Come To Puglia | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Through the years, many of you have expressed to desire to visit Puglia with me, a local who was born and raised in those parts. After putting my energy into the writing and publishing of three books, the time has finally come.

I have listened to your wishes and self-proclaimed a cultural promoter of the region of Puglia. Bari is the airport you will land in Puglia.
Puglia is a region on the East side of Italy on the Adriatic Sea, made of warm people, tasty food and free thinkers. You will see palm trees and a flat land with white terrace roofs. You might have the impression to have taken the wrong plane to Africa, but not at all, you will be in Puglia where homes are built on the foamy coastline of the blue-green Adriatic Sea and where the waves make embroideries with the sky, the air is salty, the summer heat is sultry and humid, women exude sexuality from every pores and well…the rest of the people are as laid back as in a tropical island.

(Click on each photo to view it larger).


In Bari airport, the largest city in the South, my team and myself will greet you with smiles. Each trip has been built around the title of each book I have written. My second book – “Sins Of A Queen” – just to talk about one of the trips’ theme, gave me the inspiration to take my guests into a lavish living while they are in Italy and experience incredible treatments with the most natural products from this land of olives, fruits and grains.
I will call this trip: “Let’s Travel Into The Sinful Luxury Of A Queen”.

The Lungomare of Bari, a romantic promenade on the Adriatic Sea will be waiting for us to drive along in vintage cars, dressed in vintage clothes, while soaking the fresh sea salt air, enjoying the view and a “gelato affogato” (literally ice cream drowned in a secret spirit). The promenade stretches to Monopoli and Polignano, two quaint towns perched on the cliffs of the Adriatic Sea. We might reach them in vintage cars, or we might take a boat ride coast-to-coast ending for dinner in a fabulous restaurant built-in the cave on the cliff. It will be magical!

Rudolph Valentino is on our route to the stalagmites and stalactites caves, thus we will stop in Castellaneta to visit the museum dedicated to the actor. Did you know Valentino was born in Hollywood as an actor, but his native town was Castellaneta, in Puglia? His town was an agricultural and unknown town even to the rest of Italy. He died August 23, 1926 and only a few years ago, his town counsels finally dedicated him a statue and a museum.
The Castle in Gioia del Colle will disclose us the intricate romance between Bianca Lancia and Emperor Frederick II, which as most passionate stories, ended up in a tragedy.
In between visits to the most exquisite Baroque architecture, Valentino’s museum and other cultural events, I have planned some fun shopping in local markets for the latest fashion clothes/accessories, where my guests can buy affordable priced items. We will also pay visits to local artists’ shops, where they produce one-of-a-kind high-class handbags, gold jewelry, custom jewelry, or stunning glass lighting, furniture and home accessories. My function as a designer is also to show all the beauty Italian artists are still creating for the world.

(Photo above: Gorgo di Fuoco Restaurant)

Food and wine will also play a large role. Going to Puglia and not enjoying the earthy food, as locals do, would be a crime. It will not be a common restaurant eating, I have used my fantasy. We will have one dinner inside of dismissed wood barrels of wine, where you can still smell the must of wine impregnated in the wood. On another day, an opera singer will delight our dinner. We might have a rustic picnic in the country with a donkey ride, or we might cook with a local chef in the kitchen of our farmhouse where we will stay. How about a massage with the green-gold of the land: olive oil?

My trips’ aim is to inform and entertain and certainly allow the guests to relax while in Italy with unforgettable experiences. My trip will not be a trip in a bus loaded with tourists, packing and unpacking every day and make stops to bathrooms. My goal along with my Italian team’s goal is to take care of our guests, giving them personal attention, while we are still together in a group setting. My intention is to show Italy with the eyes of a designer born in those parts and not the commercial Italy of the mass tourism. I want to show you the heart of Italian life, the immediacy of every day living with a lot of fantasy.

You will get to know Puglia through art, architecture, food, shopping and special adventures organized for people who want to live it up!
This is not a tour de force!
My goal is to allow our guests to experience a wheel of emotions they don’t even know exist. My team in Puglia and I want them to never forget the warmth and hospitality of Puglia people and create a relationship with our travelers for the long haul.

Trip date: April 15-24, 2013 – 10 days, 9 nights.
Registration closing date: March 15, 2013.

This price will include:
a. Two meals a day with water, juices and a couple of wine glass a person. Extra food or drinks, or extra drinks for the road, are not on the house.
b. Lodge, private transportation, transfer from and to Bari airport.
c. Private bus for our excursions.
d. Visits to museums or exhibitions.
e. Gratuities
f. Cooking classes and chef fees (if applicable).
g. Vintage cars, or Opera singer.

Please contact me directly for prices: 

Plane tickets and insurance are not included.
Again, this is a trip to realize how short life is and to learn how to enjoy it. This experience will change you. Ciao,

Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

As a writer and cultural promoter of Puglia, my native land, it is my intention to let readers feel and experience a new ”wheel of emotions”. I want to encourage them to visit areas of Italy not beaten by massive tourism. Through stories of art, architecture, fashion, food-wines, shopping, I want them to create their special adventures and live it up in Puglia!
Check out my books on


I Am In The Mood For Raw Fish |Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

I was thinking of all the raw fish I ate in one night alone in Japan at a restaurant and cherishing that nice memory in the company of good long time friends. (Click on each photo to view it larger).

A question came to my mind. Who first adopted the practice of eating raw fish, the Japanese or the Italians from Puglia?
Yes, not the entire Italy is accustomed to eat raw fish, but in the Southern region of Puglia, where my roots are, the ritual of eating raw fish happens once a week at least every Sunday and it is not called sushi.
No family Sunday meal will be left without it, raw fish is the king of every tables, always served before dinner allowing the palate to taste the sea and the freshness of its fruits.
A variety of raw octopus, mussels, hairy mussels (cozze pelose), other shellfish, sea truffles, sea urchins and allievi (cattle fish) is served in symbiosis with a few glasses of bubbles, then the real dinner can start.

The difference between the Japanese raw fish (sushi) and the Puglia style raw fish is that in Japan raw fish is served almost always on white rice and it is dry only wet with soy sauce.
In the Puglia style, raw fish is served wet with the sea water dripping, occasionally wet with a few drops of lemons, especially on mussels, otherwise there is no other condiment, just the sea flavor.
Fish over there does not need added condiment in that the Adriatic Sea is shallow and concentrated with salt. Nature does it all for us.

This old Puglia gastronomy tradition goes back to the 1500’s, when selling raw octopus was regulated by the local government and had to be sold in rolls of 890 gr. each (31.4 oz.). Imagine how important it was to eat raw fish that the government had to regulate it.


It is a common appetizer to find in restaurants, served every day of the week if the weather has been good and the catch of the day comes in regularly.
The restaurant owners usually are the only one responsible to guarantee  100% freshness of the fish.
Often black mussels will be paired with the sharp caciocavallo cheese, similar in taste to the aged Southern Italian Provolone cheese, with a hard edible rind.
The octopi must be properly curled, the allievi (cattle fish) thoroughly cleaned of the interiors and the mouth, tuna, mullets and cod finely sliced for carpaccio and the fresh delicate anchovies carefully cleaned of any bones ready for a marinade of oil, lemon juice salt, pepper and parsley finely chopped.

Bear in mind that in Italy we believe the months with the R are not good to eat mussels (Jan-Feb-Mar-Apr-Sept-Oct-Nov-Dec) and the months without the R are not good to eat oysters because they are full of eggs and fattier (May-June-July-Aug).
Here in the Unites States we eat them all the time, this rule is really not observed and I am always wondering if I am doing the right thing.

Sea Urchin


Another scene worth filming is the eating of the raw fish in the streets near the port area of any city in Puglia, where the fisherman bring the catch of the day and where they also mend the fish nets when they are not out at sea. The scene is colorful, playful and joyous. Some fisherman scream to get the customers’ attention and some sing. They show off a large display of fresh fish inside of baskets made of olive wood and set on rough tabletops. There, they propose a taste of sea urchins, at time accompanied with a piece of fresh bread and ice-cold beer and other times just as the offering of the sea is, fresh and natural.

Skilled fishermen never poke their hands while opening the sea urchins in half. They make a perfect cut to expose the reddish-orange meat inside; a small piece of bread will scoop out all the goodness from inside of the black shell.
Restaurateurs who have lived abroad for a while brought back to Puglia the knowledge they have acquired in foreign countries. Many sushi bars have sprung up in Puglia, as all over Italy, but when the Puglia people want to do a serious eating, they will always go to what is familiar.
They will always prefer the traditional specialties of their land and sea to the fashionable or trendy food of other parts of the world. They will stay faithful to what has been familiar to them for centuries.

It takes no ability to eat raw fish, just clean, wash and eat it, but it takes ability to prepare the simplest food, poor of ingredients and make it taste like royal food.
 (above: Alici Arraganate)

One of the many simple fish dish in Puglia is Baked Anchovies or Alici Arraganate as we call it.
Take the center bone from inside of the anchovies, wash and pat dry. Align anchovies in a crock-pot.
Add breadcrumbs, chopped garlic, mint, capers, oregano.
Drizzle oil and sprinkle a few drops of plain vinegar. Bake in the oven for only 12-15 minutes uncovered.
It’s so simple that is almost a non-recipe.

Another simple dish is Octopus Casserole or Casseruola Di Polipetti as we call it in Italian.
Place the octopus in a casserole with chopped onion, dry white wine, fresh tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper and parsley.
Bake until the octopi are fork tender. The sauce is good to eat with bread or to top a plate of pasta.
Bon appétit.

Find many of these simple recipes in my two published books on Italian regional cuisine from Puglia available on:


and in this site on the Books’ page.

Now, my friends from Japan need to go over to Puglia with me to experience raw fish my way.

Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She operates in the USA and Europe.
She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn unattractive spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms and entertainment rooms.

Her third book ©RED-A Voyage Into Colors on the subject of colors is in production and will be released by end of April 2012.

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