Puglia has always been one of my favourite regions in Italy; and thus I looked no further when choosing a vegetarian friendly foodie destination for my hard to please family.
Where to stay?
Some of the fondest memories I have of my family have been in our home, when we have all been in the same house, letting time pass us by as we sit around the kitchen table. I wanted to find a villa that had enough communal spaces that allowed my family to spend ample time together, combined with pockets of privacy.
Masseria Salentina, a CV Villa, seemed to provide just that. An impressive family villa secluded in six acre grounds of mature olive groves. The central focus of the villa has a spectacular courtyard with a fountain and arched cloisters.
The real wow factor is the spacious outdoor courtyard where we found a generously sized swimming pool, a stone paved sunbathing terrace surrounded by rosemary borders, a large gazebo shading a dining area and a wood fire pizza oven.
Masseria Salentina is a five star villa, however there are a few things missing that did not quite make it feel like a five star experience. When you wake up under the grandeur of vaulted ceilings, I suppose you have certain expectations and if they were met I believe this could be the luxury villa that I would come back to. Just a few basic changes – like regular hot water in the showers, change of bed sheets and towels, and a regular cleaning service would have made our stay a five star experience.
Where to eat in Salento?
Puglia is a foodies paradise and almost every restaurant will be able to prepare something vegetarian. With a choice of agriturismos, trattorias and osterias to choose from the below four were ones we tried and I would recommend:
Wonder through the baroque town of Lecce and ring the doorbell of Le Zie Trattoria – a small rustic restaurant serving cucina povera. The experience resembles one of eating at your aunt’s house. The door bell rings every so often, guests come in and out, and simple, wholesome dishes keep on coming out of the small kitchen manned by two women. My favourite dishes were: the vegetable soup, grilled vegetables and chicory in white bean sauce. The regional orechhiette and pasta with chickpeas were disappointing.
This beautiful restaurant with a white washed terrace, tucked away in the historic town of Minervine di Lecce is an absolute must. This was by far the best restaurant we went to during our stay in Salento. I had informed the restaurant that we were vegetarian in advance and they had kindly created a special vegetarian menu, featuring a delicate lemon and saffron risotto. Each course was paired perfectly with some of the smoothest wines I have ever tasted. This was probably the most reasonably priced meal we had, considering we had bought 6 bottles of wine to enjoy back at the villa. The only recommendation I have is decide on who the driver for the return journey is before you try the wine!
We ended up going to Barriques a few times during our stay as it is a convenient pizzeria within 10 minutes drive of Masseria Salentina. The owners are incredibly hospitable and each time made sure that the children’s food was accommodated for first. We had tried orechiette a few times in Puglia; but it was only at Barriques where we truly enjoyed it. Homemade ear shaped pasta with freshly cut pomodoro – simple and fresh. The pizzas were delicious. While watching the World Cup in the villa we would send someone out to get a pizza take away – where ever you are you always need a local!
4. Home cooked food
Where to find those glorious beaches?
Puglia is home to the best beaches and coastlines of Italy. Both the Adriatic and Ionian Sea are spectacular and whichever beach you choose you will be able to swim in the turquoise crystal clear waters that the Pugliese believe are Italy’s answer to the Maldives. Two of my favourite beaches were Baia dei Turchi and Castro. To see Salento’s glorious caves, drive from Martano to Castro along the spectacular coastline and book a boat ride with Durlindana. When the boat stops in the sea – make sure to swim out to the secluded beach; a tough but sensational swim.
A week long stay at Masseria Salentina makes for a wonderful family holiday, whilst you soak up arguably the best food, beaches and hospitality of Italy.