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Digital Subscriptions > Italia! > Jul 2019 > BACK TO the land

BACK TO the land

Adrian Mourby takes a tour of Puglia to explore its culinary traditions and the land that produces its varied, and often vegetarian, foods…

When I wake up, the view outside our room is fields of lavender, then a meadow peppered with bright crimson poppies and, finally, olive trees stretching to the horizon. Here, south of Lecce in the heel of Italy’s “boot”, Domenico Scordari bought an 18th-century masseria for its fields. Domenico planted the masseria’s 13 hectares to grow crops for N&B, his natural cosmetics company, but after a while he started using the old single rooms – constructed for farm-workers – to house guests visiting his factory. Recently however, he’s opened Naturalis up as one of Apulia’s many masseria resorts.

As Domenico and I inspect the aloe vera, I chew various leaves that I’ve picked

Naturalis Resort sits on a low ridge overlooking the fields that contribute so much to the company’s range of organic cosmetics. My wife and I enjoy the view over our breakfast and then she off goes for a spa treatment in what was once a toolshed but is now a hammam and treatment area. While I am walking the fields with Domenico, Kate is having what she later describes as one of the best massages of her life with Anna, the spa manager. As Domenico and I inspect the aloe vera – what aggressive looking plants they are! – I chew various leaves that I’ve picked: sage, four kinds of mint and wild fennel. The flavours are so strong that each is a meal in itself. There are a few other guests lazing around the pool on huge muslin-draped daybeds. There are cats too for petting, although they soon run away if one of the masseria staff comes by.


In the afternoon we meet up with Kathrin and Livio, whose company, Zest of Italy organised this part of my trip. We have lunch outside under a trellis of vines eating traditional Salento dishes, which means a lot of vegetables – burratine (cheese), organic peppers, zucchini with eggs, and maccheroncini (pasta) with tomatoes and peppers. We also eat cialledda, which, I’m told, is a traditional way of reviving old dry bread with olive oil and tomatoes. Everything is washed down with the estate’s own red wine, named Sire 1 in honour of Domenico’s father.

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About Italia!

This month we embark on our travels to Verona, the beautiful Veneto city immortalised by Shakespeare in his tale of star-crossed lovers. Whether the story of Juliet’s balcony is fact or fiction matters little, as we travel deeper to the city’s heart and its noble Roman heritage. Traditions of another kind are on our mind in Puglia; this time, the culinary variety. It’s a captivating land with its roots firmly in the soil, as you’ll discover. The restful public gardens of Florence are in the spotlight too, while this month’s Fast Culture tells a tale of mistaken identity or Renaissance ‘spin’ that’s not to be missed.