You’re an intrepid traveler who’s ventured well beyond Rome exploring many acclaimed destinations like Tuscany, Venice, and the Amalfi Coast. You’ve traveled the boot’s length of Italy all the way to the heel. Welcome to Puglia, a region renowned for its pizzica folk dancing, historic ruins, year-round fresh produce, and loads of artisan food producers.
Olive trees seemingly as prolific as blades of grass form centuries-old groves producing nearly half of Italy’s olive oil supply. Blessed with bright warm sunshine, caressed by Ionian Sea breezes mingling freely with the Adriatic, Puglia’s rugged turquoise coastline not only provides wonderful snorkeling and sunbathing opportunities but also distinctive micro climates for many family-run vineyards.
Historic Lecce, Puglia’s principal city, is a superb home base for immersing
yourself in the Salento way of life. Lodging choices ranging from villas to farmhouse stays abound but for a classic in-town hotel, treat yourself to the sumptuous Risorgimento Resort. Here you can step outside onto cobbled streets paved with ancient basalt blocks leading to abundant street life, several Baroque cathedrals, and landmarks like Piazza Duomo, and the Roman Amphitheatre in Piazza Sant’Oronzo.
Look to either side at many of the older buildings constructed with pietra leccessa, a local limestone that beautifully reflects different glowing hues of pink, yellow, and orange depending on the time of day and seasons. One such building is Risorgimento Resort originally built as an Italian mansionette for a prominent family in 1880, then in 2007 reincarnated as a fully restored and renovated 5 star hotel. The lobby feels like a neighborhood living room with its own library and Art & Craft gallery featuring Puglia’s maestri (artisan craftsmanship). This regional talent is also evident in the interior’s design through ceramics, terracotta, Lecce stone, olive wood, wrought iron, cane and embroidery. My favorite accoutrement is their spacious bathrooms lavishly paneled in fine marble outfitted with spa grade showers and soaking tubs.
Risorgimento’s onsite Le Quattro Spezierie restaurant showcases an equally revered form of Pugliese artistic expression…delicious farm-to-table specialties. For starters, don’t miss their daily smorgasbord breakfasts featuring decadent housemade Pasticciotto and thoroughly healthy Friselle, a dried bread softened with water and covered with fresh tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, and thyme.
Photos courtesy of Steve Mirsky & Risorgimento Resort. Video courtesy of Steve Mirsky.