3 Weeks in Italy, 3 Fantastic Accommodations!
In the absence of our “Tips for Travelers” newsletter, and since many of my readers do not use Facebook, this post features my recent travel experience . . . with a peek at what I packed to wear:
My husband and I took a trip this spring to Italy, first revisiting the hill towns of Umbria, where we had vacationed 18 years ago. Just as we did for our first trip to this beautiful area, we rented a house near Todi through Tuscany Now&More®. We had used this agency for two subsequent rentals in other areas of Italy. Our choice this time was La Pianstella, a restored 200-year-old farmhouse with extraordinary views of the nearby hill towns and the Tiber River Valley below.
Note: We were traveling with friends so the cost of renting this type of accommodation for two weeks was much less than renting hotel rooms. The added bonus was that we indulged in the comfort and conveniences of a home . . . and enjoyed divine sunsets from our private terrace.
After booking the house, my husband and I decided to extend our trip a third week and drive southeast to the Adriatic seacoast to experience a different culture and landscape from central Italy. We had been enticed by articles on the ancient town of Matera in Basilicata and the region of Puglia, the “heel” of Italy.
We struck gold in our hotel search (using Hotels.com), dividing our time between two accommodations that were both unusual and of historical significance. They also provided us with the comfort of being in a home with amenities and service that were excellent! Both are owned and were designed by women, a fact that compelled me to feature them on this Blog!
Il Palazzotto Residence & Winery – a cave hotel in Matera
We took a 6-hour drive from our villa in Umbria to Matera, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is amazing! The Sassi zone of Matera is a fascinating area of cave houses and churches dug out of limestone centuries ago. Sassi hotels are in caves that have been renovated and modernized with private baths, WiFi, air conditioning and heating.
We stayed at Il Palazzotto Residence & Winery, a boutique hotel partially built, partially carved into the rock. A former 16th century palace with caves where the noble owners’ servants and animals once lived, it is now a unique and intimate place to rest in the middle of an extraordinary environment.
Il Palazzotto is the creation of owner/architect Katia Vitale, whose attention to detail and appreciation of the history of the space is apparent throughout. The hotel staff was welcoming and gracious from the moment we arrived and throughout our stay. Our private room was extremely comfortable and well appointed with lovely bed linens, bathroom toiletries and accessories women appreciate, plus TV and internet connections that allowed us to stay in touch with the world. Designed with a strong sense for timeless beauty and ambiance, the hotel’s main salon and breakfast area were extraordinary, featuring decorative details that felt contemporary and ancient at the same time.
Breakfast was a wonderful array of local foods served beautifully on dishes that I wished I could purchase right then and there! As Ms. Vitale states on their website: “ ‘Home’ for Italians means haven, comfort, pleasure, friends, family and peace”. She wants her guests to really feel at home and I assure you, we did!
Lama di Coccaro – Masseria lodging in Puglia
It was a short drive from Matera into Puglia, where we based ourselves in the Fasana – Savelletri area for a 3-day tour of the region. Puglia is one of the new “hot” places to visit and there are several luxurious hotels to stay in, but I can’t imagine any of them has the charm and intimacy of our accommodations at Masseria Lama di Coccaro.
A masseria is an ancient farmhouse on a country estate. Masseria lodgings range from rustic to luxurious and most are set in working farms producing olive oil, wine or produce. Some offer bed and breakfast while others are self-catering. We discovered Masseria Lama di Coccaro on Hotels.com and were amazed with the exceptional charm of the structure and the impeccable hospitality of its owner and hostess, Marialuce Giannaccari.
We were provided with excellent accommodations in the extraordinary house Marialuce created around an ancient stone structure. The decor is an enchanting mix of nature, art and comfort. Marialuce’s passion for the land is evident in her deliberate effort to bring the outside in: the trunk of an olive tree in the middle of a room, exposed 1000-year-old stone walls, installations created by local artisans and large photos of the local landscape. The house is surrounded by olive trees, some as old as 1000 years; the immediate grounds are lovely with a pool, fruit orchard and grapevines.
A spiritual aspect to the house is the small chapel at the side, located in a 1000-year-old cave where a Byzantine monk once stayed, that Marialuce has officially turned into a chapel where weddings can be held. Originally planned to be her personal retreat for family and friends, Marialuce followed the suggestion of a nephew who had his wedding here and turned Lama di Coccaro into the bed and breakfast that it is today.
Breakfast was absolutely glorious – a beautiful mix of local cheeses, meats, breads, fruits and pastries – served at a table personally set by Marialuce with antique cutlery, porcelain dishes and fresh flowers. We felt quite special, like family!
Only a few minutes from the seaside town of Savelletri, with its fabulous fresh seafood restaurants, and equal distance to the town of Fasano on the “Via Appia”, we could not have been happier with the location. From here we were able to easily visit the trulli houses in Alberobello and drive down the Salento peninsula to Lecce (“the Florence of the South”).
Masseria Lama di Coccaro is unique and very special – we would love to make a return visit!
Please note: This is a non-sponsored post, reflecting my personal opinion. We enjoyed all of our accommodations so much that I simply had to share them with you!