As I stand on the balcony I furry my brow at the large and dark clouds that inch closer to our hotel at an alarming rate. Please don’t let it rain I think to myself as I close shut the doors and rest my head against the pillow. I awake in the morning to the cries of thunder and the sound of rain violently banging on the outside of my window. I have awoken at the Hotel Residence Arianna Club in the Gargano Peninsula (right at the ankle spur of Puglia,Italy) and instead of frolicking in their pool or sunbathing on the beach, I gaze out my window miserably wishing that the rain would stop. A group of us are on a trip and our hosts, Italians from the Consorzio Gargano Ok, a collective of dedicated tourist resorts, are now forced to change our whole itinerary.
For four days it rains constantly, a phenomenon so rare in Gargano that most of the region's locales have never seen anything like it in their lifetime. Gargano may be home of the Tremiti Islands, numerous historical sites like Monte Sant’Angelo and the Umbra Forest, but for those four days all of those one-of-a-kind experiences were just out of reach.
There was just one thing to do: MANGIA
In Italy, food and culture go hand in hand. Food and the act of eating is not just an a way of satisfying the sensation of hunger but it is also synonymous with cordiality and of sharing a laugh or a glass of wine with one another while jovially breaking bread. It means being able to enjoy time kept in good company.
As a result, it is not surprise that dinners (and at times lunches) have been become quite the production lasting hours and ending in a full stomach and an unbuttoned pair of pants. But as the rain stubbornly washed away our plans of frolicking on the beach, it allowed another much richer plan to form: tasting and eating everything that Gargano has to offer.
Gargano is located in the province of Puglia, which is renowned for its gastronomy. Puglia is an agricultural region whose sun, fertile soil and flat landscape make it the ideal place to grow fresh and flavorful fruits and vegetables. It is also known for its olives, deliciously mouth-watering cheeses, fresh seafood and plentiful vineyards. In short, it’s a foodie's paradise.
Top 5 Food Tips for Puglia, Italy
So after four full days of eating more food than I have ever eaten in my life, I learned a couple of things. Here are my 5 top things I've learned about food and eating in Gargano: Puglia, Italy
1) You don't have to venture far to enjoy a world class meal. Gargano is known as an Italian resort town, made up of many hotel complexes that all have their own restaurants. At the Blue Marine Residence we enjoyed homemade thin crust pizzas, at the Lido del Mare we gorged ourselves on dish upon dish of mouth-watering seafood and at the Villagio Club Delgi Uliva we were served freshly made mozzarella, still warm as it touched our lips.
2) It's cheese-lover's paradise. Puglia is known for its cheese, the most famous of which is a cheese called: burrata. It is quite similar to mozzarella but with a gooey, creamy inside that oozes out once you cut into it. It is so rich and creamy that it can be eaten alone without any accompaniment. But if you don't like burrata, then don't fret, Gargano is home to dozens of varieties of cheeses, making it a little slice of paradise for anyone who enjoys a good piece of cheese.
3) Pasta is made a little different here. Pasta is made with durum wheat semolina with no eggs and is usually handmade. On one of our many rainy days, we had a pasta making tutorial at the Hotel Residence Arianna Club where we learned how to make four different types of pasta, the most famous of which is the orecchiete or “little ears” which look like, you guessed it, little ears!
4) Puglia produces 50% of Italy's olive oil. The village of Carpino, located in Gargano, has been nicknamed “Città dell’olio” (City of Oil) due to the quality of extra virgin olive oil that is produced in the region. You can't visit the region without pick up a bottle of this liquid gold.
5) Seafood lovers rejoice! The region is just as famous for its seafood as it is for its olives, wine and fruits. In fact, Lago di Varano, the largest coastal lake in Italy, is littered with traditional wooden fishing machines that are still used today. Gargano is known for its mussels and clams but seafood aficionados can always count on being served freshly caught fish that is cooked and seasoned perfectly.
What do you think of my list? Have you eaten in Gargano or Puglia? What is was your favorite dish?
A self-proclaimed travel fanatic, Yvonne Ivanescu has embarked on a number of unforgettable adventures across the globe.
In 2012 Yvonne launched Under the Yew Tree, a website about travel, green living, food and fashion around the world. She will also be launching her own travel safety book in 2014.