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Visit to cheesemakerWe can’t possibly leave this region without introducing everyone to OUR favorite product here…..Burrata!! Many of you may already be a fan of this creamy version of mozzarella – maybe you have seen it gaining popularity on restaurant menus, or maybe you’ve even tried ours! But Puglia is where this palate-pleaser originates, specifically in Andria, and this morning’s visit to the Bolognino caseificio gave us a first-hand look at the step-by-step process of how this cheese is made. Owner Nicola took the time out of his busy cheesemaking day to introduce our group to the various cheeses he produces and how each is made, from the milk to the finished product!

20140623_141754No one was ready to leave Conversano, especially after our morning with Nicola and his family, but everyone knew the rest of the day would be a great one. As one traveler said, “you guys just keep on topping yourselves – the hits just keep on coming!” And we couldn’t possibly drive through this area without stopping at one of the major players in the Caputo Brothers Creamery story. Torre Spagnola has it’s own place in Italian history, but for Rynn & David, the day they spent at the caseificio here 8 years ago played a large role in what made Caputo Brothers what it is today. The cheesemaking business here has since shut its doors, but the cows and the rest of the operation remains, and Nunzio and his family played host to our group for lunch. Nunzio’s niece Beatrice couldn’t have been a brighter ray of sunshine for our group as we enjoyed a delicious and beautiful lunch of local specialities like sun-dried zucchini, whipped ricotta with almonds, eggplant rollatini, and cavatelli with cicerchie, a cross between a fava bean and chickpea.

Sad to leave our new friends, it may have been the excitement to arrive in Matera that fueled the remainder of our short ride to our next destination. And the group’s reaction upon viewing this cave town for the first time did not disappoint! This prehistoric cave town is unlike any other, and can hardly be described adequately to someone who has not experienced it first-hand. Our decision to include Matera on this tour was a no-brainer, as it is Rynn & David’s favorite town in Italy, but it was only reconfirmed by this recent ‘Smithsonian Magazine’ article.

Once everyone had settled into our beautiful hotel (in a CAVE!!!), there were a few hours to take a rest or do some 20140623_221515exploring before dinner. And what a dinner it was! First, just start by imagining a restaurant in a cave. That might be enough to make it special….but then add a miniature golf course into the mix! 19 a Buca (The 19th Hole) is a hip cave bar and restaurant that Rynn & Dave discovered on their first trip to Matera and it has been a favorite ever since. Even though no one thought they were ready for another “feast,” there certainly were a lot of empty plates as the asparagus torte, bread meatballs (a new revelation!), and zucchini with potato and smoked scamorza came out! These artistically plated dishes were followed by an orecchiette with broccoli, dried pepper and breadcrumbs and then beef with porcini mushrooms. Capped off with gelato, this meal may be a favorite!