Matino, Italy

Palais Gentile

Style

Pared-back palazzo

Setting

Slow living in Salento

If you don’t possess a Puglian pad of your own, Palais Gentile is the next best thing: an intimate, 18th-century palazzo with space for a handful of guests. Restored by a team of local artisans, it’s a masterclass in old-meets-new, with its whitewashed walls, original tiles and bespoke, blown-glass lights. It’s set in the small town of Matino, within easy reach of Baia Verde’s beaches; you can see the sea from its rooftop terrace – over breakfast or a sunset glass of rosé. Inland, Baroque towns like Lecce are an easy drive, past sun-baked farmland and silvery olive groves. This far south, though, the pace is slow, and it’s all about la dolce far niente – letting time slip idly by, doing as little as you possibly can.

Smith Extra

Get this when you book through us:

Local delicacies and a sunset aperitivo on the terrace

Facilities

Photos Palais Gentile facilities

Need to know

Rooms

Four; two deluxe rooms and two suites.

Check–Out

12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Luggage storage is available on request.

Also

The hotel’s chic speckled bowls and plates are from Grottaglie, famed for its handmade ceramics and a 90-minute drive away. Pick up a set of your own at Ceramiche d’Arte Carriero.

At the hotel

Rooftop terrace. In rooms: Illy espresso machine, tea-making kit, air conditioning, Salvatore Ferragamo bath products, minibar.

Our favourite rooms

All four rooms are along the same artfully pared-back lines, with whitewashed walls, bespoke bedside lights and discreetly luxurious details, like the Frette bed linen and honey-hued Lecce limestone bathrooms. Deluxe room Two has the most original features, with its vaulted ceiling, geometric tiles and fireplace – cleverly repurposed as a shower. The two suites are more spacious, with separate sitting rooms and sofa beds. Ask for the Suite Matino, with its tiny balcony, and watch local life go (slowly) by.

Packing tips

Bring a backgammon set for unhurried games, lounging on the rooftop’s day beds. The summer sun can be fierce this far south, especially if you’re bound for the beach; come prepared with a fan and wide-brimmed hat, and borrow one of the hotel’s beach umbrellas.

Also

In-room treatments and massages can be arranged on request.

Children

Children of all ages are welcome but this is a fairly old building, so there isn’t a kids’ club or creche and small fry will need close supervision on the stone staircases, cement-tiled floors and roof terrace. Family rooms are available, however, and sta

Sustainability efforts

The hotel’s committed to recycling and reducing plastics use, and rooms have showers rather than baths to save water. In summer, solar panels generate most of the electricity.

Food and Drink

Photos Palais Gentile food and drink

Dress Code

Breezy and informal, with oversized shades – it’s bright even at breakfast-time.

Hotel restaurant

Breakfast is served on the rooftop, below a shady bamboo loggia, or in your room on request. It’s a seasonal, local produce-fuelled affair with pastries, fruit and savouries. Expect something different every day; a local cheese, handsome apricot crostata or crêpes rustled up by the owner. There’s no restaurant at the hotel, though Foscolo is a few doors down.

Hotel bar

There’s no bar, but you’re welcomed with a bottle of prosecco or Salentine wine. The owners always have additional supplies at hand, or can arrange aperitivo-hour snacks and drinks on the roof.

Location

Photos Palais Gentile location
Address
Palais Gentile
Via Gentile, 20
Matino
73046
Italy

Palais Gentile is set in the centro storico of the small town of Matino, on Puglia’s Salento peninsula. It’s a 20-minute drive to Baia Verde’s dreamy, white-sand beaches, and in easy reach of tourist-draw towns like Gallipoli and Lecce.

Planes

The closest airport is at Brindisi, around an hour’s drive away. Transfers can be arranged: €150 for up to three passengers; €300 for four to eight passengers. Alternatively, lots of international flights land at Bari, which is just under two-and-a-half hours away by car. If you’re planning to hire, it’s a pleasingly scenic journey along the coast and past the Instagram-familiar, cliff-perched town of Polignano a Mare.

Trains

The closest station is at Matino, but it’s very small and services are sporadic. Lecce’s station – around 40 minutes’ drive – is larger, with trains to Bari, Brindisi, Ostuni and other local towns.

Automobiles

Trains and buses do exist, but public transport isn’t Puglia’s forte. You’ll really need a car to explore its scattered towns, olive groves and cove-dotted coastline. There’s no onsite parking, but there are free spaces available a few minutes from the hotel.

Worth getting out of bed for

Salento’s exquisite Baroque towns are unquestionably worth an excursion, starting with Lecce, AKA ‘the Florence of the South’. It’s a dizzying profusion of columns, gargoyles and friezes, culminating in the insanely ornate Basilica di Santa Croce, carved with cavorting cherubs, dragons and dodos. Alternatively, head for Nardò – a less tourist-trodden Baroque beauty. On its main piazza, Caffè Parisi is a favourite with locals: follow their lead and order the spumone, a triumphant confection of toasted-almond slivers with pistachio and hazelnut gelato. On the coast, Gallipoli (‘the beautiful city’) is aptly named, with a sea-ringed centro storico. Stroll its fishing port, 14th-century sea walls and boutique-dotted backstreets (head to Nugae Galleria for jewellery from under-the-radar designers, and Blanc for ceramics, vintage finds and cocktails in the courtyard). 

 

Then, of course, there are the beaches, lapped by the Ionian sea. This side of the peninsula arguably has the edge over the east coast, whose swimming spots – though beautiful – tend to be craggy underfoot. Fifteen minutes’ drive from the hotel, Baia Verde offers white, dune-backed sands and sunny shallows, while the smaller, wilder coves at Punta Pizzo are edged with pines and gorse. 


If you’re feeling lazy (and a little spoiled for choice), the hotel can do the legwork, arranging cooking classes, sailing trips, or chauffeur-driven forays in a gleaming vintage Fiat.

Local restaurants

As luck would have it, one of Puglia’s most accomplished eateries is almost next door; the upscale Foscolo. After a martini at the ground-floor bar, head to the roof terrace for dinner, starting with the stellar seafood crudi with Gallipoli-fished purple shrimp. A few minutes’ walk away, the convivial Danilo Osteria Creativa is also strong on seafood, accompanied by a glass or two of Salentine rosé. In neighbouring Casarano, above the olive groves, is the hilltop Villa de Donatis, whose epic set menus follow the seasons with real flair (in summer, a confit-tomato Caprese, say, or aubergine parmigiana alla leccese). Desserts are a highlight, so save space – the tiramisù is sublime.

Local cafés

Two minutes’ walk from Palais Gentile, Caffè Arco Antico is a no-frills neighbourhood joint by the central piazza. Claim a pavement table and cool down with a caffè leccese; espresso, ice and a hint of almond milk. Every local bakery serves pasticciotto, Puglia’s cream-filled signature pastry, but for the definitive version (freshly baked and not too sweet) head to Pasticceria Andrea Ascalone in the charming nearby town of Galatina.

Local bars

Catch the sunset from Palais Gentile’s terrace with a glass of prosecco in hand, or ask the owners to arrange an aperitivo, with locally-made burrata and fennel-seed-sprinkled taralli. Another prime hangout for a sunset spritz is the rooftop at Palazzo BN in Lecce. Perched on top of the Banco di Napoli’s column-clad former HQ, it’s a sleek Campari bar, where olive and pomegranate trees frame show-stopper skyline views. The coast’s dotted with beach clubs but Solatio is a standout, with a cool, canvas-shaded deck and an excellent line in cocktails.

Reviews

Photos Palais Gentile reviews

Anonymous review

Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this handsome palazzo in Puglia and unpacked their spoils (local rosé and hand-painted ceramics), a full account of their stay will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Palais Gentile in Matino.

Even at first glimpse, Palais Gentile has a certain, indefinable charm; an 18th-century palazzo on a quiet backstreet in a sleepy Salentine town, with green-painted shutters, a tiny balcony, and cacti peeping over the rooftop. Its Franco-Italian owners originally had a house for family holidays in mind, before deciding to create a bijou boutique hotel. Inside, a narrow stone staircase leads to four rooms and suites, which are simple but beautifully considered. Geometric tiles – pleasingly cool underfoot – are mostly original, while new additions showcase local makers and materials, from sculptural blown-glass lights to pietra leccese-clad bathrooms. On the roof, a white-painted terrace brings Marrakesh’s riads to mind; think vintage rugs, clustered cacti, and cushion-strewn day beds.

Matino may not loom large on many tourist’s radars, but that’s precisely its charm. Expect unhurried espressos on the central square, and an early-morning chorus of church bells; cats dozing on shady windowsills, and alleys strung with washing lines. Tranquil though it is, you’re in easy reach of some of Puglia’s biggest draws, from the west coast’s show-stealing beaches to the walled coastal town of Gallipoli. Inland, you’ll find olive groves, rural masseria and ornate Baroque towns; just make sure you’re back in Matino for sunset aperitivi on the terrace.

You’ll also find Palais Gentile in: