If you’re an intrepid Italy traveler who’s ventured well beyond Rome, Tuscany, Venice and the Amalfi Coast, you might consider making your way to Puglia. Sitting at the heel of "the boot," Puglia is a region renowned for its Pizzica folk dancing, historic ruins, year-round fresh produce and loads of artisan food producers. Historic Lecce, Puglia’s principal city, is a superb home base for immersing yourself in the Salentoway of life. Lodging choices ranging from villa- to farmhouse-stays abound, but for a classic in-town hotel, treat yourself to a stay at the sumptuous Risorgimento Resort.
Originally built as an Italian mansionette for a prominent family in 1880, Risorgimento Resort was reincarnated in 2007 as a fully restored and renovated five-star hotel. The hotel lobby feels like a neighborhood living room with its own library and gallery featuring local Puglia artisan collections. This regional talent also artfully extends into the interior’s design through ceramics, terracotta, Lecce stone, olive wood, wrought iron, cane and embroidery. Equally as impressive was the spacious bathrooms in the guestrooms which were lavishly paneled in fine marble and outfitted with spa-grade showers and soaking tubs.
For dining options, Risorgimento’s on-site Le Quattro Spezierie restaurant showcases an equally revered form of Pugliese artistic expression in its delicious farm-to-table specialties. For starters, don’t miss their daily smorgasbord breakfasts featuring decadent housemade Pasticciotto pastries and thoroughly healthy Friselle, a dried bread softened with water and covered with fresh tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, and thyme.
Step outside the hotel onto ancient cobbled streets paved with Lecce limestone blocks and experience the abundant street life, several Baroque cathedrals, and numerous gathering places like Piazza del Duomo and Piazza Sant’Oronzo. Around the area, olive trees seemingly as prolific as blades of grass form centuries-old groves producing nearly half of Italy’s olive oil supply.
Blessed with bright warm sunshine, caressed by Ionian Sea breezes mingling freely with the Adriatic, Puglia’s rugged turquoise coastline not only provides wonderful snorkeling and sunbathing opportunities but also distinctive micro-climates for many family-run vineyards. Puglia feels wonderfully authentic and any traveler venturing through Italy should make a stop along their journey to experience everything this little town has to offer.