At a Glance
A sophisticated five-star boutique hotel set in a lovingly restored 1,000-year-old castle in Puglia, Castello di Ugento also has an excellent restaurant and cooking school.
- The Puglia Culinary Centre, an impressive international cooking school that offers classes and trips to local markets with a chef.
- Il Tempo Nuovo, the hotel’s restaurant, which serves delicious meals in a modern dining room (with a glass floor showcasing ruins of the Norman tower found during the restoration).
- Spectacular 16th- and 17th-century Baroque frescoes throughout the hotel, along with one that dates back to the Norman period that was discovered under seven layers of paint.
This five-star boutique hotel, with nine suites in a 1,000 year-old castle, is the labor of love of former Pepsi CEO Massimo d’Amore and his wife, Diana Bianchi, and has been in Massimo’s family for four centuries. The restored hotel contains the remains of a 900-year-old Norman tower and artifacts from the Bronze Age. Spectacular frescoes adorn walls and ceilings throughout the hotel, which doubles as your own private museum to wander at your leisure. The attractive, light-filled, well-appointed suites have vaulted ceilings and stone walls as well as spacious modern bathrooms. Master suites with balconies are the best options. The hotel also has a lovely garden. While there is no room service, the staff is warm and friendly. The owners truly want guests to experience the best the region has to offer, in terms of food, culture and relaxation. They will go out of their way to ensure that your needs are met, whether you are looking to play a round of golf, explore a local church, charter a boat or take a day trip. They have arrangements with area beach clubs as well so you can spend your day at the beach or by the pool at their sister property, Masseria Le Mandorle.
The hotel is home to the Puglia Culinary Centre, which means that the food at Il Tempo Nuovo—the restaurant on-property under the direction of Executive Chef Tommaso Sanguedolce and a fleet of amiable sous chefs—is top-notch. Showcasing Puglian specialties and regional wines, it is also a training site for students from the Culinary Institute of America, who apprentice here throughout the year.
Activities and excursions off-property to Lecce, Otranto, Gallipoli and Leuca, as well as grotto visits by boat, can also be arranged. Be advised: those self-driving should use Via Miniturno, a nearby side street, for directions, to avoid having to navigate the extremely tight residenti solo streets on the way to the property. Cooking classes at the Puglia Culinary Centre are run by the chefs and emphasize cooking with the freshest market ingredients available. Willing guests will learn how to make orecchiette (the region’s flat, egg-free pasta), local fish and octopus, and can sample it all afterwards over a long lunch with plenty of regional wines in the company of the restaurant's affable team.
Who Should Stay
Couples or friends looking for delicious food or a cooking school experience and a sophisticated base in the south from which to explore this part of Puglia.
When To Go
June through mid-July. April-May and September and October are also good options.
The hotel is 2.15 hours to Bari airport by car and 1.30 hours from Brindisi airport.
Written by Jen Barr