“Signora, eccola! The parmigiana di melanzane you prepared this morning,” says the Italian waiter, presenting me with a white baking dish of a still bubbling, Vesuvius like concoction, of darkened eggplant erupting through lava red sauce and golden crust.
I think my great contribution to this dish was simply looking on as the hotel chef Donato Vannella whipped it up with the ease of riding through the Puglia olive groves of southern Italy on a Vespa. This while attending a morning cooking class at the fortified defense tower, now luxury hideout, Masseria Torre Coccaro.
Set in a vast estate overlooking the Adriatic Sea, the bastion was once used to stave off invading Saracens. Today it’s rural bliss personified; a chalky white walled farmhouse with warm country decor, set amid fields of almond and carob trees.
The views over the property in the morning are startling. Blue skies, blinding white walls. This could be Greece. Stairs and walking paths wind their way through the buildings and up to various lookouts.
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