What I'm about to share with you today has got a deep connection with who I am. Here is an irresistible well kept secret that I couldn't help but share with you, my lovely readers, finally. It's been three years since, twice a year, I spend unravelled quality time in this corner of heaven, in my very land of origin, the Salento area in the south of the Apulia Region, there where the heel rubs against the soil. And I come home.
The first thing that I like to do when arriving to this place where food, nature, and white raw linen meet with the unique intention of releasing the senses from the cares of the world, is having a good talk with Maria Grazia, the heart and soul of this one of a kind mind & body escape. She would first treat me to a snack (which, in her language, is a table set with all kind of local delicacies and her worldy renowned marmalades - if only this computer could transfer that perfumed texture!) to then show me to my room, a lovely suite with a four-poster bed nestled in an arcade of tuff stone. The sheets, as if out of a chest of drawers, are of immaculate linen finely embroidered with laces and the Toile de Jouy curtains, which softness I go through with my hands, have a scent of lavender. We sit down in front of the private arabic garden, where Maria Grazia start cutting some calla lillies to present as a gift to my grandmother, that I would see later in the evening.
Maria Grazia, what is a masseria?
Masserias are ancient buildings, typical of southern Italy, particularly diffused in Apulia and Sicily. In the past these estates were exclusively devoted to agriculture with a rich extension of land owned by local nobles. In addition to the residence of the wealthy landowner, there were also the homes of farmers, stables, stores, forage and crops.
Maria Grazia, what is your masseria like?
My masseria, the Tenuta Potenti, is a place of rebirth. It has its roots deep in the ground, carrying within itself a long history of traditions, warmth and humanity.
It is both the dream and desire of my husband Paolo and I to transfer the love for our land of origin, Puglia, to our children, Chiara and Walter, along with their friends.
In fact, it’s nothing but our inextricable attachment to this land that led us to the purchase of the farm over ten years ago now. In the early days we solely dedicated ourselves to reclaim the uncultivated land and make it productive. It's about 4 years ago that we started to renovate the property with the idea of creating a place of welcome and absolute peace, a farm we would like to find on our way, had we been travelling from afar.
And so here I was, looking in every possible corner to create an atmosphere of hospitality for my guest, the weary traveller who stops by with the wish and curiosity to learn.
Is it true that you dance the pizzica (a typical southern Italian folk dance) for your guests? Tell us about the typical events occurring in an evening at the masseria.
I love to move to the sound of pizzica because it’s a traditional dance belonging to my roots. Dance for me is music for the body and dancing the pizzica puts me in connection with this wonderful land as well as with my fondest memories.
Yes it is true I dance the pizzica for my guests because in addition to my enjoyment of it as a moment of liberation and source of pleasure, I also like the idea of wrapping my guests into music and the compelling pace of our cultural dimension. It's nice to see that these feelings, that go way beyond cultural and language barriers, are able to get us closer to our guests, thus making them feel at home.
The evening is for me a sort of game with my imagination, when I create a unique atmosphere, which can arouse emotions and a feeling of well-being. What I love about the evenings at the masseria is the idea of always being able to create different ambiences in different areas , taking care of floral decorations and illuminations myself, strictly candlelight. I propose atmospheres that I seek for myself and I love to share.
What are the products that the land offers you in this spectacular estate?
We produce extra virgin olive oil and beautiful white and red wine, plus all kinds of fruits and vegetables.
What are the best times of the year to visit the Tenuta Potenti?
Each month has a peculiar fascination for nature lives through different colors and phases in each season. I love May’s awakenings, the silence of June, September’s nostalgia, the wintery resistance, emblematic of October.
What are the pasts and future projects you’re most proud of?
Looking back, the achieved project to have transformed an abandoned farmhouse, a ruin, into a big house where people can get to know my food and my wonderful land of origin.
Additionally, I find it irresistible to share my immense love for antiques and forgotten objects such as trousseaux and antique fabrics with a wonderful crossroad of old and new friends.
Last but not least, can you share an original recipe with us?
Eleonora, I would be glad to give you the cake you most enjoyed during your last stay with us so much so that it never lasted on the table for more than a few minutes! (And I may add, it's one of the most extraordinary pleasures to indulge in for an all year round breakfast. Just try and see for yourself).
Ricotta tart with candied orange and dark chocolate
- 500g organic ricotta cheese
- 200 gr. sugar
- 4 free-range eggs
- 1 tbs of cinnamon
- 50 gr. dark chocolate cut into small pieces
- candied oranges
Mix all ingredients until a smooth cream is created.
Take a cake tin with a diameter of about 20 cm, butter and flour it and then pour the mixture previously obtained.
Bake at 180° degrees for about 25 min. Please note that it is essential for the ricotta cheese to be as fresh as possible. It 'an appetizing and tasty pie, but also quite dietary since it has no flour.