Monthly Archives: September 2018

Critabianca, Cutrofiano

cutrofiano (9)

During the second half of our time in Puglia, we stayed in a farmhouse (“masseria”) in the small town of Cutrofiano.  Set on seven acres and built in the 1700s, Critabianca has been beautifully restored by a delightful family from Torino and opened it’s doors in 2016.

cutrofiano (13)cutrofiano (12)cutrofiano (8)

Throughout Puglia several masserie were built in the 1700s, often by the wealthy and arisocrats.  Over time, many were abandoned.  But with the growth of tourism in Puglia, many have been restored and turned into boutique bed and breakfast accommodation. What I loved about Critabianca was that it felt private and tranquil, yet it is cleverly located making it an easy drive to much of what we wanted to do and see. And Roberto, Roberta, Nicoletta and Alessandro will do everything possible to make sure you have a lovely stay. How gorgeous is the front door!

cutrofiano (24)

The six rooms feel tranquil and luxurious with lovely antique pieces throughout mingling with modern requirements.  You can see hints of the original frescoes on the carefully scraped back walls.  Our family room (note children over 11 years only) was very spacious and comfortable, with a large outdoor terrace. And the pool was great for a refreshing dip after our days of sightseeing and exploring.

cutrofiano (34)cutrofiano (35)cutrofiano (25)cutrofiano (32)cutrofiano (31)cutrofiano (11)cutrofiano (10)

Around the pretty grounds, you’ll find plums and figs, which Roberta turns into gorgeous jams for breakfast, and plenty of olive trees.   Breakfast is served in an outdoor courtyard on beautiful locally made ceramics. As well as making the jam, Roberta sets her own yoghurt, and Roberto is a dab hand at focaccia and cakes. The bread, cheese and eggs are from down the road, and I also had some of the best ricotta I’ve ever tasted. One morning we devoured a juicy melon, and not long after we saw Moussa, the cook, go out to the garden and grab another one.  Yes, the breakfast is about as fresh as it gets.

cutrofiano (30)

cutrofiano (27)

cutrofiano (19)

Cutrofiano town itself is small, but on Wednesdays there is a good size local market with food, homewares and clothes.   You could put together a nice lunch.  The olive guy, bread and cheese guy were doing a roaring trade, and in another truck the chooks being slowly roasted smelt delicious.

Having seen a taste of beautiful ceramics in Grottaglie, I’d heard that in Cutrofiano town there was a large ceramics studio called Fratelli Coli.  And this is where much of Critabianca’s ceramics at the breakfast table are sourced.  There are huge outdoor pots and lots of beautiful homewares (I tried to take some photos inside but they said no).  We bought some fantastic oversized coffee mugs here, some small trays and the Small People also bought Pomi, the Puglian good luck charm.

We really enjoyed our stay here with this lovely family.

cutrofiano (29)cutrofiano (22)cutrofiano (21)cutrofiano (20)cutrofiano (33)

Critabianca, Cutrofiano http://critabianca.com/en/
Fratelli Coli, Cutrofiano https://www.coliweb.com/en-gb/home

Matera and Alberobello – UNESCO World Heritage sites

A short drive from where we were staying in Monopoli is the town of Alberobello. Alberobello has always fascinated me and been on my visit wish list for a long time.  I’m intrigued by the fact that these unique conical structures, trulli, appeared in this one area and nowhere else in Italy.  You’ll see the occasional trulli (trullo for singular?) in a field somewhere when you are driving around, but Alberobello is a concentrated town of them, with over 1,000 trulli.

alberobello (4)alberobello (5)alberobello (6)alberobello (2)alberobello (7)alberobello (9)alberobello (11)

Folklore has it that originally the trulli were built without mortar for the purpose of disassembly when the tax collector came around, as tax had to be paid on permanent structures.  If this is true, then the Italian penchant for tax evasion goes back very far indeed.  These days they are all permanent structures, many turned into shops, some into hotels, though some are still individual homes. I just love the uniqueness and gorgeousness of it.  It was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996.

alberobello (8)

We came across the workshop of these two gentlemen who were making small replica trulli by hand.  Some were out of random stone and then painted, but some were made out of actual trulli stone.  One of the Small People was particularly enchanted by Alberobello and used some of his trip pocket money to buy one.  Once home, the trulli were used for a design project assignment he had at school.

alberobello (1)alberobello (10)

We went in the morning and found it ok – apparently it does get quite busy and crowded from lunchtime onwards.

While in Puglia we also drove to the neighbouring region of Basilicata to visit Matera, another UNESCO World Heritage site.  The drive was about an hour and fifty minutes, allowing for a little confusion from our GPS; she wasn’t having a great day that day. But the roads were good and it was a pleasant drive.  It is fairly inland so was about 8 degrees (Celsius) hotter than the Puglia coast – so again a morning visit is recommended and I was glad that we had set off early. It is also quite hilly and needs a good amount of walking so a fitness test as well as a cultural eye opener.

So what is special about Matera?  After Petra in Jordon, it is believed to be the second longest continuously habited place in the world.  But it’s not only this, it’s the fact that the homes of the town – or rather caves –  were carved into the limestone rock.  The Passion of the Christ and Ben Hur were both filmed here.

The extraordinary church at the top dominates the landscape and a walk up there is inevitable.

matera (1)matera (3)matera (2)matera (20)matera (18)matera (14)

One of the homes had been replicated as per the 1700s.  It was quite fascinating to hear about how they lived; we could certainly learn a thing or two about waste which was hugely frowned upon.  Large families (six or more children was not uncommon) lived in these small spaces, some of them even housing animals, largely horses, which would be a source of warmth in the winter.  The horse excrement would go down a hole, which was also used to create heat.  If a plate cracked, it was repaired rather than thrown out.  And at mealtimes the entire family would eat out of one large platter.  While each family would prepare their own bread dough, it would be taken to a central baking spot for all to be cooked, each family having their own unique stamp so their loaf could be recognised.

matera (8)matera (10)matera (11)matera (9)matera (12)

There are also a few churches scattered throughout.

matera (7)matera (6)matera (19)

Throughout the 1900s, Matera was known for extreme poverty and also disease so the government gradually re-housed many of the inhabitants.  Gradually the area was re-generated, and people began to move back in.  Like Alberobello, in the 1990’s it was named a World Heritage site, attracting tourism and helping the area’s revival.

matera (17)matera (16)matera (15)

matera (13)matera (4)matera (5)

We really enjoyed both of these special places.

 

Foogoo, Lane Cove

(August 2018) Lane Cove food is on the up.  There’s been a spate of new openings in the last twelve months, prompting even the likes of Terry Durack to venture to this side of the bridge.  Foogoo, a modern Chinese diner, is among them and we’re here to exchange some post Europe travel stories with some friends.  A rustic style clock with French text gives away the venue’s previous incarnation, and it’s simply but pleasantly decked out.

And as we marvel with our friends over the fact that we bumped into each other in the Vatican, where some 25,000 people set foot each day, we enjoy some very tasty Chinese.  The ingredients are very obviously fresh, the quality good, and the service quite pleasant.  And we love that it is BYO. Pricing was very reasonable, though the serves are on the smaller side and we could have ordered a couple more dishes for our bottomless pit Small People, but even then it’s a good value meal and you can eat here for $30 a head or less.

The crispy soft shell crab is exactly that and not at all oily as it often is at many restaurants.  The chilli and lemon salt give it a lovely flavour.

foogoo (1)

And we were very happy with our soupy xialongbao.  There are plenty of dumplings on the menu if you’re in the mood for pure yum cha.

foogoo (2)

Also on the menu:
Delicately steamed barramundi with ginger and shallot

foogoo (7)

Kung pao chicken with a pleasant but not overpowering amount of heat

foogoo (6)

Wok fried black pepper fillet with oyster mushrooms and blackbean – I loved this

foogoo (4)

We all really liked the Shanghai style dry noodle with shallot oil, sweet soy and crispy shrimp

foogoo (5)

And there was a good amount of tasty BBQ pork in the special fried rice.

foogoo (3)

The steamed Asian greens were so fresh.

foogoo (8)

It’s a good addition to the ‘hood, and we’ll be back to try the rest of the menu.

Foogoo, 94B Longueville Road Lane Cove, Ph (02) 7900 7081