“Benvenuti in Italia!” That’s what our local guide said to me, not when she picked me up at the airport. No, she said this as I smirked down at my so-called small plate of “nibbles” and gave her a look that we both recognized as “so much for the diet!“ Sfizirie are what the snacks are called here in Lecce. Also known as sfizzi and stuzzichini these nibbles/finger food/snacks/appetizers are meant to wash down your aperitivo, pre-meal drink that opens up the appetite. Even they come in abundance here. Yes, I’m back in Italy, Puglia to be more specific, to kick off the first of what I hope to be many food and wine lovers’ culinary tours in Italy. In just 2 days, we’ll be cooking in Puglia!
We’ll be cooking with Italian mammas and chefs, exploring the food and culture of the Salento area, doing a lot of dining al fresco, amidst fig & olive groves, vineyards, and even poolside. Of we have left a little time for everyone to dip their toes into the cobalt blue sea, too. Want to join us? You can! Join us virtually as I’ll be back during the tour with highlights from each day’s food and other adventures. You might think of these posts as an aperitivo of sorts, as I'm certain each will whet your desire to actually join us next year. We’re already talking about more tours for 2013.
A great welcome to Italy and way to kick any party off is with aperitivi. This "happy hour" is one of my favorite things to enjoy during an Italian vacation, especially a summer one. Every city in Italy does it a little differently, but basically you buy a drink and along with the price of the drink, you get a nice plateful of food (see above) or have access to a buffet of finger foods. During the hot and humid days of an Italian summer, when a full meal of primi, secondo, contorno & dolce are just too much, one can make a meal off a few cocktails/aperitivi. (And for those traveling on a very tight, let’s say backpackers’ budget, might I suggest this instead of going to the supermarket for dinner.)
What could be better than aperitivo hour? How about two a day? Yes, ours started right after Noon. After church bells chime throughout the city, an aria plays from the main piazza, Sant' Oronzo serving notice to all that it's time for an aperitivo...and then lunch, if you still have room. Right before dinner, aperitivo hour begins again. Our Cocktail San Pellegrino, which very much resembles a Venetian Spritz, is a mix of the bitter Aperol and frizzante San Pellegrino water.
After lunch aperitivi and a gelato, we set up office at the beach in San Cataldo to finalize tour details and reconfirm all our reservations and the daily menus. One thing is certain; the menu alone is enough to have you on the next plane to this delicious part of Italy!
Join me in Puglia! For this food lover's culinary tour, we'll be cooking with our beautiful Italian mamme and professional chefs. We'll also be eating and exploring our way through the region. For tour details, check out this page: Food Lover's Culinary Tours in Puglia