A family-run farmhouse with a seventh century crypt

Torrevecchia is well known to many for its 7th century crypt with Byzantine style frescos which are readily available to view when visiting. This restored 14th century farmhouse is family run and has now expanded to include 10 rooms in the main building and 16 more in the expansion. In addition to a field full of produce and olive groves that were planted ten years ago, many livestock are raised including cows, pigs and sheep. There is also small production of cheese including ricotta and pecorino. It is possible to buy cheese on site and take it home.

Modern amenities are also available with swimming pool and tennis courts. The grounds are vast so it is possible to go for a bike ride or go horse riding. While the site maintains the heritage architecture there is television and air conditioning for the summer months.

There is a full dining room, which serves local, typical cuisine of the region with fresh produce from the farm. It is also possible to host parties or large groups for meals. For those that want to explore, Torrevecchia is only 10km from the beaches of Porto Casareo and Santa Caterina and a short drive to the popular city of Lecce. It is also close enough to have a day trip to Alberobello, Castellana Grotte and Ostuni.

Experience a traditional sunday lunch

A masseria outside Brindisi with a large family farm, olive plantation and vegetable fields, Torrevecchio was much different than other masserias we have visited in Brindisi. We spent some time visiting the vegetable farm to pick produce for the day’s lunch and then a quick visit to see the livestock on the working farm and finally the greenhouse for the small rose business where they sell to local businesses.

We returned to the kitchen to learn local Puglian specialties that we would eat for lunch. Naturally we cooked orecchiette with cime di rapa, which literally means turnip tops in English but something we know as rapini. One of the more interesting dishes we learned was pitta, which is like a giant potato cake stuffed with vegetables, which is baked. It’s a famous dish of Lecce but can be found throughout Puglia.

We also learned how to make many antipasti dishes like a spicy cabbage with ricotta forte, which is a fermented ricotta that is very strong and spicy. Only a very small amount is needed to add to a dish. Finally we sat down to dinner with many friends of our hosts. It was our first experience to have a table of 16 for an Italian lunch, which we heard takes several hours with many courses. Everything we were told was true. We were able to sample many of the dishes we watched being prepared in the kitchen and were surprised by a few more. For a North American it was a true pleasure to be able to experience something like this. Friends and family gathered at the table to talk about current events and the state of agriculture and food in both our countries.

Finally we ended the lunch at 5pm, which is when many North Americans sit down to dinner. Indeed our eating cultures are very different but it was an incredible experience to participate in this for the first time as we’ve both heard about these long Sunday lunches but could never believe they really occurred.