A wintery Palazzo Bacile di Castiglione
I'm just back from a wonderful long weekend in Apulia with Elisa Tamburini to check out the magnificent Palazzo Bacile di Castiglione for our Autumn Cooking Holiday in Italy this September. Even in winter, we enjoyed plenty of sun and some amazing produce. Here are some photos to wet your appetites, plus more details about the holiday.
We are planning a sunshine filled cooking week this Autumn in Apulia, 29 September through 5 October, staying in a privately owned palazzo, surrounded by ancient olive trees, citrus groves and figs, fantastic vegetable markets, close to the sea and unspoilt villages.
Elisa with freshly picked grapefruits!
On our visit, the large gardens of Palazzo Bacile di Castiglione were filled with lemons, satsumas and grapefruits, all ripe and packed with pips. Sarah who owns the Palazzo with her Italian husband Alessandro made us delicious three fruit marmalade which we ate with polenta enriched bread.
Alessandro on the terrace of Palazzo Bacile di Castiglione
Sarah and Alessandro took us out to dinner at their favourite Agrotourism restaurant where we had freshly picked oranges and satsumas with chunks of crisp raw fennel served as a digestive.
We ate chicory steamed and then sautéed in olive oil with garlic and served with Puré di Fave, delicious with the creaminess of the beans offset by the bitterness of the chicory.
'Catalonia' chicory and fennel
We had buffalo mozzarella that was so fresh, it oozed when you cut it open.
In Spongano, we watched orecchiette being made. Orecchiette is made by hand and shaped like a small ear. The pasta is rolled into a very thin sausage, chopped into small segments and then pushed with a knife into ear shapes. All done very quickly. Here we had it served with a simple tomato sauce.
When we weren't eating, Elisa and I enjoyed soaking up the sun on the harbour at Castro, 6 kilometres from the Palazzo.
Rachel & Elisa in Castro
In Otranto we warmed ourselves up with hot chestnuts after visiting the amazing “tree of life’ mosaic which covers the entire floor of the cathedral, commissioned in 1163. Is extraordinary to be casually walking on this beautiful mosaic.
In Italian folklore, Befana is an old witch who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve. In Spongano the whole village was out, following the witch on her horse drawn carriage as she visited the children who had set up a traditional crafts, such as a bakery and a pasta making shop, as it would have been when in the time of Jesus.
Epiphany Celebrations in Spongano
We ate the traditional Christmas festive dessert in Lecce of a large marzipan fish filled with candied fruit....very rich, a mouthful was enough!
Puglia Marzipan Fish
A weekend wasn't nearly long enough, but enough time to soak up the atmosphere, sample the food and wine, dip a toe in the sea, and importantly, try out the beds - they are luxurious! We can't wait to go back this autumn.