I recently spent a long weekend in Puglia, Italy, which was truly lovely. Although I’ve visited some of Italy’s main attractions (including Florence, Venice and Rome) it was my first time to the region of Puglia, and the first time I had spent any time in the Italian countryside. Having now been, I can only wonder why it’s taken me so long to choose Puglia for a holiday!
I was invited to Italy courtesy of Bookings For You and their partner agent in Puglia, Raro Villas. I had been introduced to Jo Mackay, the owner of Bookings For You, by my friend and fellow family travel blogger, Nell from Pigeon Pair and Me, and was fortunate enough to meet Jo at an incredible Italian masterclass where I spent an afternoon indulging in a traditional Tuscan feast.
Jo is wonderfully passionate about Italy and it was this love for la dolce vita that inspired her to set up Bookings for You in 2011. The site launched with just five properties on their website and has since grown to have more than 350 properties in 8 regions of Italy, the newest of which is Puglia.
And so it was that myself, Nell, and the hugely talented photographer Penny Wincer, all waved a welcome goodbye to England’s sub-zero shores and headed for the Italian sunshine. But this wasn’t any ordinary girls trip, we each brought our daughters with us making for a brilliant mother daughter Italian adventure.
Corte dei Messapi
Our home from home for the long weekend was Corte dei Messapi, a luxury family-friendly villa in Puglia positioned on the outskirts of the ‘White City’ of Ostuni. It only opened in June 2017 but, despite being a new villa, it was constructed in the traditional style of the region; all buttery sandstone, smooth arches and balconies with stunning views.
The property is comprised of a large seven-bedroom villa, a three-bedroom villa, a one-bedroom villa and a one-bedroom trullo (a traditional stone hut of the region, typically with a conical roof). The property is usually rented out in its entirety, but it’s also possible to hire elements of the villa (for example, the three-bed villa and the one-bedroom villa together, or the main villa and the trullo).
We were hosted in the three-bedroom villa, which worked really well for our gang of six. There are two double bedrooms upstairs, both with ensuite bathrooms and separated by a open-plan kitchen and dining area in the middle. There’s a further double bedroom downstairs with ensuite bathroom, accessed via external steps, where my daughter Tess and I stayed. The décor is very simple, decked out in neutral colours to match the sandstone of the villa itself with some quirky rope and wood ‘pieces’ decorating the house.
Our villa had its own private pool which, although still a little chilly for swimming was beautiful and I can imagine that families would spend most of their time here in warmer months (we visited in March). There’s an outdoor table with views over the poo, which makes the perfect place to enjoy breakfast. The villa is well equipped with all the pots, pans, plates and glasses you may need. There’s also a barbecue, microwave and a large fridge.
The Main Villa
The main house was occupied when we visited so we didn’t get to peek into the bedrooms but we did drop by for a fabulous cooking demonstration one night where we learned to make panzarotto. We also visited to make use of their heated rooftop Jacuzzi! The main villa also boasts its own private swimming pool, in addition to the Jacuzzi, and plenty of space to accommodate a large group or several families. The neutral décor runs throughout all the properties at Corte dei Messapi.
The one-bedroom traditional trullo was my favourite property on the villa complex, just because it’s so wonderfully unique.
Again, this was occupied during our stay but I was told that it was very similar in style to our three-bedroom villa. This home doesn’t have its own pool.
The property is managed by Raro Villas, the partner company of Bookings For You in this region. Raro Villas source the local properties, dealing directly with the villa owners and the clients that come via Bookings For You. During our stay, we were looked after by the very charming Luigi Fusco, who gave us a wonderful introduction to the area with a tour of the local masseria (farms). With Luigi and his team we learnt how mozzarella was made at Masseria Lamapecora, the difference between ‘good’ olive oil and ‘bad’ olive oil at Masseria Macarone (turns out I have consistently been buying the bad olive oil at home!) and took a tour of the stunning five-star Torre Coccaro, where apparently Madonna once spent her summer holiday. Yep, even pop stars rate Puglia for a family holiday!
Services & Amenities
Although we were largely self-sufficient during our stay, Raro Villas can organise literally any kind of service you need (including hiring Instagram-perfect vintage Fiats to drive around town!). From airport transfer services and in-house chefs to daily cleaning services, organised excursions, massages and more. Overall, we had a wonderful three days and I am looking forward to returning with the rest of my family soon.
Getting to Corte dei Messapi
Corte dei Messapi is located on the outskirts of the Ostuni, the ‘White City’. The closest airport is Brindisi although owing to flight schedules, we flew into Bari, which is approximately 1hr 15min drive away.
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Disclosure: I was hosted by Bookings for You and Raro Villas for the purpose of this review. All opinions are, as always, entirely my own.