The Farmhouse that Embodies the Puglian Spirit
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Masseria Montelauro (sister hotel to Masseria Prosperi) is a simple and elegant 19th century farmhouse turned 29-room villa near Puglia’s Otranto. Before the farmhouse was built in 1878, a monastery stood on the land along the ancient Via Francigena, one of the oldest pilgrimage routes in Europe, extending from Canterbury in England to Puglia. After the farmhouse was constructed, the estate became a masseria with 200 hectares of land until Mussolini’s land reform fractioned the grounds and converted this portion into a herbalist shop. After passing through a few more hands, in 2000, the land and the farmhouse came to rest in the caring ones of a family of women: mother Elisabetta and daughters Caterina and Mercedes.
Open from April until November, Masseria Montelauro is an elegant, spacious, and luminous place that embraces its Puglian identity with local colors, ancient stone walls, and copious citrus and olive trees. The central courtyard, a typical feature of the region’s architecture, is now a tranquil garden cum swimming pool. In the shade of the groves, the glittering pool, like every element added to the masseria, follows the region’s architectural guidelines from the late 1800s. The 29 rooms, which either overlook the courtyard or the surrounding countryside, are built with the local style of vaulted ceilings in Lecce stone, whose cream color warms the rooms. The traditional Chianca (stone) flooring characterizes and acts as a common thread throughout the masseria, and the classic white limestone walls are (pleasantly) blinding. Each room is sophisticated and beautiful in its simplicity, and most have private doors to the garden areas. The rooms’ materials and design pieces are all related to the Puglian land and tradition: the artisans and masters who participated in the farmhouse restoration project are all locals who are deeply linked to the area. (Masseria Montelauro has won “La Fabbrica del Paesaggio” award, which celebrates projects that are respectful of Puglian landscape, aesthetic, history and environment.)
Unsurprisingly, there is no better place to soak up the culture of Salento, Puglia’s southernmost region. Masseria Montelauro’s restaurant under the pergola serves traditional dishes with flavors of both land and sea, cooked by chef Marco, one of the kind and generous members of the masseria’s staff. (Antonella pampers guests with breakfast pastries and cakes, and Renato, the director, is always available to give the best recommendations for the hidden gems of Salento.) The vegetables come from the on-grounds garden, tended by Elisabetta and a local farmer. Elisabetta, over the years, has collected the fruit trees and plants of Salento to create a garden that recreates the scents and flavors of her childhood in Puglia. A walk through the garden is like a walk through the culinary culture of the region. And there is no better way to relax than with a glass of the native Negroamaro red wine before a treatment at the spa (which offers massages, lymphatic drainage, beauty services, and more).
Only two kilometers from the sea, there is much to explore in Otranto, where the Adriatic and the Ionian meet, and the greater Salento area. “What makes Salento unique is the light, the sun, the colors. Few places in the world have these hues and this brightness,” says Mercedes of her home. From Masseria Montelauro, it’s easy to visit the Laghetto Cave di Bauxite, Palascia lighthouse, Otranto cathedral, Alimini beaches and Orte Bay.
Salento is a special place in Italy. For an authentic Puglian stay, look no further than Masseria Montelauro.
A few segreti (secrets) from Elisabetta, Caterina and Mercedes:
1. Head to the beautiful, small beach Porto Badisco to eat fresh urchins at Bar da Carlo.
2. The family-run L’Altro Baffo Ristorante in Otranto is a must for their carbonara di ricci (sea urchin) and raw fish.