Barbara & Heather - Italy 2018 travel blog

Leaving B&B Cavour at Gioia del College

Bari harbour

The fish market, Bari

Church of San Nicola

San Nicola


Norman castle, Bari

Heather making focaccia, Conversano

Foccacia ready to cook

Our combined efforts at crostatini

Sunday 20th May: Today we moved from Gioia del Colle to go to Conversano for the afternoon cooking class. We were ready for Angelo at 9am and then drove to Bari for a walking tour conducted by Katia. Bari was much busier on this Sunday morning than it had been last Sunday afternoon when we arrived. Katia took us first to the harbour where the fish markets were still open. We saw men tenderising octopus as the locals like all their seafood raw and much of it was on sale for eating there and then.

We walked through the old town to the Basilica di San Nicola, the patron saint of Bari. It was filled with people attending a mass and the crypt where the saint’s relics are kept was filled with mainly Russian Orthodox pilgrims who also venerate Saint Nicolas. There is even a large bronze statue of him in the square outside which was given to the city by Vladimir Putin when he visited in 2012. The Cathedral of Saint Sabino (another patron saint) was surrounded by people so we walked on by towards the castle. Heather and I were so glad that we had seen Bari at its quietest.

The Norman Castle is a huge affair on the seafront with a moat but, with only galleries inside, we did not enter. Then on the way back to the van we walked through the street famous for the orrichiette makers and watched the women effortlessly shape the “little ears” of semolina pasta.

From Bari, Angelo drove us to Conversano and the villa where we would stay for one night. After settling us in, he provided a lovely light lunch of frisella bread and cheeses made by his wife’s cousin in Gioia, with Primitivo wine, of course. We had to say goodbye to Angelo after this as he was starting to pick up his group for the next week. It is amazing how well we got to know one another in this week and Angelo had shown us a Puglia that we will never forget so it was sad to leave him.

Then we had a few hours to ourselves before the cooking class at 5pm. The villa had a beautiful big pool and so Heather and I ventured in even though the water temperature was only 19 degrees C. Once in it was wonderfully refreshing and then we hopped in the spa for a few minutes.

Katia took the cooking class with the help of the owner and a friend, both named Lucretia. Firstly, we started the focaccia as it had to rise for an hour or so. Then we made the crostatini with apricot jam and/or Nutella. After that, polpette for the pasta at the end and then Eggplant Medalions - slices of eggplant dipped in egg and breadcrumbs with ham and a smoked cheese sandwiched between, oiled and baked. Lastly, the challenge was to make orriechette, the pasta shaped like “little ears”. The local ladies make it without even looking but none of us really got the hang of it. Still, we had a batch of little pieces of pasta to cook. The two Lucretias did most of the basic work with the seven of us finishing things off. After all this, dinner was served and it was delicious, if we do say so ourselves.

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