My first authentic taste of Puglia was at Masseria Provenzani, located north of Lecce in Casalabate. A masseria is a fortified farmhouse in the country that offers lodging. Masseria Provenzani was once a 16th century stronghold that was part of feudal properties belonging to monastic orders and still retains part of the original tower with the external staircase.
As I arrived with my group, a long driveway lead through the entrance and into a large courtyard. I found the ambience immediately unfamiliar, yet appealing. A spacious layout, splashed with bits of green and gayly decorated with vines, fruit and nut trees, gave me a taste of authentic country luxury. The fresh air and quiet solitude made it natural to unwind body and soul.
I stood inside the courtyard and admired the stately stone and brick architecture complete with wrought iron balconies. Pergolas arched gracefully with flowering bougenville and jasmine. A stairway in the center lead up to the terrace that provides a panoramic view of the Salento countryside dotted with olive groves.
A reconstructed old mill, a trappeto, stands inside the inner courtyard. It still has the animal-drawn monolithic grindstone and cast iron presses that were used for refining extra virgin olive oil.
Vine-covered pergolas line the long walkway that access several rooms. Once an old stable, the accommodations have been renovated but kept to their original design. My room was spacious and complete with a kitchenette and bathroom.
One of the delights of the masseria that we all gravitated toward was the cool and refreshing swimming pool. I loved the unique design and shape. Umbrella tables were also a welcome relief from the warm sun.
Around the masseria grounds are many old pots, archways and brickwork. A faded fresco filled a niche in the wall and vines wound up and across the stones.
Just off the kitchen is the garden where much of the food used in meals is grown and harvested. Beyond the garden are olive orchards.
Mamma Giulia, the chef imperial at the masseria, is never far from the kitchen. She sure knows how to fix delicious and authentic Puglian dishes without recipes. I especially admired how these meals have been learned and passed down through the generations. It was second nature to Mamma Giulia. We all had the chance to cook with her. What a mess we made…but it was so much fun.
The dining and sitting rooms are long and spacious with several wooden tables available for guests. Rustic interior stonework is accented with shelves of crocks along the walls under barrel vaulted ceilings.
A quiet walk and chat under the flowering pergola on a lazy afternoon easily leaves one in a state of contentment.
As can be expected, cats are never far from a kitchen. This masseria is no exception. This cat is one of several that love to mill around the kitchen door and lay about on the window sill. Of course, kitchen scraps often arrive at the door.
At Masserie Provenzani I felt away from it all and able to relax entirely. Whether imbibing in a swim and a lounge by the pool or walking the adjacent pathways among oak, carob or olive trees, it’s the perfect place to lose oneself only to find oneself again in a pleasurable state of harmony.