Southern Italy. Land of long, lazy evenings, 10 o'clock dinners and all night discotheques. Land of cliff side cities and windy roads. Land of impeccably preserved Roman ruins. Land of Volcanoes. Land of hot men. Italian men in general have something that separates them from any others. Sure they have the looks, and the beautiful language, but they also have a certain confidence that makes them even more appealing. I've traveled to Italy on several occasions and always managed to attract a few men (which is by the way about as easy as attracting a mosquito in the middle of a Florida swamp.) They like-a the women. Of all the brief encounters I had, one suitor seems to stand out in my mind, though ours was a chaste love affair that lasted only a few hours. I remember him because of where he was from. He was Luca from Lecce.
I wasn't in Lecce when I met Luca, but in a little town on the Tuscan coast called Castiglione della Pescia. It was a sleepy little fishing town built in the fantastic European fashion of narrow stone roads bordered by white washed buildings that slowly wind to a pinnacle tower at the top. The “Castiglione” I assume. I noticed Luca in a square while eating lunch and remarked to my travel companion that he was one of the nicest looking men I had ever had the pleasure of seeing in person. I passed him off as part of the picturesque scenery. But through some strange occurrence that I have unfortunately forgotten with time, Luca and I spent the evening strolling the streets of the city hand in hand. He didn't speak any English and I spoke no Italian so we communicated in broken French. There was no deep conversation, no promises. No talk of love or fate. Just two travelers enjoying a fleeting moment. We stopped in a wine store to purchase a bottle which we shared on a park wall. And before I returned to my room he knocked on a woman's door at 3 AM to ask for a pen and paper to write down his address. He asked me to visit him in Lecce, or write him, I'm not really sure. I did neither.
While in Salerno later in the same trip and staying with friends I mentioned that I would like to visit Lecce. My Italian friends reacted in the classic Southern Italian manner; they put their hands together in front of them, as if in prayer, and shook their hands back and forth. “What... Is... Lecce?” they asked. Not to say that they didn't know what Lecce was, but that they couldn't possibly understand what it had that Salerno didn't. A decade later, having still not been to Lecce, I can finally answer their question. Lecce has awesome wines. The region of Puglia, where Lecce is located, makes some of my absolute favorite rosés. They make great whites too and reds from cool, rustic grapes like Negroamaro, Primitivo and Uva di Troia. You can find great bargains their, stellar wines for $15.
The Mjere from Michel Calo is a great example of Puglian rosé. Made from %80 Negroamaro and %20 Malvasia Nera it is a beautiful deep pink color. The nose is super earthy with wild strawberry and red rose notes. On the palate the wine is full and silky with nice smokey fruit and surprisingly crisp acidity. This is a great wine to stand up to a lot of different wines making it great for brunches or big family meals. Which is why, of course, we chose it for Easter. Have a great one, and drink well.