|On the bottom of the heel|
Puglia is probably unknown to most Americans (for the most part, it was to me), so I will give you some facts (thanks Lonely Planet). Puglia is the heel of the boot. Its a relatively flat place that has a mild climate. I kind of think of it like Florida, but less humid. The climate, terrain, and geology (mostly limestone) make it an oasis for agriculture and grape growing, and thus a foodie's paradise as the produce is always very fresh and the wine is some of the best in the world. Puglia is also relatively remote and the Salento peninsula has been referred to as Italy's third island. OK, enough of that.
|olives, olives everywhere|
Two days later I returned from another long ride. This one was to the tip of Puglia. Upon my return I am once again greeted by Agnese who asks "Dove?" "Lucia," I reply. Her jaw drops and she states "Mangia!" Thirty minutes later she has prepared a full Italian meal. Prosciutto and bread to start, followed by spagetti con pomodori, followed by a chicken roast, followed by sliced fennel with balsamic and olive oil, followed by a plum-like fruit hollowed and filled with whiskey. Sangiovese during and caffe afterwards to drink. All this at 2 in the afternoon! Italians know how to eat!
|Masseria (old stone farmhouse) Piccinna|
My time at Palama confirmed that quality wine was being produced right down the road (about 6 km from the B&B) and my cycling through the countryside, surrounded by olive groves and vineyards really made me wonder about taking Agnese up on her offer. Eating great bread, cheese, and vegetables, and finally, the kindness and openness of the locals has been amazing.
Take Fabbio: he owns the "internet point" here in Aradeo. We got talking one day while I was doing email and he got quite excited about my trip and me being in Puglia. He spent the next half hour telling me all the places I needed to visit. People here are very proud of their land, much like folks in N. Arizona, I believe. When signing out and heading back to the B&B, Fabbio came forward, looked me in the eyes and said "Caleb, so good to meet you! Buon viaggio!"
The folks at the local market that I've frequented everyday were equally as warm and enthusiastic, eager to help me find what I was craving. They are always interested in where I am from too.
"Di dove sei?"
"Stati Uniti.... Arizona... est di California... Grand Canyon."
As I finish writing this on my 4th and final day in Aradeo, I am sad to leave but I know that this place will remain in somewhat of isolation with its good people, amazing food & wine, and culture. I hope that some day down the road I will indeed be pulled back here.