Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Sensory analysis of Puglia

Puglia is the Italian region occupying the heel of the peninsula: an amazing area extraordinarily rich in culture and traditions.

My personal experience was extremely `physical` and that’s the reason why I decided to describe it via the 5 senses.

Sight: there is no better way of depicting Puglia than using its own peculiar features: the long dry stone walls bordering the roads and the surrounding large green fields, olive groves or vineyards....

...the Masserias, ancient farmhouses now often renovated and transformed in beautiful restaurants or hotels.....

 ...and the trulli, very distinctive buildings characterised by a conical roof and typical of the Valle dell'Istria.

Hearing: Puglia (or Apulia for English speakers) has tout cour the sound of pizzica, the traditional popular dance characterized by a pressing rhythm and lots of tambourines. It can be described with words. You need to listen to it....

Smell: this region is rich in perfumes and certainly that of olive oil is one of the most representative. Puglia produces approximately 49% of the total Italian olive oil. Olive trees are an important feature of the landscape and the resulting extra-virgin oil is rich, with plenty of aromas of tomatoes, almonds and olives and with a spicy character. A lot of the production unfortunately gets lost in the blend of various oils from various unspecified parts of  Italy but luckily there are also some very expressive examples. 


Taste:  Apulian cuisine is an explosion of flavours. Food here is almost religion. This fertile land produces natural products that are the tasty ingredients of the local cuisine: the tomatoes, the olive oil, the chilli, the mushrooms, the wild chicory, but also the bread (a different type almost in every town), the homemade pastas, the mozzarella and burrata and the wine, the best company for your meals. 

Touch: This is a very important sense in this land. People here is proud of their origins, they are expressive and friendly. They don't just shake your hand they hug you vigorously. They invite you to their places. They are approachable and convivial. They are warm people.

PS: This post is based on the personal experiences of the feminine part of the couple.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Something for everyone (aka the stunning beaches of Northern Corsica)

The only way to fight the incoming apathy and sense of depression due to a November rainy afternoon, was to look back at our pictures and notes from our week in Corsica and write about some of its beautiful beaches! Since last time we were in this gorgeous Mediterranean island 2 months ago, memories are still fresh.

One of the things we love more about Corsica (other that good food and wine and an extraordinary mix of French and Italian cultures) is the fact that it has something for everyone.
Mountain? Ticked!
Amazing sea? Ticked!
Sandy beaches? Ticked!
Rocky bays? Ticked!
Beautiful ancient towns? Ticked!
(And we don't want to repeat ourselves about food & wine!)

But let's go back to beaches...and let's start with an easy one: Plage Aregno. Easy in terms of access because is just by the town of Algajola and there is a quite spacious parking. No facilities there other than a kayak rental. But the beautiful landscape on one side, the view of the now privately owned ancient Genoese fort on the other and crystalline waters just in front of you will do the job.

Only walking distance but inside the town there are also other spots both with sand or rocks where to stop.

Very close to Lumio, is Plage Arinella. Here there is a sandy part and also some flat and smooth rocks where lying down to sunbath. The beach is quite large: the first part is not perfectly clean plus walking a bit further it is quieter. What is really impressive is the splendid colorful maquis behind the beach and the amazing fishes in the water. It was full of sea breams and sea basses...and seabirds looking for their dinner!

Getting closer to Ile Rousse, there are a couple of other beaches worth visiting. Just before entering the town (coming from Lumio) there is a blue totem saying `Plage` . Follow the road and in a few minutes you will find a large parking. During high season you will have to pay but in September it was free. Once left the car, a 5-10 minutes walk (crossing an apparently abandoned railroad track) will take you to the first of the 2 beaches, Plage de Bodre.

Bodre is a very nice long stretch of sand with a bar on its Eastern side, but it was a bit too busy for our standards, so we decided to follow a path indicating Plage de Ghjunchetu. After a 5-10 minutes' walk through the maquis, we arrived to this charming and much less crowded beach of fine and light sand with some rocky corners.


The seabed is sandy with plenty of little soles.There is also a bar, but at the time of our visit it was closed.
The place was very quiet and relaxing.

And just looking at pictures we can still feel the warmth of that September afternoon.....

Monday, 11 November 2013

Cap Corse, the wild finger of Corsica

Cap Corse is a thin strip of land in Northern Corsica stretching towards the Italian region of Liguria and called 'the finger'.
It is possibly the wildest and less spoilt part of the island and offers plenty of untouched beaches, beautiful hiking paths, ancient Genoese towers, fresh seafood and a worldwide acclaimed muscat!

Starting your way up from Bastia, on the eastern side, the road is one lane per direction making the trip a bit slow at times, but still extremely enjoyable thanks to the amazing views of the sea on your right. Once you arrive in Centuri, at the top of the finger on the western side, things get a bit more complicated as the road's conditions are extremely poor and nothing has changed at all since we visited 3 years ago; it still looks like a work in progress without having made any progress!

This time we spent most of our time on the eastern part of the finger making base in Macinaggio, a port village on the outskirts of the Site Naturel de la Capandula. 
Before getting there, though, we stopped on the various beaches along the road; Marine de Pietracorbara, Marine de Sisco and Marine de Santa Severa for a few refreshing baths. Even being the last days of September the water temperature was still warm plus this is probably the perfect time of the year to enjoy these places completely as the high season is finished and the atmosphere is much more relaxed! We also stopped to taste a bit of Muscat at the Domaine Pieretti which was delicious as we were expecting!

Macinaggio in itself is not that exciting: a few hotels and restaurants and a couple of ticky-tacky souvenir shops, but it's the perfect base to discover the area around and the other little villages: Rogliano, Barcaggio, Centuri, Pino and Luri.

Rogliano is divided in various hamlets on the hills inland. Lovely stone houses, green rich vegetation all around and the silent view of the sea are going to welcome you there.

Barcaggio is at the real northernmost finger tip, a mid stop on the spectacular Sentier du Douanier and just in front of Ile de la Giraglia. The village is very quiet (at least in September) and being at the border with the Site Naturel de la Capandula, it is not unusual to see wild cows resting and bathing. Getting there requires a bit of patience as the road from Ersa is narrow and windy, but you will rewarded by the splendid sight of unspoilt nature. 

Once on the western side of the Cap, the first town you will encounter is Centuri. Its port is a tiny fishing village that every summer turns in a bustling spot with plenty of crowded fish restaurants offering great seafood.
If you keep going on the main road heading south towards Pino make sure you don't stop by the bar/fuel station unless you like extremely rude and slow service!

From Pino, getting inland towards Luri, it's full of beautiful vineyards (at the time of our visit they were just ready to be harvested). The town is not that much different from the others in the Cap Corse; characterised by a quiet and relaxing atmosphere. Just outside the town it is worth visiting the Tour of Seneca, where the ancient Roman philosopher was confined with a charge of adultery. The short climb to get there is worth the great view of the sea on both sides.

Worth mentioning as well that Luri is the place where the biggest wine festival in Corsica takes place, though, unfortunately, we got there just a couple of months late, as the fair is in July! 

We ended our circular tour by heading back to Santa Severa, Luri's marina, on the eastern shores of the Cap, just on time for the last bath of this summer.