Puglia

VOGUE Living Australia - - Concierge -

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. sabri­nar­iz­zosa@hot­mail.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.

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