We love living in Berlin, but the winter here actually can be really depressing. So what to do against the winter blues? Either, you travel to warmer regions, or you get cozy. We opted for the latter unceremoniously and went to the countryside with some friends to get away from it all, to enjoy the serenity and the slow life.
Some time ago we already stumbled upon a beautiful house in Mecklenburg, the ‘Alte Schule‘ (The old school) in Rensow. The owners, Christina and Knut, turned the building from the beginning of the 19th century into something special. They tore out the ugly restorations like plastic windows, laminate, fitted carpets, covered ceilings, woodchip wallpaper and 80s style tiles to show the old structure again and to bring the house’ own charm back to life, just along the Japanese aesthetic-concept of Wabi Sabi. This concept invites the beholder to appreciate the ordinary and easily missed. The awareness of the evanescence of all things is a core point. Every scratch, every dent and rusty spot are a sign of experience and tell stories. Due to natural processes and utilization, objects are liable to chronological change, thus creating beauty through use.
Those who knows us knows that we love things with patina and history. It’s no surprise we fell in love with the ‘Alte Schule’ immediately. Cob walls with paint of the last decades, old ovens, beautiful floorboards and a carefully picked interior consisting of old cabinets, tables, textiles, bowls, dishes and cutlery. Basically, you find everything to make a blogger’s or food photographer’s heart go faster.

Christina and Knut not only take care of the ‘Alte Schule’, but also saved an old manor only a few hundred meters away from decay, in which they live since 2009. For years now, friends and neighbors gather around the big wooden kitchen table to be cooked for. We arrived just at the right evening to find ourselves amidst a group of most interestingly people.

Quite a few of them followed the same way as Christina and Knut and see it as their task to renovate one of the old manors in the area. We also talked to some farmers who have interesting concepts, and we would have loved to visit each and every one of those farms. There were about 30 people in the kitchen, even if only 15 registered. Knut said, this is how it works. One brings his wife along, the next brings a friend, and all of a sudden the group doubled in size. If we could be just as relaxed when it comes to cooking for big groups…
We had a surprisingly great and absorbing evening, which lead to us falling exhausted into our bed at the ‘Alte Schule’, but being unable to sleep. Too many thoughts. And somehow, our longing for a small house in the countryside just grew a bit more intense.

The following day, our friends Kathrin and Simon arrived at Rensow and had to learn immediately that deceleration does not equal tranquility and relaxation. Firewood and coal have to be brought in to fire the ovens, because a heating is missing in this old house. Also, there is no gas or electrical stove, but antique, cast-iron, wood-fired kitchen stoves. Since one of the water heaters did not work, the water for dish washing had to be heated on that oven, too.
As a reward, we breakfasted thoroughly. You accept a bit of work for fresh sourdough bread and pancakes. Actually, this was how all the next days passed. Our days basically were made of collecting wood, heating the ovens, cooking, washing up, winter walks and cozy, chummily evenings. Somehow it was pure relaxation nonetheless, maybe even meditative, but definitely a lot of happiness for the soul. To craft something with your own hands, and be it just some warmth with a bit of wood and fire in the oven, feels different from working on your computer for hours a day and to get lost in the depths of social networks.

For lunch we had a delicious soup of chickpeas and mushrooms. We sliced mushrooms and king oyster mushrooms and sweated them with finely chopped shallots and garlic in a bit of olive oil. Deglazed with a good spill of white wine and filled with vegetable broth. Afterwards we added dried porcini and tomatoes, bay leaves and cooked chickpeas and let the soup cook for about 15-20 minutes. Finally, seasoned with salt, cayenne pepper, thyme, smoked pepper, and turmeric.

On one of our walks, we visited the sheep barn in Vietschow. We were told it was baking day and of course we didn’t want to miss that. Once a week the owners bake bread and crescent rolls in the self-made wood fired oven. They were just taken out of the oven when we arrived at the farmyard. Perfect! Until a few years ago, Claudia and Steffen did something completely different before they fulfilled their dream of a small ecological farm. Their East Frisian milk sheep feel comfortable in this environment and are able to do what they love all year round on this rambling ground: eating, eating, eating. Claudia and Steffen pamper their sheep, because only this way they give the best milk, from which they produce handmade raw milk cheese in their own cheesery.

We talked with them, who were vegetarian for years, for a long while about milk production. We were impressed how these two newcomers operate their Bioland Farm. Not to earn as much money as possible, but to ensure the wellbeing of their animals being the top priority. The lambs stay as long as possible with their mothers to be provided with the best possible nutrition. This way, there is less milk left for the cheese production, but the lambs jump happily around. Of course, every sheep has its own name and they are truly beautiful. This farm represents the romantic image city people have of farms and it is good to see that farming is not only possible without factory farming, but also practiced.

Especially for our time in Rensow we thought of very simple dishes to cook and never thought the oven vegetables of all things to be a challenge. It is a classic in the winter for us. Spread colorful root vegetables on a baking sheet, mix it with a bit of olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper, put the sheet into the oven, done. If the oven works as you want it to. Knut gave us a thermometer for the oven so we could keep track of the heat. However, the heat refused to rise above 100°C. The coals were gleaming, but the baking oven did not get enough heat. Time to get imaginative. We fired some more briquettes and spread them on the top of the baking oven. Lo and behold, a delicious smell of oven vegetables spread within minutes. We also cooked green spelt to go along with the vegetables, and glazed almonds with maple syrup and smoked pepper powder as a topping. All the trouble with the oven of course let the meal being even more delicious! When you prepare your food more aware you let it melt in your mouth, especially in a dining nook with divine light and together with beloved friends.

Christina and Knut stopped by every once in a while with a bottle of wine. They are full of zest for action and incredibly creative. We thought about quite some plans for projects to realize together in the future. We definitely want to visit those two some more times. They also asked if we fancy cooking together on the last evening before our departure so they and some friends could try our food. There would be only about 20 people. Phew! As said before, we are not as experienced with cooking for so many people, but we didn’t wanted to decline this exciting offer. We let ourselves be infected by their calmness and checked the pantry spontaneously to see what we find and how to cook a varied menu from it. For one, we decided for a roasted carrot soup, and for beluga lentils with rasped beetroot and elder juice, backed red cabbage and horseradish on the other hand. Christina and Knut roasted some sourdough bread with honey and caraway seeds, and conjured a salad of pickled beans, capers, chicories and a lot of garlic. Their son Bendix bustled about between us all the time and helped everywhere. He wants to become a chef. After cooking, we fed the kitchen waste to the sheep. Pretty great, such sheep.

We had to get the horseradish for our lentil dish first. Not on the nearest market, as we would have done in Berlin, but directly from the field. Jörg, a friend of the family, got out his shovel and headed out with us. He is Grete’s husband, who has a organic farm with seed production and vegetable sale. Her goal is to conserve old types of vegetables, and she wants to reach this goal by a rural and sustainable production.

Her farm works as an overall structure with operations complementing each other. Thus, she can refrain from buying fertilizers since the farm’s sheep and horses take care of that in a natural way. The seeds can be ordered at Dreschflegel, for example, and the vegetables can be bought in Berlin, as well: Every Thursday from 12-19h at Kollwitzplatz on the Markt der Grünen Liga or in the Markthalle Neun every Saturday from 10-18h while stock lasts. Grete wants to fashion a varied product line and also offers along the vegetables and herbs seasonal fruits and juices (varied sorts of apple juice, apple-quince, beetroot, etc.).

But back to the evening. A bit of anxiety is always with us: will the food be enough for all and will everybody like it? Actually, Christina’s and Knut’s serenity rubbed off on us. We knew we prepared a simple but delicious meal. Still, we could surprise the guests with one idea or another and inspire them. We really enjoyed the evening, all the days actually in this small village in Mecklenburg.

During the night it began to snow and the next day everything looked enchanted. Christina’s and Knut’s rams made off over the frozen pond and suddenly were at our front door. We fed them some apples before packing bag and baggage into our car, and preferably we would have taken them with us. Farewell was hard. The Great Dane Triglaf came extra close at the manor so both of us almost fell over. We embosomed so many people (and animals), we have to got back north very soon.

We’ve been looking for a proper lodge to stay while we are in Apulia for a long time. With lots of space for cooking and experimenting with regional vegetables, and, above all, with a stone oven for baking pizza, focaccia and other goodies. Of course, we wanted it to be a trulli, the typical round houses with a stone roof. To find a trulli was not the problem, but to find one to fall in love with, that’s a whole different point. One night, Susann searched until almost 4 in the morning to find our dream lodge. Her eyes were already dropping when she finally found the agency Cielo die Puglia. Afterwards, we only had to pick one of the carefully selected locations. Full of anticipation, we wrote an enquiry and immediately received a lovely response. From Isabell. She did not only arrange the reservation of the trulli, but also provided a lot of great addresses. We directly told her what we were up to – to get to know as much of the Apulian kitchen. Of course, this only works by talking to the people behind the stove. Listen to their stories and watch them working. Even young people hardly speak any English, so it is hard to get in contact with them without knowing Italian. Isabell was the perfect connection and helped us where she could. Maybe she helped a bit too much, because we had trouble deciding what to do during those few days. Too many possibilities, too short time.

After 4 days in the cave city of Matera we are back on our way to the coast. Along olive groves and old masserias, through settlements with trullis, and finally, there is our lodge.

We are welcomed with presents from the owner’s garden, regional specialties, including olive oil from her own cultivation. We take a short look around, wondering about the cold in the trulli, but then straight head to do the groceries. After all those days in the hotel, we finally want to be at the stove ourselves again. We are pretty fast in Ostuni, the white city, and primarily get fresh vegetables and fruits. Our way there was really fast, we just had to follow the main road. On our way back, our GPS seems to mean well with us and leads us to every trulli in the area. We drive along branched roads, left, right, right, left, and over dirt roads. Earlier it was so easy. Damn technology! It get’s darker by the minute and we wanted to be back already. When we finally arrive at our trulli, we don’t want to get our thick jackets off because inside it’s not much warmer than 12 degrees. As we find out, the gas tank is empty. This means no heating, no warm water. The owner is waiting for the long due gas delivery since days, but she is staved off every time. Hello Italy! We put on every electrical heating we can find and also light some candles. Of course, the fuse is out immediately. We are hungry, cold, and definitely imagined this day a bit differently… Tomorrow is Christmas. The cottage’s landlady leaves no stone unturned and brings a extemporary bottle of gas and also another electrical heating. We make ourselves a home, snuggle into bed, which luckily is equipped with heating blankets. Lights out, eyes closed, hoping that our stone lodge is a bit heated in the morning already.

New day, new luck. At 7 a.m. we are woken by sunbeams once again and we explore the trulli’s neighborhood. By the way, where is the donkey who made an incredibly noise this morning and thought himself to be a cock? The sun sets us up, even if it is crisp outside.
Today’s goal: fire the stone oven, bake pizza and focaccia, and enjoy the lovely sunny day outside. We already baked in a stone oven when we were in Spain. Unfortunately, we never fired this thing ourselves until now. Yannic is confident, though, he paid enough attention and knows how to do it. Well, let’s let him work…
However, dough has to be made first, it shall prove for a long time. For that, we took some of our own sourdough from home, which is 5 years old by now. We already prepared a poolish to set over night, which is bubbling happily already. To the poolish we now add flour, water, salt, and a bit of dried yeast. Knead everything thoroughly and give it a long time in front of the warm heating, ready is the perfect pizza dough.
With that, back to the fire. After half an hour, flames flicker the oven’s ceiling and built a great heat. Time to throw in the first chestnuts, which will be a small starter for the first appetite. After two hours, we can finally start baking happily. A quickly poured glass of red wine, sleeves rolled up and get to work.

By the way, if you don’t pay attention you will get a depilation of your arms from the oven for free. First, we try a simple focaccia with olive oil and rough sea salt to get the groove for the oven and to get a feeling for the heat and timing. A few minutes later, Yannic pulls out an almost perfect focaccia. Well, we really are ready to go. Beaming, he forms the next dough piece and belays it with tomatoes and olives. Get it on the hot stone and anxiously watch the dough rise and turn golden yellow. While we mesmerized stare at the oven we notice once again, how easily it is to make us happy with the simplest things. Slowly, the sun is setting and we notice that it is actually winter and the end of December. We quickly bake our pizzas and get into the warm tulli. On the pizza we have Cardoncellos, which are king oyster mushrooms, the typical mushrooms for this region of Apulia. Furthermore, we roasted pointed peppers in the oven and skinned them afterwards. This way, the vegetables get a very tasty flavor. Of course, olives, capers, fresh tomatoes and a wonderful organic mozzarella may not be missed.

Happy and beaming we sit in the warm kitchen with two incredibly tasty, crispy pizzas and three focaccias for the next day. It’s Christmas Eve, maybe we should have stuck a few candles into the focaccia…Merry Christmas!

The next day we start lazily. After a short walk we check the vegetables which our landlady gave us from her garden. Among them we find puntarella, a vegetable we did not know yet. It is an Apulian winter vegetable from which you mainly eat the blossom buds. Puntarella is a variation of chicory and you can eat it raw in a salad, but it can also be cooked. It is always thrilling to cook something you never tried before. This is exactly why we went on this culinary trip. We did not research on a traditional recipe for puntarella on purpose, but want to try our own interpretation of the Apulian cuisine, based on our impressions we gathered so far. We think of a dish with Cardoncello mushrooms, spring onions and the quirky buds of the puntarella, which look like giant asparagus tips.

In addition, how could it be any different, we have orecchiette. We slice the vegetables and roast them in olive oil with a bit of garlic and chili. Afterwards, add the pasta to the pan. As a topping, we have tiralli, another regional specialty. They are small pastry rings made of durum, olive oil, white wine, and salt, and are dipped into simmering water before baking. We crush the tiralli and roast them with pine kernels in a bit of olive oil. Ready is a super tasty and quick lunch. The Apulian cuisine is often called the cuisine for poor people, but we think puristic fits better. Few ingredients are combined to simple, delicious meals. Without knick-knacks and complex preparation.

On December, 26th we are on our way to the beautiful Masseria Potenti. Masserias are old farm- or country houses, and you have plenty of them in Puglia. Most of these buildings were built during the 14th to 18th century. Many owners produce wine, olive oil, and other local specialties themselves, or grow their own vegetables. Full of anticipation, we drive on large roads with potholes to Masseria Potenti. Again, we are warmly welcomed, with hugs and kisses, this time from the owner Maria. As if we knew each other for years and haven’t seen each other in a long time. It is a bit difficult for Maria to pronounce Yannic’s name, so she unceremoniously gives us Italian names: Susanna & Giovanni. She takes us directly to her kitchen in which she can run riot every day. As probably all Italians, she cooks with gut instinct, doesn’t stick to recipes, except to her great-grandmother’s, and loves to try new things. She tells us from her love of cooking with fresh herbs, which is essential to her cuisine. Just for us she prepares a new focaccia creation with lots of herbs and lavender. We watch her for a while how she flourishes the cooking spoon and let her daughter Chiara show us every corner of this unique estate. We can’t stop wondering. All those lovely details. Every flagstone, every blanket, every picture on the wall, carpets on the floor are chosen perfectly and every detail tells a story of its own. Chiara tells us with so much lifeblood how her great-grandmother sat in the rocking chair, how the ceramics in the old cupboard have been in the family’s possession for a long time and how Maria is still looking for more unique items to give the masseria its own charm. Even the light is different. Because of the chalk white walls the light is reflected in a way which makes the lodge seem to glow itself. Somehow, you have a feeling of being in Morocco rather than in Italy. Blowing white fabrics, a wood of cacti, lemon and orange trees which spread a wonderful scent; it’s another universe, really. After we have seen quite a lot, we are lead to a huge table set for two. Then, one delicacy follows the other which Maria carefully prepared in the kitchen in front of our eyes.

Of course, we have homemade tiralli, the focaccia with the herbs, a traditional bean paste made of dried fava beans and cooked puntarella (here it is again, our newly gained friend), a tart filled with zucchini and ricotta, and, as a killer, the probably most delicious lemon ice cream ever. It feels like biting into a lemon, and we are not so far from the truth. Chiara plucked a few lemons the day before from the garden, diced and froze them, and blended them with just a bit of sugar. To eat the ice cream in the warm sun while looking at the trees the fruits came from is incredibly pleasant. You can’t get it any more regional. Maria often made this gelato to get her son to eat more fruits. A Trojan vitamin c bomb, so to say. By the way, he came to visit for a few days from Thailand, where he lives and works at the moment. When he heard this we realized that the masseria is actually closed over the holidays. We are the honorary guests and the whole family took time for us. This is so heartwarming. During the visit on this property you really feel the Italians’ hospitable mentality.

After dinner, Chiara even showed us the area. In the family’s olive grove are some trees which are more than 100 years old. Of course, oil is pressed from the olive trees, and also red, rosé, and white wine is produces by the Tommasinos themselves. In summer, they harvest their own vegetables. We drive by all those olive trees to a Caribbean beach, which is a natural reserve with flamingos. We have never seen flamingos in wild life. While the sun is setting, we drive along the sea back to the masseria, say goodbye heartily and hit the road with a bottle of wine and a well scenting lemon in our pockets and lots of love in our hearts. We declined the offer to stay with a heavy heart. No tooth brushes, the fridge full of food, appointments, and, well, it’s us Germans again. You have to be able to handle so much cordiality. It’s not so easy to digest to know someone turned their own Christmas upside down for you. But we will be back! We promised Maria and Chiara. Maybe you want to join us? This place is perfect for a Krautkopf workshop. We are already making plans…

The next morning the lemon from the masseria meets our eye. We have quite something lieft we want to eat up. Two apples, durum wheat semolina, maple syrup, and eggs. First association: Pancakes. We will see if they work with durum wheat semolina. We beat the eggs and add salt, almond milk, and zest. Dice the apples, and mix the maple syrup with lemon juice. Heat olive oil in a pan, spread the apples on the base and fill the pan with the dough. Bake for a few minutes, then put it in the pre-heated oven so the pan cake gets done on both sides. Turn the pan upside down, soak it in the lemon maple mix and garnish with lemon slices and rosemary from the garden.

Let’s get out into the sun and have breakfast. Afterwards, we fire the stone oven one more time. By now, routine as settled. Still, Yannic has fun to make fire in the oven and to stare into the flames afterwards. Since your belly won’t fill itself alone, Susann takes care of the ingredients. Put eggplants, tomatoes, fresh dates, garlic and onions in a huge pan, add olive oil, aceto balsamico and into the oven with it. Out come delicate braised eggplants with a light smoky flavor. With the leftover focaccia we absorb every drop of the tasty sweet sour sauce. Red wine is left, too. Jeez, we are doing fine!

On the last day of our trip we meet Davide and Katia from Giardini 36 and got on a joined hunt for wild vegetables and herbs for a traditional Apulian recipe. The evening before we already spent in their stylish and modern restaurant and were eager to get to know more about the concept. The menu is pretty lucid with only a few selected seasonal dishes, and yet everyone finds something. They even had two vegan dishes and others could be prepared vegan/vegetarian on request. Made from regional organic, often home grown ingredients, they offer traditional dishes as “purea di fave con cicoria” as well as own creations. After 8 days of white flour we finally had our first whole wheat bread. Gorgeous!
In the morning, we drive with Davide, Katia and Davide’s brother Luciano, who is our translator, to their land to collect wild succory and herbs. En passant we learn a lot about agriculture, botany and regional traditions. Katia shows us a plant with big, soft leaves which can be used as bandages; from another you can gain an essence against high blood pressure.
The family owns 30 hectare which is farmed organic. During the winter, the meadows grow wild so the soil can regenerate and get new nutrients. In spring, everything is broken up and sowed. Furthermore, herbs and vegetables here do not only grow in classic patches but also grow wild. Besides plenty of cherry and other fruit trees there are olive trees as well, of course. Davide tells us that harvesting olives is pretty complex, since it is forbidden to harvest these trees, which are older than 100 years, with modern machines.

Davide’s oil is special because the olives are cold pressed within 6 hours after harvest. This way, he produces best quality organic olive oil. Beside the oil those two also produce liquors, jams, honey from their own bees, and other things for their label DFood.
Even if the way Katia and Davide lead their restaurant requires a lot of time and knowledge it is probably the best. You do not only have full influence in your recipes, but also on the quality of all ingredients, which basically account to a dish. What finally lands on the guests’ tables in the evening is harvested in the own fields in the morning.
And this we may experience now as well. Back in the restaurant Katia cooks even two of her recipes. She lets us take a look into her pots and tells us everything important about the preparation. She makes wild succory which we harvested together, on a bean mash and a rather modern creation of her own with potato foam, Romanesco broccoli florets and half dried tomatoes. There is a lot of good olive oil, too. Just like the evening before, it tastes deliciously and we really have to hold back not to lick the plates clean. It is wonderful to see with how much love and passion Katia prepares the dishes.
Again, we drive back to our trulli with our bags full of presents. Beside two bottles of their olive oil we got all ingredients for a lemon-herbs-liquor, which we already had the evening before as cordial in their restaurant. In the bag are zests of their home grown lemons, wild fennel which we harvested freshly, laurels, rosemary, and dried chamomile blossoms.

While the storm is raising outside and hailstones pelt on the ground we sit in our warm trulli and think about the last days in excitement. We were welcomed with so much hospitality, and people invited us into their homes and talked about their cooking with their eyes bright. For us, it was an extraordinary experience on which we want to build on. We hope you fancy more culinary journeys. We have tasted blood for sure and are already debate the next destinations.

After an hour-long trip on broken streets and passing building sites, we finally arrive the first stop on our itinerary, Matera, and suddenly we are not allowed to go on. Only with a special permit, which of course, we did not have. Once we drove around in circles three times, we finally park the car in one of the old alleys to get an overview by foot. The next side street leads us into a whole new world. In front of us lies the ancient cave city. It looks like an intricate construction of stone houses, carved into the rock and melting with the environment. Matera belongs to the southern Italian region of Basilikata and is famous for its historic city, which is one of the oldest worldwide and belongs to UNESCO World Heritage. It is largely made of cave settlement, called Sassi, in which you can find countless monolithic churches with old mural art. We roam the deserted streets, fascinated, which only come to live with a few clotheslines and kitties. The smooth cobblestones and a loose sole of Yannic’s shoe lead to an unplanned adrenalin rush and a few bruises as he slitheres down the street and, well, let’s put it this way: he face plants it. Probably, this is part of an unforgettable journey, and it is also some sort of our tradition and the sign to finally walk to the hotel and relax the sore muscles in a hot bath.

Only because of the hotel with its outstanding design, Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita, we discovered this unique city. Somehow, we find our destinations with detours; we see a great accommodation and this way get to places we have never heard before. Just like we discovered the Azores Island Pico: we saw a photo of a small house made of black stone, built directly at the Atlantic cliffs and wanted to make it our home for a few days.
In the Grotte Della Civita you don’t just live in a hotel room, no. You live in one of the ancient caves which are the city’s signature. In the 1950s, the inhabitants of the Sassi were resettled because the caves without electricity and constant water were viewed as a stain on Italy, which should vanish from the face of earth. People lived there under horrible conditions, along with their cattle and up to a dozen of other people in one cave. For a long time, the ancient city was deserted and is now rebuilt bit by bit and revived. Thanks to projects as Sextantio, the historic caves can be preserved and be used again. At the same time, emphasis is put on an authentic restoration of the original structure. However, there is a sophisticated heating and ventilation system in the hotel caves. Due to all the candles and indirect light in the vaults, the massive wooden furniture, ancient linen and handmade ceramics, you feel carried back into another time. There is a modest elegance in every detail.

It is an incredible feeling to unlock the heavy, wooden door to our cave with the big, old key and to dive into this world. The huge room, carved into the rock, with its 7m high ceiling is so astounding and cozy, even the panoramic view of the national park Murgia fades in comparison. We make ourselves at home and save the view for the next morning. We enjoy it thoroughly on our way to the breakfast room, one of the old mural chapels. Now, there is finally the reason for our trip, the food! We love the puristic Italian cuisine with its focus on the essentials: good ingredients. This also reflects in the breakfast in the Grotte Della Civita. We find selected regional products like the Pane di Matera in its unusual form, which is baked from double ground semolina. The grain for the bread is grown in Matera itself and stored in a special way. Of course, regional specialties as Burrata and Focaccia, which are covered with potatoes or tomatoes, may not be missed at the breakfast buffet, just as little classic pastries such as Crostata and Cantuccini. We relish on the buffet with fresh pressed orange juice and steaming tea.

Since we cannot sit still we hit the road to explore the neighborhood. We love rough nature and love to feel its enormous power. We expected to miss out on this point on this journey. Southern Italy has a beautiful landscape, but you see a lot of flat land with countless olive trees.

This time, we wanted to concentrate on exchange with the locals and explore the culinary part, thus leaving our walking boots at home. However, we realized it to be a mistake soon enough when we took the stony way to a wooden bridge which led through a rugged valley. The Murgia’s rocky landscape is stunningly beautiful, you can wander around on small trails and marvel at the numerous caves and old churches. Our adventurous hearts beat faster, even when an icy, uncomfortable wind greets us. Furthermore, a deep gray front carrying rain is building up in front of us, which finally leads us to turn back. Patches of mist waft through the city and give it an even more enchanted look. Since we cannot refrain from taking photos and want to catch more and more pictures, we return to the hotel completely soaked. We warm ourselves in our cozy cave before we want to continue our task to explore the traditional cuisine of Matera.

The city has a lot of authentic restaurants which offer the regional classics. However, you cannot travel to Italy without having a bombastic pizza. At least, this is true for Yannic, so we first visit a Neapolitan pizzeria in the heart of the old city. The dough rest for 48 hours and thus is almost fermented, the crust is thick, crispy on the outside, soft and aromatic on the inside. In this restaurant, as well, they focus on the regional products. On an extra menu, the origin of every ingredient is listed and explained. In all restaurants we visit you can taste how careful every product is selected.

On the 4 days we spend we often just roam the ancient city and marvel at it from every corner. Again and again we meet possible dead ends, which on a closer look turn out to be narrow ways. A maze made of stone and caves. During the day, but especially at nightfall, the optical illusion is perfect. When everything fades into a soft, dark blue and the first warm lights illuminate the streets, the city has an even other charm. One evening, we wanted to catch this special moment to get a panoramic shot. Just this moment, an old man shuffles towards us, tugs at our sleeves and indicates us to follow him. It seems he wants to show us something. We follow him in the hope of a better view or a fascinating story. The sky is turning darker, but we do not want to be rude and let him guide us further through the maze of alleys. Meanwhile, he points out peculiarities to us like an antique cat-flap, over which he laughs, or the old rain gutters in the streets. He tells us about the house of his childhood and points down another flight of stairs every time. Finally there, he shows us fossilized seashells on a wall and tells us stories in Italian, which probably are all very exciting. But we don’t understand a word. Eventually we say good bye and hurry back, up the many stairs to our spot to catch the last light.

Afterwards, it is time to eat again. We try to taste as many specialities as possible, for example the pastry Taralli and of course, Orecchiette, which origin here. The little pasta ears are the culinary symbol of the City of Bari but are eaten in all of Apulia and are even considered a national dish. A typical recipe is Orecchiette alla pugliese, with cima di rapa, a cabbage similar to broccoli, with garlic, olive oil and chili – ready.

We do not only eat the classic version but also Orecchiette with a spic pumpkin sauce, cultivated with pepperoni Cruschi. That are dried peppers which are roasted in olive oil.

Furthermore, we are allowed to visit a traditional bakery. We learn everything about preparing Pane di Matera and watch amazed how hundreds of loaves get pulled out of the old oven. They carefully are palpated, sometimes flipped over and pushed back into the oven until all of them are golden yellow and smell lovely. During the tour we also hear a lot about the city’s history. It roots back further than we actually thought, 9000 years already. Wicked! Moreover, we learn that many millennia ago, Matera was below sea level. We think of our old friend and the fossilized shells at the wall. They must have been in the stone for an eternity before it was turned into his home. Only now we realize that he was a child when he was one of the inhabitants who were forced to resettle in the newly built outskirts of the city. Even if many people did not want to go back to the poor conditions, he definitely seems to connect special memories with the time in the Sassi, and you could see the pride in his eyes to be part of this history.

On our last day, one day before Christmas, the first sunbeams wake us at 7.00. We planned a short hike to shoot two photos in the right light. Afterwards, the wonderful breakfast awaits us for the last time. We boost ourselves, pack our stuff and head off to Ostuni, our second destination of our Italy trip.

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