A good number of people who contact me about traveling in Calabria are also interested in visiting another region in Italy’s mezzogiorno. Sometimes it is Basilicata, sometimes it is Campania but oftentimes, it is Puglia. I’ve been and like others, I found the region full of fresh food, magical scenery and contagious charm but instead of sharing my impressions of the region, I thought I’d go to the experts.
Over the next couple of months, I’ll share interviews and impressions from expats who have made Puglia their new home.
Initially I blogged at Pecorino e Miele (expatsinitaly.com/tina) and spent a lot of time traveling to Italy and eventually lived in Perugia as a student.
I fell in love with an Argentine (and was already in love with tango) and wound up in Buenos Aires, before going with him back to the US. About that time, I started Tina Tangos. After we broke up, I had already fallen hard core in love with Argentina and decided to go back, on my own. I stayed about a year and a half, translating and dancing tango (apprenticing with an amazing maestro).
My Italian citizenship arrived, and so did the global economic crisis. I had things to take care of in the US, and decided maybe it would be best to finally make the permanent move to Italy. I went back to Perugia just because I already knew it and didn’t want to make any major changes too soon.
At the end of February I took a week off and went down to Lecce, where I wound up teaching tango. I fell so in love with the Salento (the part of Puglia where Lecce is). A woman I became fast friends with here offered me a ride from Perugia to Lecce a month later, and I took it. Here I am!
2. I remember reading that you were instantly in love with Puglia. What would you say are the top three things you fell for in Puglia?
– 1. The food! So different from anything I’ve tasted. And so fresh. Greens, lots of peperoncino, the seafood, the ricci (sea urchins), the wine. I grew up in Seattle, where we had access to all kinds of fresh seafood, so arriving in Lecce after six months in Umbria (which is a landlocked region) was exciting for me. I am lucky enough to sometimes eat fish that has just been caught by the person preparing it. And mussels? At least once a week. There’s nothing like it.
– 2. The landscapes and seascapes. There is something so special about driving past olive groves with red soil (the soil is red here!), bordered with muretti a secco (dry stone walls typical of this region), to eventually wind up looking at either the Adriatic or the Ionian sea (we have two seas to choose from!). The rocks that jut out of the water here are like nothing I’ve seen, and the water is so clear.
– 3. The arts. From the minute I arrived, I have been constantly surrounded by artists – musicians, painters, dancers, interior designers. And we’re talking serious professionals who turn out high-quality creations. There is just so much inspiration here.
3. If someone asked you why they should visit Puglia, what would you tell them?
Because I’m here? (wink, wink)
Seriously though, I think it is just so special here. It’s really “off the beaten path” in the sense that it’s not heavily touristed and therefore a little isolated – but in a good way. The food is incredible, you can get right to the sea, and there is some gorgeous architecture. It has all you could ask for in an Italian vacation, minus the heavy international tourist crowds.
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Photos by: Tina Ferrari