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.


Puglia, Perché no?

Puglia, Why Not ?

A sunny southern Italian location known for whitewashed hill towns, a glorious Mediterranean coastline complimented by sparking crystal clear blue seas, rolling fields of gnarled century old olive trees and miles and miles of farmland. Home to sun baked beaches and villages of stone homes capped with conical trulli roofs.

La Fiermontina Urban Resort

Italy’s graceful heel which encompasses the area of Puglia, has been noted in travel magazines for the last few years as an unspoiled and slightly unpolished countryside where Italians have been vacationing for years. I’ve landed in Brindisi on my way to Basilicata and never realized that just a short distance off the highway was the very lovely and charming baroque walled city of Lecce. A 16th Century town often referred to as Firenze of the south, we highly recommend staying at the chic and tony La Fiermontina Urban Resort.

Masseria Li Veli

Exploring the surrounding areas can easily be accomplished using Lecce as a base to enjoy day trips to the charming towns of Gallipoli and Otranto. Masseria Li Veli Vineyards and tasting room is a short distance away. In 1999 the Falvo family, with over 40 years of experience in the Tuscan wine region, purchased and renovated the property to give birth to an ambitious project in the Apulia, a region with a long vine-growing tradition. Recently selected among the 100 Italian finest wine producers by Wine Spectator. An afternoon tasting and a stroll through the vineyards is the perfect end to a day of touring.

Masseria Brancati

Move up the coast a bit to Ostuni and enjoy the rustic chic simplicity of small beach resorts close to Monopoli and the charming domed homes of the Trulli village. Spend an enchanting afternoon sitting amidst centuries old olive trees, trees planted in the original strict Roman grid of 60 Roman feet apart; this 7th generation Masseria Brancati is owned by Corrado Rodio and his family who make only extra virgin olive oil from his groves of monument trees in the Northern Salento area.

Two of 6 brothers who proudly support generations of a fishing family

Fishing is a primary livelihood, thus fresh fish is offered at every trattoria, stop and chat with the local fisherman who are extremely proud of their family heritage and eagerly share photos of their biggest catch!

Domenico Modugno, the Italian pop singer who crooned Volare Volare

Poliganano Cliff Diving

This morning head to the harbor to clamber aboard your private yacht to sail the sapphire blue seas, a perfect way to begin the morning.  Moor at a white cliff cove in the small beach town of Poliganano on the Adriatic Sea, near the famous statue of Domenico Modugno, the Italian pop singer who crooned Volare Volare. Cliff divers perch atop the limestone cliffs above the crystal clear seas. Diving not of interest? Then wrap yourself in a water float tube and gently drift across the cove and paddle back to your waiting yacht.

The best time to visit Puglia is late May or early June or September when the crush of summer visitors has swelled through and the temperatures are still quite pleasant.