I’ve explored many of Puglia’s lovely white-washed towns and villages but the one that had the most impact on me was Cisternino in the Valle D’Itria, Puglia on the south-east coast of Italy. I arrived with a group of friends but decided to wander off on my own to take some photos and get lost in the alleyways.
There’s a maze of narrow streets here that invite you ever onwards to see what is around the next corner. There were few people about in these backstreets despite, it being the time when locals go out for their passeggiata, an evening stroll. As I wandered, the sky turning an ever deeper shade of blue, Cisternino took on a magical air. In the stillness I heard distant laughter and a bell sounding the hour. I sat down for a while simply to enjoy the moment.
I continue my passeggiata. At times the archways became so low that even I, all 5 foot 1 of me, had to duck.
Eventually I found my way back to the central square, Piazzo Vittorio Emanuele (pictured above and at the top) and the restaurant where we were meeting up is just around the corner from here.
La Locanda di Zia Rosa
The charm of La Locanda di Zia Rosa is evident as soon as you enter with pretty, rustic plates on the walls and bottles hanging from the ceiling. In the back room a table was laid out for us. Wine flowed and dish after tasty dish of local produce appeared.
My favourite had to be the mushrooms with orecchiette, Puglia’s signature ear-shaped pasta. Our jovial host, Chef Mimmo Lopuzzo, had been out that morning picking wild mushrooms. They were divine.
Another firm favourite was the bombette, a local speciality of dainty meat parcels filled with mince, ham and cheese. Cisternino is well-known for its butchers, such as Alvecchio Fornello, where you can select your meat and watch it being barbecued as you sit at a nearby table. Olives and bread will be brought to you. Order a few side dishes and a bottle of the house red wine and you’ll soon be tucking in to a tasty treat.
Back at Locanda our evening is drawing to an end but we can’t leave without trying some of the chef’s homemade liqueurs. Numerous intriguing bottles are placed in front of us but it’s the chocolate liqueur that really hits the spot for me. A little light-headed (I had to try them all) it’s time to go but I’ll never forget my evening in Cisternino.
Thank you to GAL Valle D’Itria and GAL Alto Salento for hosting my visit to Puglia. While my accommodation, transport, meals and activities were all complimentary I will, as always, give you my unbiased and honest opinions.