Find Home in Paradise: Beautiful Salento in Puglia

In September 2011 I found my way to the heel of the boot, beautiful Lecce, Italy. The region remains a lesser known Italian tourist destination. Don’t misunderstand, the lesser known part only means a more authentic experience, incredible wines, food, and arguably the country’s best olive oil. My travel companion, Cooking Lisa, spent an amazing day with Salento native, Ylenia Sambati. Upon meeting Ylenia, I was enchanted. Looking through Lisa’s pictures from her cooking class, I was kicking myself for not attending. We asked Ylenia to do a guest blog on her beautiful home and the travel adventures she designs for clients. If you are planning a trip to Italy and still need to finalize your itinerary, give YLTOUR a look. Enjoy the post! Please leave a comment to let us know what more you’d like to know about the region. We’ll invite Ylenia back to answer those questions! Ciao Ciao! Valerie Quintanilla

Guest Blogger: Ylenia Sambati

Olive groves (all around you), old stones, red earth, warm local people, narrow streets, white-washed houses, baroque balconies, cascading geraniums, simplicity and uncontaminated countryside, blue sea.
Welcome to Salento, an earthly paradise synthesizing an authentic lifestyle. Salento is a place of crossing, between east and west, a game of colours creating a unique aesthetic: manor farms, town houses, country houses, tobacco farming deposits, old palaces and little villages.
Salento in Puglia is a different and unique travel experience from other popular Italian destination.  Poetic, intimate, overlooking the sea and the olive groves, this southern Italian paradise is simple and  sophisticated.

Gastronomy here is pure poetry
Simplicity is the key word, since the noblest products are used together with a variety of cheese (ricotta, caciotta, primosale), cured meats, seafood, fruit and vegetables (Km 0), legumes, wood oven baked breads (pizzi, pucce and focacce) and famous wines (primitivo, negroamaro, salice salentino).

When you visit this region, do not miss shopping at a farmer market. You find them everywhere (by the ocean, in the city, in dedicated areas). Blooming colours all around you and a not to miss occasion for exploring the region in the most authentic way! Every village has its “market day” where you shop for awesome fresh food. On Sunday, visit very nice food markets by the ocean…all year round.

Wine: another gem of Salento in Puglia
Grape varieties include negroamaro, salice salento, black and white malvasia, aleatico and primitivo, which tell region’s soul and flavors.
Negroamaro, produced by leading local wineries, is among the 50 DOC wines of Puglia – now well known on the national and international wine scene. Its name derives from the Latin “niger” and greek “Mavros”, which respectively mean “black”. From the intense ruby color with purple reflections and unique scent, Negroamaro wines are red and rosé. It matches perfectly with the Mediterranean cuisine and traditional Salento dishes. Its perfume is intense and fruity, sometimes with a hint of tobacco…gorgeous. The taste is slightly bitter but full, round and dry.

Cooking Classes
A cooking class is a must do in this area: the mums in our kitchens cook for hours and they love sharing the experience with friends from all around the world. Probably a few of them will only know a couple words of English, but it doesn’t matter…they’re so cute and fun that you will like cooking some traditional food and tasting it with them, their family and their friends.
The point is: how much food. If you say here that you are going to have a salad they will stare at you as if you were ill. Cooking means preparing tons of food, from antipasti to pasta, siders, meat or seafood, dessert.

We have specialties you must try once you are in the area: “rustico” being one of them. 
Shop at any bar or bakery and enjoy it all day long. Folks usually have this delicious snack, especially late in the morning. These round snacks are baked in the oven, made with flaky pastry and filled with béchamel sauce, mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and a pinch of black pepper. Must be eaten hot!!

The city of Lecce
The Baroque city of Lecce is worth a visit, the city of actors, artists, churches, palaces, musicians, fashion stylists, where most of the walls, mainly in the historical part (centro storico) are mostly made of “pietra leccese”, a friable and ductile stone typical decorating many corners and balconies: statues of angels upon palaces, festoons, pilasters, busts of saints, decorations with vines and flowers.In Puglia you spend fascinating days in small towns and never tire of taking pictures of so many wonderful places: the white and multi-coloured little villages, the ceramic tows, the gorgeous old towns on the dramatic Adriatic sea, the grottoes…but also spend an amazing time meeting folks, learning all about oil and wine from a local producer, cook pizza and focaccia, taste local wines and pair them with fantastic fresh cheese, watch mozzarella being made, enjoy a huge Sunday lunch in a family home (and eventually cook with the mum and make fresh hand made pasta with the grandma)….and much more.

Rustic, simple, genuine. Every day.
The kind of trip you should experience once in a lifetime: live Salento in Puglia as a local, the calm of its nature, the beauty of its architecture and its so many occasions to do in every season, discovering its fascinating places and splendid areas, from transparent sea to its centenarian olive groves, wineries and restaurants.
I help my clients explore the most authentic Puglia and Salento. It is like staying with friends.
Believe me, you will fall in LOVE with the people and the landscape. Such a unique atmosphere…

See you soon for another story about this wonderful southern Italian place I’m so lucky to live in.

Ylenia is travel consultant for Puglia. Visit her website at and Facebook page:YLTOUR slow life and culinary paradise in Puglia.


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