I think sometimes I big up a destination in my head so much, that it can’t live up to expectation.
And I was very excited about my rustic holiday to Puglia (the heel of Italy).
I’d heard it was a less touristy region than many places in Italy, and it would be very rural and simple, and that I’d be able to eat amazing food for very little money.
So I was a bit grumpy at discovering on arrival, a lot of tourists and restaurants very much catering for them. They were ruining my authentic experience of Southern Italy! Damn you Justin Timberlake for getting married in Puglia and starting an influx of American visitors and unrusticking it.
We didn’t help ourselves by getting into the habit of eating croissants every morning. Not sure what we were thinking as they are not bloody Italian. Then for lunch, out of ease we started eating pucce (Puglian ciabatta) toasties with proscuitto and mozzarella every day – very nice, but it’s not exactly an enriching culinary experience. And in the evenings we weren’t faring much better, and frankly kept making crap, touristy, lazy choices.
On our fourth day, I broke my croissant fix and chose an Italian chocolate cake for breakfast. And omg it was so stale. It was the last straw. I had a massive grumble to Jamie and said I wasn’t having the authentic Italian experience I wanted. Poor Jamie, I really moaned. I banged on about all the amazing, cheap mind blowing meals I’d had in Italy on my 7 previous trips, and that I was disappointed. In hindsight though, I was lumping together all the food highlights from each trip, leaving my perspective a bit skewed.
So we got a bit more organised and started scrutinising reviews on TripAdvisor before making restaurant choices, and just generally being a bit more fussy, and I also conceded that we might have to pay for quality (gasp!).
And guess what? Things got better.
Highlights included the chewiest chocolatiest torte, a divine carrot and orange cake, a very melty piece of lamb, two phenomenal octopus sandwiches (so fresh), a super crispy lasagne made with spinach lasagne sheets and lamb, a beautiful aubergine and cheese ravioli, oh yes and lets not forget cannoli – deep fried pastry tubes filled with sweet ricotta.
And do you know what, despite a bit of whinging on my part, we had a really nice holiday, Puglia is beautiful, and most of it is rustic. In particular I fell in love with the remote and rugged beaches, with the bluest, clearest seas. And the ancient towns and villages at the top of hills like Lecce and Ostuni are gorgeous. And in terms of taking photos, it’s pure Instagram gold. Lovely light, beautiful crumbly old buildings, colourful doors, blue seas – it was iPhone photo ecstasy!