A masseria is a converted country house that usually forms part of a larger estate and is almost exclusive to the region of Puglia and usually from 16th century. Unlike some modern villas that lack atmosphere, Puglian masserias are homely and inviting so you really feel like you’re staying in a friend’s house. After a strange year, we really wanted something cosy to relax in and Masseria Canali was ideal. The house sits in the middle of a triangle of three of the region’s most beautiful cities- Lecce, Gallipoli and Otranto. In Salento (the region of Puglia that we were in) you’re never too far from the coast or from some stunning Italian architecture so I was in heaven!
Where to swim
Our favourite beach was Punta della Suina in the town of Baia Verde just outside Gallipoli. There’s also the natural reserve of Porto Selvaggio, which the Telegraph called a secret seaside and they were so right. The views around here are stunning.
If you’re in Puglia out of high season (as we were) then lots of the beach clubs and bars are open. For swimming and a beach lunch together, we headed up to Le Dune Lido in Porto Cesareo which is open all year round and only a forty minute drive from Lecce. Aperol spritz and pizza in the sand made for a wonderfully funny afternoon.
Where to Eat
A little further along in Porto Tricase is this little taverna Taverna Del Porto which we stopped at more than once. More sea views, more delicious seafood, this also has a balcony where you can sit and look out at the port.
Slightly further in from the coast is the town of Nardò which we visited on our last evening and has a really lovely atmosphere- church bells ringing and children playing in the piazza; it was the epitome of Italian life. Piazza Salandra is well worth a visit but the highlight for us was the dinner. We had steak at Antica Macelleria Fai (Mackenzie’s recommendation is the Florentine steak cooked al sangue, which means rare) followed by ice cream in the town square. Nothing beats traditional gelato.
Lecce is one of Puglia’s largest cities and is best in the early evening. For a wonderful dinner, *** is a must visit
Le Stanzie is a bit of a hidden gem but my goodness am I glad we went; it’s a traditional masseria that has been lovingly turned into a restaurant. Stone walls covered in bunches of grapes and dried herbs, a floodlit courtyard so you can have dinner under the trees and traditional Italian homemade food. I’m feeling all nostalgic just thinking about it!
There are so many gorgeous places, fabulous restaurants and things to see in Puglia that it’s hard to choose a favourite but some of my highlights from the three cities we explored would have to include these!
In Gallipoli (which has the best gelato in my opinion) there’s a wonderful shop called Tulsi selling colourful clothing and Blanc which is a living store/café so naturally I was in heaven! For casual seafood in Gallipoli, head to Garibaldine and for dinner, Le Puriate is a must visit. I could so easily live in Italy for the food!
Otranto is well worth a proper visit too; I think my favourite architecture and churches were found in this town and the water is crystal clear. Have lunch at L’Altro Baffo, a restaurant I could quite happily move in to as well as sunset drinks at Il Maestrale which provides the most perfect end to any Italian day.
For the interiors lovers amongst you, I came home with a lot of crockery from Grottaglie. The town towards the north of Puglia is famous for its ceramics and particularly those of Antonion Fasano and Nicola Fasano. You can learn more about them here.
October was a lovely time to visit Puglia as the crowds have dispersed but the sun is still strong. It was perfect for our friends and family trip, Honor adored the beaches and I’ve come home with an even greater love for pasta. If you were writing for Front Roe Travel Guides: Puglia, anything else you would include?