Italy: Apulia (with gluten-free tips)

Our trip to Apulia was lovely but it’s also good to be back home. My husband has work to do, I could see the boys were already tired after the traveling and we all missed our routines. I can’t wait to do my usual, everyday things at home. I want to cook my own food, write my blogs and just spend a few hours alone in peace and quiet.

Some practical notes. First of all, I had only hand luggages for myself (the others shared a bigger suitcase) but had still packed way too much. I was mainly wearing my jean shorts, a couple of sleeveless shirts and one dress. Underwear and small lightweight shirts are easy to wash and dry quickly and I could have easily managed with a smaller backpack than I usually have for one week (we spent in Italy totally 10 days).

Our Apulia trip consisted of two parts. We spend the first part in a B&B in Castellana Grotte and the second part in a small beach hotel in Torre Santa Sabina. We wanted to just relax and take it very easy so our daily plan was to spent a few hours at the pool/beach and then do a lunch or dinner trip to different small towns nearby. There were so many of them and all of them really pretty so there was a lot to see.

Our B&B in Castellana Grotte was called Fontana Vecchia and I can’t speak highly enough of this place, it was a peaceful heaven! We had booked two rooms in the main building and an apartment for the boys (an adorable trulli house) and really enjoyed our staying. The gluten-free breakfast was extremely generous and always included something local, our boys loved the big pool and the service was excellent and the owner gave us great tips for our daily trips.

We did a small trip to a town called Putignano and to my surprise the all white old town centre was quiet and practically empty, so pleasant to walk around! We had dinner in a small, high quality restaurant called Scinua which was a highlight of our week. The dinner was delicious and everything on the menu could be ordered gluten-free and specially prepared and the whole meal was extremely professionally served. We had a long dinner and it was naturally more expensive than our usual holiday meals but totally worth it and something to remember later.

We did another trip to Alberobello and had our dinner in a place called La Cantina and the restaurant was tiny and the kitchen was open so we could watch how everything was prepared and cooked and had another interesting and delicious long meal. The chef told us their kitchen can’t be 100 % gluten-free because it’s that small and open (meaning gluten-free food can’t be kept totally separate) but I got the feeling he was as careful with gluten-free ingredients as I am at home and had such a good knowledge that I felt totally safe eating and ordering gluten-free options also for the boys. Alberobello is known for trulli houses – I had no idea there are so many of them, dozens and dozens – and looks like a little fairytale village.

Our B&B owner advised us to visit also Polignano a Mare and the little town was my favorite of these three with a very special structure (see a couple of pics), a part of the town is build on the rocks above the sea. Our lunch wasn’t worth mentioning (I can’t even remember what I ate) so we did some searching to find a good gelateria and the boys chose Bella Blue gelateria to get gelato served in gluten-free waffles. Many gelaterias in the Southern Italy serve gluten-free, just ask, and the ice cream is always delicious, you really can’t go wrong. I mention this one particularly because the boys liked it and the service was exceptionally nice.

The second place we stayed was a small beach hotel Cico in Torre Santa Sabina and the hotel was tidy and nice quality but the area was much busier and more active than I had thought in advance. Not in a bad way, the small street was cozy and child-friendly with beach restaurants and carousels (interesting for the youngest member of our group) but still surprisingly vivid and loud also late nights and I guess none of us slept well. The area was tiny really, it didn’t come to my mind they could have dance group performances or huge sports events. The latter one happened on Sunday so we saw only preparations.

My family appreciates good sleep and big breakfasts so B&Bs or holiday houses are generally more ideal for our summer holidays than hotels but the view was colorful and pretty and I had looked forward to being at the seaside for months so I definitely enjoyed spending a couple of days at the beach. The breakfast was hotel style meaning it was not huge but a lovely lady (called Chiara I think) took care we had gluten-free bread and seemed to remember every detail and made sure I had enough coffee (I need at least two to wake up) and I felt we were well taken care of.

We visited Ostuni but it was somehow too commercial for my taste and full of little shops next to each other and I preferred Lecce which can be seen in the first pics above. I had read about a pizzeria called Zio Giglio serving gluten-free pizzas and we walked and walked (the pizzeria is outside the tourist area) and I almost lost my confidence but still continued and we finally found the place and I’m very glad we did and my gluten-free pizza was even better than the ones I had in Naples. The place is not fancy at all, it’s very basic but somehow authentic and definitely reasonably priced and I was very pleased with our Lecce trip even it was just admiring colors (I love the yellow/green combinations) and eating pizza.

Then it was suddenly time to head back to Naples and because our flight was in the morning on Monday we decided to drive through Apulia on Sunday and spend the night less than an hour from the airport at another B&B. The garden in our last B&B was booked for a party that continued through the whole night so our timing wasn’t good at all. We had a nice dinner though and in the middle of it the man working at the place (both at the reception and as a waiter) came to us and put some gluten-free cereals on the table.

He looked at me like an ally and explained he was worried to put the cereal in the middle of the their breakfast food because someone might eat it before us and then there would be nothing left for us (he wasn’t going to be there that early morning, someone else would be serving breakfast). So he suggested I could take the cereal and hide it in my room and bring it with me in the morning. How thoughtful is that! I said yes, of course, and laughed a half an hour to the thought of me sneaking the food in our room and hiding it there and decided to write a small anonymous review or comment about the place as a thank you.

My family says I’m too nice. That I shouldn’t write positive comments just because someone who is paid for it remembers to feed me, considering we couldn’t even sleep because of the party and the breakfast was just cereals. But you know, it doesn’t always have to be polished or perfect, sometimes it’s the thought that counts. It’s not easy to find gluten-free food and if someone makes sure I have some cereals to offer to my boys in the morning I can be grateful for that and I was.

It’s details like that I will remember much after my holidays. The amazing extra cappuccino the lady called Chiara brought me because she remembered I need at least two coffees every morning and the laugh I had at the thought of me hiding the cereal box in our room. So good to be back home. Now I will wash all the laundry and bake a banana bread just because I can xxx

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