Thursday, February 28, 2008

In Italy, travel on your stomach

The Husband often describes my travel life as “five stars to under the stars’’ – and sometimes it is literally true. (Think camel trekking in Australia to the Aman Resort at Borobodur and you get the picture.)

On this trip, the range isn’t quite as dramatic. Most of my lodgings are budget, but tonight I’ve splurged at the rustically beautiful Masseria Torre Coccaro, built in a defensive tower dating from the 1700s near the sea in Savelletri di Fasano. Rooms with vaulted ceilings surround a courtyard that is simple but artfully tended – the kind of warm sophistication born of an authentic place and genuine hospitality.

The tower sits on a working farm, and the owners still grow vegetables and make olive oil here. It all ends up on your plate at dinner, which is a spectacular experience of the sweetest carrots and fennel served raw with a basalmic vinegar sauce, red tuna carpaccio with a spicy fig sauce, pasta served with bits of local langoustine and zucchini grown on the farm. The Primitivo wine comes from 50 kilometers down the road, the cheeses next door, the pasta from this very kitchen.

This doesn’t come cheap – appetizers run 13-18 euros, pastas around 16 and main dishes 22-34. But when it comes to value, there’s nothing here to argue about. The meal was, simply, divine.


  • Rental car: $46 per day
  • Gas: $50
  • Toll: $35
  • Splurge hotel: $285 (single)
  • Splurge dinner: $65 (so worth it!)

    TOTAL: $481
    If splitting a double room and car expenses: $200 for the room, about $307 per person

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