Skip to content

Summertime

The town is bright with fireworks on its patron saint day.

Nearby Locorotondo is bright with fireworks on its patron saint’s day.

Summer is in full swing in Martina Franca How can we tell? Every day dawns with a deep blue cloudless sky. The sun is a fierce, white-hot star, heating up the landscape and sending us in search of the nearest body of water. Lunchtime reunites families at home for the day’s main meal, followed by a quiet so still and profound it’s as if the populace has been spellbound into silence. Even the dogs are inside napping, usually stretched out on cool stone floors. And all of this is only a preamble to the real heart of the day. From twilight until the wee hours, our town explodes with life, laughter and music during July and August. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.

Religious festivals in the Valle d'Itria are always accompanied by lavish town lighting schemes, life-size saints and lots of participants.

Religious festivals in the Valle d’Itria are always accompanied by lavish town lighting schemes, life-size saints and lots of participants.

Martina Franca shakes off its sleepy, wintry blanket in mid-June, delighting in the endless cycle of festivals, concerts, food fairs, saints’ days and street theater on offer for its citizens. We can’t begin to keep track of it all. Since we live in the centro storico (historic town center), we have a bird’s eye view on the religious processions, marching bands and nightly passeggiata (promenade) that wend their way through our town’s prominent pedestrian street. Excited voices drift up through our open balconies, so we always have a bead on when things are about to happen.

Martina Franca's ducal palace is the stage for opera at the Festival della Valle d'Itria.

Martina Franca’s ducal palace is the stage for opera at the Festival della Valle d’Itria (Photo credit: http://www.festivaldellavalled’itria.it).

We crane our necks to see the life-size cartapesta (papier-mâché) religious figures held aloft by the faithful as they make their way through the twisting streets, returning to the basilicas and churches where they wait for next year’s outing. Our town band accompanies the saints and their bearers; we’ve gotten to know its repertoire and song sequence, including the moments when the high notes are sometimes just a little flat. During July’s Festival della Valle d’Itria, a renowned opera and classical music festival performed in the interior courtyard of the nearby ducal palace, we can hear the strains of the orchestra and the audience’s applause as they rise above the happy chatter in the streets, wafting their way up to us on our terrace.

Local women prepare ALL of the orecchiette for this annual orecchiette fair in a village outside of Cisternino in the Valle d'Itria.

Local women prepare ALL of the orecchiette for this annual orecchiette fair in Caranna, a village outside of Cisternino in the Valle d’Itria.

Everywhere in the Valle d’Itria, annual food festivals featuring local specialties and much-loved local ingredients are launched, usually just for a few days at a time. But there are so many of them and they are all so representative of the tiny communities that host them that we don’t want to miss even one. These festivals, called sagre, honor local delicacies like homemade orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta shaped by hand), mozzarella, focaccia, arrosto (roasted meat) and the perennial favorite gnumeredde (tiny rolls of liver, lungs and kidneys wrapped with lamb or goat intestines and grilled or roasted in a wood-burning oven). It’s undoubtedly an acquired taste, but we’re hooked.

Many of these historic trulli have been renovated for modern use and are quite sophisticated (Photo credit: Puglia Places).

Many of these historic trulli have been renovated for modern use and are quite sophisticated (Photo credit: http://www.pugliaplaces.com).

Along with the endless string of organized events, summer prompts the annual family exodus from Martina Franca to the surrounding countryside only a few kilometers away from town. It seems that everyone we know has a family trullo, one of those iconic UNESCO-protected stone houses with cone-shaped roofs that dot the landscape in the Valle d’Itria. When you come to the Valle d’Itria, you could stay in one, too. They’re deliciously cool in the summer because their stone walls are at least three feet thick. And these homes are typically surrounded by stone patios with shady, grapevine-covered pergolas, with more lavish properties boasting gorgeous stone-encircled pools. Extended families while away the delicious summer evenings out of doors, grilling fish or meat or firing up the wood-burning oven with olive tree cuttings to make a succession of focacce and pizze. There’s plenty of ice-cold local white wine made by nearby farmers from Verdeca and Bianco d’Alessano grapes, followed by someone’s homemade limoncello (lemon-scented liquore) or liquore d’alloro (an after dinner liquore made from bay leaves). We are happily making the rounds these days, reveling in the sociability that blossoms just like the fruit trees once winter’s chill is forgotten

Liquore d'Alloro couldn't be easier to make and its captivating, aromatic flavor is deeply satisfying.

Liquore d’Alloro couldn’t be easier to make and its captivating, aromatic flavor is deeply satisfying.

Because we’re in Italy, everyone has his or her own recipe for limoncello. It goes without saying that everyone thinks his or her own recipe reigns supreme. Since there is plenty of guidance out there in the limoncello world, why not give liquore d’alloro a try? We love its herbal, aromatic flavor and are convinced that it really does provide digestive support after these plentiful Pugliese meals. And then there’s that lovely, mossy green iridescence that results when you infuse the alcohol with the bay leaves. See what you think when you make it at home.

Liquore d’Alloro—Bay Leaf Liquore

Ingredients:

4 ¼ cups (1 liter) of pure grain alcohol (90 percent)

40 Mediterranean bay leaves (don’t confuse this with the California native bay)

5 cups (1.2 liters) of water

4 cups (800 grams) of sugar; you can use a little less if you prefer

Method:

Make sure you use culinary bay leaves, not the leaves of the California laurel tree.

Make sure you use culinary bay leaves, not the leaves of the California laurel tree.

Wash and dry the bay leaves and immerse them in the alcohol in a glass container that can be closed tight. Leave them to macerate for about 40 days, shaking the container every so often. At the end of the 40 days, heat the water in a saucepan and add the sugar, stirring continuously to dissolve it. When the sugar is completely dissolved, take the pan off the stove and allow it to cool

Soaking requires about 40 days, the typical recipe for all infused liquori in Italy.

Soaking requires about 40 days, the typical recipe for all infused liquori in Italy (Photo credit: http://www.idolcididani.blogspot.com).

Filter the alcohol in which the bay leaves were soaking and add it to the cooled sugar and water mixture. Still the mixture well and pour it into a glass serving bottle with a tight lid. Refrigerate for a few days before serving and keep chilled in the refrigerator.

Serve chilled in small quantities after meals.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. excellent post! as always! and what a great idea for this liquore! in hellenic islands bay plants are in abundance everywhere! pls kindly tell me for the preparation of Bay Leaf Liquore what would be a good alternative for pure grain alcohol (90% alc) : vodka, grappa (65%alc)? i have no idea where i can find pure grain alcohol. in greece we have also non-anise flavored raki’ and tsipouro (45% alc), but i don’t know if they ‘re suitable! cordialissimi saluti, baci ed abbracci!!! gina ✿◠‿◠)

    August 12, 2013
    • Thank you, Gina! I would use vodka if you can’t find pure grain alcohol. You really want a strong, clear alcohol that has no discernible flavor so that nothing interferes with the aromatics of the bay leaves. The raki may not have a high enough percentage of alcohol, I think. You might ask an old person who makes his/her own liquori what they use . . . So happy you enjoy the posts–I’m really pleased that you are following along. Un abbraccione anche a te!

      August 14, 2013
  2. grazie carissima! leggendo i tuoi posts, mi vengono in mente tutte le belle memorie raccolte durante i miei viaggi frequentissimi in puglia, aaa! respiro quest’ aria italiana..amatissima..
    e adesso felicemente dalla bella isola di kos,dodecanese ti saluto e ti sorrido! quando possibile ti forniro’ una ricetta d’ un altro liquore locale di nome “kanellada” (cinnamon-based)!
    gina ✿◠‿◠)

    August 19, 2013

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The $tingy Sailor

DIY trailerable sailboat restoration and improvement without throwing your budget overboard

Gracefully Global Blog

Where travel adventures never begin with a trip to the local monument.

My Sardinian Life

photography, expat tales and short stories from a wandering waitress

Married to Italy

Big city Texan girl meets small town Italian boy. Chaos ensues.

Zester Daily

Zester Daily

Nancy Harmon Jenkins

We begin a new life in Italy . . .

Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"

A different point of view on travelling, living and loving Italy.

In Puglia and Places

My experiences living in Puglia and other places

Girl in Florence

A Tuscan Texan immersed in Florentine life: passionate about food & wine | random moments | and travel

News : NPR

We begin a new life in Italy . . .

outil de négociation

We begin a new life in Italy . . .

Eater SF - All

We begin a new life in Italy . . .

Eater Portland - All

We begin a new life in Italy . . .

Food : NPR

We begin a new life in Italy . . .

We begin a new life in Italy . . .

Chocolate & Zucchini

We begin a new life in Italy . . .

Bon Vivant

Life's simple pleasures

Culinate Main Feed

We begin a new life in Italy . . .

stylishmews

A resource and running commentary on stylish London

Puglia Kitchen

sapori, profumi e visioni culinarie made in puglia

Cantine Menhir

News from Salento... where the sun warms the spirit, water refreshes the mind, food whets the palate, land feeds the soul, and the wine... awakens the passion.

What Katie Ate

We begin a new life in Italy . . .

Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino

We begin a new life in Italy . . .

smitten kitchen

Fearless cooking from a tiny NYC kitchen.

A Cup of Jo

We begin a new life in Italy . . .

Orangette

We begin a new life in Italy . . .

%d bloggers like this: