Baroque cities, wild sandy beaches, olive groves and fantastic food, this is the essence of Puglia, a region deep in the south-east of Italy. We love it so much we bought a farmhouse here in the Valle d’Itria, a stunning part of central Puglia renowned for its cone-roofed trulli houses. There are three types of buildings typical to this part of southern Italy, which adds to the area’s charm; the cylindrical trulli; the traditional farmhouses called lamia and the walled farms, the masseria, which feature stonewalls up to two-and-a-half metres high encircling the entire farm.
WALK THE FAIRYTALE VILLAGES OF CENTRAL PUGLIA
Central Puglia has the highest concentration of uniquely beautiful historical villages. One of our favourites is Ceglie Messapica, with its incredible views and amazing clock tower. It’s vibrant due to a younger population and is also the gastronomical centre of the region, with cool wine bars, a famous cooking school (Med Cooking School) and three restaurants — Cibus, Da Gino and Al Fornello da Ricci — that are mentioned in the Michelin Guide. Our other treasured find is Locorotondo, a quieter whitewashed village half an hour’s drive north of Ceglie Messapica, which is set on a hilltop and where, in the warmer months, you can dine in the alleyways of the town. I love the restaurant U Curdunn here. Sampling simple dishes based on local culinary traditions prepared by the expert hands of the cooks from this small family-run restaurant is one of life’s greatest pleasures. In the nearby village of Alberobello, the Ristorante Trullo D’Oro is a haven well away from the throngs of tourists. They prepare traditional Apulian recipes using locally sourced products and their handmade spaghetti is perfection.
DIVE THE GROTTOS IN PUGLIA’S VERSION OF CAPRI
Right at the heel of Italy is Santa Maria di Leuca, Puglia’s version of Capri. It’s a stunning coastline of azure grottos, restuarants on the water and old-school beach clubs. It’s very, very Italian but there’s this hint of Spanish and African architecture with orange hues and palm trees. We rent boats in Leuca, where they give you maps of the grottos along the steep shoreline, and then we putt up the coast swimming in the pristine waters as we go. We usually stop at Lo Scalo, an amazing waterside restaurant run by the same family for more than 40 years. It serves great pasta, seafood and gelato for the kids and you can rent sunbeds, jump off the rocks to swim, eat lunch and then go back to your sunbed. It’s really easy, no fuss, no stress and the ultimate Puglianese experience in southern Italy.
THE MAN FROM PUGLIA: ROB POTTER-SANDERS OF MASSERIA TRAPANÀ, LECCE
Lecce is an incredible Baroque city in southern Puglia rich in history and culture. Equidistant between the dazzling white stone of Lecce’s vast Piazza del Duomo and the sparkling blue of the Adriatic coast is Australian Rob Potter-Sanders’ luxury boutique hotel; a newly restored 16th-century masseria — a place so beautiful you just never want to leave. Originally from Sydney, Potter-Sanders worked in London in the luxury travel industry but wanted to live the Italian dream. He found some funding, went to Puglia and bought a masseria with an ancient chapel, surrounded by 60 hectares of olive groves. Masseria Trapanà features 10 sleekly designed rooms and six walled gardens; to add to the luxury experience, Potter-Sanders is currently transforming the huge underground area beneath the building — traditionally used to store olives in the winter — into a spa. trapana.com
MASSERIA TRAPANÀ RECOMMENDS…
Rob Potter-Sanders, founder of Masseria Trapanà, on his top five experiences in Puglia.
1. Abbazia di Santa Maria di Cerrate. The Abbey of Cerrate is one of the most stunning examples of 12th-century Romanesque architecture in Puglia. Its history is so ancient it has become legend — on a recent holiday, Madonna requested a tour. It’s said that the monastery was founded by King Tancredi d’Altavilla, the Count of Lecce. It fell into abandonment after a raid by Turkish pirates in 1711 and has only recently been restored and open to the public.
2. Tessitura Calabrese. Famous among the Pugliese for handcrafted linens, home and table collections, Tessitura Calabrese is a family-run textile business based on traditional weaving techniques that have developed over many years. The fabrics are made from fine yarns using a combinaton of electronic jacquard frames and handcrafted methods. Sheets can be designed and shipped anywhere in the world. tessituracalabrese. it
3. A guided tour. Sabrina Rizzo’s private tours of Lecce are designed around individual interests, whether it’s ceramics, the city’s best designer boutiques or an in-depth history of each part of the old centre of Lecce and its remarkable buildings. Must-sees include the Basilica di Santa Croce with its decoratively rich façade — considered to be an important link between Renaissance and Baroque architecture. email@example.com, (+39) 328 367 3201
4. Tricase Porto. Tricase is a small 13th-century fishing port delightfully protected from the weather and circumferenced by a collection of cosy restaurants overlooking its crystal waters. A secret off-the-beaten-path retreat from tourists, Tricase can be visited en route to Santa Maria di Leuca on the southern-most tip of Puglia, where the Adriatic meets the Ionian Sea. 5. Cantina Moros. A small boutique winery where guests can make a private appointment for a tasting and an intimate lunch. Producing only 6000 bottles per year of Puglia’s famous Negroamaro wine, the owners often greet the guests here and enjoy relaying the history and workings of the winery, from the grapes that are still harvested by hand to the preserved art and archaeological finds beneath the main building. claudioquarta.it
this page, from top: Lo Scalo restaurant; ristoranteloscalo.it. Fishing boats in southern Puglia. opposite page: the turquoise grottos near Lecce.