The Back Roads of Puglia

Preparing to travel

In the 70’s when Leeds United were a great team I mistakenly ate an olive thinking it was a grape!  And the bitterness of this experience still lingers today.

Thankfully as my knowledge of food increased and United’s influence declined I now know the difference.  I still can’t cook.  Toast comes in three shades – white, brown or sometimes black.  But I love food and do try dishes that 40 years ago I would turn my nose up to.

Italian food is a firm favourite.  I pride myself in knowing the different types of pasta.  I know I am still along way from appearing on “Master Chef ” but it’s a start .

Back-Roads TouringSo it’s with great excitement and salivation that we will soon be packing for our latest trip.  A ‘Slow Food Tour Of Puglia’ organised by Back-Roads Touring based in London.  Experts in small group tours.  Take a look at their excellent brochure.  Puglia is the heel of boot shaped Italy.


Italy is our favourite country.  Wonderful people and exquisite architecture.  How is it that run down, often derelict buildings in Italy look shabby chic yet in England they would be ready for demolition?

I mentioned my trip to a cantankerous customer.  His reply – he is only happy abroad as long as the natives are waiters.  Oh and he doesn’t like the bacon too.  His joy of life is clearly akin to that of the Grim Reeper.

I totally disagree with him.  Travel, meeting people and food are my favourite reasons for living.  And a town filled with Italian life is one of life’s great pleasures.


Trulli homesEating food is inherently sociable.  Even more so in a small group – our trip has 18 travellers in total.  The concept of Slow Food is a goal worth pursuing.  Using food locally produced.  A short distance from production to plate.  A fresher taste, soil to plate with Italian flair and passion.


Puglia is home to a rich culinary tradition.  With Greece just across the water I wonder if the food will have a Greek influence?  Wine, olive oil and vegetables in abundance.  So too is seafood.  Along with the Disney-esque Orecchiette pasta – ear-shaped pasta shells still produced by hand – the seafood dishes include raw sea urchins, baby squid and tuna carpaccio.  A popular traditional dish is lamb roasted with thyme and rosemary.


The six day trip takes a leisurely meander through Puglia’s top attractions.  Matera – troglodyte heaven, Alberobello – home of the iconic trulli homes, baroque Lecce.  The caves at Castellana.  A sun bleached landscape.  Martian-red fertile soil.  Millions of olive trees carpet the countryside.


Travelling down country lanes past beautiful white washed small towns, sampling award winning wines and olive oil.  Making cheese too.  Life doesn’t get any better than this.  And in our air-conditioned chauffeur driven minibus too.


And you never know.  I may come back loving olives!

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Dave Harcombe

Travelling pharmacist

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