A Taste of Italy; Amy Murphy Enjoys a Delightful Mix of Italian Food, History, Sea and Sunshine
STANDING in a pristine kitchen, I carefully roll out a sheet of pastry and pipe in some custard filling before popping the tin into the oven.
Usually, the thought of cooking on holiday would be my worst nightmare but after days of eating delicious meals, I have decided to join one of the cookery courses on offer at my hotel, the Borgo Egnazia, in southern Italy.
The region of Puglia is particularly proud of its food, with menus based on simply cooked fresh produce, an abundance of seafood and local pasta and at this new hotel, which opened in April 2010, I'm one of the head chef's first pupils.
Head chef, Mario Musoni, explains that the secret of five-star - yet authentic - Italian cooking is the "ingredients".
"They should be peasant but not too peasant. Elegant, but still with local rustic taste," he enthuses, with a broad smile.
Musoni was born in Monopoli, only a few miles down the road, and has stuck to his roots with his menus.
"Our cuisine is based mostly on very simple ingredients - things that we eat in the family," he says.
"We don't want to be just another five-star hotel. Here, you have a real sense of the surrounding area."
And it is this local region that is bound to become more and more attractive to tourists in the future.
Borgo Egnazia is situated in the region of Puglia on Italy's stunning Adriatic coast, a largely undiscovered corner of Italy which is gradually opening up as budget airlines fly into Bari and Brindisi.
In the 'heel of Italy', Puglia is unlike other regions of the country: its beaches are uncrowded, the towns and villages largely unspoiled, and the locals - the Apulians - are so much more relaxed than those found in the big cities further north. …