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Interior happiness, Stories

Thorn

Dear readers,

Last Monday was a beautiful day. It sounds contradictory because I had to have a little surgery done on my foot by a doctor an hour away from my home. Luckily a friend volunteered to drive me. She suggested we make it a whole day and visit the beautiful town of Thorn first, which was located only ten minutes from the medical office. A great idea!

A newborn in Thorn

Have you ever been in Thorn?

The little town of Thorn is located in the south of Holland in the province of Limburg. It used to be a tiny principality; today it is one of the ten must-visits in Holland. Thorn is known for its old white houses and monumental buildings.
The history of Thorn dates back to the 10th century. Over the course of time it developed into a miniature convent ruled by an abbess and twenty ladies of noble birth. It had its own jurisdiction and its own currency, but this came to an end in 1794 with the arrival of the French.

The white town

It’s called the white town–a funny coincidence, because Ostuni, in Puglia is called the white town too: la città bianca. This is the town where Casa Vita is located.

But back to Holland 😉
Why were the houses white?
After the aristocratic ladies had fled, the French imposed a tax based on the size of the windows. The locals were often poor people living in large properties that previously belonged to the rich. To reduce the amount of tax they had to pay, many of them bricked up the windows and then whitewashed their houses to conceal the signs of their renovation work (‘scars of poverty’).

The town is so well preserved, the cobble stone roads, the roofs, the lanterns… We were there on a Monday, and it was very quiet. I suppose that during the summer it is filled with tourists. This was a good day, just one terrace was open for lunch, but that is enough. The only disadvantage was that the museums were closed too. They open as of April 1st. If you would like to go deeper into Thorn’s history, you better visit later in spring.

The Abbey Church was mainly built in the 14th century. 

Walking here felt like being in another era. It made me feel calm and at peace. Of course, I’d better not think of the horrific things happening in medieval times. Well, I would have preferred having been one of the twenty noble ladies who had the whole town to themselves. I could perfectly picture myself and my friends here!  “Noble” could be replaced by funny, creative, intelligent and a bit bold :-). Would you have joined me?

Cheers, Sophie

 

 

 

Interior happiness, Puglia

Interior happiness at Casa Vita

Dear readers,

One of the things I love to do is decorating, redecorating, making a place cozy and pretty.

At Casa Vita we started with a fully furnished house, mostly by Ikea. The former owners were great in reshaping and rebuilding the two old trullis and in making a beautiful yard. But I guess for the interior of the house, they preferred the simplicity of Ikea. Could be a practical side to it too, renting out a house brings along a big risk of damage.

We rent the house out as well. But if we stay at Casa Vita, we don’t want to live in an Ikea showroom 🙂 And so far, our guests have appreciated a more personal approach too.

 

We didn’t want to throw anything away, nor did we want to buy expensive things, so this is what we mainly did:

  • we had two big grayish Ikea armchairs which were comfortable, so we had them upholstered with dark green velvet
  • a few dark wood racks and side tables I painted white
  • we added some old antique furniture from my parents’ home (a coincidence, when we bought Casa Vita, we had to empty my parental home at around the same period), that otherwise would have had to be given away
  • we bought a few things: a new carpet (Sanderson) and Fermob furniture that we use indoors as well as outdoors
  • I regularly check Zara Home for sales, and buy sheets and covers to bring in colors
  • I made a lot of outdoor and indoor cushions myself
  • I adapted some pictures (of Sofia Loren and Claudia Cardinale) in photoshop and had them printed.
  • recently we added the two pink tabourets and golden side table
  • we chose dark green and pink as main colors for the living room and kitchen
  • all the outdoor cushions were also redone in dark green
  • with some help, I used leftover wallpaper (remember my wallpaper addiction?) and designed a new screen

We did do a big renovation. The kitchen is totally redone, in Puglian style. I searched through a lot of books with old Puglian kitchens, and we had the kitchen made by a local carpenter. We are very pleased with the result! For the custom made tiles we also stuck to green and raspberry pink. The countertop is from pietra di Trani, a local stone. The floor was also made from the same stone. By the way, Trani is a beautiful town a little further north in Puglia.

 

But let me show you in several pictures:
the armchair with old fabric:

Upholstered with good quality velvet fabric. The screen you see here is from Maison du Monde, I found it attracted a bit too much attention

So I designed a new screen, with leftover wallpaper from home

And we put the other screen in one of the trulli


Here you see the pictures I redesigned.  And the old dark side tables I repainted white.

Cushions I made and the new carpet – tropical style 😉

The old Ikea kitchen and the new one in Puglian style

The dark green comes back in the cushions in the outdoor areas

 

Can you give me advice?

In each room I have a Fermob chair to put some clothing on. I want to use these chairs for the outdoor table now. What do you think of these rattan ones instead? Other suggestions? Let me know!

On the left, you also see an old closet and a little mirror from my parents home. And you can see that this trullo room is made on the rocks of Puglian ground.

Some white rotan chairs
Image result for rattan chair maison du monde

Thanks for your help!

Ciao, ciao, Sophia

Most of the photos are by Marie Bouly Photography and Mable Photography

 

Puglia

Dining out in Puglia

Hi Everyone,

How are you? How important is food to you?

I admit that it is pretty important to me. When we bought Casa Vita, I envisioned a big table with all our kids and their partners, and lots of delicious Italian food.

Honestly, I cannot name one Italian dish I do not like – a disaster for my weight yes, but not for my mood!

The photo on top is my own homemade food: a salad with arugula, fresh figs from the yard, lettuce, small tomatoes, ricotta cubes and a dressing with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and crushed figs. The other plate has grilled veggies: zucchini, zucchini flowers, eggplant and fresh mozzarella. Photo by Mable Photography.

Guests traveling to Casa Vita often ask me for recommendations for good restaurants. So I will make up a list below, but you should not refrain from discovering new restaurants … There is so much good food in Puglia. If you are visiting a town, try to wander of the main paths and piazzas and find your way into the smaller alleys. Who knows what you will discover.

Here are some delicious ideas

Carovigno:
Image result for Carovigno centro puglia

Carovigno is a small but lovely town near Ostuni, with a beautiful piazza.

  • Osteria gia sotto l’arco: this is a restaurant we can certainly recommend, a magical ‘gastronomia’ mingled with tradition and creativity!

Martina Franca:

Martina Franca is a fair-sized town in the heart of Puglia. It has some ugly modern areas, but the town’s jewel is its lovely historic center, a memorable maze of winding alleys, where whitewashed simplicity sits side by side with baroque extravagance. The town is built on a hill in the green Valle d’Itria, the trulli area of Puglia. It is about a twenty minute drive from Casa Vita. Martina Franca is an incredibly photogenic town, and it has some beautiful clothing stores too.

  • Garibaldi bistrot: beautiful location, near the Cathedral, pure and good Puglian food, delicious wines, friendly owners.
  • I templari: delicious food, not in the center, but it has a really nice terrace, and also the inside is beautiful.
  • Mehta: I haven’t been there myself. But my friend Susan recommended it.  It is high-end cooking, and the desserts are fabulous. I will surely visit next time and will keep you posted!
  • Terra Terra: This is a smaller and cheaper restaurant located in one of the small alleys. The food is also very good, and they serve vegan dishes too.
  • Nausicaa: Also a top restaurant, with a big collection of wines.

Ostuni:

Casa Vita is officially located in Ostuni, but in fact, in distance it is between the two beautiful towns, Ostuni ànd Ceglie. Ostuni is called la città bianca, it is a white town on a hill. I cannot visit Ostuni enough, it has so many beautiful alleys, piazzas, stairways… Each time you discover something new. If you find your way (it took me some time to figure out how to get to a certain restaurant) to the top, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view on the sea.

  • Bella Vista: a nice view, if you are sitting outside at the right spot, you can see the sea. They have great pizzas and antipasti!
  • Taverna della gelosia: it is located between different street levels, beautiful to sit outdoors on the patio, under the trees. The food is delicious and a good choice of wines too. The staff can be a bit stiff though.
  • Il Cielo: this is located in a hotel and has a Michelin Star. Also on our list, must be worth a visit!

Ceglie Messapica:

Casa Vita is situated between Ceglie and Ostuni. Ostuni is beautiful and magical, but also touristic. While Ceglie is more of a hidden treasure. It’s not as big as Ostuni, but here you find more local people. I love the piazza with the bell tower.  You can sit here all evening, watching the men hang around in groups, the elderly men with three on a bench, families gathering, kids playing on the square till midnight. This is still the real Puglia. And you can eat very well for less money than in Ostuni.

  • Cibus: a great restaurant, but more meat-orientated. The antipasti we got there were sublime, really delicious.
  • Osteria Pugliese: very typical food. You’ll have enough if you order the antipasti della casa. It is very cozy inside.
  • Pizzeria Grex Ludi: it is the only pizzeria on the main piazza – the piazza with the bell tower. You can eat great pizzas for three or four euros!
  • Trattoria Piaceri e Tradizione: just behind the corner of the square. The cook Giuseppe will prepare you a delicious typical meal. And if you can, sit outside on the balcony, and you’ll have a beautiful view.
  • Antimo: this restaurant is not in the town, but in the countryside on your way to Ceglie, when you come from Casa Vita. It is an organic farm. They use a lot of ingredients from their own land. The stuffed (with ricotta) zucchini flowers are delicious. You can also follow cooking courses here.

Locorotondo

Locorotondo doesn’t really have any specific tourist attractions; the town itself is the main sight. It is also a small town on the top of a hill. It’s just a pleasant place to spend an hour or two wandering, taking photographs and sitting at cafe tables.

  • U’Curdunn: Great restaurant and very cozy and beautiful inside too. Good service and excellent wines.
  • La taverna del Duca: Delicious food, and you can also follow courses ‘how to make your own pasta’!

Alberobello
Image result for alberobello
Alberobello is thé trulli-town and Unesco world heritage site. It is also terribly touristic, a visit during the summertime is a challenge. But I can recommend a very good restaurant just outside the center.

  • Fidelio: A beautiful garden, magical to sit outside, but very attractive interior too, and exquisite food!

Polignano a Mare

This magical town at the rocky cliffs sure is worth a visit. It has many touristic restaurants (not all with a good price-quality balance), but I want to quote these two.

  • Mint: I have been here with a friend, and Daughter has visited with her boyfriend. Excellent kitchen, vegetarian too. It is such a small but beautiful restaurant!
  • Grotta Palazzese: This is more an experience than a good restaurant. You pay for the view and the experience, because you dine in a cave.  Check the site, it is worth going there. But you need to know it is not cheap.

Brindisi

Lecce

Lecce is one hour drive from Ostuni, and it is often called the Florence of the South. Lecce has a lovely historic center (centro storico), and travelers can easily spend a day or two exploring picturesque little lanes and finding the more far-flung Baroque churches. The town’s great artistic treasure is its architecture.

  • Bros’: You wouldn’t think if you see it from outdoors, but this is a superior restaurant. I have had the pleasure to devour their menu, together with my American friends, last year in May. And look who’s been here too! For readers not from Belgium or Holland, this is Sergio, a famous chef de cuisine, who has received three Michelin stars in one of his restaurants.

 

Buon appetito! Sophia

Puglia

Sant’Andrea

The holy Andreas! Well, we chose the right name for our youngest 😉

How are you?

I am still at Casa Vita. It is just me and Hubbie at the moment. And we are working inside and outside the house to keep it up to date and to make it more beautiful.

More on the interior in a later post!

Last week we visited Sant’Andrea. It is an Instagram-worthy place. But don’t forget to use your own eyes too. These cliffs and rocks along the Adriatic coast in Puglia (between Lecce and Otranto) are breathtaking. Sant’Andrea is a bit over an hour drive from Ostuni, where Casa Vita is.

We walked aside the cliffs and Hubbie, Daughter and Boyfriend went down to a lower platform. There were steps for the first part, but then it was all climbing– too scary for me. Let me just show you the photos.


Recognize Hubbie and me;-)?

Too scared to go all the way down…

The other ones weren’t

Poor Giovanni

Unfortunately Giovanni didn’t make it, diving from the cliffs. But there are worse places to rest in peace, don’t you think?

Have a great day and don’t risk your life!

Ciao, Sophia

 

 

Puglia

Food & Drinks in Puglia

Buonasera Tutti,

I am writing outside now, under the back porch in Casa Vita.

This morning we visited Brindisi, the old Port town – there is an airport too now.

We came back to the house and I made a quick lunch, with all the ingredients we still had:

  • small zucchini
  • zucchini flowers
  • yellow pepper
  • arugula
  • small tomatoes
  • green and red pesto
  • parmesan cheese

I cooked some whole wheat pasta, divided it in two bowls, one with the green and the other with the red pesto. I grilled the pepper, zucchini and zucchini flowers. With the arugula, tomatoes and cheese I made a salad.

It was an easy but delicious lunch. Buon appetito!

And oh yes, last week we tried our pizza again. I wrote down this recipe already. This time I added a slightly different salad, with fresh picked figs from the yard!

Ingredients:

  • figs
  • lettuce
  • tomatoes
  • cucumber/melon, this is a kind of fruit you can find here, it is a mixture between cucumber and melon.
  • some ricotta cubes – but actually I would prefer just some salty blue cheese
  • a vinaigrette from olive oil from our yard (what else?), balsamic vinegar, a small spoon of marmelade (preferable one from figs) and some pepper and seasalt

Delicioso anche!

And let me show you all the fruit that is ready to be picked right now, all in our yard:



Buon appetito!

Ciao, Sophia