Olive Oil Legend, Puglia!

My recent Journey, taken only in July, due to the cooking schedule of David Tanis at Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School; otherwise, I would not recommend Italian travel in the blistering hot month of July, unless perhaps you are on a lake or a yacht prowling the seductively blue Adriatic Seas.

Antica Masseria Brancati

Ambitious schedules and heat left me limp each day on this overland Journey. I was raised in heat and spent many childhood afternoons stretched out on a sofa with a cold compress on my forehead, nursing a nosebleed due to the extreme temperatures. Hot weather, we are incompatible.

But give me an afternoon under the enormous branches of a shady Stone Pine, and if you must, more chilled Prosecco, countless Italian delicacies and I can manage the heat. We arrived at Antica Masseria Brancati in Ostuni via a winding dirt road, flanked by perfectly stacked rock walls and surrounded by hundreds of massive olive trees. Eventually, I learned at least 800 of the trees are considered Monument Olives due to the age – 2000 – 3000 years old, planted when Jesus was roaming the fields. Brilliantly hued bougainvillea draped and dangled over the white washed walls of the beautiful masseria. A long stone path leads to the main Villa, chapel and garden in the central courtyard of Antica Masseria Brancati.

Seven generations of Corrado Rodio’s family have managed the Olive Oil farm, which includes an amazing underground museum room with olive mill tools that date back centuries. Large plots of the ancient gnarled trees are planted as the Romans originally planted them, 60 Roman feet between each tree planted in a specific grid. Many of the ancient trees, which still produce olives, have been given colorful descriptive names. The Old Man (Grande Vecchio) is bent and twisted three times around itself, and rests on a column of stones, like an old man and his walking stick. Nearby, the tree of Adam & Eve each have a very distinctive face, a likening of a serpent and of course, an apple. Corrado is extremely proud of the farm and its heritage and has incorporated olive oil tasting into the experience, he beams in sharing his family story.

We enjoyed a specially prepared lunch by Alma di Bari, who learned to cook at the apron of her grandmother; she glowed in her descriptions of each dish. And thankfully she will be passing on her recipes to her children, traditions are treasured still in some areas of the world.

Alma di Barri

Puglia is spilling with locals instilled with a passion and pride in their endeavors, whether it is an olive farm, a fisherman or a chef. Alma thought nothing of hand rolling the special Fricelli pasta that morning.

Olive Oil tasting, who knew it would result in a job offer!

Initially, Corrado seemed shy, his English and our Italian was a pretty good match, as he enthusiastically conducted a scientific olive oil tasting. It was abundantly clear in his beaming face that I correctly identified the deep fragrance of green grassy fields, spices and a distinct fruit in different cups of the oil. At conclusion, his smile and laughter confirmed that indeed, I was being offered a job! We then spotted the colossal tall wooden ladders used for picking, perhaps we will return after the harvest.

Notice, my notebook, I am a serious student!

Notice, my notebook, I am a serious student!

The enormous Stone Pine provided shade and the chirping cicadas bestowed the soundtrack of summer, as our poetic guide Michaela noted…I modified his poetry to the Symphony of Summer.Ancient Olive Trees

My tins of specific extra virgin – Salentino and Coratina Olive Oil have arrived, come for an official tasting, I’ve been deemed certified by a legend of Olive Oil, Corrado Rodio.

Of course, we can organize this for you as well on your next visit to Puglia. Trust me, two dozen words of Italian will get you through any hot summer day beneath a massive Stone Pine.


Pony Tales Estancia Vik

What memory might you cherish from a recent Journey? Some of my site inspection trips have days and evenings that blur; I sometimes awaken in the dark and am not sure where I am. A moment during a fabulous beach lunch at a VIK property in Uruguay, they have three outstanding retreats within miles of each other – honestly, as I gazed out at the brilliant crashing Atlantic sea, I quietly pondered at which property are we savoring this luscious lunch?

Days or weeks pass and my notes and thousands of photos sharpen my focus as I begin to write about the memorable arrivals, the enchanted moments, the grand gestures that make a hotel property, a city, or a personal guide so very special – guaranteeing that despite my oft frantic schedule, these interesting locales will thrill our clients. It may sound like I luxuriate in a five star life, however the scheduling is often challenging!

One unforgettable afternoon was a sundown horseback ride amid the waving pampas grass. We were giddy from the hours of travel, chatting among ourselves, horses nudging for the lead – suddenly from across the river, several ponies galloped toward us whinnying and neighing an enthusiastic greeting. We were beside ourselves in surprise with these enchanting wild guests.Estancia Vik UruguayImagine an endless horizon with billowing marshmallow clouds hanging in the indigo sky – casual conversations while astride spirited ponies and like a scene from the Wild West, horses fly across the pampas to join our procession through the fields and back to the barn. I asked later if this was a planned event and mentioned that the horses should be taught to appear on cue and greet guests.

Magical Moments, Indeed!

An unforgettable moment; truly worth the long flights and dizzying days to discover a new destination. Travel broadens your perspective and widens your horizons and you might meet a few wild ponies along the path.Estancia Vik UruguayEstancia Vik Sunset