Buy in a trulli lovely part of Italy
"The quieter southern region of Puglia may not be for high-end culture vultures but it has its share of history and bags of unspoilt charm, says Cathy Hawker
Puglia, in the heel of Italy’s long, thin boot, is slowly but surely winning new friends. It might lack some of Tuscany’s high-culture polish but that means it also lacks the visitors that gridlock Florence and Siena. This is undiscovered, traditional Italy, complete with mesmerising architecture and fresh local food, where visionary hoteliers and home-builders are completing some interesting renovations of historic buildings.
“Puglia is really a peninsula, caught between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas rather like an island,” says Antine Meinardi, of rental company Think Puglia. “So while it can get very hot, there is always a breeze.”
Think Puglia has 45 properties on its books, ranging from trulli – the traditional conical stone houses – to town centre palazzo (palaces) and thick-walled masserie (large farmhouses). Antine says the season lasts from Easter to mid-October and weekly rents for homes on the company’s website range from £3,440 to £21,500.
Art of restoration
Four years ago, Jano and Johnny Clarke from south-west England found a cluster of trulli in the farming area of Valle d’Itria. The property was in a state of total disrepair but the couple fell in love with it. For Jano, a potter with a love of olive trees, the kiln-shaped trulli and the land smothered with centuries-old olive groves represented the opportunity to save, and use something historic.
“We love this house,” says Jano surveying her fabulously understated and now fully restored four-bedroom home. “Of course, we never realised what it would cost to restore. Everyone told us it would be double what we paid for it but no, it was much more.”
The couple paid £154,800 for the house and spent a further £404,300 on restoration. They now have a house worth over £860,250, which they have furnished with trestle tables bought locally in the antiques market in Martina Franca, and intricately carved Indian doors made into tables. Outside, a large pool sits in casually landscaped gardens loaded with fruit trees.
They rent out their home through Think Puglia from £3,500 a week. Last year, it was booked for 15 weeks, with more already reserved for this summer.
“We wanted to retain the rustic simplicity of the house while making it totally comfortable with en suite bedrooms,” says Jano. “We’ve kept the curving ceilings and used stone basins and wrought iron.”
The house is filled with light, thanks to immaculate whitewashed ceilings, and has modern underfloor climate control."