‘I looked at all of Italy, but kept com­ing back to Puglia’

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

Adored by TV chefs and food­ies, who make reg­u­lar pil­grim­ages there, the sun­drenched heel of Italy is grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity with the fash­ion pack. Miche­lin­starred chef Gior­gio Lo­catelli calls it “par­adise” and owns a home there, as do ac­tresses He­len Mir­ren and Meryl Streep. Yet Puglia re­mains re­fresh­ingly un­spoilt, and is even per­ceived as a lit­tle rough around the edges.

Be­ing trick­ier to get to from the UK than Tus­cany or Mi­lan helps to keep it this way – the op­tions are Ryanair flights from Stansted to Brin­disi or British Air­ways flights from Gatwick to Bari – but those who do make the trip are smit­ten by its rus­tic charm.

Lorna Cair­ney from South Ayr­shire was ini­tially at­tracted by the hive­shaped stone trulli houses punc­tu­at­ing the rugged land­scape of an­cient olive trees. Yet she ended up pur­chas­ing part of a baroque palazzo in the his­tor­i­cal cen­tre of Nardò, on the east­ern shore of the heel. Un­like beach re­sorts such as nearby Gal­lipoli, Nardò is a vi­brant year-round town, with a beach sub­urb of Santa Maria al Bagno a 15-minute drive away.

“There it feels like much more of a ‘real’ place where Ital­ian is still mostly spo­ken and you are not among lots of tourists,” says Cair­ney, cur­rently based in Sin­ga­pore. “We love scuba div­ing, so the vast coast­line of south­ern Puglia with stun­ning crys­tal-clear wa­ter was cap­ti­vat­ing. I looked across all of Italy, but kept com­ing back to Puglia.”

The Sa­lento re­gion’s won­der­ful cucina povera (“poor kitchen”, or sim­ple lo­cal food) and Prim­i­tivo wines were part of the ap­peal, but the prop­erty prices also helped. “Com­pared with what you could buy in Tus­cany or the Ital­ian lakes, it seemed very worth­while, at €120,000 (£107,000),” she says. “Be­ing fur­ther south with a longer warm sea­son was at­trac­tive – for per­sonal vis­its and for rental in­come.”

Cair­ney’s three-bed­room, four-bath­room prop­erty, with a court­yard gar­den that seats 16, has been re­stored to eco-friendly lux­ury with a €280,000 bud­get. It lets for £246 per night.

It would now be valued at €430,000 and, in the mean­time, will bring in an eight per cent yield, says Caro­line Ed­wards, who has lived in Puglia for 12 years. She writes a blog about help­ing peo­ple to buy in the re­gion (per­son­alpuglia.word­press.com). “Although I fell deeply in love with the place, I am very in­vest­ment-minded and I fo­cus on find­ing prop­er­ties that will make a good profit on re­sale or a healthy rental in­come,” she says.

Ed­wards says the dis­cov­ery of fab­u­lous Greek-like coves in south­ern Puglia is at­tract­ing buy­ers to the re­gion. In Nardò, avail­abil­ity of prop­er­ties has de­creased rapidly, and prices have in­creased by 30 to 40 per cent in the past two years. “There is a short­age of up­mar­ket rental ac­com­mo­da­tion,” she says, “and it’s rel­a­tively sim­ple to add value to the prop­erty you buy.”

A one-bed­room apart­ment with vaulted ceil­ings and traver­tine stone floors in the historic town cen­tre was bought 18 months ago for €53,000. Given just a lick of masseria,

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