Dinner at a typical Pugliese country house dating from 1500, set in farmland at Conversano, in the historic feudal lands of the counts Acquaviva d'Aragona. Once a sumptuous country residence where aristocrats used to practice hunting, it is now the perfect place to discover the culture, history and traditions of Puglia in a very comfortable atmosphere with a cosy family feel. Here you can sample the best of local cuisine paired with excellent regional wines.
In the town of Noci we recommend a stop at the pork factory L.i.best, to visit the production centre and wild-boar farm. Sampling of delicacies from Murgia such as Sfizietto, a pork sausage made with fennel seeds, or Coppa Murgia, seasoned raw.
A visit to the Barsento cellars, formed of two large rooms carved out of the limestone rock, one used for aging and the other for maturing of the wines. Tourists can enjoy the many quality wines produced by the Colucci family, like the Patruno, a ruby-red wine with an intensely fruity aroma.
Lunch in the restaurant annexed to the cellar, with tasting of typical dishes from Murgia paired with the best wines produced at the vineyard and extra-virgin olive oil with the Barbera label.
An important agricultural town with a good production of both oil and wine, which has received DOC (controlled denomination of origin) status. In the myriad of trulli found in the Valle d'Itria, a dominant feature is the cooperative wine cellar of Locorotondo, now a milestone in the production of Bianco Locorotondo.
At Fasano, you can visit the olive press at the country house S. Angelo de Graecis. The house dates back to the 12th century AD. To the left of the building stands a striking tower with merlons.
In the 13th century AD it became the property of the monastery of Monopoli (Santo Stefano), while in the 14th century it became part of the cardinal's estate. Until 1665 it was part of the lands of the abbey of Greek monks of San Nicola, Casole di Otranto. In 1693 ownership was transferred to the Imperial Cardinal who built the church there, introducing the worship of San Lorenzo Martire.
The country house, built with blocks of "carparo" (local tuff stone) with its typical yellowish colour, stands to the right of the complex, corresponding to the 16th-century and oldest part of the house. Opposite the manor house stands a brilliant white 18th-century oil mill, recently restored and home to the Olive Oil Museum.
Here we find the many tools of the olive production trade, the large millstone, the pools in which the pressed olives are deposited and, most importantly, the enormous wooden presses. Behind the main building is an elegant lemon grove.
Among the countless architectural and natural treasures of the house, the finest element is the chapel, the most splendid of all the rural chapels in the district. It was built by the imperial cardinal in 1693.
At Cisternino, at the oil mill Il Frantolio, visitors will be welcomed by the owner Pietro D'Amico, who offers tasting sessions inside charming 18th-century "trulli". Here you can taste a quality extra-virgin olive oil known as “La Lacrima”, produced from a typical local pressing technique.
The main crop grown in this area is the olive. The imposing size of each tree make them a highly distinctive feature of the landscape in these parts. Olive trees alternate with almond trees, vineyards and to a certain degree seed crops, almost always part of the large farm estates.
At lunchtime, there will be a stop at the Masseria Montedoro, an estate which dates back to 1807, composed of trulli and an old building. Annexed to the country house is the fascinating "Museo della Civiltà del Trullo". The museum provides a valuable insight into what the farming folk of Messapica have produced in the past. Set inside a charming “trullo”, it presents a complete collection of tools and products which these people used in farming.
A visit to Ponte Viadotto dell'Impero is a must. It is an interesting construction which dates from the early twentieth century, made from finely worked Mazzaro stone, with a sequence of arches. From its highest point, visitors can admire a long, deep ravine, a carsic valley. At the centre of the ravine, which can be reached along steep steps surrounded by green, typically Mediterranean vegetation, is the Trappeto del Duca, a large, historic underground oil mill where there will also be a chance to visit the folk museum. There will be a stop for lunch at the agriturismo Sciaiami Piccola, a country estate formed of characteristic trulli surrounded by olive groves, fig trees and vineyards. Visitors will be welcomed by a striking view, as the agriturismo is located on a "terraced" hill, and they will have the chance to take a leisurely stroll and be rewarded on their return with the excellent cooking of this establishment, in the best Mediterranean tradition.
Guests will also be able to buy souvenirs, like the organic extra-virgin olive oil DOP Collina di Brindisi and other natural local products, in memory of this enchanting place.
For nature-loving tourists, we recommend taking a walk through the countryside of the “The Nature Reserve of Torre Guaceto” at Carovigno. The park guides will accompany visitors along the footpaths in the protected area, on a discovery of its ecosystems. The agricultural part of the Reserve is covered with seed crops and ancient olive groves which add considerable interest to the farmlands in the entire area.
The historic olive groves cover about 260 hectares, and lie in a uniform, well-defined area corresponding to the foothills of the hills around Murgia. The ancient olive trees belong to the Ogliarola Salentina variety.
Later, there'll be a refreshing stop at the restaurant Settimo Cielo, in the little town of Carovigno immersed in the green countryside of Puglia. This establishment offers an extremely quiet, tranquil setting for tourists, in a romantic atmosphere in which you can sample extra-virgin olive oils and liqueurs produced by the proprietor.
SAN VITO DEI NORMANNI
At San Vito dei Normanni, visitors will have the chance to visit two important museums located in a Dominican convent, the Olive Oil Museum and the Museum of Farming Culture, with implements, objects and relics of agricultural traditions.
Only 4 km further on, in the stunningly beautiful Pugliese countryside, the agriturismo "Tenuta Deserto" welcomes visitors in its 70 hectares of olive groves, pastures and woods of oak and live oak.
The ground floor of the main house is supported by large stone star vaults. It is the perfect setting for social events, conversation or relaxing. Visitors will be served tasty, typical local dishes. The proprietor will also let visitors into his wine cellar, for guests wishing to sample selected wines from the region.
Mesagne is famous for its imposing castle and a splendid underground oil mill which has been skilfully unearthed and transformed into a wine bar. Here you'll find the Primitivo di Manduria “Accademia dei Racemi”, which goes down a treat when paired with the best traditional local dishes, especially pasta with tomato sauces, main courses made from delicious local meat and almond desserts to finish off in style. A fascinating trip through the land of the Primitivo with a video shown during the tasting session.
During the afternoon there is a visit to the Cantina della Riforma Fondiaria which stands at the centre of the historic Terra dei Messapi, part of Wine Route no. 7. Here tourists can enjoy the vineyard's shop which sells its products, wines by the glass or bottle, virgin and extra-virgin olive oils.
At Manduria, l'Accademia dei Racemi, founded in 1992 from a partnership between vineyard owners and wine experts, who share a love for quality wine production. Tasting the vineyard's excellent Primitivo is a delightful experience, thanks to its vibrant ruby-red colour, excellent aroma and seductive mouthfeel.
SAN PIETRO VENRNOTICO
San Pietro Vernotico is home to the cellars of the farming cooperative “Santa Barbara”, in the heart of a land in which nature, bestowing a temperate climate on the region, has encouraged the untroubled growth of vineyards full of fine grapes. At San Pietro Vernotico, some of the best quality vines are grown, which yield, (the pride of our production), "Brindisi D.O.C." and "Squinzano D.O.C.", whose inimitable aromas make them wines for true connoisseurs.
The pride and joy of the cooperative is the production of the typical wines of Salento: the "Bianco" and "Rosato" are extremely high quality wines produced using modern technologies.
But the real gem of these cellars, produced in limited quantities because of its unusual production technique and long aging in oak casks, is the "Barbaglio": a red wine with the characteristics typical of the "Negro Amaro" and "Primitivo" varietals.
Further to the north-west of the Salentine peninsula, an area with a historic wine-growing tradition, lies Salice Salentino, a small rural community which has been home to a historic wine cellar for more than three centuries: the Leone de Castris. The imposing, austere building welcomes visitors and gradually reveals its paintings and antique furnishings, almost like a journey through history to the present day, right through to the laboratories and the modern tasting room.
In the cellar, you can sample a varied range of products, red, white and rosé wines d.o.c. (controlled designation of origin - Salice Salentino, Locorotondo, Copertino) and rosé and white sparkling wines, an eau de vie and a particularly fine olive oil.
In this characteristic Salentine town, the wines produced include white, dessert and Late Harvest, Malvasia, rosé, red, also Riserva and Negro Amaro.
Places worth visiting are the Conti Zecca vineyard, with its noteworthy Nero IGT Salento, and the cooperative wine cellar "La Vecchia Torre", founded in 1959 by about fifty partners. It has now grown to become the largest organisation in the province. Don't miss the Chardonnay Salento, a wine to be paired with hors d'oeuvres and fish dishes.