The Best Hotels in Puglia to Book for an Idyllic Italian Escape

Marwa Grimes

It’s the kind of attention to detail—and instinct for preservation—that characterizes the property’s restoration at the hands of Massimo d’Amore and his partner, Diana Bianchi. (The d’Amore family’s ownership of the castle dates all the way back to its 17th-century splendor.) Nine individually decorated rooms are complemented by an orchard garden as well as a sister property a few minutes down the road, Masseria Le Mandorle, that features a swimming pool and slick sports facilities.

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The garden at Castello di Ugento. Courtesy of Castello di Ugento

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Il Tempo Nuovo restaurant—with glass floors looking to the remains of the Norman tower underneath—at Castello di Ugento. Courtesy of Castello di Ugento

A major highlight here is the food: The hotel restaurant, Il Tempo Nuovo, sees chef Tommaso Sanguedolce put an impressively fresh and unfussy twist on traditional Puglian cuisine, while the now well-established Puglia Culinary Centre offers cooking courses and classes for everyone from beginners to Michelin-star chefs wanting to learn more about Italian cuisine. Finally, there’s an impressive series of rooms on the building’s piano nobile featuring Baroque frescoes that have been recently restored, within which Bianchi is gearing up to stage a series of exhibitions featuring contemporary artists both local and from further afield. When it comes to offering opportunities for Puglian cultural immersion, Castello di Ugento is hard to beat.

Masseria Trapanà

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Photo: Courtesy of Masseria Trapanà

Just 15 minutes from the center of Lecce, a rural road will guide you to the gates of Masseria Trapanà: a leafy oasis that stands out as one of Puglia’s most charming stays. Stepping into the expansive courtyard that serves as the beating heart of this sprawling, white-stoned farm complex, and further into the vaulted lobby—complete with plush sofas and stacks of coffee-table books to invite you to immediately settle in and relax—what strikes you first is the deceptive simplicity of the decor. Here, a spare yet supremely elegant tastefulness reigns: think four-poster beds designed in wiry wrought iron, soothing neutrals, and an emphasis on contemporary local craftsmanship. (In my first-floor room with sweeping views over the fields beyond, there was a stylish, striking red rug hung across one wall.)

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Photo: Courtesy of Masseria Trapanà

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Photo: Courtesy of Masseria Trapanà

You’d be forgiven for thinking the property was overseen by a dyed-in-the-wool Pugliese family, but in fact, it’s the brainchild of the Australian Rob Potter-Sanders, who discovered the 16th-century property over a decade ago and opened its doors in 2015. With just nine suites, it’s an object lesson in how to run a boutique hotel: even as other (supremely chic, typically linen-clad) guests wafted by, there was a feeling you were staying at your very own private villa, or at least the holiday home of the coolest people you know. Everything is relaxed, from afternoons spent lazing by the Edenic swimming pool, birds zipping through the olive trees, to the stunning, grotto-like underground spa, carved into the historic network of storage rooms below the main villa. And when it’s time for lunch? Tuck into a perfectly cooked plate of seafood spaghetti and a glass of crisp, chilled Salento white wine under the lemon trees. It’s an oh-so-laid-back slice of la dolce vita.

Masseria Torre Maizza

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Looking through to the bar of Masseria Torre Maizza from its Carosello restaurant. Photo: Tyso Sadlo

Masseria Torre Maizza, found in the cluster of luxurious masserias that have sprung up between the towns of Fasano and Savelletri, was established as one of the first high-end stays in the region back in the 2000s. Since being taken over and refurbished by Rocco Forte Hotels in 2019, however, the property has found a new lease on life. In many ways, it’s the quintessential vision of a relaxed masseria holiday with all of the rustic details of a typical farm stay: a sparkling blue pool, fresh fruit, bicycles to ride through the olive groves. But it’s the details found in its interiors and dining that elevate it, largely thanks to the aesthetic vision realized by Olga Polizzi, Rocco Forte’s sister and the chain’s design director. The hotel’s gorgeous restaurant, for example, sits within a pergola draped with ivy and roses overlooking the property’s orchard.

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The pool and bar area at Masseria Torre Maizza. Courtesy of Rocco Forte Hotels

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The interior dining area of Carosello restaurant at Masseria Torre Maizza. Courtesy of Rocco Forte Hotels

There’s a sense, when at Masseria Torre Maizza, that time has stopped. The large pool area features a bar offering crisp local wines and creative riffs on Italian aperitivi. The spa is stocked with products by Forte’s daughter, Irene, with scrubs and oils directly inspired by the Mediterranean botanicals of southern Italy. (Despite being a hotel group, Rocco Forte’s relatively modest size ensures much of its most welcoming details are those which have been kept within the family.) It’s a small slice of heaven that feels almost specifically designed for you to laze away a summer’s afternoon under an orange tree, book in hand, as a cool sea breeze rustles through the trees.

Palazzo Daniele

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A common room at Palazzo Daniele with the hotel’s honesty bar. Photo: Renee Kemps

Another option in the Salento region is Palazzo Daniele, found in the small but inviting town of Gagliano del Capo that is merely five minutes drive from some of the region’s most spectacular beaches. Yet the real delights of Palazzo Daniele lie within its own 19th-century walls, which, despite being smack in the center of town, include peaceful gardens and a beautifully outfitted swimming pool. The hotel’s playful but tastefully realized decor is partly the result of its previous life hosting artist residencies. Its owner, former lawyer and art collector Francesco Petrucci, decided to collaborate with his friend Gabriele Salini—who also owns the modish G-Rough hotel in Rome—to convert the property into a 10-room boutique stay that opened in the spring of 2019.

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The courtyard at Palazzo Daniele. Photo: Serena Eller

The result is a charming mish-mash of ceiling frescoes with cutting-edge contemporary art, sympathetically reconciled by the Milanese architects and designers Ludovica and Roberto Palomba. The monastic plaster walls have been left largely untouched, their weathered surfaces and cracks kept intact, with any interventions largely offered by artist-designed light fittings and the occasional piece of carefully placed modernist furniture. Each room contains its own unexpected details. The bathroom might be accessed by a narrow staircase that once included a secret passageway that extended all the way to the nearby beaches, while even a more conventional en suite features a rain shower in the middle of the room with a shell-like basin, so you can live out your best Birth of Venus fantasy.

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The courtyard at Palazzo Daniele.Photo: Renee Kemps

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The royal junior suite at Palazzo Daniele. Photo: Renee Kemps

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Looking into the kitchen of Palazzo Daniele from the pool area.Photo: Serena Eller

Again, the culinary offering is a major highlight here. An open kitchen means you can help yourself to pastries or request eggs your way in the morning with the help of local cooks whose families have lived in the town for generations; at lunch, they’ll prepare a meal of however many courses you can handle in the shaded area by the pool, all sourced from local farmers. At night, the outdoor area transforms once again, with string lights sparkling in the trees and an on-site bartender ready to whip up one of their signature inventive cocktails. The hotel’s motto is “questa casa non è un albergo,” or “this house is not a hotel,” a fact that is reflected in the generously proportioned shared living areas and the open bar built around a former religious shrine. Petrucci, who previously kept an apartment within the complex that was recently converted into the hotel’s newest accommodation, the Black Suite—demonstrates it’s more than just a tagline. After a few hours within Palazzo Daniele, you’ll feel like the place is yours too.

Masseria Calderisi

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The main courtyard of Masseria Calderisi.Photo: Andreas Kusy

A relative newcomer to the scene—and all the more energetic for it—Masseria Calderisi was established last year by its charismatic German owners, Max and Jutta von Braunmühl, who fell in love with Puglia in the 2000s and married in the region a decade ago. (The pair, and their children, can often be found mingling with guests, whether escorting them to the sea in a four-wheel drive or stopping by their dinner tables for a digestivo.) There’s an exuberant feeling about this property, evident in the range of activities on offer—an afternoon at their private strip of beach, a boat trip along the Adriatic, or a body scrub at the spa with honey, salt, and lemon from the masseria’s gardens—as well as in its lovely boutique which stocks local ceramics, jams, and olive oils alongside casual pieces and beachwear from the likes of Etro, Max Mara, and Missoni.

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The outdoor dining area at Masseria Calderisi’s La Corte restaurant. Courtesy of Masseria Calderisi

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A bedroom at Masseria Calderisi. Courtesy of Masseria Calderisi

This sense of warmth and liveliness extends to the impeccable hospitality, which manages to be friendly and keenly attentive without ever feeling overbearing. So too is it visible in the organic conviviality between guests, many of whom are clearly satisfied to chat about finding this undiscovered gem within the region’s ever-growing number of luxury masserias. If you’re looking to strike up conversation with those on the sun lounger next to you, there’s no awkwardness here; you might even bump into them again while participating in a morning bread-baking session in the hotel’s restored wood-fire oven, or at the pizza party in the large courtyard that takes place twice a week. Masseria Calderisi is a slice of classic Puglian paradise with a fresh, youthful-feeling twist.

Paragon 700 Boutique Hotel & Spa

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The bedroom of the flagship Paragon suite at Paragon 700. Photo: Gregory Venere

Even from the outside, Paragon 700 is no ordinary Italian palazzo. Its striking facade of red rusticated stone sticks out within the spectacular “white city” of Ostuni, while the restored vintage car that sits outside offers something of a clue to its unconventional mix of the past and present. But stepping inside is to enter another world entirely. The weird and wonderful brainchild of its founders, interior designers and partners Pascale Lauber and Ulrike Bauschke, they clearly saw the restoration of this mysterious building (its exact origins and dates of construction still remain largely unknown) as an opportunity to unleash their wildest design instincts. The property opened last summer with head-spinningly fabulous results.

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Paragon 700’s vintage car sits on the piazza directly in front of the palazzo. Photo: Gregory Venere

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The pool area at Paragon 700.Photo: Gregory Venere

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A bespoke bathtub in one of Paragon 700’s eleven suites. Photo: Gregory Venere

The expansive bar area is Baroque by way of Tim Burton: statues of macabre grinning monkeys sit next to defaced reinterpretations of Renaissance paintings, while candelabras dripping with red wax line the tables where artist-designed sofas are upholstered with sewn-together silk ties. The hotel’s 11 individually designed rooms are intentionally more relaxed, with frescoed ceilings, warm lighting fixtures, and stonewashed linen sheets. Despite the flamboyant trappings of its decor, however, both wellness and sustainability are a priority here. The spa, reached by glass elevator and built into the underground caves that are atmospherically lit with candles, feature a hydromassage basin, a Turkish bath, a Himalayan salt wall, and even a natural whirlpool dug deeper into the ground. Meanwhile, the hotel’s commitments to micro-CHP energy, zero plastics, and local construction materials are also notable.

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