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