I know, I know. La Lingua is supposed to be about "life in Italy".
Which is pretty awkward considering I don't actually live there anymore. Oops.
When I started this blog, I was just beginning to grapple with Italian in my university classes. It was meant to be a private little space for me to track my progress with the language - but I hardly posted a thing.
Next, it became a space for me to document my year abroad. And it quickly turned from a work placement diary into an Italian lifestyle blog, inspired by the amazing blogs I had recently become addicted to.
Now that I'm back in the UK, the blog name isn't entirely relevant, I admit. So I'm going to make an effort to start featuring more Italy themed posts on here - from archive throwbacks to tips and tricks to (hopefully) brand new, fresh adventures.
Puglia, September 2016, can be my starting point.
We headed down to the South of Italy for a last burst of summer warmth before the Autumn took hold. It was a "back to basics" kind of holiday. The house had no potable water source, let alone wifi, and we were staying in the tiny little town of Torre Suda, near Gallipoli.
Salento (the heel of Italy's boot) is a very popular holiday destination amongst Italians during the summer months. However if you visit in May/June and September, you'll avoid most of the crowds and still find most of the restaurants and shops open. Plus the beaches never close so that's a win!
The house we stayed in was built by Michele's family over a century ago and I've gone into more detail about it here. Sadly he's just sold up so this was actually the last time we got to go and stay in this beautiful old villa! I'm glad I took so many photos so we'll always be able to remember those sun soaked days.
For the first few days, our routine would follow a predictable pattern. We'd slowly get up and convene in the main living space, amble down to the bar on the seafront for a coffee and a croissant, maybe jump in the car and go wander around a sleepy town, throw together a lunch of salad, bread and cheese, snooze through the afternoon and then go to the beach for a swim whilst the sun went down.
When visiting Salento, food should be a top priority. It's gloriously cheap and incredibly delicious. Southern Italian cooking is often what people think of when they think of Italy's cuisine - a true Mediterranean diet of pasta and vegetables and fish and fruit. One of the local specialities is orecchiette pasta with "cime di rapa", a leafy green that's sautéed with garlic and anchovies - YUM!
Although it's also worth trying out some of the naughtier local delicacies. A pasticiotto is a little cake filled with custard and the best can be found at Pasticceria Murrieri without a doubt. They also do a chocolate version which has a layer of nutty chocolate cream in with the custard - heaven!
Once we'd been joined by Lizzie and Haico, we started to actually get out and do things!
As soon as we discovered that there was wifi at Solatio (possibly the best bar in the world for its location, service and cocktails), we were there most days! Sometimes we'd head down in the morning to check work emails and then go for a dip in the crystal waters, other times we'd go for a pre-dinner drink and a good social media binge!
At risk of sounding like alcoholics, we also started having regular aperitivos on the roof. With prosecco from the local supermarket costing €3.40 a bottle (!!!), there was a constant flow of it in the house.
When visiting Puglia, it's definitely worth leaving some space in your hold luggage to take some excellent but cheap bottles of vino home.
Another thing Puglia excels at are the celebrations that take place in the various local towns.
We were there whilst Taviano was celebrating the Festa della Madonna Addolorata (the party of the sorrowful virgin - nice huh?). It was essentially one big street party with a brass band, food, bright lights, food, street stallss selling everything from pets to jewellery and food.
We grabbed "spumone" (a kind of semifreddo dessert typical in the region with chocolate and vanilla ice cream on the outside and all sorts of nuts and candied fruit in the middle) from a tent and followed the crowds to stand beneath the Chiesa dell'Addolorata to wait for the show to begin.
Being a religious festival and all, we were expecting a solemn procession, perhaps with an effigy of the Virgin Mary.
After perhaps an hour of waiting and getting rather stiff and bored, a sudden flash and boom startled us to attention as fireworks and music began simultaneously.
And it wasn't exactly the kind of music you'd expect either...
The following morning saw us back at Solatio of course!
Lizzie and I stripped off and went for a quick swim, diving down to see if we could see any fish.
There are two kinds of beach in Puglia - the flat straight sandy sort which bores me to tears and the adventurous rocky kind that requires you to complete an obstacle course before you can get in the sea and that has all sorts of amazing wildlife for you to swim down and explore. We even saw an octopus at the beach at the end of the road!
On this particular morning, poor Elle (of Elleyro - I love this girl, go check her out!) ordered an Americano...
Unfortunately for her she didn't specify that she meant the coffee and received the other kind of Americano instead! We were given the cocktail for free in the end and shared it around (it was only 11am after all!)
After that, we bundled into the cars and headed around to Porto Selvaggio, an incredible beach and nature reserve with a freshwater spring under the water.
Where the spring joins the sea, the water is so icy cold! In fact, the entire bay is pretty chilly to swim in, giving you the wonderful contrast of lazing on hot stones before jumping into the cool water.
On our last night, we started off as all the best evenings had on the trip so far, with a sunset aperitivo.
We'd found a restaurant in Gallipoli that offered vegan food for Elle (and delicious non-vegan food for the rest of us!)
We dined at Il Giardino Segreto, a small restaurant with a lovely hidden courtyard garden. When in Gallipoli, you should really go for the seafood as much as possible - the town juts out into the sea and so has the freshest fish you could hope for! The fresh "gamberi" are a speciality - raw prawns with a little salt.
After eating and drinking ourselves to the brink, we finished the night with a walk around the town walls, looking down into the moonlit sea below.
On our final day, most of the group had a mega early flight so they vanished into the early morning to head home.
Elle, Lizzie, Haico, Michele and I decided to go and visit the famous trulli houses of Alberobello.
Even though we had parked on a fairly busy road near the centre. Apparently three other cars were broken into along that same stretch of road and I cannot even begin to tell you how angry it made me!
So I would personally recommend skipping it. If you can't leave your belongings locked up in a suitcase in the boot of your car on a busy street for two hours in the middle of the day, it's not worth it.
So that's our trip to Puglia. A haven of slow living that's home to every Italian stereotype you could think of as well as so so much more. A perfect place to live La Dolce Vita and eat and drink and be merry in the sunshine. What more could you ask for?