Sights and Flavors of Puglia – Sapori di Puglia

So I have a new job – if you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw this. I am excited and proud to be a part of the Automattic ( and more) team!

Being location-independent now means that I can do something like wake up at 3:30am on a Saturday morning to drive down to Puglia so I could work from there for the week. Unfortunately, even leaving at 4am from Milan we encountered massive problems. Around 6:30am at the “nodo” knot of Italian highways that meet at Bologna, it took us about 90 minutes to go a few kilometers and I heard it only got worse later in the morning. If I could tell you how many Swiss license plates I saw going to Rimini…and they got up much earlier than we did.

But 10 hours later, and in time for lunch, we made it to lovely Puglia. We spent a few hours on the beach on Saturday afternoon, and then decided the day to enjoy the beach in full would be Sunday. And we wouldn’t be fooling around. We woke up early, or late compared to the day before, depending on your viewpoint.

Perhaps a bit too early. The lifeguards weren’t even on duty yet, and the beach was blissfully empty. We went for a swim in the already-warm water while we waited to find out if we would get an ombrellone, big umbrella, on the beach.

Matinatella beach in early morning in Puglia

More after the jump…

I enjoyed the peace and quiet.

The Adriatic sea at 7am in Puglia

And good thing we did get there early. When the lifeguards arrived at 8am, we got the very last ombrellone of the day. At 8am. This is what the beach looked like later in the day.

Matinatella beach in Puglia

Since Sunday, I haven’t gone far from my temporary office, though you won’t hear me complaining. In the morning I walk down to the best cornetteria and pick up a still-warm-to-the-touch cornetto, Italian croissant, filled with marmellata, [apricot] jam, (which I categorically hate except for these, so you know they are good) to have with my beloved marocchino coffee, or espressino as it’s called here. I have lunch and dinner in one of the best mensa, company cafeteria, a working girl could ask for: her Pugliese mother-in-law’s.

Here’s a bit of a sample:

Grilled fish – pesce alla griglia

Grilled fish in Puglia

Orecchiette, little ear pasta Puglia is known for, with creamy zucchini and gamberi, shrimp. The risotto ai frutti di mare didn’t make it into this post, nor did the eggplant parmigiana my MIL makes every time we come for a visit, otherwise this post would have about 30 pictures of just primi, pasta.

Orecchiette with shrimp and zucchini in Puglia

Perhaps my favorite pizza in all of Italy: crispy, crunchy pomodoro fresco fresh-tomato Pugliese pizza (of course I also love pizza bianca and pizza napoletana). The MIL didn’t make this, we brought it home from a favorite pizza place that is so popular and known, he has absolutely no signage anywhere outside the tiny take-away-only pizzeria indicating that it’s a pizzeria or a business, and it’s standing-room only.

Pizza with fresh tomatoes in Puglia

These polpette, meatballs, are not meatballs in the traditional sense – they are not made with meat, but with eggs and bread, and then fried, and served in a meat-based sauce.

Egg and bread polpette - meatballs

And the special peperoncino, hot pepper, that just sits on the table at every meal, waiting for you to dip your spoon or knife in to spice up the plate in front of you. Nonna, grandma, still selects the peppers, dries them and grinds them up for the whole family. At home I alternate between the dried peperoncino and the spicy chili oil I make with the peppers.

Homemade ground hot pepper, pepperoncino, in Puglia

Of course, even in the summer Nutella is around. And in big quantities! 5 kilos for 30 euros. 5 kilos. That’s a lot of hazelnut chocolate to eat in the summer. Best stuff it into a cornetto as advertised – only 1 euro!

5 kilos of Nutella or a hot cornetto with Nutella

I was able to escape for an occasional passeggiata, stroll, in the evening through the city and do a little people-watching of people….watching.

Older Gentlemen Puglia

And fit in an aperitivo on the evenings we hoped not to ruin dinner. Just a few finger foods to nibble on in case we were hungry.

Aperitivo drink with lots of finger foods in Puglia

I tried not to watch all the people walking around with their beach coverups on, and concentrated on palm trees and fountains surrounded by whitewashed and marbled walls…

Palm trees and fountains in Puglia

…and a sunset or two among the cactus before back to finishing up work in the evening.

Sunset over the cactus in Puglia

Yes, I definitely feel lucky. I’ll be in the US for the whole month of August and moving my temporary office from SF to SD and Alaska, too – hopefully I’ll run into a few of you :)

Posting will continue of course, but if you’re hungry for more Italy news, make sure you listen to all 14 of the Eye on Italy podcast episodes we’ve done so far and let us know what you think!

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  1. says

    Congratulations and yes you are very lucky indeed.

    I thought about going to Puglia a few years ago, but for some reason was a bit unsure, I think it is because we can only holiday in November at the moment, due to my husbands job.

    I definitely know who to ask for advice if we venture down there. :-)

    • Lena says

      Anne November is nice there. Less tourists. My son & family live in San Vito Dei Normanni (near Brindisi). Actually it’s less expensive to go there in November. Beautiful places to go Ostuni, Arbellobello, Leece. Naples is only 3 hours away. Go!!! If you need connections let me know!

  2. says

    Lovely post about THE BEST REGION IN ITALY! But, no bias on my part, of course! Two things:
    1. are you in Conversano? That has to be the entry to the Cathedral in Conversano. If so, let’s get together! Send me an email!
    2. I hate to be the one to tell you, but the photo of what you call pizza is what we call “focaccia” here in Puglia…
    Great post all around! :-)

  3. says

    Woohooo, congratulations! Not that I know what a digital strategist is or if that is your title at Automattic but either way – woohoo! I am proud to have met you! :)

  4. Rose in Cali says

    Tanti auguri per il suo lavoro nuovo! (Pardon my beginning Italian; I am not even sure that’s grammatically correct.) I would love to meet you in SF for a quick appertivo if you have time. :-) I live vicariously through your blog!

  5. says

    Nice one – and for me too yesterday.
    Beautiful pictures of a beautiful place and really lovely food – that grilled fish. We are planning a week near leece later in the summer.

  6. says

    We just came back from Puglia yesterday, we had a lovely time, eat our way through it, and got some tan to show off. Best vacation ever. Your photos are great.

  7. Shirley says

    How can I befriend your MIL and Nonna and get invited to their cooking next time??

    Hey, thank you for the treat for us in Milan, the aperitivo and the Mozoralla Bar, finished up with gelato at Chocola.

    I’m enjoying reading every bit on your blog. Ring us when you are back in the Bay Area. Ciao

  8. Ms. Adventures in Italy says

    Thanks to everyone!

    @Saretta, not in Conversano – where is that? Actually in the US now, maybe next time we can meet up.
    @Ben – it’s in the Gargano area of Puglia.
    @nyc – not sure, it was fruity and non-alcoholic, I think with grape and some other juice.
    @Rose – that would be fun, I will try and organize something in mid-Aug in SF
    @Shirley – ha! I don’t share :)

  9. says

    Congrats to you! Puglia looks fabulous-enjoy your time and hopefully by the time you make it to CA the sun will finally be out!

  10. says

    How did I miss this post and only stumble upon it when I’m hungry and craving everything Italian?! Congratulations on your location independence – and all the fabulousness that is your life right now. Enjoy!

  11. lucia says

    my family is from puglia. my mom used to make polpette without the meat. i still don’t eat regular meatballs. we eat eggballs at my house.

  12. says

    May I add my congrats on your new job! As many others said, I’ll also be day-dreaming about being location-independent in Puglia!

    I also want to congratulate you on your blog–the pictures and posts are amazing. There is so much to enjoy here.

    thanks for sharing!

  13. says

    Loved this post too!! Think I might go make some pizza dough and dream i’m in Italy for lunch!! And yay for MIL’s who cook for you…you are blessed!! ;)
    ciao bella

  14. Ms. Adventures in Italy says

    Thanks everyone for the best wishes. This summer went way too fast, I am dreaming of the beach with my gray skies now :)

  15. Lisa says

    Hi – is that the Fontana delle Rose beach just past Matinatta?? We were just there last week and I hadn’t read your blog in a while and was surprised to see something so familiar! Last week the beach was deserted though Mmmm Focaccia barese, fish, a dream!

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