A Stay on an Eco-Farm
Life has been a bit full-on recently so do forgive the slightly delay of this post, but I’ve had so many of you lovely lot message me about our recent trip to Italy, I was keen to post something soon before I forget all the particulars.
For the purists out there, I know what you’re going to say. A stay on an Italian eco-farm isn’t exactly environmentally friendly. You could save all those air miles and holiday at home. But, as with anything in life, I think it’s a positive thing to start with small changes where you can, until it increasingly becomes a way of life.
That’s where Trullo Cicerone comes in. It’s a self sustainable farm in Italy that grows, farms and makes the majority of the produce it consumes. Its electricity is also powered by solar panels.
But first, a little bit more about the region.
So apparently staying on an eco-farm in Puglia is on trend this year. News to me! I’m the least fashionable person you’ll meet. Our choice to stay here was nothing to do with being hip.
Back in January the brief was to find somewhere in The Med that boasted similar beaches to the Caribbean; I’ve recently been missing the crystal clear waters and white sands, where I once lived.
I grew up on a farm in the countryside in Norfolk and have always been surrounded by what people refer to these days as a ‘vintage’. I love anything old-school and rustic. Local produce has always been important and I prefer down-to-earth pleasures vs. high gloss. So I knew we wanted to stay somewhere with a rustic feel, a place that was quiet, beautiful, inspiring and dare I use this word, authentic.
A good friend who is half Italian suggested Puglia, the spur and heel of the Italian boot, known for its beauty, laid-back lifestyle, white-sand beaches and local produce. I was sold.
It is a stunning region. One of Italy’s hottest provinces but the countryside was very green still, this surprised me. Our trip was at the end of September, so it was quiet season with hardly any tourists (bliss!). The area is full of natural beauty and at every turn there is stunning architecture, rustic villages, pretty cobbled towns, and beaches, the best the country has to offer. I can’t recommend this region enough.
Puglia: The Food
The food is superb. It’s one of Europe’s most renowned agricultural spots with immense plains, rolling hills, olive groves and vineyards, and growing vast amounts of fruit, vegetables and drum wheat to make pasta.
The region is known for its simplicity with food, though that doesn’t mean limited choice. There is less meat seen in these parts, which works well for us, and it’s more known for its fish and seafood. It’s also home to the multiple varieties of pasta – there are too many to count! (Where to eat out will be included in my next post.)
We stayed on an eco-farm situated in the pittoresque Valle d’Itria in Apulia – a tiny village equidistant to Martina Franca and Cisternino, which are each around 5km away.
Trullo Cicerone has two bedrooms, one living room, a bathroom with shower and toilet, a vine-shaded terrace with a view over the vineyard and farm, and a swimming pool during the summer months.
It is situated in a small organic subsistence farm, which includes a vegetable garden, fruit trees, archery facilities and a trampoline, as well as chicken, cats and a dog. As mentioned, elctricity is powered by solar panels.
About Trullo Cicerone’s Hosts
The owners of the farm are an international family that have settled in Southern Italy after having lived on three continents. Ursula is an archaeologist, a book author, and a passionate cook. Her husband, Manoo is a photojournalist who has worked around the globe for international agencies and magazines and who decided to settle down to farm and to share his work and life experience.
Together with their daughter, they share their little corner of heaven with two dogs, a few cats, some chicken who provide the eggs, and any guests who would like to stay in a trullo or yurt.
They are firm believers in provinance and sustainable living. They grow most of their own fruits and vegetables, make their own wine and olive oil, pickles and chutneys among other things.
What was it like staying in a Trullo
It’s a magical structure, the trullo. Our daughter called it our little castle. There were four adjoining rooms, separated with either curtains or a swinging door. A stone floor throughout. Our bed was nestled in the centre of a cave-like shell. It was spacious yet cosy.
Our particular trullo would be perfect for a couple or a small young family, though if like us, you don’t have a ‘sleeper’, the open-plan arrangement means it is a little tricky to find respite if you need to take it in turns to rest.
Inside the trullo is a bathroom containing a large wet room shower, a toilet, sink. There’s a second bedroom with a single bed and also the possibility of a toddler bed too.
Eco touches are at every which turn. Including in the bathroom cabinet. Left for us were two hibiscus ‘tooth brushes’. The idea is that you chew on the end of this thin twig until the end is fibrous, then you use it to clean your teeth.
The living area was pretty, but less about lounging though good for a spot for light reading. It was the outdoors that offered the relaxing spaces – the table and chairs outside the trullo, overlooking the farm, sunsets and activity. The hammock in between fruit trees was a delight.
Inside, the central living space contained a medium-sized fridge, coffee and tea-making facilities and various utensils crockery, glasses and kitchen items.
There’s an outdoor kitchen, just outside the trullo, with two gas hobs, a kitchen sink and a large kitchen table. Owner, Ursula, is also happy for you to use her oven in the main house if you need to.
On our last evening we stayed in the farm’s yurt! This was pretty magical too. More about that in my next blog post.
Food at Trullo Cicerone
We were welcomed by a bottle of the farm’s own wine, which was delicious, and the rumours were true – the wine didn’t evoke a hangover. Also left for us was a platter of fruits, nuts and other delights, including a jug of homemade raspberry and grape juice greeted us upon our arrival.
Everyday breakfast is brought to your outdoor kitchen table every morning. This was a real treat: a tray full of fruit and nuts from the farm, homemade breakfast cakes, toast, breads, homemade jams including: raspberry and fig, chocolate and fig and orange marmalade. And most days, quails eggs.
Some mornings Ursula would leave us a bowl of these delicious almond balls, made from the almonds grown on the farm, on our breakfast tray. We would often take with us for snacks on your drive to the beach.
For 20 Euros per person, Ursula, will cook you a three-course evening meal, including a bottle of the farm’s wine. We did this twice during our stay which was such a treat. For Matthew’s birthday and then for our penultimate night. The meal started with a large anti-pasti spread, included truffled pasta, and a main of breaded giant wild mushrooms with green beans, hassle back potatoes. We had room for pears cooked in red wine, sour cherries (made on the farm) and topped with a boozy chocolate sauce.
Things to do at the Trullo
Cycling: The trullo has two bicycles for you to use and one has a child’s seat. Although we only went out on bike rides twice in the end (we didn’t realise how many amazing things and beaches, there were to do and see in the area) we loved exploring the local village via bike.
Learn about eco farming: Manoo and Ursula are always more than happy to tell you about what they grow, when they harvest and how they make their produce, from homemade flour for pasta and bread to wine, jam and pickle making. We were there during their wine harvest. Actually, a visit in early autumn is a wonderful time to go because the weather isn’t too blisteringly hot and the farm is busy harvesting its crops!
Games and Activities: There’s also a trampoline and a swimming pool in the warmer months and various games inside the Trullo for all ages and toys outside. There is of course lots of beautiful land to explore. Above all, I think the favourite pastime for our little girl was hanging out with the farm’s young cat, Frodo, pictured below.
Archery and Photography: For a small fee you can learn archery on the farm. You can also have a 1:1 session with Manoo, who is a world-famous photo journalist. Find him on Instagram @manoocherphoto
The closest airport is in Bari, which is around an hour and a half away by car. Taxis are impossibly expensive so the best way is to hire a car, which you will need to access all the sites.
This trullo is between Martina Franca and Cisternino, both 5km away (but on hills).
Otherwise, it is possible to travel via train from the airport:
From Bari airport there is a shuttle to Bari train station, and from there you can find trains to Martina Franca or other towns around.
Here is the link to the local train and bus lines: https://www.fseonline.it/ricerca.aspx.
Or there are taxi shuttle services, but they are not cheap, like this one: https://www.suntransfers.com/bari-airport-to-martina-franca
Trullo Cicerone “Bed and Wine”:
It costs around 100 euros for a one night stay in the Trullo and this includes, wine, bed and breakfast for two adults and up to two children.