings of our favourites. I tentatively asked Antonio how many more courses there were but he didn’t know either so we ploughed on faithfully in the hope we were nearly there.

Alessandro the chef is fond of parading the food around the restaurant when it’s just out of the oven. I was a little startled by the meat course which was baby goat.

This probably isn’t the best place for vegetarians.

The meat was served with roast potatoes and each table also got a whole loaf that had been hollowed out and filled with vegetables and sausages.

It was at this point that the whole restaurant rebelled as one and refused to eat any more. So the loaves were all wrapped up for people to take home.

We did manage to squeeze in a few sweets though. The last round of delicious little goblets were straight out of the oven.

Again, many were wrapped up to take home.

Along with some other tid bits

And of course we still had the digestifs and coffees to get through.

And the cost of this extensive banquet? A measly €35. Unbelievable value. I suppose they keep it so cheap by feeding a lot of people the same thing, and certain things like the wine is their own in-house label.

Other colleagues have been and apparently similar blowouts happen on a daily basis, it just coincided with a holiday when I went. My advice is reserve as soon as you can though so you don’t miss out on this amazing experience. And make sure you go with an appetite or you’ll do yourself a culinary injury!

Trattoria Giordano (High Intermediate B), 14 Vico al Piano

This is a pleasant Michelin recommended restaurant selling simple local food. You have to ring the bell to get in.

I began with a plate of mixed cheeses; Grana Padano (B+), Cacio (B), Provolone Fresca, Provolone (B+), served with some red stuff I think the waiter called Marma Miele (B). Marmalade mixed with honey perhaps?

After this a primo of Cime de Rape, the famous ‘turnip tops’ (actually they’re a kind of broccoli) which is a Puglian classic. I’m actually not that keen on it but due to everyone else loving it so much I feel obliged to keep trying it. This one still failed to convince me though (C+).

Next, a local sausage. Simplicity is beauty as they say (B).

With all this, a bottle of Nero di Troia which was decent (B).

With cover and a final grappa the bill came to €45.

So in my desire to try local dishes, I ended up with a rather unexciting meal. This is a good place that I’d definitely go to again, but I’d just choose differently. Ambasciata Orsarese above is the one though.

Sherwood Chiosco Biker’s (Initial B+), 156 Viale Michelangelo

Motivated by my great experience at Antica Chiosco Da U Russ in Bari (see my Barivecchia-Eating Cheaply in the Old Town post), and in need of a bit of a walk after stuffing my face the night before, I decided to try this food kiosk recommended by an Italian food blogger.

The food was good (A/B) but the ingredients weren’t quite as high quality as at Antica Chiosco. These kiosks tend to specialise in meat and here their homemade sausage is the star (A).

However I didn’t feel that the spiedina (kebab of lamb, vegetables, and frankfurter) and the lamb intestines were anything special (B).

These filled ‘pizzas’ looked interesting but I was full to bursting. They have a great selection of beers as well. Two half litres of blonde beer and a double limoncello took the bill to €19.

This is a nice spot where you can sit outside and chat with the friendly locals. It makes a change from sitting in a restaurant anyway.

I stayed at the Hotel White House www.hotelwhitehouse.it, a fading old hotel but with pleasant staff and a basic but okay breakfast (great cornettos and hand made coffees). The bathrooms are small with cramped shower cubicles and the wardrobes in my room were suspended up on the wall so you needed a stick to lift the hangers up and down, which was a new one me. The plug sockets are all the old three pin style as well rather than the much more common two pin.

Around the other side of the block is the also quite faded Hotel Mercure Cicolella. The restaurant (closed Sundays) is Michelin recommended and the seven course tasting menu for €35 looked pretty good when I popped in for a gander. Next time…

Puglia – Foggia – Things to See

Posted in Foggia, Italy, Puglia with tags , , , , on February 26, 2019 by gannet39

The short answer for Foggia is, not a lot. Successive earthquakes throughout the centuries, and in particular the Allied bombing during WW2, have left very little for the tourist to see.

On the other hand, I ate very well here, which is often the case with ugly Italian towns I find. Please see my next post Foggia – Where to Eat. My map is here.

Various fountains are dotted about town. The nicest one is Fontana del Sele in Piazza Camillo Benso Cavour.

The Cattedrale di Foggia is a nice example of Baroque if you like that kind of thing.

The lower half that survived the quakes is Romanesque.

The interior looks quite attractive though.

One of the oldest existing buildings in town is the Palazzo Marzano Tafuri aka the Palazzo De Vita De Luca, near the cathedral. The lower two stories are 16th century and designed in a Neapolitan Renaisance style, while the third floor was added in the 18th century.

It’s neighbour at 84 Via Arpi also looks like a hotchpotch of styles and in equally bad nick.

There’s a bit of fascist era Rationalism dotted about.

I quite like this old building on the main shopping street but I don’t know anything about it.

And that’s about itm although I left a few things, like a visit to the town’s museum, till next time.

One of the best things about Foggia is that it makes a good jump off point for visiting the Gargano National Park www.parcogargano.it and the Tremeti Islands www.pugliaandculture.com, both of which I must go to one day.

Bari – a drink and a bite in the Porto Vecchio

Posted in Bari, Italy, Porto Vecchio, Puglia with tags , on February 25, 2019 by gannet39

The Porto Vecchio is the old harbour to the east of the town. Map here.

This is where many of the fishermans’ boats are moored, the traditional blue Gozzi.

Molo San Nicola is the southern pier of the Porto Vecchio. You can get some nice views across the water towards the old town from here.

You can buy fresh seafood directly from the gruff fishermen who sell their catch on the pier. Freshly prepared Ricci (sea-urchins) were on sale the afternoon I went.

It’s a popular spot for people to hang out with friends and listen to reggae music from the bar, El Chiringuito. Video here.

El Chiringuito specialises in two things; Peroni, the quintessential Barese beer, and tomato and mozzarella Panzerotti, like small Calzoni but deep-fried rather than baked. I’ve been spoilt so these score a B with me but they they do hit the spot with a cold beer.

Peroni begain life in the north of Italy in 1846 but in 1924 they opened a new production plant in Bari which was the beginning of the company becoming a national beer. You can see photos of the plant and old Peroni trucks on the walls of the bar.

This is a cool little spot. I’ll check it at sunset next time.

Bari – food shops and friendly bars

Posted in Bari, Barivecchia, Italy, Murat, Puglia with tags , , , , , , on February 24, 2019 by gannet39

My favourite bar in Bari is La Taverna del Maltese (Intermediate B+) at 67 Via Nicolai. It’s an everyone-friendly bar with PACE flags on the wall and a large screen for watching the football inside. There was an excellent jazz three piece playing live on a Thursday night when I last went.

They do food outside on the spacious terrace at the back but I’ve never tried it. There are a few, mainly German, draught beers on offer which are fine. On my last visit the barkeep taught me that a double limoncello (€4) is called a ‘regular’.

There are a few pubs near the Hotel Villa Romanazzi Carducci on Via Carducci but they are all pretty rubbish. Much better to go to the other side of the tracks I think. There are several bars along Corso Emanuele (at the old town end) which come into their own at the weekend.

My map is here.

I like to fill my bag with treats before I go home. Here are the shops in Quartiere Murat in the mid-town that I go to…

Enoteca Vinarius De Pasquale at 87 Via Marchese di Montrone is a sizable wine shop, founded in 1911, with an extensive range of Puglian wines. They also have an online shop.

In 2017 I took a long list of all the wines I’d enjoyed at restaurants all over Puglia and managed to get a good selection for my pop-up restaurant ClandesDine.

In 2014, their efficient staff helped me post a dozen bottles of Fiano ‘Minutolo’ by Cantina Polvanera back home and they all arrived safe and sound. I think they worked out at about £10 a bottle in the end, only about 25% more than their price in Italy which was very cheap to start with.

Cantina Cairoli is another big enoteca at 81 Via Cairoli nearby that you could use for back up. Local varietals recommended by my national manager Claudia (who is also a qualified sommelier!) are the reds Primitivo Manduria and Nero di Troia.

An excellent deli is Salumeria de Carne Francesco at 128 Via Calefati. In 2009 I managed to get a bottle of Fragolino (an apertivo infused with whole wild strawberries) from here. Fragolino was hard to get at the time because the alcohol was too low for it to be considered a wine, leading to an uncertain legal status.

Near Piazza Ferrarese you should check out the fantastic displays of cheeses and hams at Salumiere Nino at 31 Strada Vallisa even if you’re not buying.

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Taralli biscuits are a local speciality, the fennel (finocchio)and onion flavours being especially tasty but ideally they should be eaten a day or two after purchase. I’ve yet to identify the best bakery for them but the original branch of Panaficio Fiore in the old town might be a good bet (see my Barivecchio – Eating Cheaply in the Old Town post).

If you’re looking for chocolates and bonbons, Marnarid in Barivecchia near the cathedral is a very traditional sweet shop.

Confitteria Mucci at 116 Via Principe Amedeo is another sweet shop in mid-town with a lot of tradtion (see my Andria post).

Please see my separate posts for food and architecture in the old town.

Bari – Barivecchia – mid range restaurants in the old town

Posted in Bari, Barivecchia, Italy, Puglia with tags , , , on February 24, 2019 by gannet39

This post is about mid-range restaurants in Barivecchia.

There are many other small eateries offering traditional Barese cuisine at very low prices. You can read about them in my Barivecchia-eating cheaply in the old town post.

For the most upmarket restaurants please see my post Bari-Posher Nosh in Mid-town Murat.

For stuff to see in Barivecchia see my post Bari-A walk around Bari’s old town.

My Google map is here.

Cianna Cianne (Intermediate B+), 5 Via Corsoli, www.lacantinadiciannecianne.com

This place was a tip from a Guardian reader and I’d agree with their synopsis of it being a ‘no nonsense place’ serving cucina tradizionale Pugliese.  The service isn’t the best, but who cares if the food is as good as it is here. I’m guessing mum (Caterina Percoco) is in the kitchen performing the magic while her dour son is the floor manager. The nice waitress I had on both visits was capable of smiling though.

It’s quite hard to find being down in a dead end alley that runs up against the old city wall. It might be easiest to locate by walking along the wall and looking down into the alleys until you see it. Coming up the ramp, from Piazza Mercantile and walking along scenic Via Venezia, it’s in the fourth alley along, although you will have to descend into the fifth alley and then walk back round.

There’s lots of room inside but if you want to sit outside you should arrive at 8 as all the seats were taken by locals by 9 on the rainy Monday night I was there.

I had to wait what seemed like an eternity while all the Italian customers who had arrived after me feasted on multiple plates of antipasti while I only had a few rectangular cubes of sgagliozze (fried polenta cubes). That said they were very nice sgagliozze (A)…

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…and a bottle of Salento Malvasia (B+) to keep me company. It was worth the wait in the end though.

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In response to my request for ‘piatti typici’ they suggested ‘a little fish with some pasta’ which didn’t sound like much but turned out to be two huge plates of food that I struggled to finish.

20140616_211327The pasta was the ubiquitous Orichiette (little ears) in a simple sauce of baby tomatoes (B) which also accompanied the sizable Scorfino (Scorpion fish), along with some toasted bread to soak up the sauce.

20140616_211409Even though I’ve never been a fan of the bony Scorfino in the past I couldn’t fault any of it (all A).

20140616_215715In terms of a digestivo, I was tempted by the cream version of the Padre Peppe amaro that I’d tried at Il Pescatore below, but plumped instead for their homemade ‘grappa’, served with raisins that had been soaking in a large jar behind the bar before being ladled out by the waiter. It certainly put hairs on my chest! (B+) I got all this for €40.

20140614_204205My second visit was a bit of a let down sadly, which is why the overall rating has sunk to a B. I had the antipasti which were all a tasteless C, and in the case of the cozze e patate, an inedible D.

Not sure why, perhaps because it had all been pre-prepared. I would come again but would just have first and second courses.

This next place is located next to Castello Svevo, the old Norman castle.

Al Pescatore (High Intermediate B), 6/7 Piazza Federico II di Svevia

20140614_223810This mid-range place is described by Fodor’s  as one of Bari’s best fish restaurants.

20140614_204644I’m sure that description is true if you are prepared to spend a bit of money, but I was on a budget and so probably didn’t experience the best this place has to offer, hence the B.

20140614_204205The Antipasti di Mare was fine if unexciting (mostly B).

20140614_215754The following Tubettini con le Cozze was slightly oversalted but fine (B).

20140614_203604A glass of the 2013 Chardonnay called ‘Cantele’ from the Salento IGT was good (B).

Although I enjoyed the Negroamaro ‘Illiria’, also from Salento, even more (B+).

20140614_215327The red negroamaro grape is found only in Puglia, and especially in the Salento IGP.

20140614_224308Finally I tasted a shot of dark treacly amaro called Padre Peppe which seems to be the most commercially available local bitter in Bari (B+). Also described as a ‘nocino’ or ‘elixir di noci’, as it’s made with walnuts I think.

La Locanda de Federico (C?), 63 Piazza Mercantile

A Lonely Planet top pick, open every day, However, I didn’t like the atmosphere or the attitude of the staff (a common complaint on Trip Advisor).

When they wouldn’t give me one of the vacant tables on their terrace because I was a single diner, I went to the place below instead and never went back.

La Cecchina (Intermediate B-), 31 Piazza Mercantile, Tel. 080 521 4147

Recommended by some guide book. I got pleasant service from a nice lady but the food was unremarkable.

The Antipasti ‘La Cecchina’ looked nice but was rather flavourless (B-).

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The Calamarata pasta Ai Frutti di Mare was ok but unspecial (B), just featuring squid, mussels and cockles and no promised chickpeas.

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My tastebuds might have not been working properly though (I was very tired after working seven days straight) because a previously favourite wine (Polvanera’ s ‘Minutolo’) also failed to excite (B).Or maybe it was just served at the incorrect temperature.

Finally some sfoglia con crema pasticcera (pastries with vanilla custard) (B) and an unfiltered limoncello (B+).

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It was reasonably priced though, three courses with all the usual trimmings for €43.50, which was then reduced to €40. Not too expensive, and the food was ok, but there are better places to go.

Remember to check out my Barivecchia – eating cheaply in the old town for some other options. Go to Osteria del Travi if you haven’t already!

Bari – Barivecchia – a walk around Bari’s old town

Posted in Bari, Barivecchia, Italy, Piazza Ferrarese, Piazza Mercantile, Puglia with tags , , , , , on February 23, 2019 by gannet39

Barivecchia, also know as Quartiere San Nicola, was once quite dodgy, virtually a no-go area for tourists at night. Nowadays, thanks to redevelopment, it’s much safer, though still a thoroughly working class area.

There’s little point using a map in this warren of alleys and narrow streets. It’s best just to wander around and try to keep a sense of direction.

Here’s my Google map anyway.

Good luck asking for directions. The Barese are nationally famous for having a strong dialect, but within Bari itself, the inhabitants of Barivecchia are renowned for having a lexis that even the rest of the city finds hard to understand. Personally I find both the people and the place fascinating.

The logical place to start a walk is in the Piazzas Ferrarese and Mercantile, the two main squares in the heart of the old town. They blend into each other imperceptibly and are effectively two sides of the same square. This is where many Barese, especially the youth, come to socialise on a warm evening.

In Piazza Mercantile you can see the Palazzo della Provincia and its clock tower, once the home of the provincial administration, built in 1936.

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In Piazza Mercantile you can see La Colonna della Giustizia, ‘the column of justice’.

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It was a stone punishment pole to which fraudulent debtors were tied and lashed.

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Around the square you’ll see women selling the traditional local street food, sgagliozze, aka fried polenta cubes. Polenta is slowly growing on me (love it with kale and blue cheese) but I don’t see what the fuss is about here. I think you probably have to be brought up on the stuff to fully appreciate it.

Both piazzas are lined with restaurants, a couple of which are recommended by various guides. While I might come here for a drink I personally would avoid most of the eateries around here. They’re not bad, just very average in my opinion (see my Barivecchia – eating cheaply in the old town post for some alternatives).

The next main sight is the Duomo di Bari, or Cattedrale di San Sabino, built in the late 12th century.

The streets around here are very atmospheric, especially at night.

Just a short distance away is the Castello Svevo di Bari www.beniculturali.it.

It was built in 1132 by the Normans.

With your back to the bridge going over the moat to the entrance of the castle you will notice two archways leading into the old town. The first one on the left is called Arco Basso which is the street of the pasta makers.

You’ll see their wares drying in mesh bottomed boxes on the street.

I bought 500g each of Cavatelli and ‘Maccatoni’ (spelling?) for €2 and €2.50 respectively which for an artisan product is, as we say in Yorkshire, as cheap as chips. Keep them out of the plastic bag for a while though so the pasta can dry completely, unless you’re cooking it straight away.

Another nice church is the Basilica San di Nicola www.basilicasannicola.it (admission free).

This is where the relics of Father Christmas are kept.

So lots to see and do. You might want to merge the walk with grazing on some food, for which see my post Barivecchio-Eating Cheaply in the Old Town.

Puglia – Taranto – Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Taranto

Posted in Italy, Puglia, Taranto with tags , on February 22, 2019 by gannet39

As the son of an archaeologist I’ve been to quite a few museums, and this is one of the best ones I’ve ever been to, so you should definitely go too!

Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Taranto – MArTA, 10 Via Cavour, www.museotaranto.beniculturali.it

It’s especially good for Roman and Greek artefacts. Here’s a small selection of what I saw. Please click on the images to get a better view.

Some amazing finds there I’m sure you’ll agree.

Before you go in to the museum, why not make a reservation for lunch at Al Gatto Rosso on the next block. It’s the best place in town! My review here. Map here.

Back to Bari for the nth time after this. Plenty of good food there…

Puglia – Taranto – Eating at Al Gatto Rosso

Posted in Italy, Puglia, Taranto with tags on February 21, 2019 by gannet39

Please see my other posts on Eating & Drinking in Taranto.

Occasionally I write dedicated posts for places I really like, as is the case with…

Al Gatto Rosso (High Intermediate A), 2 Via Cavour, www.ristorantegattorosso.com

This is the best place to eat in Taranto. Don’t just take my word for it, Michelin and Gambero Rosso agree. This visit in April 2017 was my second after a seven year gap and I’m happy to say the food was still excellent, no doubt just as it was when they first opened in 1952.

I received a friendly welcome from Agostino Bartoli the chef whose grandparents opened the restaurant back in the day. He’s very personable and his English is very good, unlike the waiters who kept trying to speak to me in German!

Whilst I was waiting I was given a drizzle of excellent olive oil (A) to mop up with their good quality bread (B+). Coincidentally the olive oil producer was passing by so he came to say hello as well (I think they’d already guessed I was a blogger due to me taking photographs).

The Taralli were great as well (B+), which as I’ve said before is a good test as to a Puglian restaurant’s quality.

First, a series of appetisers beginning with Bruschetta with Pizzaiola Codfish (no photo) followed by Octopus cooked in local Negroamaro wine with mashed beans.

Some deepfried whitebait.

Shrimp with Rocket and Strawberry.

Fried Squid and Eggplant.

Then a Seafood Risotto.

And finally Orichiette with Mussels.

I asked Agostino to recommend a Puglian white wine but instead he proposed a slightly effervescent 2016 rosé, a Rosato del Salento, which was really enjoyable (B+).

It was made by 2 e Mezzo whose Primitivo I’d had at Via Vai two nights before (see my Eating in Taranto post). I enjoyed it so much I later ordered some for my personal cellar.

The table next to me where also enjoying some fizz, a white called Ca’dil Bosco which I could remember enjoying on another occasion at Don Alfonso near Sorrento.

The total cost with water and cover was €44, which was great value. The bill didn’t even mention the espresso and the Amaro di Salento (B), that I got as well.

Hopefully I won’t have to wait another seven years till my next visit. Many thanks Agostino!

From 2009:

I had to have a big bowlful of the famous mussels, with razor clams, cooked in a white wine sauce, generally one of my favourite dishes and in this case perhaps the best I have ever tasted (€7, A+).

To follow I had melt-in-your-mouth Pacchieri ai Frutta di Mare with prawns, baby vongole verace and squid in a tomato and fish sauce (€10, A) and washed it all down with a local white recommended by the owner, ‘Alta’ Bambino ’08 (A) for €9 from Cantina Teanum, which was quite similar to a Falanghina or a Fiano.

To finish, a lemon tart (B+), some complimentary squares of dark chocolate with almonds (A) and a local grappa (B). Even the bread was good (A) which is unusual in Italy. All this for only €36!

Ideally you should eat here before, or preferrably after, the Archaeology museum (see next post) which is virtually next door…

Puglia – Taranto – Eating & Drinking

Posted in Italy, Puglia, Taranto with tags , , , , , , , on February 20, 2019 by gannet39

In April 2017 I made my second visit to Taranto. A few things had changed on the dining scene since November 2009, but a lot was the same. My map with these restaurants and more is here.

My favourite restaurant is still Al Gatto Rosso and it’s still the best in town (please see my next post).

As in 2009, I stayed in the Hotel Mercure Delfino www.accorhotels.com at 66 Viale Virgilio. My tip is to try and get a room at the back for the relaxing sea views. The staff are helpful and the breakfast is okay.

The two nearest decent restaurants to the Hotel Delfino are ten minutes’ walk, or less…

Braceria Via Vai (Intermediate B), 7/B Piazza Ebalia, www.facebook.com/BraceriaViaVai

The restaurant that used to inhabit this spot in 2009 (Ebalia, see review below) had closed by 2017, which is probably for the best as Taranto could do with some new culinary ideas. In a town famous for its seafood there is definitely a place for this ‘Braceria Italiana’ (Italian Grillhouse).

Via Vai isn’t cheap but the choice and quality of the meat on offer probably merits the prices.

The servers are all young guys who were a bit rough round the edges but are relatively attentive. We had a couple of miscommunications; I said ‘patatas fritas’ in Spanish instead of ‘patatine fritte’ which got me some freshly made crisps when I just wanted chips (French fries), although they replaced them without argument. When I finally got them, the chips were pretty good (B+) although they went down to a C once they’d cooled a bit.

I had the Chianina Costata; a rib steak from a Tuscan cow breed. It was overdone even though I asked for it medium rare (B). ‘Medium’ for a steak in Italy means bloodless according to Ivan and Bruno, a friendly local young couple on the next table. The steak was okay (B) but also needed a fair bit of salting to bring the flavour out.

After three days of fish I had a real hunger for meat so I ordered an additional plate of pork sausages (B). I thought they would come as a starter but they came with the steak so I had my work cut out for me. I nearly made it but I had to leave a sausage, a chunk of steak and half the chips. As usual my eyes were bigger than my stomach.

The Primitivo red was decent (B) but Ivan informed me that Negroamaro is nearly always better. He should know about these things as his family run Ristò Fratelli Pesce, a local fish restaurant in the old town.

Total cost with a barrique grappa, water and cover was €64; a bit pricey but there are cheaper cuts and kinds of steak available.

This next place was also excellent in 2009. It’s in the opposite direction from the old town but worth the excursion…

La Fattoria (Intermediate A), 9 Via Abruzzo, www.facebook.com/lafattoriataranto

Eight of us sat down for lunch and had the Antipasti di Frutta di Mare which included mussels in breadcrumbs (A), sweet pan-fried olives (A), fried red mullet (B), grilled aubergines (A), marinated anchovies (A), grilled courgette with mint (A), prawns and baby squid (lightly poached in fish stock) (A).

My main was a sea bass cooked with delicious olives (A). The Falanghina (A)and novella Primitivo red (B) were very nice too. We finished with a fruit salad that included Figi di India prickly pear (B).

This next place is worth knowing. It’s extremely popular, partly because it’s ridiculously cheap and also because it’s very conveniently located for the train station…

Trattoria L’Orologio (Elementary B), 27/29 Via Duca D’Aosta

This is quite possibly the cheapest restaurant I have ever eaten in! All the pasta courses are €3 and the second courses are €5!

Although the building is very modern and clean, it seems they’ve been knocking out basic but tasty food to the masses since 1938.

I had the Penne al Sugo di Carne, Salsiccia Arrosto, Sorbetto al Limone and a Limoncello for the princely sum of €12.

Okay so haute cuisine it ain’t as you can see but it’s nice to know there’s somewhere people can receive nourishment so cheaply.

And if you’re looking for a drinking establishment, this one might have potential…

Exit Village (B), 120 Via Cavallotti, on the corner with Lungomare Vittorio Emanuelle).

I was alerted to this bar by the scene of a bloke snogging a drag queen against a skip outside late one night. Just the kind of decadent place I love! It’s a cool little cellar bar with a mixed crowd, handily near the Mercure Delphino hotel. In 2009 a grappa with a very camp half a grape on a cocktail stick on top cost €4. They shut at 2am.

You can stop reading from here if you like as these next two places are ones to avoid and the last one is closed…

Marco Aurelio (Intermediate C+), 17 Via Cavour

I came here when I couldn’t get into Al Gatto Rosso on my first attempt. It’s completely bland and boring so there’s no reason to come unless there really is no other option, or if you want somewhere handy to eat before or after visiting the Archaeological Museum (see coming post) which is immediately over the road.

The young female owner is nice and friendly but her waiter is a member of the dull and sullen brigade. He did his job but without the slightest hint of aplomb.

I had a mezzo of the house white and the antipasti mare (all B).

I finished with an amaro called San Marzano which I’d never come across before. It was pretty horrible (C) so most likely no other restaurant will have it.

All his cost me €21 which isn’t too bad I suppose.

Pizzeria Landhaus (Elementary C+), 107 Via Cesare Battisti, www.pizzerialandhaus.it

I fancied a pizza for once and as this place was ranked #3 on TripAdvisor in 2017 so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

This proved to be a mistake as the food wasn’t great and my visit coincided with a little girl’s birthday party. Woe was me!

The decibels were such that even the other customers were telling them to shut up, to no avail! That’s something I’ve never witnessed before because the Italians usually let their kids run riot.

The Arancino rice ball I had as a starter didn’t do much for me (C).

And the Neapolitan style Margherita was just okay B-).

With a large beer and a limoncello the bill came to €14.50 which is normal.

You’ll never see me in here again though, just in case those little girls are still around.

Ebalia (Intermediate B), Piazza Ebalia NOW CLOSED!

In 2009, seven of us went to this restaurant recommended by the Delfino reception.

The highlights of the shared antipasti were, steamed mussels, sardine roe béchamel gratinata baked in a scallop shell, deep fried artichokes stuffed with ricotta, polpo affogato, or ‘drowned’ octopus, which all scored a strong B.

My main course was a huge portion of seafood linguine (B) whereas my friend Nicky had beef steak tagliata on a bed of red chicory (A).

The wine was an excellent Primitivo di Manduria (Villa Mottura ’06) (B+). Claudia our local manager, a wine expert, told us she has never had a bad bottle of Primitivo di Manduria.

I loved the dessert of Sfoglia con Crema Pasticcera (B+). The little sandwiches of puff pastry and vanilla cream, dusted with icing sugar, were described as ‘sporco musso’ by the waiter, which translates as ‘dirty mouth’!

They are so described because they cover your lower face with powdered sugar and flakes of pastry when you bite them.

They are absolutely wonderful when they are still warm (A). We washed them down with a glass of Muscat di Trani (A).

The best place in town deserves its own post. Al Gatto Rossa next!

Puglia – a walk around Taranto

Posted in Città Vecchia, Italy, Puglia, Taranto with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2019 by gannet39

As Puglia’s dirty little secret, Taranto doesn’t even get a mention in many travel guides. It’s a shame as the town has an incredible history, stretching back to the Ancient Greeks, due to its exceptional suitability as a port.

The town is blessed with an outer bay, known as the Mare Grande, and two smaller inner seas, together known as the Mare Piccolo, the entrance to which is guarded by an island.

However, the sprawling port around the bay and the derelict old town on the island, along with a large navy base on one side of the Mare Piccolo and several oil refineries on the other, have done Taranto’s reputation no favours.

So, there are more beautiful places in Puglia but I still find Taranto to be a very interesting place and it has quickly grown on me the better I’ve got to know it. A visit to the Archaeology Museum made me aware of its illustrious past (see later post) and in this post I describe a walk you could do to become more familiar with its current layout.

You’ll find a Google map with all the places mentioned here.

Turning left out of the Hotel Delfino, walk down to the western end of Lungomare Vittorio Emanuele III taking in the views of the sea and the port in the distance as you go.

On the right just before the end is the former governor’s palace, now the Prefecture of Taranto.

It was originally built in the fascist era as you can probably tell.

On the corner is the Monumento al Marinaraio, the sailors’ monument.

From here you can cross the old bridge to the Città Vecchia on the island.

By now you’ll have a good view of the Castello Aragonese www.castelloaragonesetaranto.com.

Continuing straight along Via Duomo you’ll immediately come to the remains of a Greek temple, the Tempio Dorico www.museotaranto.it.

It’s very atmospheric walking around the old town. Video here.

Even if it’s a little eerie at times.

There are many important buildings here, locked away behind their big gates.

But despite its dereliction, the Città Vecchia is still very much lived in…

Eventually you come to the Cathedral of Saint Cataldo. I’m not a big fan of Baroque so I’ve not been inside.

That said, the campanile around the back is quite striking.

The most important church however is the church and associated monastery of San Domenico. The Chiesa di San Domenico Maggiore can trace its origins back to the Byzantine period and was used by the Templars in the Middle Ages. The current building dates from the mid-14th century.

Nearby, Palazzo Pantaleo www.comune.taranto.it at Vico Civico is fairly interesting to walk around.

In Piazza Fontana, just before the second bridge at the other end of the island, is another local landmark, the Torre dell’ Orologio.

From there you could double back and walk along the other side of the island, along the quay where all the small boats are.

Some are in better condition than others.

There are a few cheap seafood restaurants along Via Cariati that might be worth a try. Paranza is supposed to be good.

Eventually the road will bring you round to this monument on Discesa Vasto, near the first bridge.

If you cross back over to the Borgo Nuovo and aim left, you will soon come to the Archaeology Musuem, the Museo Nazionale Archeologico di Taranto (MARTA). This museum is so good that I’ve given it its own post.

Alternatively or as well, you could go and have lunch at Al Gatto Rosso the best restaurant in town (see later post).

Or you could just admire the dolphins on the gates of Museo TalassograficoAttilio Cerruti“, a mollusc farming research institution on Via Roma.

From here it’s a stone’s throw to the town’s main square Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi and the derelict brown hulk of the Palazzo degli Uffizi , a former orphanage, looming over it.

The bandstand is a much nicer thing to look at I think.

From here you can walk back to the hotel along Via d’Aquino, the Borgo Nuovo’s pedestrian shopping street.

Just in case you’re wondering, if you turn right out of the hotel instead of left, you come to…

… more hotels. Some old…

…and some new.

And that kind of sums up Taranto.

I’d happily come back a third time to get to know it even better.

More about places to eat and drink in Taranto next.

Puglia – bowling around Brindisi

Posted in Brindisi, Italy, Puglia with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2019 by gannet39

I flew out to Brindisi a couple of days early in April 2017 in order to have a short break before starting work. Unfortunately I somehow managed to delete all my photos for this historic city, except for a scattering of food photos that were preserved on Instagram, so apologies if this post feels a litte text heavy.

My map with all the places below and more is here.

Restaurants:

Penny (High Intermediate A), 5 Via San Francesco, www.enotecaristorantepenny.it

I would recommend coming here just for the surroundings, a high-vaulted ceiling picked out in striking black and white stripes. Mario the owner told me the building dates back to the time of Frederick II, the Swabian king of Puglia in the thirteenth century.

Alternatively you can sit out on the terrace in the summer.

The food was also good, all B/B+. The seafood antipasti were really nice…

…but the Linguine ai Frutti di Mare took me to the the gates of heaven (A).

They make good Canoli too (B).

La Locanda del Porto (Intermediate B), 20 Via Montenegro, www.lalocandadelporto.com

A popular family restaurant recommended by my AirBnB host just opposite my apartment. The seafood antipasti were the highlight (B/B+), as they often are in Puglia.

Pizzeria Romanelli (Initial A), 3 Via Santa Lucia, www.pizzeriaromanelli.com

I think an essential Brindisi food experience is coming to Romanelli for a panzerotto (a deep fried pizza pocket) which they have been making since 1949. The photos on the walls will also take you back in time. I had a ham, mozzarella and tomato one for €5 which was excellent.

Il Botteghino (High Elementary B), 35 Corso Roma

This place is rated for its focaccia (famous in Brindisi) by some but I didn’t find it to be anything special. The cheese and mushroom one I had for €2.50 was okay (B), but not worth a special trip.

Cafes & Bars:

Bar Rosso et Nero (Elementary B+), 15 Via Santi

Also calling itself Rouge et Noir, this old school bar has won the Slow Food Association award for Best Bar in Puglia, primarily I think for its hand whipped gelato which is indeed excellent (A+). I can vouch for the Crema and Nocciola varieties.

It is also a pasticceria but going by their cornetto I would give the rest of their cakes a miss (B-). The coffee wasn’t great either (C) but the old couple who run it are nice.

Bar Betty (Intermediate A), 6 Via Regina Margherita

I’ve given this place on the waterfront an A rating solely for their Cappuccino and Cornetto di Crema which I had for breakfast one morning. The service I received was friendly and efficient. Can’t say what the food is like though as I haven’t tried it.

Spirito (Intermediate B), 16 Via Santi, spirito-the-right-one.business.site

The bartenders at Spirito mix a decent Negroni and you get lots of stuzzichini (nibbles).

Wine Market (High Elementary B), 3 Via Congregazione

A small modern wine bar with a young friendly staff. You get a glass of celery and carrot sticks and a bag of savoury and sweet nibbles with your glass of wine. I asked for the best Puglian white wine they had. What I got (for €4) was fine (B) but nothing special.

Market:

There’s a food market till 2pm every day in Piazza Mercato, near Piazza Vittoria, that’s worth a wander. I saw these unusual crabs in one of the fish shops nearby.

Museums & Sights:

The most famous monument in Bari is the Colonne Romane a column that is popularly considered to mark the end of the Appian way. In actuality, at least according to the plaque attached to the railings around it, it was just a column in a ceremonial square that happened to be near the water’s edge.

The original capital (the decorated top part of the column) was removed for safety reasons and is now housed in the Palazzo Palazzo Granafei Nervegna (see map) where you can get a much better view of its detailed carving. A copy is now at the top of the column.

I had a look round the Museo Archeologico Provinciale Ribrezzo (MAPRI) www.provincia.brindisi.it (entrance €5 in 2017. It’s housed in a building a pleasant courtyard next to the cathedral in Piazza Duomo.

Part of the complex is the Portico dei Cavalieri Templari, the which is the only remaining part of the Templar’s main church. It now houses some of the museum’s collection of capitals and other bits of stonework.

There’s not that much to see inside most of the museum however the stars of the collection are the bronze statues on the top floor which were pulled up from the bottom of the harbour in the 1970s.

There’s another museum called Collezione Archeologica S. Faldetta down on the waterfront next to the steps leading up to the Colonne Romane. It’s primarily a collection of Greek ceramics which didn’t do much for me. The custodian of the place is what we in Sheffield would call ‘a bit of a wrong un’. He was either drunk or crazy, I couldn’t work out which, as he just wandered around talking to no one in particular in a loud voice. If you don’t fancy looking at the pottery you can just go up to the top floor in the lift and get a view of the harbour and the Colonne Romane in the piazette next door.

One thing I didn’t do was go over to the art deco Monumento al Marinaio d’ Italia on the other side of the harbour. It has a good view of Brindisi but it’s hard to get over to that side.

Taranto next!