Santa Maria di Siponto~ Art reconstructs time


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santamariadisiponto1Santa Maria di Siponto is just off the SS 89 Garganica highway, 3km from Manfredonia. The church was built in 1117 over an existing early Christian structure.  The architectural style is Romanica Pugliese, Pugliese Romanesque with Byzantine and Islamic influences evident in its pure, simple lines and geometric patterns.  The building is unusual as it is square and there are 2 independent churches; the upper church and the crypt below, with an external staircase.santamariadisiponto5

To the left of the church is the Parco Archeologico di Santa Maria di Siponto. Until March 2016, this consisted of the ruins of a Paleochristian basilica (250 AD) with a semi-circular apse and mosaic pavement, and the partially excavated remains of Ancient Roman Sipontium.  Now the space once occupied by the basilica has been transformed into a magnificent sculpture titled ‘Dove l’arte riconstruisce il tempo’ which means ‘Where art reconstructs time’. The permanent installation took 3 months to construct and is built right onto the foundations of the archeological remains.santamariadisiponto2

The installation/sculpture is made of layers of wire mesh that overlap and intersect, interpreting and reclaiming the space and volume once occupied by a structure that no longer exists. The lightness and transparency of the material makes it look like a hologram of the original church…it is there, but it is no longer there. The site is also illuminated at night, creating a ‘ghostly’ effect.  Contemporary art and archeology intersect to form a link with the past. 14 m high and weighing 6,000 kg, this is probably the largest structure in the world made entirely of wire mesh.santamariadisiponto6

I have been to Santa Maria di Siponto many times since I was a child. I am a total archeology nerd, and I was excited to see this construction breathing new life into this small archeological site, relatively unknown outside of Puglia. It feels like the basilica has been resurrected from the ruins.  I have not seen anything like this before and it is already a distinctive landmark, especially since it is visible from the highway. In 5 months it has already brought 100,000 visitors to the site and contributed to the local economy.

The artist, Edoardo Tresoldi, a 29 year old set designer and sculptor in Roma, is known for his monumental metallic wire mesh sculptures, integrating into their surroundings.  His website is still under construction.  He must be too busy making great art!santamariadisiponto4Santa Maria di Siponto is definitely worth a visit.  If you have plans to visit the Gargano area, especially Monte Sant’ Angelo, San Giovanni Rotondo, Manfredonia or Mattinata, it is fairly close by. It is definitely easiest to get there with your own vehicle, although it is possible to get to Foggia, then Manfredonia by train or bus and then taxi to the site. Buon Viaggio, Cristina

Passata di Pomodoro

This weekend was my family’s annual passata di pomodoro canning fest. For those of you interested in seeing the process, I’m reposting ‘Passata di Pomodoro’. Ciao, Cristina

Un po' di pepe

Passata di pomodoro
Every year my family gets together to make ‘la salsa’, or passata di pomodoro. Everyone participates, even the nipotini. It is a 2 day event and we are all tired today, as we made about 180 litres of salsa/passata! Some of the tomatoes came from our gardens, but most of them were purchased.

Pomodori ready to be washed Pomodori ready to be washed

Pomodori from the garden Pomodori from the garden

La pentola per i pomodori-a really big pot to cook the tomatoes! La pentola per i pomodori-a really big pot to cook the tomatoes!

The ripe pomodori are washed, then cooked in a really big pot until soft. Then they are drained in baskets lined with cloth. If they aren’t drained well, then the passata will be too watery.  To make’pomodori pelati'(peeled tomatoes) instead of passata, the skin is removed by hand and the whole pomodori are put in jars.

Cooked pomodori drained in baskets lined with cloth Cooked pomodori drained in baskets lined with cloth

Passata refers to ‘passed’ through a sieve, a passapomodoro, or an electric machine to…

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Spaghetti all’Amatriciana


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Pasta all'AmatricianaMy last post was about the terremoto in Italia and I listed ways you can help with earthquake relief.  One of these ways was to order Pasta all’Amatriciana at one of the many restaurants participating to raise money for the Croce Rossa Italiana.  I realized that not everyone will have a restaurant in their area participating, so I am posting a recipe, just in case anyone wants to host their own small fundraiser. August 27-28 would have been the Spaghetti all’Amatriciana festa in Amatrice.  Amatriciana

Pasta all’Amatriciana-also known as Pasta alla Matriciana in dialetto Romano, is made with guanciale (cured pork cheek), Pecorino Romano, and pomodoro (tomato).  Peperoncino is often added.  Pasta all’Amatriciana originated from Pasta alla Gricia, made with guanciale and pecorino.  It is basically Pasta Carbonara without the eggs. Shepherds near Amatrice carried the simple ingredients with them into the fields.  The pomodoro had not been brought to Europe yet.  In Amatrice, they started making the sauce with pomodoro once it had been introduced.  When Amatriciani moved from the outlaying areas to Roma, the sauce became popular, and is now considered a staple of Cucina Romana.  In Roma, Amatriciana is made with bucatini, which are spaghetti with a hole down the middle, or rigatoni, but in Amatrice, it is only made with spaghetti! Making Amatriciana

Spaghetti all’Amatriciana

100g guanciale (pancetta can be used if guanciale not available)

350g passata di pomodoro, or pelati (peeled tomatoes)-about 1 500ml canning jar

15g (1 tsp) extra virgin olive oil

White wine (optional)

Peperoncino-fresh chili pepper to taste

75g Pecorino Romano, grated

320g spaghetti or bucatini (80g per person)

Cut guanciale into strips or cubes. In a frying pan, cook guanciale in the olive oil.  When the white part becomes transparent, add a half glass of white wine.  This is optional, but i’ll bet those shepherds always had vino handy! Let it evaporate, then add tomatoes and pepper.  While this is simmering, cook spaghetti in a large pot of salted water.  Cook for 1 minute less than the time it says on the box! Drain well then add to the pan and toss in the sauce.  Serve with a generous amount of Pecorino Romano.  Serves 4. Buon Appetito!Amatriciana

Terremoto in Italia~How to help


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Vigili del Fuoco in Amatrice-Winnipeg Free Press

Vigili del Fuoco in Amatrice-Winnipeg Free Press

Una preghiera per le vittime del terremoto.  A few days ago, a devastating terremoto-earthquake struck central Italia.  Today aftershocks continue to damage buildings and roads. The ancient villages of Amatrice, Accumuli, Pescara del Tronto and Arquata del Tronto now look like part of Dante’s Inferno.  Pescara del Tronto has been totally destroyed, with only 5 buildings left standing.  The death toll is 267 and rising, countless others are still missing, and thousands left displaced and homeless.  Since the Unification of Italia in 1861, there have been 35 major terremoti, and 86 smaller ones.

What can you do to help:

The Croce Rosse Italiana-Italian Red Cross has a page set up (in Italian) for the earthquake rescue efforts.  To donate in international currencies a fund has been set up by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). I used this one myself and it was molto facile!

The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) has a donation page set up for earthquake relief.

Save the Children has launched a response in Amatrice, setting up a child-friendly space, a safe and protected environment where children and young people can receive support from trained staff and participate in various activities. This will allow them to play, socialize, learn, and express themselves as they recover from trauma.

Order Pasta all’Amatriciana!  Italian ristoranti all over Italia and around the world are donating €2 per plate of pasta all’Amatriciana to the Italian Red Cross for relief in Amatrice.  This fund raising initiative started by Italian blogger Paolo Campana had 700 restaurants signed up within a few hours. For the month of September, La Piazza Dario Ristorante Italiano in Vancouver will be donating $5 per order of Spaghetti all’Amatriciana to the Croce Rossa Italiana.


Pasta all’Amatriciana originated from shepherds in the area around Amatrice.

In Roma and across Italia, you can donate blood, and there are donation points set up to donate non-perishable food, blankets, clothing and flashlights.

Last, but definitely not least, pray for survivors! Ciao, Cristina

Please share other links in the comments.

The Original Cinquecento


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Fiat CinquecentoMy love affair with the Fiat Cinquecento (cheen·kweh·CHEN·toh) began when I was 16.  I really wanted one, but it would not fit into my valigia, so I had to settle for something else.  I don’t know if I will ever own a super cute Cinquecento, but I have spent years photographing them all over Italia.  A few weeks ago in Roma, I took this photo of an adorable Cinquecento just around the corner from the Pantheon.

After posting the photo on Instagram, I learned that this is the original Cinquecento model, the 1957 Cinquecento Nuova!  It has a smaller engine, the cloth roof folds back all the way rather than half-way, and it has ‘porte di suicidio’ or ‘suicide doors’.  These are doors hinged at the rear rather than the front.  They are named so because before the use of seat belts, there was increased risk of falling out of the car if the doors accidentally opened.  Not only that, but the airflow of the moving car keeps the doors open, rather than closing them, as would happen with a front-hinged door.  This does make it easier to push someone out of the moving vehicle, which is probably why all the 1930’s gangster movies have cars with rear-hinged doors!

The Cinquecento was the first real ‘city’ car, a small, light-weight, fuel-efficient car.  Cinquecento means 500 in italiano.  The car was given this name because the engine was 500 cc and it weighed 500 kg (1100 lbs).  Today most cars weigh 3 times that amount!  The owner of this Cinquecento was a very old man with a cane.  He could well be the original owner.  I hope he buckles up his cintura!

La Madonna della Neve


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MadonnanevechiesaAugust 5th is the feast day of La Madonna della Neve (the Madonna of the Snow).  She is one of the Patron Saints of Orsara di Puglia and there is a big festa.  She is carried through Orsara in a procession and returned to her usual spot in the main church. In the evening there is a Mass, then music and fireworks in her honour.  La Madonna della Neve is the protectoress and Patron Saint of many paesi montani or mountain villages because, of course, it snows!

La Madonna della Neve is tied to the origins of the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore in Roma.  According to legend, in the year 352, the night between August 4th and 5th, the Madonna appeared in a dream to a wealthy couple who wanted to build a church.  She asked them to build a church where snow had fallen during the night.  They went to tell Pope Liberio and it turns out he had the exact same dream during the night!

In the middle of a hot Roman summer, snow had fallen on L’Esquilino, the Esquiline Hill.  The perimeter of the snowed on area was where the church of Santa Maria ‘Ad Nives’ (of the snow) was built. The church is usually known as Santa Maria Maggiore.Madonnaneve06

Orsara’s Madonna della Neve statue was carved out of a single piece of quercia (oak) by Napoletano sculptor Aniello Stallato in 1624. I have been familiar with this beautiful sculpture since I was 11, but I had no idea she was almost 400 years old! Here are some photos of the processione!Madonnaneve10


Ciao, Cristina

Roma: Passeggiata all’Aventino


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Giardino degli Aranci

As usual I was awake far too early on my first morning in Roma. I set out on a mission to take some photos and have a passeggiata before the Roman heat set in. The city of Roma was built on 7 hills.  L’Aventino-the Aventine Hill, is the furthest south. In the legend of the founding of Roma, l’Aventino was picked by Remo as the spot to build a new city, but his twin Romolo disagreed.  Remus was killed in the dispute, and Romolo built Roma on the Palatino/Palatine Hill.  L’Aventino was originally outside the city, and it was populated by refugees from areas Roma had conquered.   Then wealthy Ancient Romans started to build homes there and today it is still an elegant residential part of Roma. It is also the perfect place for a long, quiet passeggiata with beautiful views of Roma- without the crowds.Giardinodegliaranci2

I started off by taking the Metro blue line to Circo Massimo, then heading up Viale Aventino, which was originally the ancient road between the 2 high spots of the hill. I passed beautiful homes and quiet streets as I walked uphill.  My first stop on Via di Santa Sabina was the walled Giardino degli Aranci. The orange grove was originally planted in the 13th Century by the Dominican monks of Santa Sabina, who brought the seeds from Spain . The Giardino has a platform at the end with beautiful panoramic views of Roma and the cupola of San Pietro.  A Roman friend once told me that when he was young, he and his friends used to have ‘arance’ fights in the Giardino with the oranges that fell on the ground!Fontana del Mascherone

In the piazza in front of Santa Sabina, near the door to Giardino degli Aranci is a wall fountain built in 1593. La Fontana del Mascherone floods an ancient Roman bathtub-a smaller version of the 2 giant ones in Piazza Farnese.  Santa Sabina all’Aventino, built right at the top of the hill in 422 AD is one of the oldest Roman basilicas.

A short walk away, through a tree-lined residential neighborhood, is Piazza Cavalieri di Malta. This morning I had the whole piazza to myself! It is usually very crowded and full of taxis and people waiting in line in front of a heavy green door.  Cavalliere di MaltaThe door belongs to La Villa del Priorato di Malta.  I Cavalieri di Malta are a military order of knights founded in the 11th Century to look after the wounded in the Holy Land during the Crusades.  In 1798, Napoleon kicked them out of Malta and they moved their headquarters to Roma. The villa and the church inside, Santa Maria del Priorato, are not usually accessible to the public. The people standing in line are waiting to look through the keyhole, known as ‘il buco della serratura’.  I won’t spoil the surprise, so my photo is blurry on purpose.  You will have to see for yourself—unless you have seen La Grande Bellezza and the surprise has been spoiled!IMG_4218

IMG_2385The walk back downhill was nice and I was able to admire the scenery and views as I walked back down Via Santa Sabina, then past Santa Maria in Cosmedin. This is the home of the famous ‘Bocca della Verità’ featured in the movie Roman Holiday.  There is usually a line of people waiting to stick their hand in its mouth!BoccadellaveritaAs I walked past il Teatro di Marcello, I was surprised to notice that there are private residences on the top floor.  Can you imagine living in Teatro Marcello!  I have heard about first time visitors to Roma thinking that thi is the Colosseo and being very confused! Teatro Marcello Polizia

By the time I reached Il Vittoriano, it was getting hot. Time for a granita di caffè! Arrivederci da Roma, Cristina

To read more about walking in Roma click on Un Giorno a Roma and Il Pantheon.

Vini di Puglia Part 3~Il Tuccanese


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Tuccanese (too∙can∙NEH∙seh) is a rare grapevine grown almost exclusively in and around Orsara di Puglia, Provincia di Foggia. It was previously thought to be a clone of Sicilian Perricone brought to Orsara by a Sicilian noble family or that it was a clone of Piedirosso.  A 2008 Italian DNA study found a close genetic relationship between Sangiovese, the well-known ‘Chianti’ grape and 10 other grapes including Tuccanese. Sangiovese has many ‘strains’ but the grapes and resulting wine are very different. The name Tuccanese is probably a corruption of ‘Toscanese’ or ‘Tuscanese’ meaning ‘from Toscana’.  Tuccanese may have been brought from Toscana by the Majorca-Strozzi family from Firenze, who held a duchy near Avellino in the 1600’s. Small pockets of Tuccanese grapes grown for private family use are also found in Campania, in Calitri, Montecalvo Irpino and Bagnoli Irpino, the farthest being 80 km from Orsara.

Vigneto Tuccanese. Photo Leonardo Guidacci

Vigneto Tuccanese. Photo Leonardo Guidacci

Tuccanese was in danger of extinction but attention to local viniculture in the last 20 years has resurrected it.  Now Tuccanese is an example of Artigianato vitivinicolo-artisan winemaking. The vines do well at Orsara’s 650m altitude and the high calcium and clay content of the soil.  Tuccanese grapes are very resistant to environmental conditions, immune to illnesses, and mature late- in the first 2 weeks of October.  Wines made with Tuccanese are a dark ruby red, dry, tannic and full bodied with a high alcohol content. They have notes of berry, plum, licorice and pepper. Tuccanese is definitely ‘un vitigno locale’, as it is really known only in and around Orsara, where several families grow it for their own table wine.  Really good table wine. My Bisnonno grew Tuccanese on his land at La Cupa, although the vines are no longer there.  Now the land has 81 beautiful olive trees.

Vigneto, La Cupa 1994

Vigneto, La Cupa 1994


Tuccanese has not yet been discovered by the world, but there are 2 commercial producers, both in Orsara di Puglia. One is my amico, il cuoco-contadino Peppe Zullo and the other is my neighbour, architect Leonardo Guidacci! You won’t find these bottles at your local liquor store!

Peppe Zullo nel vigneto. Photo Nicola Tramonte

Peppe Zullo nel vigneto. Photo Nicola Tramonte

Peppe Zullo produces 20-25,000 bottles per year. His 2 wines are Ursaria and Aliuva. Aliuva is 80% Tuccanese 20% Uva di Troia (Nero di Troia) and Merlot.  Ursaria is 80% Tuccanese, 20% Uva di Troia and Cabernet, and is aged for 5 years in wood barrels. Peppe’s vino is used in his restaurant and event facilities and the rest sold on site. Peppe’s wine cellar La Cantina del Paradiso, designed by Nicola Tramonte was featured in the architectural exhibit ‘Le Cattedrali del Vino’ at the Biennale di Venezia in 2010. It is built into the side of a hill, with a vineyard on top! As he likes to say it’s the only cantina where you have to climb up stairs! Stay tuned for a post about the cantina.Vignetodelparadiso

Leonardo Guidacci has been making wine since 1997. His cantina called ‘Il Tuccanese’ after the grape, produces 5,000 bottles per year. Leonardo’s 2 wines are Magliano and Sannoro. Magliano is 100% Tuccanese. It is named after the Contrada (district) of Magliano, where the grapes are grown. Sannoro is 80% Tuccanese 20% Aglianico. His showroom/tasting room/architectural office is in Piazza Municipio, around the corner from my house. You can go for wine tasting and also discuss plans for home renovation!

'Architettura e Vino', Leonardo Guidacci's showroom and studio in Piazza Municipio.

‘Architettura e Vino’, Leonardo Guidacci’s showroom and studio in Piazza Municipio.


Festadelvino2011Orsara di Puglia hosts the 29th annual Festa del Vino tonight-the last Saturday in June.  Salute!Tuccanesefestadelvino

This is the third in a series of 3 Vini di Puglia posts.  Click on these links to read Vini di Puglia Part 1 and Vini di Puglia Part 2~Aglianico-Zibbibo.  The second post includes a glossary of Italian wine terms.  Salute, Cristina.

Vini di Puglia Part 2~Aglianico to Zibibbo


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UvaLaCupa1994In my last post I wrote about the history of vini di Puglia and featured the 3 most common grapes. Puglia has many vitigni autoctoni (Autochthonous grapes or native grapes) that are not very well-known.  You might not ever try them unless you visit Puglia!  Many of these grapes were on the verge of extinction but are recently becoming more popular and grown with more care. You may have also noticed that most vini Pugliese are red.  80% of grapes grown are red, as the climate is too hot for most white grapes.

Il Vigneto del Paradiso, Orsara di Puglia

Il Vigneto del Paradiso, Orsara di Puglia

Aglianico (ahl·yah·NEE·koh) is named for ‘Hellanico’ meaning Greek or from Apulianicum, the Latin name for Puglia.  Brought to Italia by Greek settlers, it is found in Basilicata, Campania and in Puglia near the Basilicata border. It thrives in volcanic soil and is grown mostly near Monte Vulture, an extinct volcano in Basilicata (Aglianico del Vulture DOC).  Ripening late in October, it is full-bodied and musky with berry flavours, chocolate and plum aromas, firm tannins and high acidity. In Ancient Roma it may have been the main grape in the prized red Falernian wine, but there is no real evidence.

Aleatico (al·eh·ah·TEE·koh) Not the same grape as Aglianico.  Aleatico is a member of the Moscato famiy, so it is a sweet grape.  It is believed to be native to Puglia or possibly brought by the Ancient Greeks.  Grown in the Bari area and Salento, it is used for dessert wine and has the aroma of roses, berries and lychee. Aleatico di Puglia DOC, known for its pomegranate colour, is Aleatico with Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera.  Aleatico is also grown on Elba, where Aleatico di Portoferraio was enjoyed by Napoleon while he was in exile.UvaOrsaradiPuglia

Bombino Bianco means little white bomb.  The name may come from the word bonvino. Bombino Bianco is often confused with Trebbiano. In fact, in Abruzzo it is known as Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, but it is not the same as the Trebbiano grape that is grown in other parts of Italia.  So confusing! It is a late ripening, high yield crop that produces an inexpensive mild white vino. Because of the high yield and amount of juice it was known as ‘pagadebito’ or ‘straccia cambiale’ (‘debt payer’ or ‘invoice ripper’).  In the past, Bombino was grown as a ‘cash crop’ and shipped straight to Northern Europe, without even bottling, to be sold as generic white table wine.  It is now grown with more care, especially in the San Severo area of Foggia.  San Severo uses Bombino Bianco with Malvasia Bianca, Falanghina or Verdeca. There is also a Bombino Nero grape, used in Castel del Monte DOC red and rosé wines.Vignaorsaradipuglia

Cacc’e Mitt (KAH∙cheh∙MMEE∙te) is produced in the Monti Dauni of Foggia, in Lucera, Biccari and Troia.  It is made up of Uva di Troia with Montepulciano, Malvasia Nera, Susumaniello, and sometimes Bombino Bianco.  The name of this vino is dialetto for ‘togli e metti’ meaning ‘take out and put back’. This is often thought to mean the glass is always refilled because it is so drinkable. It actually refers to old winemaking techniques. The cantina and equipment were borrowed and shared, so the wine was made quickly and tubs emptied to give space to the next contadino.  Cacc’e Mitt was ‘vino dei poveri’ wine of the poor.  After the vendemmia, contadini would pass through again and collect what was left of the various grapes. This is why white grapes are also included.  The Cacc’e Mitt Festival is held every year in Lucera at the end of August/beginning of September.

Falanghina is an ancient white grape brought by Greek settlers in the 7-8th Century BC.  The name comes from the Latin ‘falanghae’, the stakes that supported the grapevines.  I wonder if this is related to ‘phalanges’, the anatomical name for the finger bones? Grown in Puglia, but more common in Campania, Falanghina is yellow skinned and has a slight pine scent and orange, apple and pear aromas. Falanghina may have been one of the grapes in Falernian white, the most famous wine of Ancient Roma.Falanghina

Malvasia is the name of a group of related grapes from the Mediterranean, mostly white, with a handful of reds for blending.  Of ancient origin, the name comes from the Monemvasia fortress near Sparta or Malevizi on Crete. Malvasia is related to the Athiri grape grown all over Greece.  Malvasia was 1 of 3 major wines exported from Greece in the middle ages.  It grows well in dry climates, sloping terrain and well-drained soil.

Malvasia Nera –parents are Negroamaro and Malvasia Bianca Lunga. It is mostly a blending grape used with Negroamaro.  Salice Salentino wine is Negroamaro with 15% Malvasia Nera, Nardò is Negroamaro with Malvasia Nera di Lecce.  It has a dark colour and smells like chocolate covered cherries!villajamelevigna

Moscato di Trani The main grape in Moscato di Trani is Moscato Bianco, of Ancient Greek origins.  Trani is a beautiful port town that is definitely worth seeing. Wines from Puglia were traded via Trani to Venezia, starting in the 11th century.  In 1974, Moscato di Trani 1974, was one of the first vini Pugliese to achieve DOC status in.  It is vino dolce, a sweet dessert wine that goes well with almonds, pastries, and mild cheeses.  It is a gold colour with woody and spicy aromas.  Moscato di Trani is produced in the Trani and Bari areas and also in Cerignola and Trinitapoli, Provincia di Foggia.

Susumaniello, also called Somarello is among the most obscure grape varieties.  An ancient grape only found in Puglia, it is originally from Greece or Croatia.  It is the offspring of Sangiovese with the white Garganega grape. It is high yield and usually blended with Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera.  It is a deep ruby colour with the aroma of red berries, plums and peppery dark chocolate.  Somarello is dialetto for asinello or little donkey, implying the grapevines are heavily loaded like a donkey.

Tuccanese-Featured in Vini di Puglia post #3, coming soon!

Verdeca is a white blending grape from Croatia.  Verdeca + Primitivo are the parents for Plavina Crna, a red grape found only in Croatia. Interestingly, Verdeca is not found in Croatia today.  Verdeca is grown in the ‘trulli’ areas of Alberobello, Locorotondo, Cisternino, Fasano, Martina France, Ceglie Messapica and Ostuni.  Locorotondo DOC and Martina Franca DOC are delicate dry whites and spumanti made with Verdeca, Bombino Bianco and Malvasia grapes.Uvapianoparadiso

Zibibbo This last one is not a common grape in Puglia, but I had to include it for sentimental reasons.  I asked Papà what grapes were grown at La Cupa in my Nonno’s campagna. He said ‘Tuccanese, Malvasia Bianca, Mene di vacca and Zibib’.  Zibib?  What is a Zibib??? I looked it up and there actually is a grape called Zibibbo or Zibib.  It means ‘dried grape’ in Egyptian (Zibib) or Arabic (Zabib).  One of the oldest unmodified vines in existence, it is also called Moscato d’Alessandria. It is used to make Passito di Pantelleria, a white moscato from the Sicilian volcanic island of Pantelleria. The Zibib at La Cupa was planted by my Bisnonno Antonio in the early 1900’s so who knows how it got there!

Vigneto, La Cupa 1994

Vigneto, La Cupa 1994

Un Lessico per Vinicolture/A Glossary of Viniculture terms

Botte=wood barrels



DOC/DOCG=Denominazione di Origine Controllata (G=e Garantita) =controlled designation of origin/controlled and guaranteed designation of origin.  A quality assurance label for Italian food products.


Uva=grape Uve=grapes

Vendemmia=the grape harvest

Vendemmiare=to harvest the grapes


Vigna =vineyard

Viticoltura=viniculture/grape growing

Viticoltore=grape grower

Vitigno=species of grapevine

Vitigni autoctoni=autochthonous grapes, which are native or indigenous

Salute! Vini di Puglia Part 3, Il Tuccanese coming soon!

Vini di Puglia


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Oenotria, ‘Land of Wine’. This is the name the ancient Greeks gave to Puglia. 425 km long, Puglia has a diverse agricultural landscape with mountains, plains, the Mediterranean sun, coastal sea breezes and fertile soil.  The climate is hot and dry, especially during the summer months.  The name Puglia comes from the Latin ‘a pluvia’ meaning without rain. These environmental features, plus the presence of vitigni autoctoni (Native or Indigenous species of grapes) provide an ideal environment for growing grapes and producing vino.

Grape harvesting and winemaking are an ancient tradition in Puglia, where the soil has been tilled for centuries.  The vines are deeply rooted to an ancestral bond with the earth and local traditions. I find the surreal peace and tranquility in the vigneti to be very therapeutic and meditative.VillaJamelevigneto

The history of vinicoltura in Puglia is based on a bit of science, and a lot of legend. According to legend, after the fall of Troy the mythical hero Diomede (Diomedes) found out his wife had been unfaithful.  Instead of returning home to Argos, he sailed about the Adriatic, created the Isole Tremiti, and then was invited by Daunus, King of the Daunia (modern Provincia di Foggia) to settle there.  Diomede allegedly planted the first vines in Puglia, brought with him from Greece and beyond.Vignastradacupa

Vino Pugliese has always been consumed and enjoyed locally. In the past, Pugliese grapes were often harvested for quantity rather than quality. They were used to blend with underwhelming Italian and European grapes that needed substance or a boost in the alcohol content.  In Puglia, grapes develop high levels of sugar over the hot summer, resulting in wines that are high in alcohol.  Mass production decreased the value of Pugliese grapes and wine.  In the 1970’s and 1980’s, government funds were available for contadini to plant wheat.  Half of Puglia’s ancient vigneti/vineyards were cut down to make way for fields of wheat.  Some ancient vines were all but lost.  Now many are being replanted and there has been a resurgence of forgotten native grapes and lesser known grapes.  Vini Pugliese are finally getting the love they deserve! There are now over 30 Pugliese DOC wines and they are generally very well priced for the quality. I still say the best stuff doesn’t leave the region.  It is made in batches too small to export and is consumed locally.

La Cantina del Paradiso, Orsara di Puglia

La Cantina del Paradiso, Orsara di Puglia

Puglia can be roughly divided into 3 wine producing areas. The first is Northern Puglia including the Daunia (Provincia di Foggia) and the northern part of the Provincia di Bari, around Castel del Monte.  The second is the Provincia di Bari including Gioia del Colle and the Val d’Itria and the third is the Salento area or the ‘heel’ of italia.  It includes the Provincia di Lecce, most of the Provincia di Brindisi and part of the Provincia di Taranto. (I will add a map soon)

This is the first of 3 blog posts about Puglia and its native vines. I have been conducting my own personal research on this topic for many years.  The sacrifices I make for my readers knows no limits!

This post will include the 3 main grapes, post number 2 Aglianico to Zibibbo will feature the lesser known vigni autoctoni and a wine vocabulary, and number 3 will be dedicated to Tuccanese. Salute!

Vini Pugliese available at my local BC Liquor Store

Vini Pugliese available at my local BC Liquor Store

3 Main Vitigni Pugliese/Grapevines:

Primitivo is the most internationally well-known Pugliese grape.  It is grown across Puglia, especially in Taranto (Primitivo di Manduria) and the Gioia del Colle area in Bari.  The production of Primitivo has increased in recent years.  The name was given by a late 18th Century monk who studied botany.  It does not mean primitive, but comes from the Latin ‘Primatirus’ which means early ripening.  La vendemmia (the grape harvest) for Primitivo is August to early September.  It was previously known by other names, including Zagarese, possibly meaning from Zagreb.  In 1881, Primitivo vines were first brought to Manduria from Gioia del Colle as part of the dowry of Contessa Sabini di Altamura. Including vines in a dowry may sound strange, but also implies they must have been considered valuable!

Primitivo is ‘corposo’ (full bodied) and has lots of anthocyanins. The grape can turn much of its sugar content into alcohol, reaching up to 18% alcohol!  It is aromatic with hints of sour and black cherry, fig, blueberry and blackberry. Primitivo has a spiciness of pepper and licorice when grown in certain types of soil and it is often aged in oak. Not a productive vine, it gives low to medium yields. Primitivo ripens unevenly and will over ripen quickly.  If the tips are pruned in spring, a second harvest with a lower alcohol content is possible mid September to October. In Manduria, Primitivo grows on red soil.  It is also grown on volcanic soil, and even sand near the sea.

Primitivo arrived in Puglia from across the Adriatic thousands of years ago with the ancient Greeks. It may have crossed the Adriatic again in the 15th Century with Slavs and Greek Albanians arriving in Puglia to seek refuge from the Ottoman Turks.

Like all Italians, Primitivo has cugini, or cousins. Zinfandel has been proven by genetic analysis to be a clone of Primitivo and Crljenak Kastelanskj (Plavina) a vine on the coast and islands of Croatia. Pugliese immigrants in the 1800’s and early 1900’s likely brought their native grapes to California. Primitivo is also one of the parents of Plavac Mali, another Croatian grape.Stradacupaprimitivo

Negroamaro is grown almost exclusively in Puglia and is one of Italia’s most ancient vines.  It is grown all over Puglia, but especially in the Salento, the ‘heel’ of Puglia.  Since ‘niger’ is Latin for black and ‘amaro’ means bitter in Italiano, the name is thought to mean ‘Black bitter’, after its strong colour and tannins. The amaro part of Negroamaro is actually from ‘Mavros’ the Greek word for black.  In this case, Negroamaro actually means ‘black black’.  It is thought to have been brought to Puglia by Greek colonists around the 8th Century BC so it makes sense that the grape developed a hybrid Latin/Greek name.

Puglia is an ideal habitat for Negroamaro grapes as they tolerate hot and dry well, and are very adaptable to different soils, even in rocky areas. Negroamaro has a rich dark red colour and is corposo but not too tannic or acidic, making it very easy to drink! It has flavours of ripe plums and baked raspberries with hints of cinnamon and anise, and is rich in polyphenols including the antioxidant resveratrol.  La vendemmia for Negroamaro is after Sept 10 to the beginning of October. Negroamaro is usually used on its own, or blended with Malvasia Nera. The first rosé bottled in italia in 1943 was a Negroamaro rosé. My favourite Italian rock band is Negramaro without the ‘o’, from Lecce. I recommend listening to Negramaro with a glass of Negroamaro!

Nero di Troia (also called Uva di Troia) is named after and grown around Troia, in the Monti Dauni area of Foggia and near Castel del Monte.  Troia is only 14 km from Orsara di Puglia so I know it well!  Nero di Troia is thought to be those very vines brought by Diomedes from Troy when he was welcomed by the king of the Daunia!  Genetic analysis does show it originates in the Adriatic area.  We also know Nero di Troia was around in the 13th century during the reign of Federico II of Svevia.

Nero di Troia is a late ripening grape, with vendemmia in mid to late October. It is very purple skinned, rich in polyphenols and especially tannins but is not too acidic or tannic tasting. It has a spiced woody taste with hints of blackberry, licorice, cherry, black currant, black pepper and violets. Nero di Troia goes down nicely and leaves a silky feel on the palate.  Traditionally it has been blended with other grapes.  For example, Castel del Monte wines blend 75% Nero di Troia with 25% Montepulciano. In recent years, there has been a move towards appreciating the unique characteristics of Nero di Troia on its own and it is becoming increasingly well-known and appreciated.NerodiTroia

In Orsara Papà often buys Nero di Troia to drink at home with meals. It comes in a 3L plastic bottle at the grocery store for €5.50!  Seriously.  It has an expiry date and he transfers it into 4x 750 ml glass bottles.  It may not be the best Nero di Troia available, but it’s very good and the best value for $. Now you all know for sure I am not a wine snob!  Visit Troia the last Sunday in July for ‘La notte del Nero di Troia’. Maybe I’ll see you there?  Salute! CristinaPianoParadiso

Aglianico to Zibib~Vini di Puglia Part 2, coming soon!