by Sarah Royce-Greensill, The Telegraph, May 15, 2019
The former country residence of the noble Palmieri family, Masseria Pettolecchia La Residenza dates back to the 1800s. Like many of the traditional masserias in this part of Puglia, it had fallen into disrepair before being bought by a wealthy entrepreneur and meticulously, and sympathetically, restored. The original structure was cleaned and repaired, and an extension was added using traditional building techniques and local materials.
In the original building, five en-suite bedrooms retain period features such as five-metre vaulted ceilings and stone fireplaces, while a modern kitchen provide in the middle of the villa provides more high-tech creature comforts.
Eschewing the all-white interior trend that dominates in Puglia’s boutique hotels and villas, La Residenza is filled with a museum-worthy array of antique furniture, art and objects, but it’s what’s outside that impresses most. The villa is set among eight hectares of private farmland dotted with olive and almond trees. There’s a sizeable, heated L-shaped pool and a number of areas for al fresco drinking and dining.
Located on a country lane between the town of Fasano and the seaside village Savelletri, the villa is just 3 kilometres from Borgo Egnazia - the cream walls of the popular resort are visible from the roof - but La Residenza is a far more peaceful, private offering.
Puglia’s famed olive groves, littered with other ancient stone masserias, stretch off to the hills on the horizon, while the villa’s two roof terraces offer sea views; Savelletri’s pebbly beach is 1.6km away. The villa’s owner will open a high-end beach club there this summer, with priority access for villa guests. Bicycles are provided, and the facility will include outdoor exercise equipment for those who want to work out by the shore.
La Residenza is an easy hour’s drive from Bari airport, and makes an ideal location for exploring this region of Puglia. The villages of Alberobello and Locorontondo with their cute conical-roofed trulli are half an hour’s drive away, as is bustling seaside town Polignano a Mare. Historic Cisternino and the beautiful baroque Ostuni are also within easy reach, and a day trip to southern Puglia’s attractions, such as the handsome city of Lecce, is definitely do-able.
The closest town, Fasano, is a 10-minute drive away and offers a selection of supermarkets and cafes - be aware that almost all close between 1-5pm.Easier still is to opt for the services of a private chef and be waited on hand and foot from the comfort of the pool.
What to expect
From the minute the imposing gates open, guests will be impressed by La Residenza’s scale and sense of majesty.
Although there are only five bedrooms, it feels spacious - each room has its own lockable entrance and there are ample spaces to relax with a book in privacy. But the villa is really set up for a group gathering: aperitivo might be served around the pool, which boasts a dozen padded loungers, on the roof, or around candlelit tables at the bar in the courtyard.
An indoor-outdoor lounge area and dining table mean guests can enjoy the surrounding greenery with every meal. More formal dinners might take place at the mirrored dining table indoors, underneath a crystal chandelier amid framed historical sketches of birds.
The sense of history and grandeur continues throughout: a refurbished antique roulette table from a Parisian casino dominates the room that opens out onto the courtyard dining space, while the lounge is furnished with eclectic bronze sculptures, antique oil paintings in gilded frames and mirrored folded screens, with scarlet armchairs and a huge cream sofa.
A blend of objects from the owner’s personal collection includes items from international luxury design houses including Jansen, Rubelli and Donghia. The grandiose opulence might not be to every guest’s taste, but it makes a change from the minimalist neutrals seen in most other luxury masserias.
Service is similarly stately: the villa’s kind concierge, Palma, is available from early morning until the evening and able to assist with any conceivable request. This could vary from a round of golf at one of the nearby courses, to restaurant bookings, spa treatments and excursions, or simply to topping up a wine glass.
Daily housekeeping is included in the weekly rental, as are the services of a security guard, and guests will likely want to add on a private chef, as the small, modern kitchen is the one part of the villa’s refurbishment that jars with the majestic theme.
Fitted with sleek, wooden cabinets and an induction hob, it’s more suited to the services of a paid professional than for a communal family cook-a-long. Our chef Maria dished up traditional Puglian fare: a simple but delicious buffet of cheeses and vegetables with orecchiette con cime di rapa, a local speciality, no doubt just like mama used to make.
Five double bedrooms - three on the ground floor, two upstairs - sleep 11 (one has an extra single bed) and offer ample space and privacy.
Downstairs rooms benefit from soaring ceilings, and one has direct access to the patio and pool. Upstairs rooms are cosier, with far-reaching countryside views and roof terraces complete with sun loungers.
Bedrooms are individually, idiosyncratically furnished: a velvet daybed here, an antique writing desk there, but all come with the crystal chandeliers and oil portraits seen throughout the rest of the villa.
Beds are enormous and comfortable, with Frette sheets and antique-style Grifoni headboards, and each room is equipped with a large TV and an iPad. There’s ample wardrobe space, a safe in each room, and WiFi and air-conditioning are both easy to use.
Bathrooms are less lofty - the renovation didn’t allow space for bathtubs - but adequately equipped, with rainfall showers, Frette towels and robes, and own-brand toiletries made using olive oil from the owner’s estate.
The bucolic setting. The sense of peace and space is remarkable, and the views from the swimming pool and roof terraces are some of the best the region has to offer.
Not so keen
The silence of the surrounding countryside means that every creak of the ancient house is amplified, and noise from the plumbing system disrupted our sleep.
The villa’s interiors are an acquired taste: the owner’s stylistic stamp is evident throughout, so there’s no escaping the feeling of being in the private home of an eccentric billionaire, rather than being able to indulge in the fantasy of the villa being your own.
Who it’s good for
Groups of friends looking for a unique backdrop for a milestone party or wedding. The lounge is equipped with games such as Scrabble, Monopoly and Cards Against Humanity, while evening gatherings are likely to move from outdoor bar to that roulette table.
Children and teenagers would happily while away the hours playing in the pool, but due to the number of breakable antiques and objects dotted around, La Residenza isn’t suitable for very young children.
Absolutely: La Residenza is a popular option for wedding celebrations. While they're symbolic rather than legally binding, ceremonies often take place on the lawn by the pool or in front of an ancient well, and there's plenty of space for dining and a reception. The photogenic villa and pastoral surroundings provide the ideal backdrop for photos.
The villa’s owner is in the process of restoring an ancient monument a few minutes’ drive away, which will be used solely as an event space, along with a number of other masserias in the surrounding area, providing ample accommodation options once complete.
The villa is an hour’s drive from Bari airport, which is served year-round by British Airways and EasyJet.
Price and how to book
Masseria Pettolecchia La Residenza can be booked through Quintessentially Travel and costs from £14,000 for seven nights in low season to £35,000 for seven nights in high season. Minimum stay is seven nights. Prices include daily maid service, security guard and butler and complimentary access to the Pettolecchia Beach Club; quintessentiallyvillas.com
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