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our puglia tour team
We've assembled a skilled, professional and fun team to show you the best of Lecce and Puglia. Meet the people you'll spend time with on your Puglia tour - we're confident they'll soon become your friends!
founder & director
Ciao, I'm Robert! I've been a professional journalist for over a decade, contributing to newspapers, publications and TV channels including The London Times, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, CTV, the Ryanair Magazine, The Italian Magazine, NME and Melody Maker. Throughout my writing adventures, I have never lost my passion for Italy.
We've learned over time that the longer we could stay in one town, the more we could discover about the place, the people, the food and the culture. I know it sounds like hyperbole, but spending an entire summer in Lecce was like finding heaven on earth – and not just because it’s beautiful and warm, with delicious food and drink on tap the entire time. Meeting the people of Lecce was the real revelation. Their friendliness and passion for enjoying life was inspiring. That’s why we started Espressino Travel. We wanted to share these experiences, and these people, with the world.
founder & director
Ciao, I'm Lili! Originally from Vancouver, Canada, I now call Puglia home, splitting my time between the beautiful baroque city of Lecce and tranquil Castro on the Adriatic Coast. As an Italian and English scholar with a background in community organizing, my love of words and people are matched only by my passion for Italy. I enjoy nothing more than exploring a new town, hunting down the best caffè, and sitting in the piazza watching the world go by. I also love cooking up feasts for family and friends. Speaking Italian makes my work in my favourite place all the more rewarding.
My favourite part of travelling is the thrill of human connections – the simplest moments can be the start of beautiful friendships. I love slow travel – staying in one place and becoming immersed in its lifestyle. This is my travel philosophy – be present in the moment, be open to new experiences, seek out fun, and engage with local people whenever possible – they will almost certainly become new friends.
chef & teacher
Photo by Adam Blasberg
Gianna Greco isn’t a typical Cooking Teacher. And Cooking Experience Lezioni di Cucina Salentina isn’t home to typical cooking classes. Gianna believes that the secret to great cooking is enjoyment. Food tastes best when paired with fun. Her classes begin with a glass of wine and end when students have turned into friends, sitting around the table in her cooking school’s spectacular palazzo courtyard.
Don’t let Gianna’s permanent smile fool you into thinking she’s not serious about food. She’s an expert in Cucina Salentina, the cuisine of Southern Puglia, and she’s passionate about sharing its unique culinary traditions with the world. Her expertise has been featured in the New York Times and on Italy’s RAI TV.
Gianna is also a qualified sommelier. So you can rest assured that whatever masterpieces she conjures in the kitchen, they’ll inevitably be accompanied by a selection of Puglia’s best wines.
pizzaiolo & teacher
Photo by Adam Blasberg
Maurizio Ortona is the founder and co-owner, with his brother Paolo, of the best pizzeria in Lecce. Don’t believe us? Check Trip Advisor, where you’ll find glowing reviews of his creations by fans from all over the world. His biggest fans, however, are the people of Lecce, who fill the Ortona brothers’ petite pizzeria night after night.
As a native of Naples, pizza is in Maurizio’s blood. After an all-night party followed by seafood served crudo at dawn, Maurizio fell in love with Puglia. He then met his future wife, Sylvia, a local, and the deal was sealed. He stayed for good (persuading Paolo and the whole family to join him).
Maurizio brings his passion for pizza and unique enthusiasm for life to Espressino Travel’s hands-on pizza-making classes. Expect laughter and lots of stories. And the tastiest pizza you’ll ever make with your own hands.
marco & marta
our hosts @ mantatelure
Photo by Adam Blasberg
Marco Cimmino and Marta Nocco own and manage Mantatelure, respectively. Our Puglia Tour home is the highest rated guesthouse - not just in Lecce, but in the whole region. Marco’s restoration of this 16th Century palazzo is a labour of love. And he ensures that the hospitality is worthy of the spectacular location in historic Lecce. Marta, along with her charming team Francesca and Valentina, pride themselves on a commitment to hospitality (and excellent English) that ensures every guest’s stay is smooth and sweet. Anna bakes fresh breakfast treats daily and prepares signature sweets always available to guests, while cleaning duo Valentina and Elena ensure that the rooms and communal spaces are always immaculate. A drink in the beautiful, lush garden is the epitome of mediterranean relaxation. Elegance personified.
the extended famiglia
Our extended family makes every Espressino Travel Tour special. Donato Fersino transformed an abandoned Masseria into one of the region’s most incredible farms where he and his family passionately preserve cultural and culinary traditions. Marco, Luigi, Antonella and Francesca Dimitri love introducing visitors to the splendours of Salentino coffee at Lecce’s best bar. Corrado Rodio has devoted their lives to preserving some of Italy’s oldest olive trees, and his wonderful wife Antonella has opened up her home kitchen to prepare our delicious farm picnic. Salvatore, Viviana and many others take endless pride in the welcome and the wines at their spectacular castle and cantina. Father and son team Fabio and Enzo combine to continually raise the bar at Puglia’s most respected gelateria. Master cheese maker Selenia shares her art of making fresh burrata and mozzarella, secrets passed down through the generations. They say you can’t choose your family. But in Puglia, that’s exactly what we’ve done!
Meet Marco, whose family owns Lecce's best cafe, and taste regional specialties you won't find anywhere else.
Explore the region's best wine in a stunning setting on our Puglia Tour
Taste the best gelato in the region on our culinary Puglia Tour