Introducing Italy

by Michelle Snaddon

Discover Puglia through our eyes: our handpicked collection of whimsical castles, elegant palaces, contemporary casas and restored masserias or farmhouses.

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Italy, Castle Elvira, near Lecce, affectionately known as the ‘Florence of the South’
Fairy-tale turrets of Castle Elvira, near Lecce, affectionately known as the ‘Florence of the South’


So what, you might ask, is all this fuss about Puglia? Puglia is the ‘heel’ of the Italian boot, an ancient and fertile land strewn with olive groves and vineyards and an ever-rising culinary hotspot. Yet it doesn’t have the classic cypress strewn hillsides of Tuscany or the craggy peaks of the Dolomites or even the elegance of the Italian lakes. So what’s the attraction? Let’s start with food, a way of life for Italians. There’s good reason why adventurous foodies have been quietly flocking here over the years, but more recently the rise of the ‘masseria’ or traditional farmhouse lifestyle, combined with the opportunity to stay in magnificently restored palazzos and castles now opening their doors for the first time to guests, the combination of this authentic slice of Italy has become irresistible.

Where do I start?

We know that when you’re planning a trip, you need help with decoding a route and timing it right so we’ve done the homework for you… in English, of course, as it’s possible you haven’t yet picked up even a smattering of Italian. And believe us, most websites for Perfect Hideaways style accommodation don’t translate. If, like us, you are undeterred, knowing that this a very good sign that tourism is still young here, you’ll love the places we discovered. Our instinct did not disappoint.  

There is no doubt that Puglia is still authentic, traditional, and in many ways unchanged since year dot, yet the new generation of homeowners here are tapped into world travel and lifestyle trends. Their rustic farmhouses or newly restored villas might look laidback but they’ll organise a top chef to cook or pizzaiola (specialised pizza chef) for you, you’ll lay your head on the coolest linens below centuries-old ceilings covered in frescoes, and you’ll find high-speed Wi-Fi, air conditioning and heating (plus excellent wines) to keep you remote working here for months. No need to return home!

Indeed, they do delicious food while feeding your love of art, history, architecture, and above all, they are the most delightful hosts. So, if you want to tap into our pick of off-the-beaten track experiences we will be sharing a snapshot of Puglia through our eyes in this blog – brought to you by the ever curious, energetic and enthusiastic Perfect Hideaways team. Italy specialist Mandi Aliverti drove the back roads and criss-crossed Puglia several times, exploring coast-to-coast to handpick properties and personally check on every single masseria, palazzo, villa or casa for this new portfolio. 

As our guests and intrepid travellers, we’d like you to benefit from our personal experiences gleaned over the years – most recently in July and November 2022, giving us the best of peak and off-peak insights. Read on if you’d like to experience our little black book of gems.

The most instagrammed view of contemporary Villa Cardo, near Ostuni. Reflections mirrored in the pool, surrounded by a typically Mediterranean garden.
Villa Cardo’s striking architectural facade is its most instagrammable view, reflected here in its inviting pool surrounded by a typically Mediterranean garden.

When to go?

Our verdict? Go off-peak please! Just before the height of summer in May or June, or just after the schools return. July and August are often very hot, crowded (and more expensive). Down south, the weather is surprisingly pleasant between September and November. We guarantee a much more relaxing holiday with better availability for a range of budgets. It’s a no-brainer. Roads are less busy, the locals are back, restaurants welcome you warmly and villages and towns offer a more authentic, altogether less touristy and rewarding experience. Mandi’s next trip? She just can’t resist Puglia, so returns in June to look for more special spots before going to Tuscany and Umbria.

All our new launches are listed here on Perfect Hideaways Italy… but we suggest you reach out to us when you start planning. We’re here to share our experiences and craft the most memorable trip for you together. It’s what we do, and we love nothing more than putting together a dream journey for guests by sharing our on-the-ground knowledge. 

Our personal experience allows us to suggest a self-catering villa, contemporary casa or farm stay to suit, or focus on a choice of more luxurious boutique hotel, castle or palazzo, based on your personal passions, interests and budget. With over 15 properties to choose from you can combine your love of good food, art, design, architecture or even archaeology in one holiday in Puglia.

Collette Dinnegan’s dining room in her restored farmhouse in Puglia: Casa Olivetta.
Designer Collette Dinnegan’s retreat in Puglia: her lovingly restored 16th-century farmhouse called Casa Olivetta is laid-back and characterful

Will it be a Masseria? Palazzo? Villa, casa or castle?

Puglia is dotted with a fabulous mix of ancient palaces and architecturally striking villas and casas, both contemporary and historic. So what’s the difference between them all? 

The concept of ‘farmhouse living’ is a rising travel trend, particularly after the past three years of being cooped up in cities. Travellers are longing to escape to a simpler, healthier lifestyle and what better way to experience the benefits of slow living than on holiday in the Italian countryside? It is one that Masseria Moroseta has embodied with style, retaining the authentic structural heritage of the original farmhouse or masseria as the ‘mothership’ of all their farm houses in the region, all of which are included in our portfolio. Each one is close to an historic town, village or city and most are only a short drive from the coast – best of both worlds!

Alfresco dinner in the courtyard at Masseria Moroseta, Puglia.
Chef Georgia Goggi has turned Masseseria Moroseta into a culinary destination in itself

Many of these rural hideaways have cleverly and sensitively converted outbuildings or lamia, often circular and built in stone, and set in the middle of olive orchards or close to historic villages and towns. They offer each of us a chance to live a lifestyle we’ve always dreamed of, whether we have an intensely short time together with scattered family from all over the world, or are reconnecting with beloved friends for a milestone birthday. 

Perhaps the best example of a lamia is found at the immaculately restored Tenuta Masseriola, set in 20 acres of ancient olive groves, a landscape that has remained unchanged for generations. Two modern structures and a rim-flow pool now surround the circular stone trullo or lamia, with its exposed stonework or soft tuffa (‘tuff’ bedrock), sensitively connecting the original farm buildings to the new design.

An original circular ‘lamia’ at Tenuta Masseriola, Pugila
An original circular ‘lamia’ was incorporated into the sensitive restoration of Tenuta Masseriola, Pugila

Others hit the high notes, even though they’re in a rural setting, often only a few minutes’ drive from the nearest town. The most whimsical and whacky of them all is Castle Elvira. Tatler was bowled over, declaring it ‘the hottest place to stay in Puglia right now’ – not surprising as owners Harvey B-Brown (an ex-Saffa) and his husband, British pub and club owner Steve Riseley, are equally charismatic. They vividly recall the day they fell for these fairy-tale pink turrets rising out of citrus and olives on St Elia Ridge, just 10-minutes’ drive north of the historic Lecce (the current darling of the south as it’s less busy than Florence). Having been boarded-up and abandoned for over a century, it took a further three years to restore its graffitied walls to complete this dream boutique hotel. 

Among the first guests were none other than Bananarama. Harvey, a well-known film maker and artist, filmed Masquerade, their latest video at Castle Elvira. ‘Our guests seem to love the red glass Chanel-evator (feels like you’re travelling in a glossy Chanel nail-polish counter!), drinks on our capacious rooftop terrace for Puglia’s incredible sunsets, and the utterly gorgeous historic private dining room in the castle,’ says Harvey. ‘Not to mention a choice of three different pools where you can find a quiet place to swim and indulge our gelato while listening to your favourite music on the bespoke outdoor sound system. And did I mention the private cinema with the most comfortable seating in the world?’

Castle Elvira, with its magnificent frescoes and patterned floors, is the ‘hottest place to stay in Puglia right now’, according to Tatler magazine – ideal for multigenerational get-togethers

Even Australian fashion-turned-interior designer Collette Dinnigan has a bolthole in Puglia. Dinnigan is now based in Rome but Casa Olivetta, her 16th-century farmhouse south of Lecce, is her favourite family retreat as the light in Puglia and the scent of dry earth reminds her of Australia. Not surprisingly, Collette now has ‘Scents of Italy’ fragrances for the home, as well as linen and ceramics inspired by the countryside around Casa Olivetta in Italy. 

Pool surrounded by summer blooms in the garden as Casa Olivetta, Puglia
Pool surrounded by summer blooms in the garden as Casa Olivetta, designer Colette Dinnigan’s bolthole in Puglia

But it is the beloved Lecce that is home to our most glamorous palazzos. If historic buildings and Baroque architecture are your thing, you belong here. Stay a while, live like the gentry did in days gone by and immerse yourself in the delights of this Italian gem. You have three to choose from: Palazzo Maresgallo, Palazzo Bozzi Corso and Palazzo Lecce. Is it really the ‘Florence of the South’? Yes, and a combination of fashionable Rome and beguiling Lecce will leave you satiated. 

Why not stay in an elegant palazzo in Lecce? Our handpicked collection features three beautiful palaces, all restored to their former glory and now open to guests. Park your car outside Lecce’s historic walls, immerse yourself in the Italian lifestyle and explore on foot

For more examples of our handpicked collection of villas, casas, luxury palazzos, castles and masseria’s or farmhouses, see our regional round-up below…

Best places to stay in Puglia?

We have an abundance of self-catering accommodation in Puglia as well as a number of villas or palazzos (luxury boutique hotels), some with restaurants and others offering breakfast. Private chefs may also be booked, either full-time or for special celebrations and events. Our suggestion is that you choose your accommodation style or area and we’ll sort the rest. You can self-drive, be transferred or have a private driver. Self-driving is easier if you’re combining a stay in the countryside with day trips to nearby towns and beaches.

Puglia in a nutshell…

Northern Puglia

Both our masseria’s (restored farmhouses) are in the Pogliano a Mare and Fasano area, closest to Bari airport. Visit the caves of Castellana, the nearby pre-Roman town of Conversano (built in 1054 as a Norman fortress), the characterful port city of Monopoli and Rosa Marina, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Alberobello (famous for its curious whitewashed Trulli houses with their conical stacked-stone roofs), and the buzzing hilltop town of Ostuni, that’s retained its medieval character (one of nine remaining ‘white’ towns of Puglia). Lovely beach coves are a short drive away. 

Masseria Le Torri, near Pogliano a Mare (sleeps 14 in 7 bedrooms)
Masseria Narducci, near Fasano (sleeps 21 in 9 bedrooms)

Courtyard with mustard cushions and fresh cherries under the wisteria at Masseria Narducci, Northern Puglia, overlooking the pool
Wisteria-shaded courtyard overlooking the pool at Masseria Narducci, Northern Puglia

Ostuni region

Ostuni’s abundance of accommodation is close to the photogenic trulli of Alberobello, but more authentic is the little known Martina Franca (originally a walled town and known for its opera festival in summer) and quaint Locorotondo, said to be the prettiest little ‘whitewashed’ town in Puglia and definitely worth a visit, as are the food markets of Ceglie Messapica. Beaches are a short drive away with the Torre Guaceto Natural Reserve’s beaches the most popular. Day trips to Lecce and Matera are also possible. Access to the Ostuni region is either via Brindisi or Bari airport. 

Masseria Moroseta (sleeps 12 in 6 bedrooms)
Casa Olivetta between Cisternino and Ostuni (sleeps 8 in 4 bedrooms)
La Casetta (sleeps 4 in 2 bedrooms)
Tenuta Masseriola, near Carovigno (sleeps 8 in 4 bedrooms)
Villa Casteluccio near Ceglie Messapica (sleeps 6 in 3 bedrooms)
Casa Guaceto, near Serranova (sleeps 10 in 5 bedrooms)
Casa Maiora, near Carovigno (sleeps 8 in 4 bedrooms)
Villa Cardo, near Carovigno (sleeps 8 in 4 bedrooms)

La Casetta’s swimming pool, overlooking citrus, almond and olive groves, is the go-to country retreat near Ostuni for couples who love their privacy
La Casetta, overlooking citrus, almond and olive groves, is the go-to country retreat for couples who love their privacy. Close to Ostuni, one of the historic ‘white towns’ of Puglia


Lecce’s history goes back to Greek and Roman times, but it was declared the capital of Puglia in 1539. Nothing short of a masterpiece in pale soft stone, the Piazza del Duomo and Basilica di Santa Croce will have you falling in love with Lecce Baroque. Built over a period of 200 years the Basilica is a riot of decoratively carved motifs – flowers, glaring gargoyles, angelic cherubs and animals all meticulously carved in stone. You’ll want to stay in a Palazzo to experience a way of life that is unique to Lecce, truly one of Italy’s most beautiful cities (great choice for a honeymoon too). Take a walking tour to visit the Antonia Modern Art Museum (MAMA) and private Palazzo garden tours, or book sea cruises if you have a yen to sail from cove to cove. Our handpicked selection includes: 

Palazzo Bozzi Corso, Lecce (sleeps 18 in 9 bedrooms)
Palazzo Lecce, Lecce (sleeps 12 in 6 bedrooms)
Palazzo Maresgallo, Lecce (sleeps 26 in 13 bedrooms) 
Castle Elvira in Trepuzzi, just north of Lecce (sleeps 20 in 10 bedrooms)

Castle Elvira, near Lecce, with its magnificent patterned floors and meticulously restored ceiling frescoes, is filled with a veritable gallery of works by Harvey B-Brown (co-owner and an ex-South African)


Nardò is an absolute gem: get lost in its historic twisting alleyways, follow the locals and remember to look up as the architectural details are not to be missed. Nardò dates back to 460 BC and is not far from Lecce. Porto Selvaggio nature reserve is nearby and stretches from Santa Caterina to beyond Torre Uluzzo, with shoreline forests with beautiful walks. Bird-watchers love the pink flamingos. There’s plenty to do here: take a boat trip, go diving, trekking and join a yoga class. Or take a paper-mâché class or ceramics course – and if you have time, definitely join a cooking course or even one class. Stay in a restored monastery, a grand palazzo or a cosy casa:

Monastero Santa Teresa (sleeps 22 in 10 bedrooms)
Palazzo Manieri (sleeps 4 in 2 bedrooms)
Palazzo Tafuri (sleeps 34 in 17 bedrooms)
Casa Piana (sleeps 4 in 2 bedrooms)
Villa Tafuri (sleeps 8 in 4 bedrooms)

Villa Tafuri, near Nardò, dates back to the 1400s and is 15 minutes from the historic town of Nardò, one of Puglia’s least explored gems

Southern Puglia

Gagliano del Capo is not on everyone’s route in southern Puglia, but Palazzo Daniele ‘is just insane’, says Perfect Hideaways’s Mandi Aliverti. Stay here if you’re heading further south or combining it with Lecce, for example, or one of our farm stays. 

Palazzo Daniele (sleeps 22 in 11 bedrooms)

Swimming pool at Palazzo Daniele, southern Puglia, an oasis in the heat of summer.
Quintessential Italy: guests staying at Palazzo Daniele, an 11-bedroomed gem in southern Puglia, enjoy a private pool - an oasis in the heat of Mediterranean summers.

How to get there?

If you’re travelling internationally, get to Rome and connect to Bari or Brindisi airports, the gateways to the south. From there, hiring a car is best as you’ll be able to explore and take day trips with ease – with enough time, you could also add a day trip to one of the oldest cities in the world, the cliffside Matera, to your wish list in neighbouring Basilicata. Not all the little villages can be accessed by train, and getting there by bus takes valuable time. If you’re not keen on driving, simply say so and we’ll arrange a transfer or private driver! Our network of simply wonderful Italian owners always have a solution and some have concierge teams who will organise private chefs, au pairs, chauffeurs and even theatre tickets with ease.

How long do we need?

How much time do you need to visit Puglia? ‘This is a difficult one,’ says Mandi. ‘You can do a lot in one week, two weeks is better (easier to explore two regions), three weeks is best – and more relaxing.’ 

What’s next? Tuscany and Umbria in June. Watch this space!

Where to eat in Puglia?

Our advice is always to ask the locals for their favourites… there’s nothing like discovering a trattoria off-the-beaten track that is authentic. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.


Masseria Moroseta Chef Georgia Goggi has turned this Masseseria into a culinary destination in itself! Menus change according to ingredients harvested that day. Book ahead


Ardecuore Trattoria Contemporanea has great bistro food. Traditional Puglian dishes with a contemporary twist. 


Il Ghiottone for good gluten-free options, honest prices, seafood and basic pastas. 
La Cambusa 10/10 but expensive, right on the Piazza Castello.
Balconcino d’Oriente is refreshingly ‘untouristy’.


Casa Sgarra Ristorante, a modern, one-star Michelin Restaurant on the seafront, for most things seafood. Local dishes from Puglia but also Piedmont. Book ahead.
Starpops (their bistro-style sister restaurant) for pizzas and light food.
Scugniz for excellent pizzas. Expect vaulted ceilings and stone walls.


Capitolo for great vibes, service and position on the water’s edge. You can swim and eat at the same time! 


Ristorante da Adele for value for money, good spritz. Nice people! Vegetarian friendly and gluten-free options.
Fossi for atmosphere and a superb wine list.


Il Girone, near the castle and Piazza Salandra, this welcoming trattoria has a garden.
La Dispensa dei Raccomandati, for seafood. It’s more expensive but great for fish and in the historical centre, two minutes’ walk from Piazza Salandra.
Antica Macelleria Fai, especially for steaks. Their savoury pasticciotto with radicchio and stracciatella is a ‘must try’ as an antipasto. Mid-range and on Piazza Salandra.
Antichi Sapori del Teatro, is great for meat with an amazing speciality sausage dish. Cute. Quaint. Low-price range and near Piazza Salandra. 
Caffè Parisi, for café/bar relaxed atmosphere and decent food on Piazza Salandra.

Santa Maria Al Bagno

Just 10-minutes’ drive from Nardò, this charming seaside town has: 
Art Nouveau, for great seafood and good wines. High-end, very good menu. 
La Pergola (same owners), especially for pasta dishes. Charming outside under the trees in sunny weather. Inside also nice, but not as nice as outside. Mid-range menu.


Lecce’s restaurants spill out onto its streets and you’ll be so busy taking its rich palaces and churches, museums and historic piazza’s that it’s likely you’ll want to eat as you go, picking a table where you can people-watch! For special dinners, Palazzo staff will recommend.

Contact us now on [email protected] or visit our Italian collection now to choose your palazzo, casa, masseria or contemporary villa for your next holiday in Puglia.

A view from the ‘lamia’ of the old farmhouse at Tenuta Masseriola, overlooking the rim-flow swimming pool and olive orchards
A view over the rim-flow pool and ancient olive groves from the circular stone ‘lamia’ of the old farmhouse that connects the contemporary accommodation at Tenuta Masseriola

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