I know this great little place . . .

Athena McAlpine.
Athena McAlpine. 

ATHENA McALPINE MARITTIMA DI DISO, ITALY

In 2003, Athena and Alistair McAlpine restored a 15th-century convent on the heel of Italy's boot, at Marittima di Diso, reopening it as the B&B Il Convento. It is known for its cuisine. See mcalpine@convento.co.uk.

WHERE'S THE BEST TABLE IN PUGLIA?

Some of Athena McAlpine's fare.
Some of Athena McAlpine's fare. Photo: Veronique Mandray

Under the stars, in the candlelit garden of the Convento di Santa Maria di Costantinopoli via Convento, Marittima di Diso, phone +44 (0) 77 36 36 23 28.

THE LOCAL FOOD DISCOVERY OF THE PAST YEAR?

Spending the day with our cook's mother making rich, red, fresh tomato salsa from home-grown tomatoes the traditional way.

WHAT IS PUGLIA'S BEST-KEPT FOOD SECRET?

Quarta coffee - it's by far the best. See quartacaffe.com.

WHERE DO YOU GO FOR A BIG NIGHT OUT?

La Notte della Taranta, a huge music festival every year at Melpignano on the last Saturday of August. See lanottedellataranta.it.

PLACE TO HEAD ON A DAY OFF?

The archaeological museum in Taranto; it has the finest and most exquisite collection of ancient Greek jewellery, followed by lunch at Il Gatto Rosso around the corner. See museotaranto.org; ristorantegattorosso.com.

FAVOURITE INDULGENCE IN PUGLIA?

Going to Castro Marina and chartering a boat for a whole day; exploring the coastline and swimming in the turquoise grottos, which are sulphur caves under the dramatic cliffs.

WHAT SHOULD A VISITOR AVOID, FOOD-WISE, IN PUGLIA?

Try to avoid bars and cafes that serve drinks in plastic cups.

BEST TIME TO VISIT AND WHY?

In spring for the wild flowers, fresh fava beans, baby lamb and strawberries. And in autumn for the olive harvest, new wine, wet walnuts, quince and suckling pig.

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