Ask yourself this: have you ever met anyone who really doesn’t like, if not love, Italian food? I bet you haven’t. So, just why is it that Italian cuisine has such universal appeal? Part of it is its endless diversity, with every region, town or even famiglia having its own distinctive style, resulting in a whole world of food within the “Boot.”
While Italian cuisine offers a dazzling kaleidoscope of variations, a couple of key qualities tie it all together: an emphasis on fresh, local, seasonal ingredients, and simply allowing quality ingredients to speak for themselves without fuss or frilly excess . . . something Americans have come to embrace more and more over the years. Italy is blessed with bountiful fruits and vegetables so it’s not surprising that Italians roll their eyes at the notion of “farm to table” being a new idea; it has always been at the heart of Italy’s culinary traditions. Plus, one shouldn’t underestimate that special “X” factor, best characterized as the alchemical addition of passione and amore.
Everybody falls in love with Italy. For some, it happens on the streets of Florence or Rome, or on the sun-soaked Amalfi coast, or perhaps over pizza in a small trattoria or on a misty morning in Venice. Once you’re smitten, it then happens over and over and if you haven’t yet discovered the beautiful region of Apulia, Italy’s “heel,” you must, for you will fall ever more deeply in love.
For decades, Puglia has been a popular summer destination for northern Italians and, still thankfully, it remains a place unmistakably by Italians and for Italians. Without the flashy jewelry, La Bella Puglia nonchalantly showcases her unique cultural identity and spectacular coastline bathed by the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Home to the Boot’s most ancient olive groves and the Baroque jewel of a city, Lecce, (deserving of a separate slideshow that’s coming soon!), Puglia basks in Italy’s southern light and is a land of extremes. Deep sapphire waters offset intensely white towns; miles of olive trees cover the horizon, sprinkled with compact villages. With the heat and sun comes the region’s propensity for languid living . . . time seems to pass more slowly, giving one the opportunity to appreciate every detail and richness of la dolce vita.
[Towns featured here include: Alberobello, Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Ostuni, Gallipoli, Ortranto and Polignano a Mare.]
“For one ravishing moment Italy appeared.” – E.M.Forster, Room With a View
No place on the planet can rival Italy’s sensory abundance, cultural richness and passionate people. There is just something about the “Boot” that entices us, seduces us, romances us and engages every aspect of our being . . . the body, the mind, the heart and the soul. Perhaps this is why, when you step off the plane, your step lightens and your spirits lift . . . and, regardless of one’s ethnicity, your “Inner Italian” blossoms forth. The “Inner Italian” is that delicious part of all of us that falls in love most easily and is the most expansive, expressive, spontaneous and joyful.
We all need to travel to Italy, whether by boat or plane, or simply in our hearts and imagination. Buon Viaggio!