Puglia is an ancient land. Mostly flat, dry and hot, it is abundant with fruit trees, vegetable produce and vines, and has a long and deep story. The Greeks and the Romans have left their mark on the land, as have others throughout the centuries, however for us, Puglia’s beauty is in the warmth of its people and the simplicity of daily life. Each time we host a Puglia Cycling Tour, our experiences are different; from the changing seasons to the people with whom we interact, there’s always so many stories and magical moments shared. Here we share just a few.
Exploring the whitewashed towns
For us, Puglia is a beautiful adventure, both on and off the bike. We love its whitewashed towns with meandering alleys and archways, leading you to tiny family run osteria’s and local artisan workshops that are quietly tucked away in all the nooks and crannies. Life is lived out in these alleys daily and as we wander through them on our Puglia Cycling Tour, interacting with the locals, you feel a real sense of just how simply and beautifully Puglian life is lived, day by day.
We loved our interaction with this beautiful lady in the town of Gallipoli in Puglia. As we wandered by, she smiled. So we stopped to chat, asking what she was cooking for lunch. She was cooking chicken on charcoal outside, while inside her freshly made orrechiette were waiting to be cooked with her home grown rape, a type of broccholi eaten often in Puglia. She was waiting for her son to come home to share the meal with on his regular lunchtime pausa, or 3 hour lunch break from work. Simple life. simple pleasures.
Mid-ride fruit picking
Figs are an ancient fruit that are sweet, delicious and nutritious, and are everywhere in Puglia. They say the fig trees are planted amongst the olive groves, every 20-30 metres or so, so that insects are attracted to the figs rather than the olives during the late Summer months. There is nothing better than rolling along the backroads, keeping an eye out for their distinctive foliage and stopping for a healthy, yet seriously delicious mid-ride snack.
A life by the sea
This gorgeous old couple have been married for over 70 years. We got chatting to them about life by the sea in Puglia, and how blessed they were to have lived with such beauty. The old man went on to tell us how hard he had worked as a builder in the small centro storico of Gallipoli all his life, carrying huge boulders from the sea, and that as hard as his work was, he felt eternally blessed. He said ‘questo mare è il nostro dono di Dio‘ or this sea is our gift from God. You could see the joy in his eyes. The couple have never been outside of Puglia in their lifetime and they probably never will. It’s the beauty of a content life.
Touching the 3000 year old olive tree
They say that the olive tree is eternal. Its rich and ancient symbols are many; peace, love, strength, fertility and glory are just some of them. When we visit the 2000 and 3000 year old trees on our Puglia cycling tour, you soon realise how deeply rooted this tree is in the Mediterranean culture, with cultivation going back to ancient times. The olive tree is slow, steady and perseverant. Each time we visit and place our hands on these trees, it is no less amazing than the last, and we feel a sense of just how much we can learn from them. So old, yet still producing fruit. An inner soul that is alive, yet taking it slowly. Not just a great analogy for how we love to approach our riding and travel, but also how to live life.
Puglia cycling club
It is very cool to see the daily workings of some of the small towns in Puglia. With a group of old friends enjoying a little passeggiata by foot or bike, before congregating in the piazza to catch up and share news and opinions from the day’s events. This little scene was like watching a living creature expanding and contracting as new friends arrived and others departed. It’s beautiful to see these guys in their 70’s and 80’s still active and getting out on their bikes. There is just such a great sense of community in the South.
The anticipation of drinking our first Caffe Leccese
Caffe Leccese or Caffe con Latte di Mandorle which translates to “milk of almond”, is unique to the Salento peninsula in Puglia. It is a short glass, half filled with ice and then the latte is added, with finally an espresso shot layered on top. You then stir together and enjoy.
As the days get closer to us arriving to the Salento each time we are in Puglia, the anticipation builds, as we know the first opportunity to experience this unique flavour is mid ride, mid tour. We love sharing these little things that make each region’s cuisine different from the last, so at this little seaside bar, we always order a full round, so everyone has the opportunity to try it for themselves.
For us, it is always over too quickly and we’re looking forward to the next one…… which is usually only 40k’s up the road.
Riding along the cliff’s edge
The landscape in Puglia is diverse and beautiful as it changes day to day, but there is one day that just leaves me content and filled with awe at the beauty…. and I loved seeing the look of wonder on Rick and Susan’s faces as they rolled past me with their heads turned to the Ionian Sea’s sheer beauty on our Puglia cycling tour in May.
We start inland before quickly hitting the ever-changing coast and then have the water by our side, passing little fishing villages and magical vistas. The absolute highlight is when we start to climb out of one village, with the road meandering around the contours of the hills and it feels like the road is only just hanging off the rocky landscape, as the cliff cascades into the enticing blue water below. It is truly tremendous.
Aperitivo at dusk in Polignano
The sun is setting, the deep blue sea is glistening and the white washed walls of the town of Polignano a Mare are glowing with a beautiful, soft golden light. It is the perfect setting for aperitivo. We take our seats outside in one of the old town’s small side streets and enjoy our first Spritz, as the conversation and warm air flows, and the town starts to come alive after its afternoon pausa, or siesta . We fell in love with Polignano the first time we visited and so we made it our start town for our Puglia Cycling Tour. It has a personality and charm like no other town in Puglia and while our aperitivo is different every time, it’s always special.
Antonella is one of the special chefs and restaurateurs on our Puglia cycling tour whose hospitality and warm personality makes our life so easy and enjoyable. When organising dinner for a group of 14-16 people for 8 consecutive nights, and all the detailed planning that goes into our diverse food and wine experience, it is just bliss when a chef says ‘ci penso io‘….that beautiful Italian expression that means ‘leave it to me’….and you know you can trust it 100%. Grazie Antonella!
If you’d like to join us in Puglia to create your own magical moments and stories, join us in May 2020 for our Spring Tour of Puglia for what is always a great adventure.