If you haven’t heard of Puglia, you soon will. This bucolic, beautiful part of southern Italy has been a summer playground for Italians in the know. In July and August they flock here for the quaint trulli farmhouses, fantastic local food, stunning coastlines and ornate Baroque gems like Lecce (the ‘Florence of the south’).
With spectacular hotels and affordable, direct flights tempting new visitors, this rustic and authentic region is on the verge of becoming very popular indeed.
We say go now before everyone else does. Here are our favourite hotels you need to stay in Puglia, for a very bohemian February romance.
THE PACKING EDIT
Don Totu Dimora Storica
Behind an unassuming door on a tiny village street you’ll find this wonderful boutique hotel, set in an 18th century palace. Guests enter through the main house where grand, welcoming lounge rooms decorated with local pottery open out onto a pretty tiled terrace. Elegant suites hide behind ancient wooden doors. Follow the path through the grounds and you’ll find jasmine laden archways, gardens with lounge beds, a gleaming pool and pool house with contemporary art. It’s just gorgeous.
The owner of this six-bedroom B&B (a University lecturer based in Milan) purposefully kept the number of bedrooms to a minimum. It’s a real treat and very unusual to feel like you have the place to yourself even if it’s fully booked.
The lovely staff seem to appear just when you need something (coffee and cake at 4pm comes to mind). We also loved the thoughtful extras like the ‘zero-mile’ breakfast, the brand new gym, private hammam, complimentary aperitif, soft drinks and snacks in the kitchen, the free use of Vespa scooters and bicycles, and the handy guide books of the local region.
The location in the centre of Salento is excellent with great beaches, ancient olive groves and some of Puglia’s most interesting towns not far away. Book. It. Now.
Sextantio le Grotte della Civita
The atmospheric cave hotel Sextantio le Grotte della Civita is officially in Basilicata, north of Puglia, but it’s too good to miss if you’re already in the region.
The setting is the historic city of Matera, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its ancient cave dwellings, frescoed cave-churches and winding alleyways. Previously abandoned, the city is now home to unique cave hotels, excellent restaurants and art exhibitions including one of Salvador Dali.
Sextantio le Grotte della Civita is in one of the oldest parts of the city, opposite Murgia park with its rock-hewn churches. The hotel only has 18 bedrooms and each is completely unique as they are housed inside an ancient cave dwelling. The rooms have a surprising amount of light and are simply furnished with locally sourced pieces and modern luxuries like freestanding baths.
Our room had a magnificent view over the park, a huge private terrace for aperitivos, a unique cave bathroom lit by candlelight and a shower deep inside the rock. On the final morning we had breakfast in the hotel’s ancient church below – it was one of the most atmospheric and delicious breakfasts I can remember.
If you’re after a luxurious, miniature version of Puglia housed in the convenience of a 5* resort then you’ll love Borgo Egnazia. The exclusive celeb favourite, built in 2010, is a huge and immaculate holiday village with white stone houses, traditional eateries, a stunning private beach and even a bell-towered church.
It’s a dreamy setting. Hallways flicker with candlelight, bougainvillea frames every archway and at night, guests watch shooting stars from the rooftops. It’s no surprise that so many people choose to get married here.
We stayed in one of the pretty townhouses decorated with crisp white linen, cream stone floors and rustic decorative touches. Lovely features included a bedroom balcony that overlooked the olive grove, a roof top terrace with gorgeous sea and mountain views and a herb garden with huge aloe vera plants.
With lots of activities on offer and fantastic family villas, Borgo Egnazia is very popular with little ones. For peace and quiet there is an adult only area with a large pool and the hotel’s private beach is a short journey away. Don’t leave without trying the excellent Vair Spa, a destination in its own right.
This chic boutique hotel can be found inside the majestic walled city of Ostuni, one of our favourite Puglian destinations. To find it is a little adventure in itself. You’ll need to enter through one of the main gates and wander up through the pretty cobbled streets lined with white houses (or take the hotel’s tuk tuk). At the top of the hill you’ll find La Sommita, a gorgeous sixteenth century mansion overlooking the city and the coast.
Each of the 10 minimalist rooms have a similar design with cream stone floors and walls, but they also have some unique features, from vaulted ceilings to a working fireplace. Our favourite spot was the communal outdoor terrace with its olive and citrus trees, breezy views and a little pool for cooling off in.
La Sommita is well known amongst foodie travellers for its Michelin-starred restaurant, Cielo, run by local chef Andrea Cannalire. The innovative and fun dishes use traditional ingredients from land and sea. We couldn’t get enough of the goats cheese pastry amouse-bouche, sea bass tartare and baby squid ravioli. The restaurant’s huge arched windows frame a lovely coastal view too.
Two or three nights is perfect here. Being in the middle of the city, the hotel is a great base to explore Ostuni’s charming streets filled with boutiques, outdoor terrace cafes and spectacular viewing points. Alternatively, golden sand beaches and trulli houses are an easy drive away.
La Peschiera is a popular hotel with honeymooners and it’s easy to see why. Quietly glamorous and extremely private, the hotel is very pretty with whitewashed rooms, romantic scented gardens and a stunning Adriatic backdrop. In total, there are seven pools, each varying in temperature from icy cold to warm and some even have massagers.
The 13 rooms are classic Mediterranean in style with the focus on the sea view. Every suite has a pool and seaside terrace with access to the hotel’s private beach. In the morning you’re woken up with breakfast in bed and the focus for the day is very much on chill, eat and repeat. If you do want to get out and about the Roman ruins of Egnazia are a short cycle away or check out the historic town of Monopoli just north. You can also do a wine wasting at one of the excellent local vineyards or explore the olive groves with their ancient trees (so historic they are protected by UNESCO).
The hotel’s restaurant Saleblu is very popular with locals and guests alike. As well as a picturesque location right on the water, it’s one of the best seafood restaurants in the region. We loved the friendly service and beautiful surroundings. Highlights included carpaccio catch of the day (in our case, sea bream), local prawns with fennel and grilled swordfish with grilled balsamic vegetables, not forgetting some excellent sorbet puddings too.