Effervescent Anna Rosato knew the meaning of hospitality well before the 23 year-old graduated with her tourism degree from the University of Bari last year. The daughter of chef-restaurateurs, Anna has worked at her family pizzeria for as long as she can remember.
Majoring in culture and languages — she speaks English, French and German in addition to Italian — Anna’s dream is to move to London to develop her English skills, complete some further studies, and start her own travel company in Puglia. In the meantime Anna guides visitors around the region and introduces them to the trulli of UNESCO World Heritage-listed Alberobello.
We met Anna through her neighbour and family friend, Maria, the caretaker of our trullo, after expressing an eagerness to learn more about Alberobello’s trulli. (Yes, the same Maria who taught Terence how to cook Puglia’s quintessential dish.)
On a stroll around Alberobello (which we’ll tell you about in another post) we learnt that Anna’s knowledge of the history and architecture of the trulli was impressive, but we also discovered after more Puglian cooking lessons and a meal at Maria’s trullo that she was just as passionate about Puglian food as travel.
A couple of courses later, when we think we are done and can’t eat another thing, Anna took us to the family restaurant, Paradiso di Puglia, the pizzeria her parents have ran for 15 years, and where she has worked for as long as she can remember. There, Anna has done everything from wait tables to translate the menu for foreign diners.
We meet her parents Maria and Michele, and sample even more local specialties (including a pasta her mother had just prepared), more local wine (made from the grapes grown by our trullo caretaker, Maria and her husband Leonardo), and homemade liqueurs made by Maria and Michele. The generosity of these Puglians and their warmth overwhelming.
Our Maria lives across the road (the trullo we’ve had lunch at is her mother-in-law’s) and she tells us over glasses of limoncello that they all see each other every day, Maria’s family dines here often, and Maria also helps out in the restaurant when they are busy. After work, they all sit around drinking and talking together.
Anna’s family’s home is attached to the restaurant and her grandparents and 100-year old great-grandmother live in the sprawling trullo next door.
“Family is everything to us here in Italy and especially in Puglia,” Anna says in between sips, although she has just told us that she doesn’t usually drink. “We like to spend time with our family. We live with our parents until we marry. We don’t even think of going anywhere else.”
Anna continues to help out at the restaurant most nights, despite having graduated and now working as a guide. Part of the reason could be that the pizza chef is her boyfriend; another could be the heavenly rustic food. But we’re betting it’s as simple as wanting to be with her loved-ones in the place of business that they have made like a home.
After only a few hours here it’s apparent that this is their little bit of Paradise, and we feel very fortunate to have tasted it.
Local Knowledge: Anna from Alberobello
Q. So, what do you most love about your work as a guide?
A. I love meeting people from different countries, spending time with them, and learning about their cultures.
Q. Why should people come to Puglia?
A. Because there are so many beautiful places to discover.
Q. 3 words to describe Puglia?
A. Tranquil, verdant, and fresh.
Q. 3 ways to describe the people of Puglia?
A. Hospitable, hardworking and family-focused.
Q. Top recommendations for visitors?
A. Visit the trulli in Alberobello and make sure you go inside one, eat the local specialties and drink the local wine, and go for a walk in the countryside to admire the green landscapes and meet the animals.
Q. Best souvenir from Alberobello?
A. Buy a miniature trullo memento and give it to someone — it’s good luck, but only if you give it to someone — then your friend can buy one for you. It must be made of stone though, not plastic!
Q. Must-do eating experiences?
A. Eat Puglia’s most typical dish, Orecchiette con Sugo al Pomodoro.
Q. An essential thing to know before coming to Puglia?
A. Understand that every region in Italy is unique, each region is so different to the next that they are almost like a different country.
Q. Most important phrase to learn in Italian?
A. Learn how to buongiorno (goodmorning) and grazie (thank you) and if someone says grazie to you, say prego (please) in response.
Q. Any other advice?
A. When you’re here, try to learn about the culture, history and traditions of Puglia, as they are different in each town, and they are very rich and unique to this region.
If you’d like to hire Anna as a guide, or book a table at the family restaurant, email: firstname.lastname@example.org