Tag Archives: ostuni

September getaway…

Once the tourist crowds have left September becomes Summer’s last hurrah!

If you’re like me, you are itching to go away again somewhere by mid August. But that is the busiest time of year for so many European destinations and the last thing you want is to be body checking your way through a sea of people. So if you can hold on just a while longer… long enough for families to return, kids go back to school and high season prices to go down, a September getaway might just be the prefect tonic to get you through the colder months ahead. Here are some suggestions to get you started…

Madrid – A sophisticated metropolitan city with sunshine and more importantly tapas bars! The appealing historic center and the open spaces makes it a great combination of culture both indoors and out. Whether it be taking in a museum or taking in the sun at the Plaza Mayor with a glass of sangria, Madrid makes for a warm cultivated break.

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Seville – A two hour train ride from Madrid takes you to the quintessential Spanish city of Sevilla. Decorative tiles, romantic architecture and colourful streets capture the true spirit of Spain alongside its breathtaking cathedral and Plaza de España. Have drinks and tapas at El Rinconcillo before taking in a flamenco show.

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Ostuni, Puglia – Sea breezes touch this white washed hill town. Puglia is where Italy meets Greece sharing that same blue Aegean sea. And not far from this sea, surrounded by olive trees is the White City of Ostuni, an almost fairy tale like town with charming small cafes and mystical winding streets. It is quiet, laid back yet stylish. The boutique hotel Relais La Sommitá offers a chic stay with a wonderful fine dining restaurant Cielo that makes it easy to sit back over a glass of wine and look out to the sea in the distance.

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Taormina – A perfect late summer escape with the temperatures still quite warm, the seacoast and a charming town to walk in. For cooling off, excellent granita can be found at Bam Bar or an aperitivo on the piazza. Enticing restaurants and choice local wines make it a substantial getaway for foodies, while a selection of refined hotels make it easy to keep everything within walking distance.

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Rome – is always a good idea but in late September when the Italians have resigned themselves that beach days are over and normal life continues there is a relaxed hum of people getting about their business just not too quickly yet. Yes there are still tourists but a few less so the line for gelato at Giolitti is not as long if you want an afternoon treat. The weather still allows for a lazy afternoon prosecco in the gardens of the Hotel de Russie while autumn fashion fills the shops in anticipation. A bit of both worlds and changing seasons.

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Discovering the Valle d’Itria

Puglia opens up slowly… Long forgotten and not until recently a popular tourist destination, this land in the “heel” of Italy’s map was left alone to get on with the simple things in life, the land and the sea. But what a land! One of sapphire blue sea and deep dusty green ground, filled with olive groves and vineyards, the simple life that is definitely very tasty.

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It is easy to draw parallels between the white washed hill towns of Puglia’s Valle d’Itria to those of okra coloured fortresses in Tuscany. It won’t take long to take in that the land itself defines the differences more than the similarities. From two lands that live off the earth and farming, both produce excellent wines, and olive oils they at the same time live quite different lifestyles. Tuscany is noble, historical, and refined. Puglia is attractive yet unassuming, quiet yet unreserved, very much a land of contrasts. From the sharp white of the towns to the deep colours of its nature, there are even sharp contrasts with the grandness in the architecture, at once severe in its simplicity yet ornate with its casual flounces of baroque details scattered here and there, on a doorway, or an arch. It makes the traveller feel like they have discovered a secret when they round a non descriptive corner only to find a normal everyday house with the most ornate decor around its doorway. Its as if it quietly screams for no attention. Indeed these little towns in Puglia are a Baroque lovers dream. Some excellent examples of the most decorative and ornate worked baroque designs can be found in Puglia due to the type of local stone which allows for more intricate carving without crumbling. Churches are grand, many buildings gush cake frosting type decorating all the way down to their violin curvy style iron balconies. Yet turn the corner and things are much more restraint, and even with the glamour on the piazza, life is simple, muted. Its peaceful. This is farmland and life is uncomplicated.

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Ostuni The White City, is one of the larger towns in the area has that swagger of having a bit more sophistication than you would expect. And that too is surprising about Puglia, and especially in Ostuni, this extra bit of flair, or trendiness. Small bars have colourful modern chairs in bright colors, the lounge bar feel spills out like a small puddle onto the street next to a traditional caffe with old men reading the local paper. Not going over the top, but showing that little bit of leg to entice and promise a bit more excitement while not drawing too much attention. And that is Ostuni, a bit of flair among the normalcy of what has been there for hundreds of years.

The focal point of the White City is its tiara shaped Duomo at the very top of town. It sits happily in an oasis of a piazza with a grand archway. Around the corner is a landing that offers astonishing views to the surrounding landscape. For as far as you can see it is olive groves, and in the far distance the glistening sea. The white washed winding streets are attractive with their flower pots and the occasional cactus. The winding road down has some tourists shops next to local artists selling their pastoral paintings. If it wasn’t made locally they aren’t selling it which is a refreshing change. There is nothing left to do but enjoy.

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Martina Franca There is something grand and operatic about the small town of Martina Franca. Beginning with the commanding baroque archway that leads to the main piazza, to the curvaceousness of the buildings, the streets, the balconies… Even one of the main piazza areas is curved. Such commanding presence it screams drama. The best way to see and enjoy is to get lost in the streets, eash one of them prettier than the last.

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Alberobello Of all the towns in the Valle, Alberobello is the most unique. While it has an old town part similar to other towns in the region, it also possesses the magical Truli village, a fairy tale style community of pointed topped houses reminiscent of The Hobbit. Indeed it is said that perhaps Tolkein, author of the Hobbit drew inspiration from these whimsical houses. While now a days walking through the trulli is very much like walking through Disneyland with many houses selling typical tourist plastic, it is still an enchanting place and like no other.

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Cisternino Charming, petite, and laid back Cisternino offers an authentic look into everyday life in Puglia. In the centre of the Valle it offers stunning views to the surrounding land but really here is all about the locals and a typical life. Wander through the quiet streets and perhaps stop for lunch as Cisternino is known for its meat. That and a good Puglia red wine and you will be living like a local.

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Locorotondo The pretty hill town of Locorotondo sits like a shiny white crown a top its mount looking down to sprawling groves below. Less grand than Martina Franca and Ostuni, yet just as attractive and perhaps the most charming of all the towns. Its a perfect place to inspire artistic desire as every street is its own painting or photograph, with picturesque houses and small street cafes surrounded by flowers. Harmonious in its appeal that sums up the feel of its surroundings, of Puglia.

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Rooms with Views: La Sommita Relais

Stylish boutique luxury in the charming White City…

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LA SOMMITA

At the heart of the picturesque ‘White City’ of Ostuni lies the cool chic residence of La Sommita. Perfectly situated behind the cathedral down a quiet arched street the hotel oozes comfortable modern style.

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Relatively small with welcoming intimacy, it looks very much part of the surroundings of white washed baroque homes. Public spaces are small, relaxed, but fashionable. The decor is very Puglia chic with minimal clutter and natural accents of greenery and cacti. Rooms are stylish but uncluttered, white with neutral colour palette, and light wood furnishings, while polished bathrooms have Bulgari bath products and contemporary fittings.

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 The property also houses one of the best restaurants in the city, Cielo, featuring a modern and innovative menu inspired from traditional Pugliese cuisine. Excellent wine selection, most of them local, and a stunning setting in a vaulted dining room. The airy and light breakfast room was more informal but boasted an impressive buffet selection with hot dishes prepared upon request, and the watermelon juice was a unique treat.

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Also on the premises is a spa and wellness centre and during the warmer months, an outdoor bar in the garden. There are several seating areas throughout the hotel where one can have a drink, read, or just relax as if you were in a private home. There is also extensive terrace space for which to take in the view of the sea in the distance. At night there were delightful little macaroons left by the bed homemade in the Cielo restaurant which were a very personal touch.

Overall a lovely polished hotel with imaginative features made for a thoroughly enjoyable stay.

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Pros Great design that was both modern and harmonious with its surroundings make it both comfortable and tasteful. The location is the best in the city and has a fabulous restaurant.

Cons: My split level suite had the bed and bathtub on the top floor but the toilet downstairs making it a trek from the bed to the bathroom.

Service: As you would expect very professional and courteous. A bit reserved but everything done well. Bed and rooms were made up right away which is always much appreciated. The restaurant service was exceptionally good, friendly and eager to please.

Rooms: I stayed in a small suite. Beds were very comfortable and the bathroom fixtures were slick and on trend. The Bulgari White Tea bath products were the perfect touch. The sitting area of the suite was a bit sparse and as said previously the bathroom and toilet were downstairs near the sitting area and the bed and sleeping area upstairs. Mini bar with usual fixings but there was also a bottle of local wine on offer. View was of quaint streets below.

Extras: The turn down service macaroons were really a treat!

La Sommita Relais – Via Scipione Petrarolo, 7, 72017 Ostuni BR, Italy

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