Our first time in South of Italy was in 2005…a day long train journey along the East Coast from Venice to Bari (see RHS map) After a couple of days in/around Bari we travelled onto Dubrovnik, Croatia on an overnight ferry (brief notes and photo of ferry at end of this post).
On another holiday in Italy we visited the magnificent Amalfi Coast...
Photo above – Amalfi Coast – on the road between Sorrento and Positano…only a 30 min drive but we stopped a few times at various lookouts so it took about 45 min. The road winds right along the coastline – it was good to have a driver so we could both take in the views…it wasn’t an expensive service and he was an excellent driver. According to Rome2Rio App there is also a bus or ferry service (ferry takes 47 min). If you drive yourself, perhaps check parking arrangements before you get there as once in Positano, the streets are narrow and parking is limited especially for larger vehicles.
We loved the Mediterranean cooking of this sun soaked region of Italy – our first extended holiday to the South of Italy was in 2005 when we visited Bari and nearby towns of Puglia. Lonely Planet calls the region “the unsung hero of Italy’s food regions” with many small fishing villages fringed by farms. More on Puglia toward the end of this post.
In 2014 we had another extended holiday in South Italy and this time we stayed at various places along the Amalfi Coast – travelling between places by train, car or ferry (see last post on day trips from Sorrento). After a few weeks on the Amalfi Coast we took the short flight across to Sicily. We just loved this holiday particularly the B&B where we stayed in Positano (will note name shortly)…it’s in an historic old building that had been beautifully restored and their colourful terrace (see photos above) was dotted with lemon trees and vines growing over arches.
The views from this B&B are spectacular (photo below) – on the day we arrived the sun was shining but it wasn’t too hot…the hosts served us with a refreshing drink on the terrace while we waited for our room to become available. Our drive from Sorrento was quicker than we had anticipated even though we stopped for views and photos along the way but it really wasn’t a problem as the B&B owners were so welcoming. After the drink on the terrace we crossed the narrow street for lunch – mostly antipasto.
One of the zucchini plates inspired us to make something similar on our return home – photo above. This dish shows how a couple of simple foods can be presented in such a visually appealing way without much extra effort. After lunch we were shown to our room which had a gorgeous Seaview (photo above of Tony on balcony of the room). The balcony was a perfect place to watch the sunset so that afternoon we wandered in/around town and found a deli so we could put together our own antipasto – the owners of the B&B offered the shared terrace but we were happy to sit on the balcony especially after having quite a big lunch.
We were in Positano for 5 nights and dined out a few times – the photo above left was one of the more picturesque locations with views of the town in one direction and the sea in the other direction. There are a huge number of cafes, restaurants, shops, galleries etc. to choose from but Positano didn’t get the tourist crowds like many other Italian cities and towns. The port is too small for large cruise ships (photo below) and the historic, winding streets are too narrow for large buses. There are smaller tour group vans that arrive and lots of independent travellers. We had a choice of hiring a car (maybe one like in the photo below!) or having a driver transport us from Sorrento to Positano – we decided on a driver.
This photo was taken in the early evening at another restaurant not far from the one we went to on our 2nd night. The ricotta filled zucchini (courgette) flowers were beautiful (photo on R) and we sometimes make them at home.
RECIPE for “STUFFED COURGETTE FLOWERS” – Serves 4
Prep time: 15 min
4 courgette (zucchini) flowers
100 g fresh ricotta
50 g parmesan
10 g chopped mint
Salt & Pepper to taste
300 ml extra virgin olive oil – for frying the flowers
(note: there’s mixed views on whether olive oil should be used for high heat frying so if you prefer to use another oil eg my dietitian suggests Canola it still works well…we drizzle our best olive oil over the garnish similar to photo above).
Sprinkle of parsley
- Beat the egg and combine all the ingredients apart from the courgette flowers.
- Fill a piping bag with these ingredients, open the top of the flowers and fill each one. Pinch gently to close.
- Heat the oil in a high-sided frying pan.
- Carefully place the flowers and fry them, turning to brown each side. Cook for about 5 min and serve hot with some parsley or other garnish.
Above recipe from “Italy – From The Source”, Lonely Planet 2016
‘Anchovies (Alici) are found all over Italy but this area is really famous for them’ (Lonely Planet 2016)
HOT ANCHOVY AND GARLIC DIP – Serves 4
40 g unsalted butter; 3 garlic cloves, crushed; 6 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed; 150 ml olive oil; raw vegetables to serve eg. Peppers, celery, fennel, spring onion.
- Place the butter and garlic in a small heavy based saucepan over a low heat stirring until the butter melts.
- Cook gently, stirring, for a further 2 min, until the garlic is soft but not browned
- Add the anchovies and oil, then heat gently, stirring, until the anchovies dissolve into the oil and sauce is creamy
- Prepare the vegetables – cut into strips and arrange on a large platter.
From “Cook With Confidence – Italian” Parragon Books 2015…another fave recipe from this book is Linguine with Anchovies, Olives and Capers.
ORANGE ANTIPASTO – ANTIPASTO DI ARANCE “The fresh and zingy flavour, enhanced by the salty anchovies, is guaranteed to sharpen the tastebuds.” (Classic Dishes of Italy – V. Harris)
4 large oranges; 8 small anchovy fillets (canned in olive oil, drained); 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil; sea salt and ground black pepper.
- Cut off the peel and pith
- Slice the orange and arrange on a platter
- Arrange the anchovy fillets on top of the orange slices
- Drizzle with olive oil and season with S&P.
Of course, seafood is the highlight on the Amalfi Coast but on one occasion in Italy, Tony was craving a good steak so he did order one here; it was actually a lamb steak – it was OK he said but the highlight was the Pecorino Sauce on the vegetables. So writing this post reminded us to find a simple Pecorino sauce recipe. We cooked a piece of beef + broccoli and cauliflower a few nights ago (photo below) – it was superb and our Australian beef is beautiful too.
BEEF WITH VEGETABLES IN PECORINO SAUCE…Australian Gourmet Traveller inspired us to make this recipe. The Beef can be a baked/grilled piece of whatever your butcher is recommending (more about that at the end of this recipe) but the sauce is what makes this dish so delicious – a “white sauce” (what our Anglo/Aussie Mums would call it) with an Italian twist + lots of flavour!
2 hard cooked large egg yolks; 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil; 2.5 cups finely grated cheese (recipe suggests Pecorino Toscano but we had a quality Parmesan in the fridge and it still tasted Devine!); 1/3 cup water, plus more if needed; salt (we didn’t think it needed the salt as cheese was salty enough).
In a food processor, pulse the egg yolks with olive oil until a smooth paste forms. Add the percorino and the 1/3 cup of water and process until the sauce is smooth and has the consistency of heavy cream; add a little more water if the sauce seems thick. Season to taste.
Above Recipe from the Net; the AGT recipe adds parsley, garlic and Dijon mustard to the Pecorino Sauce (see photo below) which we’ll try another night. We also love the AGT Italian Cookbook (photo below) which we use often – “best-ever” recipes and as it was older stock it was selling in a discount book store.
DAY/BOAT TRIP from Positano to AMALFI + short bus ride to hilltop town of RAVELLO (Photo below) + see next post which I’ll get to in a few days as I’m off to Sydney tomorrow.
Before I move onto the next post, a couple of photos and notes about…
South/East Coast of Italy – our train trip to Bari (see map at top of post)
Food inspirations: Artichokes, Olives, Orecchiette Pasta, Fish cooked with ‘crazy water’ (with clams), sea urchin – which I haven’t tried but they say it’s a delicacy…I might need a bit of convincing!…but I suppose it’s just a matter of getting use to eating them and not much different to eating oysters which we’ve loved since childhood.
Here are 2 photos below from the South/East coast of Italy. In 2005 we travelled from Venice to Bari – approx 7.5 hours on the train (about 3.5 hr flight). We were working at the time and left the planning to atravel agent. We were mostly pleased with the itinerary but felt it probably would have been better to fly from Venice to Bari. The reason we went to Bari was to see the East coast and to stay/see Bari and surrounds. We then took the overnight ferry to Dubrovnik in Croatia (a post for another day). According to Lonely Planet’s “Italy – From the Source”, Bari is a popular destination for those interested in a more rustic style of cooking as well as holiday makers from Northern Italy; more recently, it has become popular with international tourists. Also for generations “a home to farming communities, Puglia is known for its cucina povera (peasant cuisine), whereby people make the most of local ingredients, and bottle and preserve produce over the summer to see them through the winter months”. You can take a pasta making class in Bari’s old town, see olive pressing in nearby villages, relax on a beach or explore a medieval town.
The two photos above are examples of the typical views from the train as we travelled along the East coast of Italy from Venice to Bari – especially the first photo. Many of the beaches looked like private spaces where you need to hire a sun lounge and umbrella. Very different to what we’re use to on our beaches in Australia – most beaches here are public spaces; however, local councils are beginning to provide more shade especially at some of the more urban beaches eg. Some Sydney beaches and some of our South Coast beaches have grassy reserves and shaded picnic tables quite close to the beach.
Bari has a busy port and a lively fish market right on the harbour. In 2005 it wasn’t the least bit touristy but that may have changed now? Lonely Planet describes Bari’s old town well…”a tangle of narrow lanes that resemble the maze of an Arabic medina.”
The Pope was in town when we were staying in Bari so all the hotels in the centre of the city were booked out and we stayed in the suburbs about 10 km or so away from the old town. It was a very interesting experience as even at the hotel reception there wasn’t much English at all but we managed ok even without all the technology we’ve all come to rely on over the last decade! The reception recommended a barber so Tony could have a haircut. The old men in the barber shop were fascinated by this Australian with basically no Italian, turning up in such a place – they worked it all out with sign language and good cheer although I did notice that the cut was much shorter than he usually had!
That night we went to a casual family run restaurant in Bari – after a long day of travel from Venice we were very tired but we needed to wait until about 9 pm for the restaurant to open – most places in Italy opened at 8ish but just our luck for it to be 9 pm when we were so tired! I was wanting to have an apple and go to bed but Tony was too hungry so we persevered. Anyway, the food (photo below) came out quickly.
We only did one day trip from Bari to “the White City” (see below) as our Travel Agent at the time didn’t know much about this region of Italy and there weren’t the resources back in 2005 like there are today + we were busy with work so didn’t have time to do more research for ourselves. However, we enjoyed the day and hope to return again to see/hear/smell/eat etc.! More… if we get the chance.
Day Trips from Bari could include:
The town of Alberobello (a 1 hr drive from Bari) – a Unesco World Heritage site – “the heartland of local trulli architecture”; also white sand beaches “are particularly splendid at Torre Lapillo and Baia dei Turchi, as well as the ‘Maldives of Puglia’: the very tip of Italy’s heel.” (Lonely Planet’s Food Trails ’16). There’s also what sounds like an excellent cooking course called “Stile Mediterraneo” – check out the same Lonely Planet book for details + artisansoftaste.com.
Ostuni (also a 1 hr drive)…called “the White City” Lonely Planet recommends trying the Lamb and Artichoke Stew (P222 “From the Source”) at Osterio Monacelle renowned for it’s Pugliese style cooking.
Lamb and Artichoke Stew
1 kg lamb cutlets; 5 artichokes; 100 g white onion; 8 bay leaves; salt to taste; rosemary for garnish + a bottle of white wine!
Sounds like a simple recipe…method on request:)
Also see “From the Source” P209 for Octopus stew with tomatoes, aromatic herbs and potatoes:
1 1/4 kg octopus; 80 g white onion; 300 g potatoes; 2 bay leaves; 3 cloves of garlic; 1 sprig fresh oregano; thyme; parsley; 500 g fresh small cherry tomatoes; 200 g tomato passata, 70 ml white wine. Method on request or refer to Lonely Planet book noted above.
BARI, ITALY 🇮🇹-DUBROVNIK, CROATIA 🇭🇷
The overnight journey on this ferry was comfortable enough (no seasickness as calm seas) and we were up at dawn for breakfast + the views of Dubrovnik in the early morning light (photo above). I’ll post more in the future on our holidays in Croatia.