Monday, August 15, 2011

When in Rome...

If you are looking for a holiday in an unspoilt region of Italy where the people welcome you with open arms, the food is simple, local and delicious and the scenery breathtaking, then Puglia is your spot.

We spent a gorgeous day at the Masseria Torre Coccaro beach club, which took St Tropez’s Club 55 as its inspiration and managed to outshine it. A beautiful stretch of Adriatic coastline, with an azur blue sea, lovely sunbeds and waiters who will bring a chilled glass of prosecco to the beach makes this the perfect spot. Vittorio, the owner, also runs Torre Maizza nearby and told me the secret of his success is not promoting his hotels but letting the service and setting do all the talking. It works. His land also yields olives, olive oil, artichokes and other produce which has a mere few steps to travel from picking to serving.

We also tried Al Fornello da Ricci, reputedly the best restaurant in the region, run by Antonella Ricci and her husband Vinod. Lily Allen was at the table next to us, not that this mattered as all eyes were on the food which was cooked and served by Antonella in her beautiful garden. The antipasto, with stuffed courgette flowers, fava bean paste, simple fine griddled zucchini with mint and melanzane, was unforgettable.

We left with heavy hearts promising to go back as there is still so much to explore. At Cassino we visited the war graves where Jean’s father is buried having lost his life in the battle of Cassino in WWII along with thousands of other allied servicemen. The graves where unknown soldiers were buried made the trip even more poignant, with gravestones bearing the inscription: ‘A soldier of the 1939 – 1945 war known unto God.’

Onwards to Rome and we spent a fantastic day yesterday at the Colosseum and Palatina, which is the original birthplace of ancient Rome 2,750 years ago. Fascinating. By the way, the strange looking specimen at the bottom of the picture is not Iain with a wig on... Dinner at the cool Antica Enoteca wine cave was followed by an amazing performance of live opera at the foot of the Spanish steps last night, where renditions of La Vie en Rose, Nessun Dorma and songs from other famous operas had the crowd in a frenzy. Except for Issy who, spotting the TV cameras recording the performance, said, ‘Come on, you can watch this back at the hotel on YouTube.’

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