Sleep in the storybook town of Puglia, Italy
Sleep in the storybook town of Puglia, Italy
Located in Italy’s sunny southern section, the heel of Italy’s boot, Puglia is one of the few places that remains mostly unspoiled by tourism. It’s the place to go for a more authentic experience that’s best enjoyed by getting to know the locals, some of the friendliest in the country. There are food markets to explore, winery tours and cooking classes, opportunities to find out how olive oil is made, or learn to make fresh pasta. The scenery provides an idyllic backdrop for it all, with endless olive groves, vineyards, a gorgeous coastline with caves, arches, and golden beaches contrasted by a brilliant turquoise sea.
The Storybook Towns
Those who want to escape the crowds of Tuscany but still enjoy baroque splendor can find plenty in Lecce, the “Florence of the South,” but it’s the small storybook towns in Puglia that really make it worth visiting. There are some real treasures here, from places like Ostuni, a whitewashed hilltop village that towers over the landscape looking out to the Adriatic, to Alberobello, famous for its trulli. Traces of these ancient stone cottages with their cone-shaped roofs have been found in the area dating back over a thousand years. Their roots are at least several thousand years with the tradition of dry-stone building found throughout the Mediterranean.
The dwellings you’ll see in Alberobello today are related to the events of the 15th century. During that time, they had their greatest expansion as it coincided with a proclamation from the Kingdom of Naples, which imposed taxes on every permanent building. As a workaround, the temporary mortarless, drywall homes were built following the shapes of the ancient dwellings in the region. Their construction also means that they stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
In addition to its trulli, the town has a number of small, interesting museums and a wealth of outstanding family-owned eateries for sampling traditional Puglian fare.
Although trulli are dotted throughout the Itria Valley, the highest concentration and most well-preserved examples of the architectural form are in Alberobello. There are more than 1500 of the structures in the quarters of Aja Piccola and Rione Monti. As such, they’ve become highly sought after by travelers as hotels and vacation rentals. But there are other options for more unique stays that might appeal as well.
A Puglian village with a film-set quality, Borgo Egnazia is so exotic and enticing that it’s attracted Hollywood royalty, including Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel who wed here in 2012. A reconstruction of a traditional borgo, or Puglian fortified village, it has a central piazza, bell-towered church, and paved alleyways leading to stone cottages and villas. Nestled among thousand-year-old olive trees near the seaside town of Savelletri, it’s magical.
Among this candlelit fairytale-like world are two private beaches, four pools, several bars, and a handful of restaurants, one that’s Michelin-starred. The property also hosts the Vair Spa. Inspired by Roman thermal baths with staff wearing floaty gowns, treatments combine local products with traditions that are unique to Puglia. Guests can workout in the gym and take advantage of free yoga and fitness classes while both kids and teens have their own fun clubs. There’s a snug kitchen where cooking classes are held and a long list of active pursuits. Pedal around on the complimentary bikes and enjoy everything from golfing to boating, snorkeling, and surfing.
For the most romantic room, book one in La Corte each of which has carved wood and stone furniture. Some have balconies or terraces overlooking the sea or courtyard gardens.
Masseria offers a luxurious, authentic, and unique experience on the outskirts of Fasano Similar to a Tuscan wine country stay but without all the tourists, it sits in a tranquil area where small roads cut through farmland and open fields. Deep and connected to Italy’s southern roots, bright bougainvillea, grapevines, olive and lemon trees are dotted throughout. The property’s private beach is accessed by complimentary shuttle, less than 10 minutes away.
Masseria’s olive groves are home to a golf course and there are plenty of other things to do too. Unwind or take a dip in the large outdoor pool with hammocks, loungers, and a shaded poolside bar. The spa takes relaxation up a notch, utilizing natural products that are grown on the property. Pilates and yoga are offered on the beach or in the olive groves, and there are two on-site restaurants. Casual Le Colonne provides traditional Puglian fare by the pool while Le Palme, with its arched windows, stone fireplaces, and shady terraces, has a menu featuring fresh fish, burrata from farms in the area, and vegetables grown on the estate.
Spacious rooms include flat-screen TVs, minibars, bathrooms with deep soaking tubs, and private outdoor patios. Some suites have their own private pools.
If you want to find out what it would be like to live in a trullo, feeling as if you’re a character straight out of a fairytale, Le Alcove is the place to do it. It’s a trip back through history among centuries-old walls, with each one like a small work of architectural art. Located in the historic center of Alberobello just steps from the main square, the nine “residences,” all have names of ancient professions like The Poet, The Farmer, The Storyteller, and The Dreamer. The latter includes a beautiful canopy bed and two single beds that sit on a stone mezzanine along with a two-room bathroom that has a Jacuzzi.
All rooms have the signature cone-shaped roofs of the trulli, along with ancient stone walls and flooring, combined with modern amenities like underfloor heating and cooling, Wi-Fi, minibars, and flat-screen satellite TVs. A generous complimentary breakfast is provided daily, with a table set with many of the flavors of the past, including typical local products and artisan delicacies. While there is no restaurant on-site, there are many just a short walk away. The concierge can help guests arrange for wellness services, tours, provide visitor tips and more.
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This article was first published in issue six of the Unforgettable Travel Magazine.
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