You probably haven’t heard about Ceglie Messapica. It gets lost behind big names like Ostuni, Locortondo, and Alberobello. In a way, it’s a blessing in disguise for those who want to see the local more realistic side of towns in Puglia.
We had to wait till 4PM to check in at Trullo a ll’éra so stopped by Ceglie Messapica for a quick afternoon caffè Leccesse in town. We parked in the village and got out of our rental car. An old lady standing outside started speaking to us in her Southern Italian dialect. My mother and I couldn’t understand the dialect, but we were able to make out the word “piccine” – which means little ones in an endearing tone. She was sweet. She reminded me of the nonne you would see in one of those old fashioned epic Italian movies. That was my first introduction to Ceglie Messapica.
Where to Drink Coffee: Bar Magia
It was hot so we went in search of an open bar, which is hard to find open during the hottest hours of the day. Luckily we found Bar Magia in centro. We ordered a caffè Leccesse. The reflection of the sun on the white washed asphalt and concrete was too strong for my eyes and skin to enjoy our drink outside, so we sat inside. We spoke with the bartender for the next 30 minutes. She was a sweet local girl who talked to us about the area, Puglia and her own personal life. After a pleasant conversation, it was time to check in. We drove 10 minutes to our stay in a Trullo in Puglia, Italy.
About Ceglie Messapica
Ceglie Messapica is a small town in Puglia located in the Itria valley. Ceglie Messapica gets its name from it’s people, the Messapi, of ancient times. You probably haven’t heard about this lesser known white washed village and its countryside trulli. It gets lost behind big names like Ostuni, Locortondo, and Alberobello. In a way, it’s a blessing in disguise for those who want to see the local more realistic side of Puglia. Ceglie Messapica is known as a gastronomic capital in Italy. It has a main village with it’s castle, piazza, and ancient palaces, and then an outskirt dotted with white washed trulli. My mother and I stayed in the countryside at Trullo a ll’éra and highly recommend you partake in this local and unique Apulian or Itrian experience as well.
Trullo a ll’éra: Stay In A Trullo in Puglia, Italy
While exploring the main village we walked by plenty of restaurants. Many of the restaurants you see in town are not created from scratch. They’ve actually been passed down through families from generation to generation.
View this post on Instagram
View this post on Instagram
Fun fact: It’s been said that the products in Ceglie Messapica have their own name and surname so you can know where they come from.
They are the birth place of the idea of food from km 0 – which represents food right from the source. The 0 km stands for the distance the food had to travel before it was in their hands. It’s this extremely high quality ingredient and conscious consumerism that makes them a standout gastronomic destination in Puglia. That, and their antique cooking traditions.
What to Eat: Biscotti Cegliesi from Forno San Lorenzo
A visit to Ceglie Messapica must include a stop at Forno San Lorenzo – the go to bakery for locals as recommended by our hosts at Trullo a ll’éra. It was nominated one of the best bakeries in Italy by Gambero Rosso 2021. The bakery was started in 1990 and is known for it’s traditional techniques when making baked goods. All ingredients they use are from nearby farms, making the ingredients km 0. It’s this quality of ingredients and craftsmanship that makes Forno San Lorenzo a true success.
Donata and Gigi, my hosts at Trullo a ll’éra, introduced me to Forno San Lorenzo. They had bought some local biscotti cegliesi and bread for breakfast. Biscotti Cegliesi are an ancient and traditional cookie made exclusively in the town of Ceglie Messapica, which is renowned for its abundance of almonds. But not just any almonds, but Tondino Cegliese almonds, which are typical of this area and protected with pride. These small, chewy yet crumbly biscuits made with almonds, sugar, eggs, citrus liqueur, lemon peel, honey, and millefiori from local countryside flowers can be eaten for breakfast, dessert, or a mid-afternoon snack. Sometimes they’re stuffed with a bit of local jam. And best of all…they are gluten free! Biscotti Cegliesi are a local delicacy, so you can’t leave Ceglie Messapica without eating one from Forno San Lorenzo.
What to Eat: Donkey at Osteria da Giuseppe
Being locals who were born and raised in the area, Donata and Gigi have plenty of trustworthy recommendations when it comes to dinner in the area. Since we were minutes from the town of Ceglie Messapica, they recommended we visit Osteria da Giuseppe.
I decided to order local while there. I ate something I had never had before…donkey! Hands down, the best donkey I’ve ever eaten (and the first). My mom on the other hand ordered the orecchiette with pomodoro sauce. But what made our meal even better was the people and the atmosphere. It was a true reflection of Trullo a ll’éra‘s persona. Locals were wafting in and out of the back door yelling to the owner, sharing drinks and conversation, hopping around from table to table to talk with friends, ordering the “usual” or the special of the day. It was as if everyone knew each other in this small, humble setting with just a few tables.
While eating dinner a terrible thunderstorm struck, which unfortunately, took out the power to the restaurant. Luckily, our food had already been served. Other people had to wait to get there food, while the local electrician made his rounds around town trying to restart power. The owner made his rounds to each table, chatting with locals, and offering up what he could in terms of food while he waited for the power to go back on. He even sat at our table (even though we weren’t locals!) and chatted with us for a bit!
Our Trip With A Local In A Clown Car
When we thought the rain died down a bit, my mother and I tried to run back to our car. Half of the town still had no power. We ran through the dark alleyways in the torrential downpour using our phones for light. We finally arrived to the piazza and looked around. There was no power. We had no idea what direction our car was parked in and were getting soaked.
All of a sudden a car whizzes up by us. A young 20 or 30 something year old local guy rolls down his window. “Where are you girls going?” We reply, “To the main church on top of the hill! We don’t know which direction it’s in!” He replies, “Ohhh the church is far. I’m not going in that direction, but hop in quick. Both of you. Sit in the front seat, one on top of the other.” Without as much as a single thought, we jumped into the car and he sped away. This is a typical display of the generosity and kindness of the Ceglie Messapica people. One we experienced on multiple occasions when here.
The guys windshield was completely fogged up from the humidity and his dehumidifier was broken so he couldn’t see anything. He was blasting music and whizzing down these super narrow alleys like someone out of Tokyo Drift. My mother and I could barely drive on the narrow streets during the day time and this guy was driving like he could do it blindfolded (which in a way he was). I guess that’s how you know a local from a tourist. He was, of course, smoking a sig while doing all of this with the window rolled down to try and get rid of some of the humidity in the car. All of this while I’m sitting on my mothers lap in the front of this guys tiny car. Head bent down, trying to hold tight with no seatbelt. We looked like a clown car act! 4 minutes later he dropped us off at the church. We thanked him so much and ran to the car. We drove off to Trullo a ll’éra as the storm clouds finally died down.
Why You Should Visit Ceglie Messapica
We hadn’t intended on making our time at Ceglie Messapica so brief. In fact, I thought we would find time to go back and explore it even more. But with so many beautiful towns in Puglia in the Itria Valley, we decided to share the love and get a more well-rounded feel of the area by exploring a few more like Ostuni, Locorotondo, Grottaglie, and Alberobello. Needless to say, while each has their charm, a few things ultimately distinguished Ceglie Messapica from the rest.
First, the food options. By far Ceglie Messapica and Grottaglie had some of the best and most memorable food options during our trip. Second, was the true Apulian atmosphere. Not only that we felt at Trullo a ll’éra in the countryside, but in the main village as well. While one can’t deny that Ostuni and Alberobello are stunning, the number of tourists that visit it make it feel a bit spoiled, a bit less local. Ceglie Messapica however has still retained it’s local atmosphere and people. It’s hidden behind the big names of these other towns in Puglia, but perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise for those like me who are able to find it.
>> Next: Visit Locorotondo in an Afternoon: What to Do
Follow SVADORE on:
- Instagram: @SVADORE and @SVADORE_eats
- Twitter: @SvadoreTravels
- Pinterest SVADORE
- Facebook SVADORE