Italy Travel Diary, Part 2
Day Three: After two wonderful nights spent in Basilicata, (if you haven’t yet read Part 1 of my Italy Travel Diary, catch up over here), we travelled further south into Puglia, the ‘heel’ of Italy’s proverbial boot.
Our hotel for the next three nights was the beautiful Masseria Moroseta. ‘Masseria’ means ‘farmhouse’ in Italian, and is a concept unique to the region of Puglia. Where Palazzo Margherita had been traditional and grand, Masseria Moroseta was the complete opposite, oozing contemporary elegance and pared back minimalism.
Housing six bedrooms, a swimming pool set amongst acres of olive groves, and sleek communal living areas, Moroseta was designed by Andrew Trotter, and is run by an inimitable three-person team: Carlo, the owner of the hotel, general manager Alessio, and head chef Giorgia. The emphasis on design is obvious at Moroseta, where copies of Kinfolk and Cereal are stacked on the coffee tables, and artisanal crockery is laid out at mealtimes. Chickens, and cats roam around the farmhouse grounds, as well as the hotel’s three French bulldogs: Emma, Pablo, and Beppe.
After checking in, we headed into nearby Ostuni, otherwise known as ‘la città bianca’ (the white city), and aptly named so because of its whitewashed houses and picturesque cobbled streets. Lunch was at Osteria Piazzetta Cattedrale, where we had probably the best plate of ‘cime di rapa’ consumed during the trip. After wandering around town, we headed back to Masseria Moroseta for an afternoon spent enjoying golden hour with a cup of tea, freshly baked cookies and ‘Colomba di Pasqua’ (spongy Italian Easter cake studded with dried fruit and nuts) in the communal kitchen.
That evening, we headed back to Ostuni for dinner at Osteria del Tempo Perso, a lively restaurant in a cave-like setting, where we had a tasty (but not outstanding) meal.
Day Four: Breakfast at Masseria Moroseta is a generous and colourful affair. Mismatched crockery and fresh linens line the communal table, and a never ending, daily-changing spread of small sharing dishes are laid out. Expect home-baked bread with fresh jams, freshly baked goods (these ranged from almond biscuits, to chocolate muffins to sponge cake), a cooked dish of some sort (during the trip we enjoyed frittata, and avocado and boiled eggs), some sort of salad (think artichokes and fresh cheese), and delicious yoghurt topped with fruit compote, bee pollen, and almonds.
We then bundled into a taxi and set out for a day of village-hopping. First up was Alberobello, known for its whitewashed trulli houses: recognisable for their round stone shape and conical roofs. This town was by far the most touristy of all we visited during our trip, and after having enjoyed the luxury of being amongst the few tourists we had encountered in Ostuni and Matera, we found this to be a bit of shame.
Locorotondo was our next stop, where we had lunch at La Taverna del Duca, run by head chef Antontella, and her husband. Here you can expect traditional and hearty home cooked Italian food, but with multiple diners passing through the restaurant, don’t expect to have a particularly relaxing meal. Luckily my sister speaks fluent Italian, as without her help, I’m not sure how we would have been able to decipher the menu (scrawled onto the blackboard above the kitchen counter) or communicate to the hasty waiter. However, the food was undoubtedly delicious, and we finished off the meal with coffee and taralli biscuits covered in icing (a traditional Italian biscuit enjoyed at Easter time).
Our last stop of the day was Cisternino, which in my opinion, was the prettiest town we visited in Puglia besides Ostuni. Here you can find similarly whitewashed houses set amidst winding alleyways. We stopped for an aperitivo al fresco at Chirico Bistro, before our last stop of the day: the quiet, rustic Martina Franca.
For dinner, we headed back into Ostuni for yet more food, this time at one Michelin-starred Cielo housed inside Hotel Relais La Sommità. Here we ate possibly my favourite meal of the trip: an incredible four-course tasting menu that came with multiple little extras between each course. Delicious food presented in incredibly inventive and clever ways (my main course of salted codfish was presented like a dropped ice cream cone), and served by slick, professional staff made for an incredible experience. You would never expect a gem such as Cielo to be located in a quiet town like Ostuni, and I cannot recommend the restaurant enough for a truly memorable meal.
Day Five: We started Easter Sunday (and our last full day in Puglia) with another incredible breakfast spread at Masseria Moroseta before we headed into Grottaglie, famous for its ceramic workshops. I was in pursuit of ceramics by Nicola Fasano, who has an extensive workshop in town, and designed the plates and bowls used in both Palazzo Margherita and Masseria Moroseta.
Happily armed with new purchases, we then headed for an eight-course Easter lunch at one Michelin-starred Osteria Già Sotto L’Arco, an elegant family-run restaurant in Carovigno.
Our afternoon was spent back at Masseria Moroseta, enjoying our final evening there. Golden hour at the hotel is magical, as the sunlight floods into the kitchen, and casts a warm glow over the swimming pool. There’s always some kind of freshly baked good laid out on the kitchen counter too, but we were well and truly stuffed from lunch to be able to eat anything else.
Our final dinner was spent at Masseria Moroseta, which can accommodate around 12 guests each night. Diners are seated around the long communal table for a supper club-like experience, and served a four-course set menu and wine pairing.
Dishes are seasonal and delicious, with produce sourced from the farmhouse grounds, and whipped up in the kitchen by Giorgia: think asparagus and ricotta for starters, homemade ravioli, lamb for mains, and a melt-in-the-mouth dessert.
Day Six: I really really didn’t want to leave Puglia the following morning. Before this trip, I had never travelled so far south in Italy: expect none of the built-up cities of the north, and also far fewer tourists than destinations such as Venice, Rome, Amalfi etc…if you can visit Puglia, I’d highly recommend that you go now! Masseria Moroseta was such a unique, tasteful hotel that really provided the ‘wow’ factor in terms of design, food, and service: I will be sure to visit and stay again.
After one more delicious breakfast spread, it was time to head back to Bari airport for my flight home, but this holiday had definitely been one that I would never forget. I’m hoping to return to Puglia very, very soon.