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Puglia: Where to Stay on Italy’s Boot

The most characteristic choice for lodging in Puglia is a trullo, a stone hut topped by a cupola. These peasant dwellings, found only here in this region of Italy, date back to the 13th century, but don’t worry – those that have been turned into luxury hotels or rental properties are of more recent vintage, with all the mod cons an international visitor expects.

The problem with trulli, aside the price you pay for their unique charms, is that they are clustered in central Puglia, mostly between Bari and Brindisi, in or near the town of Alberobello. Alberobello’s more than 1,000 trulli – the authentic, untransformed variety — have made it a UNESCO World Heritage site, well worth a visit in spite of a touristy overlay.

Palazzo Virgilio

But if you are looking for unusual lodgings in Brindisi or points south, at the bottom of the heel of Italy’s boot, prepare for a different kind of Pugliese experience. Since Brindisi has an international airport, you might wind up flying into it and staying a night or two. In that case the best bet is Palazzo Virgilio, smack in the middle of town and across from the train station.

A bedroom at Palazzo Virgilio

A bedroom at Palazzo Virgilio — not “palatial” but fully equipped and functional

It was completely renovated a few years ago and looks more Scandinavian than Mediterranean, with 66 modern rooms (most smallish, but there are three suites), clean lines, and light wood floors. Concessions to contemporary travellers include room safes large enough to hold laptops, in-room tea and coffee service, and wall-hung TV screens. Breakfast tries to compensate in volume for what it lacks in upscale quality but the coffee and cappuccino are excellent, and fresh-squeezed juice is part of the buffet.

Buffet breakfast at Palazzo Virgilio

Breakfast at Palazzo Virgilio — the cappuccino was outstanding

Service is on the ball: when I asked for milk to complete my tea in-room, I was expecting the powdered variety. Instead, I was given real milk in a personal pitcher.
Corso Umberto 1 149
72100 Brindisi

Masseria Baroni Nuovi

Not a “trulli” Italian experience, but a more charming alternative to the business vibes of Palazzo Virgilio is the Masseria Baroni Nuovoni in Brindisi.

A bedroom at the Hotel Masseria

Subtle tones promote relaxation in the bedrooms of the Hotel Masseria Baroni Nuovi – photo courtesy of Hotel Masseria Baroni Nuovi

Its 13 rooms and suites have been carved out of a 19th century country estate set among gardens, vineyards, and olive trees. Its Gelsomino restaurant is open every day during the summer, and its pool is lit up romantically in the evening, encouraging strolls through the adjoining greenery amid sips of local wine. A car is a must here, because you are 10 kilometers from the airport and about 15 kilometers from the center of town. Frazzled couples wanting to unwind might love it; frenetic sightseers may find its location off-putting.

Corte dei Francesi

If you want charm in a more “urban’ setting, two lodgings in the little town of Maglie might fill your needs. How about sleeping in a converted tannery once owned by a French noble family– hence the name Corte dei Francesi. Its 10 rooms and suites have been carved from the former living quarters of the owners and their servants, so there is a difference in space and price depending on whether you are upstairs or downstairs.

Bedroom at the Corte dei Francesi

Sleeping quarters at the Corte dei Francesi

In either case the rooms have been renovated with respect for their former iterations. Wood, stone, and brick details make every one different, and local pottery accentuates ledges, shelves, and steps throughout the complex. The tanning facility itself has been transformed into a breakfast area, making use of the below-ground soaking basins.

Corte dei Francesi is in a historical building

You pass through history on the way to breakfast at Corte dei Francesi

One can also eat outdoors in the courtyard during the summer months. Breakfast is different every day, as local cooks tempt visitors with area specialities such as carrot-and-almond cake or brioche stuffed with Nutella. A display of the tannery’s former life is sort of a mini-museum, and the host family is unflaggingly gracious. I needed an extra converter plug for electronic equipment; they bought one for me and brought it to my room within hours of my arrival.

Corte dei Granai

Also in Maglie, and owned by the same family, is Corte dei Granai – the Courtyard of the Granary. Its six bedrooms served as granary storage in the building’s previous life. Today they are done in soft natural colors and have stone walls and bathrooms that integrate original stonework; some boast vaulted ceilings and grilled windows.

Corte dei Granai bedroom

Integrating the original building’s stonework gives the rooms at the Corte dei Granai a warm glow – photo courtesy of Corte dei Granai

Breakfast is equally enticing, and can be enjoyed in the courtyard or in a room that evokes Salento-style residential hospitality.

Hotel Palazzo Virgilio
Corso Umberto 1 149
72100 Brindisi

Masseria Baroni Nuovi
S.P. 44 Acquaro
San Vito Scalo-Mesagne,Brindisi

Corte dei Francesi
Via Roma 168
73024 Maglie (Lecce)

Corte dei Granai
Vico Paolo Fontana angolo Via Indipendenza
73024 Maglie (Lecce)

Written by and photos (unless otherwise noted) by Claudia Flisi for 
Claudia Flisi was a guest at two of the above mentioned accommodations. She traveled to Puglia at the invitation of Zonin Wineries.

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