Puglia’s outlying position on Italy’s heel explains why the peninsula is so diverse: it was settled by people from the Mediterranean and beyond, and traces of their passing are everywhere. North of Bari, in a succession of seaport towns (Giovinazzo, Bisceglie, Trani, Barletta), Norman cathedrals tower over labyrinthine neighborhoods of Saracen origin. Around Taranto, with its frescoed Byzantine cave churches, archaic Albanian is still spoken in the villages. Near Lecce, a jewel of Spanish-style baroque, vast pergola-trained vineyards produce the primitivo grape—likely an import of the ancient Greeks.
The villages of the Valle d’Itria–Alberobello, Locorotondo, Ostuni–are dotted with trulli, vernacular stone dwellings with cone-shaped roofs, bleached by centuries of sunlight. The interior wheat-growing Tavoliere area provides the flour for pasta shapes such as orecchiette, cavatelli and troccoli. Elsewhere in the florid countryside, crisscrossed by stone walls and dotted with olive and almond groves (a third of the country’s olive production grows here), the iron-rich soil yields the most prismatic fruits and vegetables, while the long coastline means dinners of fresh-caught fish and shellfish. No wonder Puglia’s is the most Mediterranean of Italian regional diets.
Spend a week in Puglia by renting one of these three homes, available only to PRIOR members.
For guests at of any of the properties, we can arrange a private visit to Lecce’s 15th century Palazzo Tamborino and its bamboo and bougainvillea-filled garden, followed by a meeting with its noble owners; organize a morning fishing excursion on the Salento coast with local fisherfolk to catch lobster and octopus; or arrange a day trip to Lecce and Galatina to learn about such sites as the 14th century Basilica di Santa Caterina d’Alessandria and Galatina’s Pastry Shop, whose owners invented the pasticciotto, the region’s famed custard or ricotta-filled pastry, in 1745.
Between the 16th and 18th centuries, Puglia saw the rise of masserie, fortified farmhouse estates that supported the area’s agricultural way of life (and kept out invaders). Some have been left to crumble, while others have reincarnated as magnificent modern retreats—among them this villa, surrounded by olive groves and orchards, just seven minutes by car from the cobblestoned town of Monopoli.
The Danish owners who renovated the six-bedroom property added four-poster beds and marble bathtubs along with collected ephemera, textiles and furnishings from their word travels, displaying them against cool stone walls and arched ceilings. Take one of the property’s bikes to the rocky coastline, just a half mile away, or ride it to one of the local markets for your daily provisions.
Puglia’s famous trulli structures, mostly centered around Alberobello, historically offered a way for farmers to evade skyrocketing property taxes: they built the huts with conical stone roofs and mortar-free walls that they could easily pull down. These endemic structures are the reason Alberobello became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A five-minute walk from Alberobello, this property is a collection of five trulli scattered across 12 acres of land filled with century-old olive trees. The buildings house five bedrooms and a main living area; all retaining their original whitewashed walls; and the mostly white or natural wood furnishings that decorate the bedrooms and main house are clean and minimalistic. Warm afternoons will lure guests to a palm-shaded pool in the outdoor courtyard.
Ostuni is nicknamed the “white city” because of the sun-bleached homes that line its narrow, cobblestoned streets. This six-bedroom masseria, set on a sprawling estate a ten-minute drive from town, is no exception.
The owner, an interior designer who used to live in Marrakech, decorated the whitewashed 17th-century farmhouse with her personal collection of paintings, antiques and hand-carved wooden furnishings from her travels throughout Africa and Asia. A large living area opens up to a lemon grove in an inner courtyard, and an enormous pool is flanked by a pool house and hammam.
While the 200 acres of walled gardens and olive groves offer plenty of seclusion, there are ways to feel connected to local life without leaving the property: every Sunday in the tiny chapel, which is still consecrated, an octogenarian priest holds mass for a small gathering of elders who live in nearby masserie.
PRIOR’s Bespoke team can design a trip for your group based at any one of these houses, safely helping you explore the surroundings when you are ready to travel again. Inquire at email@example.com.
At Home in Puglia