An amazing little family run restaurant below ground off one of the main routes to the piazza. We found this looking for a late lunch, were warmly welcomed by the two brothers for whom English was as much of a challenge as Italian was/is to us. We were offered hot or cold lunch and opted for hot. We were treated to course after course of anti pasti including sea food, olives, breads, sausage etc. mid way through this we decided there would be no 'primi piatti" only to be surprised by a steaming bowl of simple but beautiful orecchiette. Lovely wine, and friendly patrons all keen to help out in their pidgin English. A wonderful happy accident finding this place, and two years later we still laugh thinking about it all. Should have been called "Serendipity"!
Vico VI Orto Nannavecchia
I thoroughly recommend picking one of the small, whitewashed hill-top towns in the beautiful Valle d'Itria area of Puglia as an exploration base. I happened to pick Ceglie Messapica which is known for its excellent regional cuisine. It is less expensive than the better known towns, such as Ostuni or Alberobello but close enough to explore a range of places like Martina Franca, Cisternino, Locorotondo, Ostuni and Alberobello, as well as the lovely and sandy Torre Canne beach. A car is essential and driving through ancient olive groves with dark red earth dotted with trulli is an absolute pleasure - but make sure you have a satnav!
About 40 min. drive from Brindisi airport.
Google map: bit.ly/TgM6Fe
Puglia is great for cycling. Get a flight to Brindisi and head inland, find one place as an HQ and then go for meandering circular rides in the countryside. The coast is a great place for a day trip but the hinterland is more chilled and has less traffic.
One thing to remember: it's a myth that Italians drive like crazy but they do have a habit of giving the car horn a little bib when they are about to overtake cyclists; they do this as a courtesy to let you know that they are coming but at first I kept stopping and looking back to see if there was a problem. Once you've got used to that you'll find Puglia a very safe and relaxing place to go biking.
I'm not a vegetarian but I did notice that there were plenty of tasty vegetable based dishes in this region perhaps in reflection of poorer times when meat was not so readily available. There is an 'old world' feeling to this part of Puglia, which reminds me: if you're over 35 and you just have to wear Lycra shorts, the locals will greatly appreciate it if you put on something a little less revealing before you enter into a cafe or a bar.
I won't suggest a bike route because I believe it's best to just head off aimlessly and see where the road takes you, it's all good.
I've been cycling (aimlessly) around the Brindisi region of Puglia many times and the one place I recommend as a place to stay is a holiday villa called Rustic Puglia near Ceglie Messapica. It is run by a young English couple, Claire and Andy. They run the villa as a separate property while they grow organic fruit and vegetables on the land. This is a great base from which to explore the rolling countryside and nearby ancient towns such as Cisternino and Locorotondo.
I got chatting to a local (well, he was from Milan originally) and he asked if the area reminded me of Ireland and it occurred to me, that with all the stone walls and cottages, it is just like Ireland - but without the rain. The Milanese gentleman suggested a disused aqueduct for cycling along. I still haven't found that aqueduct. Next time perhaps.
+39 327 2398484
Nearest town is Ceglie Messapica, nearest airport is Brindisi.
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