Food and wine are key ingredients in Castello di Ugento's new life. One wing of the renovated castle will house a luxury boutique hotel, due to open in June, while across the courtyard there will be a gourmet restaurant alongside the newly launched cookery school. The Puglia Culinary Centre, focusing on the region's eno-gastronomy, welcomed students in January this year from the renowned Culinary Institute of America.
From September to April students spend a semester studying the local cuisine in the state-of-the-art, custom-built cookery school in the castle's oldest storehouses. Hotel guests will also be able to take cookery classes here to learn about Italian cuisine along with the secrets of Salento's 'nonnas'.
This region is the breadbasket of Italy. Puglia is where most of Italy's wheat is grown – to feed the country's pasta cravings. This is also where you'll find over 60 million olive trees. The oil produced here has a wonderfully rich spiciness.
The hotel's restaurant, Il Tempo Nuovo, with its unique historical setting, will specialise in Puglia's cuisine. Local and seasonal are the cornerstones of the menus and House Chef Odette Fada is developing close relationships with the best producers and famers in the Salento region. Menus will change with the seasons - and with the local ingredients she finds on her trip to the market each day and what the local fishermen bring ashore.
Much of the produce will also be grown and harvested from the castle's 18th-century walled kitchen garden, which was the first part of the castle to be restored.
The wine cellar will highlight local grape varieties, now highly respected around the world, from Primitivo to Negroamaro and Aleatico. Guests will be able to enjoy a wine tasting in the 17th-century cellar, wine-pairing and gastronomic dinners in the restaurant and visits to local vineyards.