The Masseria Fumarola is a converted masseria, now a beautiful boutique hotel. Every room is unique in its style and decoration and trully delightful. The outside space at the Masseria is fantastic, from a drink on the terrace, al-fresco eating, to the beautiful pool and the surrounding fields. It all adds to your feeling of well being.
But most importantly, the food there is divine!! From the breakfast offering which I still dream off; the amazing cakes (you have to try the carrot cake) to the best ever antipasti buffet ever seen in my life. If I could only eat Masseria Fumarola's antipasti & cake selection, I will have reached heaven.
The restaurant is called Bina and it's located in the cutest town of all Puglia: Locorotondo. Bina is all about providing amazing local Puglia produce; beautiful mouth watering dishes combined with fantastic service. We even had the pleasure to meet Bina. If only it was closer, I'd be there every week.
We stayed at the wonderful beachside Riva di Ugento campsite on the Ionian side of the Salento Peninsula. A grasp of Italian comes in useful and there were no other English campers at the site when we stayed there last August. You'll have the large oval pool to yourself most of the time if you wish, as the Italians spend all their time sunning themselves on the beach or cooking long lunches in their family encampments under the trees. And what better, as not for nothing are the beaches in this part of Italy dubbed 'Les Maldives'!
Visit the atmospheric Ionian town of Gallipoli, the 'beautiful city' of the Greeks. Traverse the dusty plains of Southern Puglia to get there and ignore the rather sprawling new town before crossing the causeway to the Old Town. Climb the steps up and walk along the several 'riverias' that encirle the town, looking down on the glittering sea and strips of beach. Seek refuge from the heat in the Frantoio Ipogeo, one of the many olive presses housed in the rock beneath the streets. Learn how Puglia as Italy's main olive oil producing region kept the cities of Europe's lamps illuminated with olive oil long before it became a culinary 'must have'. Enjoy an exquisite Granite di Limone at the cafe in the Piazza Duomo. A smattering of Italian is useful here and few English tourists venture to this side of Puglia.
Frantoio Ipogeo, Via Antonieta de Pace, Gallipoli, +39(0)833 26 42 42
Google map: bit.ly/MWcSxX
This crumbling medieval town sits beside one of the "gravine" (ravines) which score the landscape on the border between Puglia and Basilicata. Hewn from the rock on which they stand, many of the buildings are worth seeking out; look for the church of San Michele delle Grotte and the osteria Grano e Vino. Cave dwellings found in the gorge are said to date back to the bronze age and are typical of the whole area. The big attraction for outdoorsy types is the nearby Alta Murgia National Park, an environmentally protected plateau. Excursions can be arranged from the town.
Via Firenze, 10 - 70024 Gravina in Puglia (BARI)
+39 080 3262268
Google map: bit.ly/MeFkzF
Osteria Grano e Vino:
Via Fontana la Stella, 39, 70024 Gravina in Puglia (BARI)
+39 (0)80 237 74 84
Google map: bit.ly/MYjgdN
What's not to love about this beautiful Italian seaside town in the province of Puglia?! The organic nature of the buildings in the centro storico, morphing from the limestone cliff tops offer a spectacular view from the bridge over Covo dei Seraceni or from one of the multiple balconies, out to the vast azure of the Adriatic ocean. The hometown of Volare's Domenico Modugno has become famous of late for its associations with Red Bull diving and the hotel Grotto Palazzese with its restaurant that sits nestled amongst the escarpments but we much prefer it's simple pleasures. Evening strolls among the narrow, labyrinthine streets, pizzas at Terra Marique or piadine (Italian flatbread filled and folded with your preferred choice) at Il Gabelliere, followed by a gelato in one of the many ice cream parlours dotted among the town - with even potato flavour on the menu at Peppino's Bar if it takes your fancy! Swimming, of course, features high on the agenda but take heed and take a pair of jelly shoes to brave the stony shores - you have been warned. If you want a taste of la dolce vita, quite simply, look no further.
The whole town of Alberobello is lit up for the festival and the atmosphere is electric. From the stalls selling enormous tasty olives, to the fun fair, to climbing to the top of the hill past the quaint trulli to watch the magnificent firework display, it is all a feast for the eye. Trullo degli Alberi is on the outskirts of Alberobello with fantastic facilities to keep the whole family entertained (pool, games room and we even had pasta and pizza lessons arranged for us) and the owners will even act as taxi drivers so you don’t have to worry about finding somewhere to park during the festival.
Stay near Alberobello at the Chiusa di Chietri. As well as the excellent restaurant and pool, you can choose to stay in a genuine trulli house which is part of the hotel grounds.
The atmosphere is enhanced by the local weddings held there (judge the amount of money they cost by the size of the fireworks!
Visit Craco, an abandoned hill town that you can climb all over.
Matera is fascinating (used for fiming The Passion of the Christ).
Don't miss out Lecce, if not for the Roman ruins, for the relaxing and shady park and the fabulous Gelateria Natale!
Discover where the creator of Italy's famous song "Volare" got his inspiration in this small town just south of Bari. We love to wander around the little streets of the whitewashed medieval centre, perched precariously on the edge of the limestone cliffs and watch the waves crashing against the rocks beneath. For a truly special experience, eat at the Grotta Palazzese – this ‘summer cave’ with its views over the Adriatic was carved out of the rocks by a local lord to create a party venue in the 1700s.
It's a lovely family camping on the beach (you can even rent a bungalow on the beach!). It's quite, sunny, not too hot thanks to the trees and the nearby seaside. Adapted for families with one or more children. Very friendly and happy life.
The dining room and gardens of Hotel Royal Victoria, Varenna on Lake Como. Arrive in the evening by rail and it’s a 10 minute walk into town. Check in and enjoy the magnificent style of a charming traditional hotel, sumptuous yet not overdone, as a hotel should be. But the treat is in the morning. Make sure you have a lakeside view. Varenna is situated at the confluence of the lake where it splits in two. Breakfast may then be enjoyed with the most magnificent view of the lake, with the low sun bouncing off the water and outlining the mountains in every direction. Below is an ornate garden and intricate Italian architecture. After breakfast take a walk down to the lake shore through the private walkways and enjoy the views, flowers and architecture. As a base, ferries go from here in every direction and there are lakeside walks. The train can also be used as a means of one-way walking.
Piazza San Giorgio,2, 23829 Varenna
+39 0341 815111
Google map: bit.ly/N7AJdp
Approaching by boat, the monastery of Santa Caterina can be seen clinging perilously onto the rock overlooking the Lombard shores of Lake Maggiore. The carefully restored frescoes in the chapel are definitely worth a visit and the 180 degree views of the lake are spectacular, especially at sunset. It's a tranquil oasis away from the tourist bustle of many other places on the lake.
From the lakeside town of Laveno, you can take the cable car up the 1100m Sasso del Ferro. From the top, there are wonderful views of Lago Maggiore, the Alps and some of the smaller Lombard lakes too. The best part though is the ride itself - you stand up in cable cars which are more like human-sized buckets, completely open to the elements.
Bardolino celebrates the grape harvest each year with this five day food and wine festival. Stalls are set up along the side of the lake, each one selling their own wine and a regional speciality, for example risotto with radicchio or salt cod with polenta. You buy a tasting glass for a few euros at the start and keep it round your neck in a special box. You then visit the many stalls, sampling their wines and trying some of the dishes. Local bands and dancers provide entertainment and there are fireworks over the lake every night. It's a fantastic experience and all quite cheap too. Just make sure you don't have to drive anywhere afterwards!
Take a break from sightseeing and indulge in the Roman pastime of thermal spring bathing. There are several spas around Sirmione but I think the best is Acquaria. It's quite new and in a beautiful setting right by the lake. As well as many smaller bathing pools of different temperatures and massage effects, there is a large natural water pool. Swim through the gateway to get to the outdoor pool. Evening is the best time to go as it's cheaper, less crowded and you can swim under the stars and gaze at the twinkling lights on the other side of the lake. We went in winter which was ideal - the hot waters keep you warm for hours afterwards. A word of warning - the water is sulfurous so the stench stays with you for days!
Terme di Sirmione S.p.A. Piazza Virgilio, 1
25019 Colombare di Sirmione (BS)
+39 030 91681
Google map: bit.ly/Lomvuz
Follow in the footsteps of Napoleon and Churchill and go and paint at the lush promontory of Punta San Vigilio. Park the car and walk down to the lake through the olive grove where you will be rewarded by a spectacular view. Or walk there along the lake from the town of Garda, on a trail edged with lemon and cypress trees.
If you really want to indulge your artistic, romantic side, you can stay at the hotel there, right on the edge of the lake.
Leave the tourist trail of the bigger towns on the lake and visit Torri. It's a jewel of a place, a small village about half way up the Veneto side of Lake Garda. It's characteristic and full of atmosphere, with medieval walls and towers. There's a small Roman harbour and a Scaligeri castle as well as gorgeous trattorias and bars. Stroll along the lakeside walk and go for a swim - it's like taking a dip in a swimming pool, with crystal clear water and smooth pink marble underfoot.
Torri del Benaco, Lake Garda
Google map: bit.ly/OhB2U8
Valtenesi is a beautiful green valley full of groves and vineyards along the West shore of Lake Garda. It is perfect for cycling - try the 20km stretch between Lonato and Salo' and stop midway at La Cantina del Vicolo, in Padenghe sul Garda. You will enjoy tasty homemade cakes and jams or if you prefer savory, ask for a selection (un tagliere) of hams and local cheese.
Isola dei Pescatori (the Isle of the Fishermen) on Lake Maggiore is strung out like an extended teardrop in the wake of the Baroque battleship of Isola Bella. Its attractive informality is a breath of fresh air after the formal gardens that almost choke the larger island.
Head for the Belvedere restaurant on its northern shore, where the more formal seafront gives way to gardens and terraces – of which, the Belvedere has just about the best, with a spacious veranda overlooking the lake. We arrived unannounced in a sizeable party late in the afternoon, but were swiftly made to feel welcome and served a sumptuous feast at the terrace’s grandest table. ‘Fish from the lake’ is their disarmingly simple pitch, but the mixed pickle lake fish is an eye-opener of a dish.
Via di Mezzo, Isola Pescatori, 28838 Stresa (VB)
We discovered Agli Angeli in 2005 and have made it a must visit each time we return to Lake Garda. This gem of a family run restaurant and hotel is perfectly located in the romantic picturesque village streets above Gardone Riviera on the west shore of Lake Garda. Combine fine dining in a friendly local atmosphere with a visit to the adjacent Vittoriale Degli Italiani, the home and spectacular gardens of controversial poet and eccentric Gabriele D'Annunzio, or alternatively stay in one of the seven beautiful individual rooms within the main house or in the adjacent dependance and use as a base for exploring the Lake. There are a couple of suites within the house which can accommodate up to four people and also a pool to relax by.
Via Dosso 7, Gardone Riviera, Lake Garda
Send your feedback or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org