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Join a culinary journey planned to introduce you to the culinary delights of a region now recognized internationally as one of the rising stars in food and wine tourism. Gaze on groves of monumental centuries-old olive trees and taste magnificent oils, learn all about Puglia's wines, tasting an astonishing range of world-class bottles now making their way to the far corners of the globe, and visit one of Italy's premium pasta producers and learn from a master chef how to make traditional pastas by hand, using grainy durum semolina.
You will be staying in a stunningly restored masseria, a farmhouse complex just outside Martina Franca where you will enjoy everything from cooking classes to opportunities to relax around the pool to hiking the surrounding woodlands.
You will begin the week by gathering in your masseria, a grand Italian noble farmhouse converted into a luxury hotel, for an introduction into how olive oil is made and how different types of intervention and different critical points in the process (from variety and weather to date of harvest and processing mode) can influence the way olive oil tastes. Then, you will have a structured olive oil tasting, gaining new insights into the differences between premium extra-virgins and ordinary supermarket olive oils, what different flavors relate to (celery, Artichokes, tomato leaves), what makes them the way they are.
You will also taste the best Pugliese olive oils to learn about regional variations and preferences. Once the tasting is over, you will share an aperitivo and enjoy a welcome dinner in the masserias dining room featuring the cucina casareccia for which Puglias Valle dItria is justifiably renowned.
You will start the first morning with a visit to the weekly farmers market to see what is there. There will be plenty of choices as Puglia provides much of Italys (and northern Europes) fruits and vegetables and autumn is no exception. There are likely to be wild mushrooms, wild and foraged greens, the first chestnuts of the season, cime di rapa, broccoli Romanesco, chicories and the last of the summer bounty of peppers, eggplant, tomatoes. Marketing concluded, you will visit a centuries-old fortified farmhouse with an olive oil mill that predates Roman times.
You will learn all about olive trees and olive oil while touring this estate, concluding your visit with a taste of the organic olive oil made here. Next, you will head down to the coast for a seafood lunch on the rocks featuring the exquisite bounty of the Adriatic. Caught that morning, you will learn why the cuisine of Puglia draws heavily on the ocean for its inspiration. From antipasti to fresh-caught sea bream cooked over an open fire, this is seafood like youve never experienced it.
Then, you will return to your home base at the masseria for your first cooking lesson. You will focus on the range and depth of Pugliese antipasto, which features the bounty of Puglias in-season vegetables and much-loved Pugliese flavors. A traditional antipasto here might include as many as twelve dishes, all of which reflect the culinary traditions of the many cultural traditions represented here.
You will learn how to balance these flavors to create your own antipasto along with several regional dishes like riso, patate e cozze or tiella (rice, potato and mussels cooked in an earthenware pot), agnello al forno (roast, farm-raised lamb), braised turnip tops, funghi gratinati (local mushrooms baked with bread crumbs, parsley and olive oil) and even fresh, fried olives! The menu will reflect the season, using the market produce and your masseria hotel's own organically-grown vegetables.
Before dinner, you will learn about the breadth and depth of Pugliese wine, with a special focus on local varietals and traditional as well as modern local winemaking. A certified sommelier will lead you through a tasting of offerings from the best local cellars, pairing Pascarosas choices with the evenings meal.
Today, you will head to Altamura, one of the best places in Italy for wood-burning oven-baked breads. These iconic breads are delivered all over Italy the day theyre baked and once you taste then, its easy to see why. You will visit one of the towns oldest continuously operated wood-burning ovens and learn how to make this bread along with the other baked treats for which Altamura is justly famous.
Next, you will dip over the regional border into Basilicata to visit the stunning town of Matera, just named the European Capital of Culture for 2019. Matera is unique in all of Italy for the sassi or cave dwellings that ring the central city. Inhabited by refugee clerics and monks from Greece and the Balkans during the 8th and 9th centuries, the cave churches and domestic dwellings carved into the town's sandstone cliffs at one time housed as many as 25,000 people.
Today, the churches and caves are preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will learn about the subtle differences between the cuisine of Basilicata and that of Puglia at lunch, then take a guided walking tour of the famous sassi to appreciate this deeply evocative place. You will head back to Martina Franca and participate in the honored southern Italian tradition called the passeggiata and enjoy an aperitvo all'aperto. Dinner tonight is fornello pronto, another local institution, in the elegant Baroque city center.
Today, you will spend the most of the day with a pair of delightful grandmothers and their classically-trained chef sons in Martina Franca. Both generations are passionate advocates of the healthy Mediterranean diet as represented in the traditional food of Puglia and they will share their extensive experience along with personal memories and traditions, focusing on the role that durum wheat has played in the development dishes like handmade pastas (orecchiette, fricelli, sagne ncannulate and more), breads (pizza, panzerotti, foccace, puce and the golden semolina breads of Altamura) and Puglias ubiquitous taralli and friselle.
You will learn to make these dishes and more, culminating in a shared luncheon featuring your mornings work. You will then return to the resort masseria for a rest after lunch, reconvening in the masserias salotto for your second olive oil colloquium and tasting. You will taste a range of olive oils designed to help us identify olive oil defects, improving our ability to assess olive oils before you buy them.
Dinner tonight will be in the nearby delightful town of Locorotondo, where you will explore the Pugliese tradition of preserving the harvest in the form of sott'olii and sott'aceti and taste some of the best pizza you've ever had. You will end your meal with a discussion of the role that liquori and digestivi play at the Pugliese table, with how-to tips from liquori experts and a tasting of traditional flavors like, bay leave, green walnut, quince and pomegranate liquor.
Today, you will be heading south to Maglie, home of Pastificio Benedetto Cavalieri, one of Italys finest artisanal pasta companies. Since the early 1800s, the noble Cavalieri family has grown wheat in northern Puglias fertile Tavoliere plain. In 1918, the family inaugurated its own pasta company, pioneering a process that preserves the nutritional values and flavor of the durum wheat they grow. You will visit the antique factory, where pasta is still made traditionally, then join members of the Cavalieri family for lunch featuring, yes, extraordinary pasta paired with Pugliese accompaniments.
After lunch, you will walk off some of that pasta with a guided walking tour of Lecce's enchanting centro storico, learning about the origins of Lecce's frothy baroque architecture and its role as the center of traditional carta pesta or papier-mache craft. Dinner is at an outdoor enoteca or wine bar, tasting Salentine specialites and watching the parade of Lecce's fashionable residents as they join the evening passeggiata. Tonight, you will want to turn in early because tomorrow is olive harvest day, so you will return to the masseria in time for a good night's sleep.
Today, you don your harvest attire, pick up your harvesting tools, and learn how olive harvesting is done right to produce top quality, extra virgin olive oil. Olive farmers will join to show you the ropes, then you will learn whats involved in growing, picking and milling olives when you take the mornings gleanings to the nearby frantoio (olive mill) to watch the crushing process first hand.
The olive miller will lead you on a tour of the mill, explaining the olive milling process in depth as we watch our olives make their journey through the mill. You will also taste the oil from olives you just harvested as it drips off the press, a once in a lifetime moment that will become a taste memory for a long time to come. There will be an opportunity to purchase olive oil to take home, too.
You will enjoy an olive harvest lunch featuring Pascarosas new olive oil at a farmhouse near the olive mill, then return to the masseria for a rest before we start the afternoon cooking class. This afternoon, you will focus on the ways that olives and olive oil are incorporated into every course in a meal, from appetizers to dessert. You will also learn how to cure olives using various techniques for long preservation.
Dinner this evening will be the last one together, so Pascarosa will include some of their masterpieces from the afternoon cooking class and some additional special treats to make this a meal to remember.
After breakfast at your masseria and perhaps a final stroll around the grounds, it will be time to say goodbye. Pascarosa will send you home with some organic extra virgin olive oil from the estate where you participated in the harvest and a booklet of the recipes you learned during your week in Puglia.
You will be served three daily delicious meals including local wine to accompany them. You will dine in trulli, the white-stone domed architecture so typical of the region, and in al fresco seafood restaurants along the Adriatic coast, topping it all off with a splendid meal in a traditional fornello pronto (and you will learn what that means when you get to Vituccios). You will also taste wines from deep dark primitivo, close cousin to California zinfandel, to fresh flowery whites from Locorotondo.
Beverages beyond what is served with each meal (ample wine, water, coffee, and some extra treats are all included, but you may decide to supplement them on your own).
Puglia is the heel of the boot and incidentally home to 60 million olive trees and more than half the oil produced in all of Italy put together. Puglia has so much to offer! Landscape, history, food, wine, and above all else the wonderfully welcoming people of this region thats often called, with good reason, the California of Italy.
Hike in the surrounding woodlands
Join additional optional excursions
Relax around the pool
Please arrive at either Bari-Palese Airport (BRI) or Brindisi - Salento Airport (BDS).
Please arrive at Martina Franca or Bari train stations.