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Palatial in Puglia
Forget seaside villas - this summer the cognoscenti are renting 'masserie'or fortified farmhouses, in Salento, an unspoiled southern Italian region also known for its fabulous food. By Rebecca Rose.
"Villa Elia was all so quiet, so sunlit, so huge... Villa Elia is, in fact, not strictly a villa - it is a masseria, a fortified farmhouse estate found in southern Italy, in particular the Salento region of Puglia...
Our week at Villa Elia went by in an indolent haze of al fresco meals, dips in the pool and regular house explorations... The cook prepared an eye-watering Italian feast for our arrival lunch: freshly made parmigiana, minted potatoes and courgettes, and still warm ricotta and buffalo mozzarella, collected from the dairy that morning. We ate on the patio under the vines... with a delicious chilled white wine from Castellini's honesty cellar. It was quite an introduction to masseria living.
Think Puglia has four massserie on its books, all notably high-end, and done up with immense style. They also have sizeable outdoor pools, such as the one at Masseria Curti Vecchi, which at 20 metres long, is designed for serious swimmers, while the 14-metre-wide square pool that dominates the garden at Masseria Acquadolce is clearly intended for decadent pool parties... Local cooks can be hired too, so you never have to set foot inside a supermarket. Villa Elia even has a pizza oven and, on request, a local pizzaiolo will come and give a pizza masterclass in the garden....
Unsurprisingly, these masserie draw some illustrious visitors. Jude Law and Sinnea Miller stayed at Villa Elia a couple of years ago..."