Interested in Puglia? Here’s the Scoop.

We’re hosting weekly info and Q&A sessions to discuss the Puglia Bike Trip. Here is a summary of what we cover.

1. ITINERARY

You can view the itinerary here:
http://piccolinaadventures.com/docs/puglia/bikingpuglia2014-15.pdf

Puglia is one of those places that continuously fills me with magic and wonder!! Hope it will do the same for you too!

The itinerary is crafted from my own personal experience and the recommendations of local friends. So we go visit Mamma Maria who taught me to make Puglia’s orecchiette pasta, and she teaches our group, not only to make pasta, but an entire meal as well! We visit Signore Fabio who welcomes our group each year with a party and live concert of folk music. Renato takes us out on his motorboat boat. And each trip is about having local friends share the beauty of their homeland with us. And having a good time. ūüôā

2. GETTING THERE

We try to make it as easy on you as possible and coordinate the start/end of trip to coincide with the bullet train to/from Rome.
Travel suggestions are detailed here:
http://piccolinaadventures.com/docs/puglia/arriving_in_puglia.pdf

3. BIKES & RIDING

We ride quality Italian-made aluminum city touring bikes. They are good for the mixed-terrain riding we do. We also have van support on road for the longest rides. Pace is relaxed.
http://www.bottecchia.com/tempolibero/categoria/trekking-city-it-it/

4. PACKING, WEATHER & PRE-DEPARTURE INFO

http://piccolinaadventures.com/docs/pred/puglia_pre_departure_june.pdf

Feel free to call or email with any questions!
Laura

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

We had so much fun this year, we didn’t want it to end!

Between wandering the streets of Lecce at night, getting stopped mid-pedal by an Alberobello farmer offering us fresh figs from his garden, dancing with the mayor of Castrignano Lo Capo, sampling green raw olives straight from the tree (an experience we all need to have once … and … once is enough!), and visiting Carlo’s¬†mamma‘s house in Secl√¨ for a 3-hour Sunday lunch (a meal so authentic, fresh and and delicious, I’ll never forget it) – we had some amazing adventures in Italy.

¬†We’ve been busy in California too. We’re launching a series of weekend adventures in the foothills of Yuba County. Every season we’ll take a small group of travelers to enjoy some of the best artisan foods, wines and cheeses available in California (and, yes, we¬†know¬†that’s a tall order!). If you’d like to join us (the next adventure is Valentine’s Day weekend)¬†sign up for California Undiscovered Gourmet’s mailing list¬†or email me directly.

But what really made 2014 such a special year – was you. Your fun-loving presence while traveling, planning, dreaming, dancing, toasting, storytelling and laughing through the year.

Strolling through Lecce on the Puglia Biking trip this SeptemberEnjoying the streets of Lecce before saying our goodbyes

To express my thanks for making 2014 so awesome, I got together with the Piccolina family (from California to Italy) and made you a little video.

Enjoy.

Happy new year.
I hope it’s full of exciting adventures!

Laura

What’s happening in 2015?

Biking Puglia’s Dazzling Coast¬†¬†

¬†Puglia is a fairly-tale region of fanciful conical stone houses, dazzling Adriatic coastline, whitewashed limestone cities and it’s heart beats with the authentic. Here you’ll still find scarf-covered¬†nonna¬†chatting in her chair on the¬†cobblestoned streets at night.¬†Here they still cook a pot of tomato¬†sugo¬†for 8 hours. Heremamma¬†still gathers wild¬†chicory, onions and herbs.¬†Here they still dance in the piazzas¬†all night long. And the land beats with traditional music that is still very much¬†alive. You travel back in time when you come here. And you will never forget it.

Itinerary: Biking Puglia 

Avid Cycling Sicily    
Yes! A trip for avid road cyclists! This itinerary rides 45-70miles/day on aluminum or carbon road bikes.

At the crossroads of Africa, the Middle East and Europe, Sicily is pure magic. Cycle the breathtaking landscapes around¬†Mt Etna & Taormina¬†(an active volcano, sweeping coastal views and ancient history create a unique atmosphere in Taormina, which is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen!),¬†Syracuse¬†(a Greek-Roman-Byzantine-Bourbon-Arab-Norman-Aragonese-Italian city with an island historical center), and¬†Val di Noto¬†(a valley of lovely towns built during the flowering of the European Baroque and surrounded by wine-rich countryside).
Email for info.

Walking Undiscovered Puglia & Basilicata
Byzantine cave frescoes in MateraOr, you can explore Puglia, enjoy great cuisine, drink wine, swim in the Mediterranean, and not get on a bike!

Guided by a certified “Naturalist Tour Guide,” this trip explores unique aspects of Puglia with a series of walks encompassing its historical, natural, geological and culinary best.¬†Mamma mia!¬† You’ll spend most mornings hiking, enjoy a delicious lunch, then have the afternoons free to visit nearby towns for a stroll, shopping, museums or, simply, to linger over glass of local wine.
Itinerary: Walking Puglia

And MORE!

We have some exciting and completely new adventures under construction. That’s all we’ll say for now. ūüôā

Stories from the Road – Salento

Stinky cheese. Lunch with TWO Marias. Circular city plans. Sunkissed seaside. What else happened this summer in Puglia!?

Hello All!

I’m writing from the only air-contitioned caf√® in Specchia. It’s 5pm and the sun outside is still strong and hot. The white stones reflect bright sun and heat, though a light breeze brings some relief, rustling the leaves of the peach and lemon trees growing in the courtyards around town.
The heat has finally cooled enough where people will venture out of their houses after the long Mediterranean lunch break. They are just starting to filter into the caf√®. Normally we pass the midday heat with the shutters drawn and the house dark against the sun. After Maria’s wonderful lunches of garden veggies and pasta, Luigi sleeps on the couch, Maria watches TV and feeds the dogs, and I escape to this air-conditioned caf√® for an espresso.
I’m looking through my photos. Wow! This is the fifth time we’ve done the Puglia Bike Trip, and it’s wonderfully different every time. There’s always a new mix of adventures, of people, of hosts, of guides, of places and activities. Steve who was on July’s trip concluded: “every day was so intense – each one had a beginning, a middle, and an end.” It’s true. As I think back, each day feels packed with activities, experiences, scenery, people; and each was vibrant and colorful in its own way.
I wanted to share some pictures with you.
Camera Tales

We started in Lecce¬†with an explanation of the city’s Baroque architecture, its history, and its fascinating use of papier-m√Ęch√©. In poor times, the people of Lecce didn’t have enough money to commission fancy statues sculpted from stone, so they began to make look-alikes out of straw, paper & glue: papier-m√Ęch√©. They formed and painted with such detail, that, even when placed next to real stone statues, you actually can’t tell the difference!

Of all the times I’ve visited Lecce, I have never had the opportunity to see the Masters at work. But this time our guide Simona walked us right into an open shop.¬†“Hurry – the master’s dressing the statue!”¬†We rushed in to find the master at work with wet, brown, thick sheets of paper, “dressing” the foot-tall statue in a paper robe.
Our first ride – through Lecce’s olive orchards on the way to the coast!
Rosa’s farm.¬†She’s¬†making fresh ricotta – the breakfast of champions!
We rode to Signora Rosa’s small farm just outside Uggiano La Chiesa.¬†We found her stirring a pot of boiling milk with an old wooden stick.¬†She greeted us and cut up a fresh primosale wheel just was minutes old, for us to taste. “Before the salt” primosale is a fresh cheese formed just from milk and rennet – no salt. It squeaks on your teeth. They rub most primosale rounds with salt and leave them to age on wooden shelves for 15 – 90 days. Then they get really interesting. We tasted all several different variations, and then the ricotta was ready. Strained from the reheated whey (ricotta¬†means re-cooked) mixed with boiling milk, Rosa’s ricotta is so rich it tastes almost like salted cream & eggs – and gives you enough energy to ride to Croatia and back!
The grand finale was the powerful RICOTTA FORTE Рa fermented ricotta cheese, stirred by hand every day for 90 days until smells like a hundred sweaty gym socks steamed in a jar. And it tastes like pure heaven. Really.
If you don’t believe me, check out the video:¬†Ricotta Forte!¬†(Reactions captured on camera!)
On the road to Otranto!
Learning traditional pizzica pizzica.
We stayed up late that night, dining and dancing at the farmhouse, and –¬†oh the pain!¬†– rose early the next morning to leave for Specchia.¬†Well-known as one of the most beautiful villages in Southern Italy,¬†it’s less known as home of some of the best cooks in the south!
Tricase Porto – meeting spot before the turnoff to Specchia
We rode up to a small green door of a simple house – parked our 14 bicycles outside – and the door was opened by dear Maria, who invited us in for cold drinks… fried dough balls… pasta-making… and an incredible zucchini-based lunch made purely from her homegrown veggies. Two Marias (neighbors!) presided over our lunch passing dish after dish of cooked peppers, zucchini-cream pasta, pickeled zucchini, toasts with zucchini p√Ęt√©, strong red wine, then homemade limoncello and to finish…
  
…they¬†each¬†whipped out a cake!
“How’s the cake Bob?”
A picture’s worth a thousand words.
We wound our way to Leuca that night, and set out to visit the Adriatic sea caves by boat the next day.
     
Yipee!
Gelato at the “Academy of Flavor”¬†in Gallipoli!
Views of the sea from the Ponte Ciolo
Gallipoli – the historical center actually on island with a fortified castle at its entrance and it’s own mini-beach below the the city walls.
Sailing in Gallipoli!

Then we hopped the train north¬†toward the Valle d’Itria, an area that’s hillier, cooler and full of¬†trulli!

We’ve talked about¬†trulli¬†before. They’re conical limestone houses with funky mortarless peaked rooves. People have been building round structures from piles of stones since prehistoric times, but they continue to use this technique even today in the Valle d’Itria. Legends also say that in the 1600’s a huge tax was levied on permanent structures, so every time the tax collector came by from Naples, the people dismantled their stone rooves, simply to build them up again as he rode away. The¬†trulli¬†are also recognized as World Heritage Monuments by Unesco. Read more on their site:¬†Unesco World Heritage Center.

Trulli¬†in the Valle d’Itria

Riding along the vineyards near Locorotondo

We stayed in one of the official “Most Beautiful Villages In Italy”(there is an Italian organization dedicated to categorizing and determining these): Locorotondo. A small, round, white-washed town where every street leads you back to the same place. It’s the perfect city for travelers because, having circular streets,¬†it’s impossible to get lost here!

I feel so lucky to have been able to share Puglia with such a wonderful group of people. You can choose the trip, but you can’t choose the people. I’ve been continuously blessed to take such awesome travelers. It their presence, it was impossible not to have fun!

What a crowd!

I have more pictures & a collective photo journal on Flickr: September Adventures.

Cheers! Laura

Thank you so much for allowing me to use your beautiful photos! Photos of Road to Otranto, Diving from Boat by Steve Sundstrom, photos of Smiling Maria & her Cake, Gallipoli, Music in Uggiano, Cocktails in Locorotondo by Anna Morgan; photos Magda on Sailboat, Ponte Ciolo, and Locorotondo at Night by Sarah McIndoe.

Lunch with the Polo Family

After a few days on the farm, it was time to move on again. We packed up our bikes once more, sent the scenic-riders on their way first, then, after refilling water bottles and smearing sunscreen all over each other, the second group set off to meet the others.

IMG_0621

On the road again!

The landscape began to change- it got more hilly and dramatic- the deep blue of the Adriatic sparkled in the sunlight and reflected off the white rocky cliffs, and danced with the vivid green of the early summer vegetation- fig trees- plum trees, tomatoes plants, peppers and arugula. I had a blast picking wild arugula and capers as I went. There’s nothing like the spicy- strong flavor of wild arugula. One of our guides, Adriana, a local of the area, invited us to her parents’ house for lunch. So we detoured into the countryside, riding until we reached a tiny whitewashed town.

 

Stefe and Stev

Stefania greets us as we arrived at her house for lunch.

Called Specchia, after the ancient stones (specchie) upon which it was built, the town now boasts the title of one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Our first stop was a tiny whitewashed apartment just outside the city center- the home of Adriana’s parents.¬†They were so sweet. Her sister Stefania and mamma Maria spent the entire day and evening beforehand preparing a feast for us!

Pass the zucchini!

Pass the zucchini!

Fresh vegetables, local breads, cold salads and soups, gelato and coffee. Mammamia!

whirlwind

a whirlwind of plates, yelled words in dialect, snippets of english, wine cups, and reaching hands

Then after a wonderful deep nap, Stefania, who’d written her thesis about the history of Specchia and tourist itineraries, gave us a fascinating tour of the old center, the monastary of the black Franciscans, the underground olive mill and the castle.

IMG_0632

Stevanie is quite pleased.

Then, in the evening, we continued on our way.

IMG_0636

Our dear hosts, Luigi and Maria, say goodbye outside their house.

 

 

 

June’s Bike Trip through Southern Italy – Lecce

I am writing from the steps of a beautiful church in the city of Lecce. It has a¬†creamy limestone exterior, a¬†painted wooden celieng, and both stone and paper machie statues decorating the inside. It’s quite spectacular and sitting in the shade of the big doors, it’s a comfortable place to write.

St Oronzo

St. Oronzo welcomes you to Lecce!

June 8th I left my house in San Francisco for London then Bologna then Brindisi in the region of Puglia in Italy. I left to lead an 11 day bike tour through the farmland, coast and olive orchards of this vibrant region. It’s been a very full month since then. So full, in fact, that I feel like I’ve been gone for two.

The bike trip was incredible. When I think of the trip, my thoughts come in images: colorful, vivid, intense; and in feelings: of optimism, excitement and freedom. We stayed in five different towns/settings, and had five sets of hosts, each one gave us a different experience.

at the table

Buon Appetito! Welcoming the new travelers to Lecce.

We began the trip in Lecce, the biggeset town on the Salento peninsula (which is the southern tip of the whole region of Puglia). Lecce, known as the ‚ÄúFlorence of the South‚ÄĚ called the ‚Äúcrowning jewel‚ÄĚ or the ‚Äúpearl‚ÄĚ in a tour of Puglia, is built out of creamy white sandstone which dazzles in the day and glows at night.

The baroque exploded here after the city pulled out of the a period of brutal rulers and intense poverty. Out of those dark times, the city found new optimism and began to carve EVERYTHING. Alters, churches, lamps, figurines, magnets, tables, doorways. So Lecce is a beautiful city full of history, art and pleasant architecture. We spent our first few days exploring the city and its surroundings, and the garden balcony of our apartment. It’s shaded from the summer sun, with white and gray stone walls and overflowing with purple and red flowers and lush greenery. It was the prefect place for morning breakfast, for a simple lunch (fresh mozzarellas, wild arugula, sweet cherry tomatoes right off the vine), for a chilled glass of rose or the evening pizza dinner that our host Chiara and her daughter Maddalena (who’s like 8!) generously prepared for us.

a tavola

Yes that's fresh mozzarella, wild arugula, cherry tomatoes and chilled rose wine.

Walking through Lecce

Simona gives us a great tour of the city.

Pizza at Chiara's

The terrace at Chiara's B&B- where her and her daughter cooked homemade pizza for us our first night! She is just beginning to open her apartment as a B&B and welcomes other travelers there as well.