Palazzo Guglielmo

Vignacastrisi, Puglia & Basilicata, Italy Book from

Reviewed by Abigail Blasi
A magical and memorable hotel in a historic mansion, hidden among fragranced gardens in a small town near the Salentine coast
Facing an impressively fortified church, Palazzo Guglielmo occupies Vignacastrisi’s former mayoral mansion. Its huge doors open onto the small town’s main piazza and harbour a wonderful secret: a rambling, high-ceilinged palace, complete with a vast orange grove and a courtyard garden that’s shaded by tangled fruit trees and dotted with hammocks and outdoor sofas.

Friendly and helpful owner Sergio has converted the house into a very special hotel, with 7 stylish rooms, 2 self-catering hideaways and a wonderfully laid-back feel. It’s ideal not only for couples but for families too, and even those with young children will feel relaxed here. The pool is flanked by orange trees, sunflowers, birds-of-paradise, mint and lavender, all wafting scent over the water as you swim. There are elegant salons, a roof terrace with a bubbling hot tub, and plenty of nooks where you can lose yourself in a holiday read. Delicious local produce is served up at lunch, dinner and the plentiful breakfast buffet, and there’s a choice of restaurants within walking distance. Make use of the free bikes or the hotel's Vespa and potter around Puglia’s rolling landscapes, or head to the dramatic seacliffs and turquoise waters of the Salentine coast, just 3km away.

Highs

  • A wonderful secret-garden feel; you’ll think you’ve stumbled across a long-lost treasure
  • Pretty Vignacastrisi, with its unspoilt, stuck-in-time ambiance, is ideally placed for exploring the Salento peninsula, yet well away from crowded resort towns such as Otranto
  • Cooking classes and wine tastings can be arranged on request - ideal for foodies
  • Spacious rooms, all with bathtubs, and many with beautiful arched ceilings and sitting rooms
  • A warm welcome combined with fantastic attention to detail (homemade cakes at breakfast, stacks of books on the area, carefully chosen antiques)

Lows

  • Lunch and dinner aren't available on Sundays, but there are plenty of options nearby
  • With only 6 or 7 sunbeds to lounge on, there isn't enough space for everyone by the pool when the hotel is full
  • The local coastline is rocky; you’ll have to head towards Otranto (30km away) for sandy beaches, though you can swim nearby
  • No in-room TVs - a conscious decision to avoid disturbing the tranquillity
  • We haven't viewed Casa Margherita or the Gran Suite yet, but their extra space and kitchens sounds ideal for longer stays

Best time to go

Puglia’s finest hour is spring (May-June), when the weather’s perfect, wild flowers run riot and the beaches and towns are uncrowded. September is also lovely and balmy. High season runs from July to August, when the region is packed and very hot, but there are music and food festivals every night in towns across the area. The hotel is normally closed from October to early April.

Our top tips

A local speciality that’s well worth trying is the substantial sandwich known as the puccia. Expect a large roll of freshly baked crusty bread, studded with olives and packed with salami, cheese, ham, mozzarella and tomatoes.

Great for...

Family
Foodie
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 9
  • Breakfast (+ other meals by arrangement)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
  • Cooking classes
  • Vespa scooter to borrow
Room: Suite - Simenon

Rooms

The 2 Suites and 5 Double Rooms are mostly named after authors (you’ll find stacks of the said author’s books in the appropriate room). All are handsomely large and located on the ground floor, with high ceilings, seating areas and doors opening onto the sun-dappled communal courtyard, where you’ll find a small table and a couple of chairs per room. Décor is pale, with whitewashed walls and some beautiful local antiques, such as pretty wooden dressers or colourful inlaid trunks. We particularly liked the 2 Suites, Simenon and Fante, and the Bukowsky Double Room, which have fantastic arched ceilings and exposed stonework.

The Suites are good for families as they have 2 rooms, one with a double bed and the other with 1 or 2 daybeds that can be made up as single beds if needed; Simenon has a wrought-iron four poster with gauzy white drapes, while in Fante the double mattress sits on a sleek stone base. However, all rooms are spacious enough to fit a rollaway bed or baby cot.

Bathrooms come in various shapes and sizes, but are generally large and mosaic-tiled. Camilleri has a claw-foot tub, while Bukowsky has a Jacuzzi. These rooms, together with the 2 Suites, have separate baths and walk-in showers; Etne and Marina have slightly smaller bathrooms, with a tub and overhead shower.

Casa Margherita and Gran Suite have been added more recently, and we’ve haven’t personally viewed them yet. Here the look is slightly more understated but you do get self-catering facilities. Gran Suite is a spread over the first-floor, with 3 bedrooms (2 doubles and a twin) and plenty of living space. Casa Margherita is more private, with outdoor space and 2 double bedrooms. Both would work well for families, friends or those planning a longer stay. The South Room has also been added since our visit, although it's large terrace sounds very tempting.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Honesty bar
  • Terrace
  • WiFi

Eating

The large vaulted lounge and breakfast room that leads from the pool area has an honesty bar where you can help yourself to soft drinks, beer and water whenever you feel like it. This is also where the daily buffet breakfast is served, with additional seating out alongside the pool if you want to start your day in the sunshine. The spread features mountains of fresh fruit, together with moreish home-baked cakes, including exceedingly popular jam tarts. Although breakfast is included in all rates, guests staying in the Gran Suite and Casa Margherita also have their own kitchens with with dining spaces.

Lunch and dinner (available Monday-Saturday) are served on candlelit tables by the palazzo’s pool (book in advance). The chef cooks typical regional seafood, pasta and meat - perhaps orechiette (little ear-shaped pasta) with tomato sauce and meatballs, or veal roulade with grilled vegetables and Pecorino cheese. If you want you can join a cooking class prior to the Friday evening meal and learn how to recreate some of the dishes (an additional charge applies for this).

If you want to eat out, there are several appealing restaurants in Vignacastrisi, ranging from basic pizzerias to more formal places. In particular, Palazzo Guglielmo's owners also run La Casa dell'Angelo, a fresh seafood restaurant nestled just next door to the hotel. We're yet to visited, but the shaded terrace looks enchanting. Equally, it's worth travelling a little further afield to one of Puglia’s many rural agriturismi (farm restaurants) - Montenachiro and Le More come recommended by staff for their rustic Salento cuisine.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity: Baie dei Turchi

Activities

  • Chill out in the shady garden or the gorgeous pool, or head to the hot tub on the roof terrace, where you can wallow until 11pm

  • Take part in the pre-dinner cooking courses held at the palazzo on Friday evenings (a small charge applies). Wine tastings can also be arranged

  • Explore the lovely little town of Vignacastrisi, enjoying the slow pace of life and the grace of its rural architecture, which includes the fortress-like Church of the Holy Virgin Mary, dating from the 16th century

  • Borrow one of the palazzo’s bikes and cycle around town and the local countryside. There’s a 125 Vespa scooter for those who want to go at a faster pace

  • Swim in clear turquoise water from the rocky beaches at Castro Marina (3km away), Santa Cesarea Terme (6km away) and Adrano Marina (9km away). If you want white sand, head to the beaches near Otranto; one of the nicest is I Due Mori, close to the Alimini Lakes (a 30km drive)

  • Wander around the winding lanes, castle and ancient walls of the charming coastal town of Otranto, which gets full to bursting in July and August but is pretty quiet for the rest of the year

  • Discover the nearby Grotta dei Cervi, with its amazing post-palaeolithic rock paintings and geological formations

  • Enjoy a boat tour along the dramatically craggy coast, with its rollercoaster cliffs and fortified towers; private boat hire, with or without a skipper, can be arranged via reception

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Private guided tours
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Wine tasting

Kids

This is a great place to stay with kids, with an inviting (if unfenced) pool, lots of nooks and crannies to explore, and a relaxed feel. There are plenty of activities along the coast for kids, but bear in mind that the nearest sandy beaches are 30km away towards Otranto.

Family friendly accommodation:

The Gran Suite sleeps up to 6 in 2 double room and a twin, while Casa Margherita sleeps 4; both have kitchens for self-catering. The spacious Double Rooms are good for families (all can fit a rollaway bed or baby cot), and the Suites also have living rooms with daybeds that can be made up as single beds. All rooms have bathtubs and showers.

Families Should Know:

The pool is unfenced. Although there are restaurants within walking distance, the pavements along the roads leave much to be desired and aren't safe to navigate with a buggy

Distances:

  • Shops: 1 minute
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
8/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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