Nineteenth-century splendour meets contemporary design at Puglian hotel, Palazzo Daniele, a mansion celebrating the best of Italian art, design and hospitality. Owned by the same family since 1861, the palazzo was a private home until owner Francesco Petrucci joined forces with art collector Gabriele Salini – the man behind fellow Smith stay G Rough. Period features were restored and outdated furnishings stripped away, replaced by modern, minimalist designs and the pair’s covetable art collection. The other thing that’s changed is the atmosphere – there’s little doubt of the palazzo’s aristocratic pedigree, but guests are now treated like part of the family. You can chat with the chef in the kitchen, dine where you please and – if you’re lucky – get an art and architecture tour from the owner.
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from $253.37 (€230), excluding tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include a Continental breakfast.
Co-owner Francesco Petrucci is one of the founders of Capo d’Arte, a not-for-profit organisation promoting the work of contemporary artists from around the world. Recently, residencies have been hosted in the local village and at the imposing Villa Medici in Rome.
The hotel closes for part of the winter each year, usually over January and February.
At the hotel
Grand living rooms, gardens, free WiFi throughout, laundry. In rooms: Marshall Bluetooth speaker, free bottled water, Grown Alchemist bath products.
Our favourite rooms
All nine suites have splendid period features, including mosaic floors, fresco-swirled ceilings and artwork worthy of a national gallery. Each one makes a sonnet-worthy setting, but perhaps our favourite feature is the bathroom in the Royal Junior Suite, which has a six-metre-high ceiling with steep arches, giving it an almost monastic look. As if that wasn’t dramatic enough, the rainfall shower is suspended from the centre of the ceiling, cascading into a circular stone basin set on decorative tiles.
The 12m pool is in the garden, clad in dark tiles that make the water seem a deep, inky blue. It’s unheated and surrounded by a flagstone terrace with daybeds and lounge chairs. In summer, a tapas bar springs up at the side, serving cooling cocktails and snacks throughout the day.
There’s a sauna at the far side of the pool.
Something romantic to read in the orange grove or by the inky pool.
The palazzo’s historic layout means it isn’t suited to wheelchair users.
Ask for a table to be set in the courtyard, where you’ll be able to see the stars on clear nights.
Dining at the palazzo is an informal affair, but the surroundings may inspire a desire to dress up.
True to its roots as a private home, the hotel doesn't have a restaurant. Instead, local chef Donata Rizzo works from a sleek but informal kitchen – informal in the sense that you can pull up a chair and chat over a glass of wine as she prepares an Apulian feast from scratch. All meals except breakfast are on request, and you’ll need to give at least 24 hours’ notice – Donata works with the best organic ingredients she can get her hands on, so she needs time to visit her favourite markets and suppliers in the local area. The cuisine is regional but there’s no menu to speak of and the dishes change constantly – Donata's inspiration takes the lead. Where you eat is equally flexible: the kitchen, terrace and lobby area are all possibilities. The staff can also arrange candlelit private dinners in the domed Kaffeehaus, a sort of open-sided salon where house guests once gathered for coffee and conversation.
The honesty bar is in a living room known as the salotto, and is stocked with classic spirits, local wines and champagne. During the summer, a tapas bar is set up on the pool terrace, serving cocktails and light bites.
Breakfast is served from 8am to noon. Lunch and dinner are on request, so are flexible (within reason).
When she’s in the kitchen and not otherwise occupied, chef Donata can rustle up snacks like French toast, bruschetta and tomato-topped friselle.
Corso Umberto I, 60, 73034 Gagliano del Capo LE, Italy
Gagliano del Capo
Palazzo Daniele is in the heart of Gagliano del Capo, a coastal comune in southern Puglia.
Brindisi is the best place to touch down, and is a 90-minute drive from the hotel. One-way private transfers can be arranged for €180.
Hiring a car makes a lot of sense: you’ll have easy access to the coast, and day trips (to the beautiful baroque city of Lecce, for example) will be much simpler. (You’ll need to find a parking space in the surrounding streets as there isn’t any parking on site.)
Worth getting out of bed for
The care and craftsmanship that went into the palazzo’s restoration makes it an inherently atmospheric place to relax. It isn’t enormous as manors go, but it’s unlikely you’ll tire of its intricate mosaic floors, soaring ceilings and arresting art collection, made up of everything from 19th-century family portraits to cutting-edge installations by some of Italy’s brightest stars. The staff – or one of the owners, if you’re lucky – are always happy to share their knowledge about the house, its art and gardens. Chef Donata's stylish kitchen is open to all, so you can chat to her about Puglian cooking as she prepares the evening meal. If you want to get hands on, she also runs traditional cooking classes in which you’ll learn how to make regional classics like orecchiette.
When it comes to activities beyond the hotel, your first point of call should be the staff – they’re positively brimming with tips on the best towns, wineries and secluded stretches of coastline. On the other hand, you could opt for the hotel’s Vintage Tour, and have an expert guide all to yourselves. You'll cut right to the heart of Salento's sun-kissed soul on this four-hour tour, journeying through the countryside in vintage cars from the Sixties and Seventies. You'll stop at several unspoiled towns, sampling regional delicacies in laid-back local bars. For more culture hits, don’t miss the island town of Gallipoli, reachable only by sea or a 16th-century bridge. If you’re after a sandy beach (most of the local ones are rocky), try Spiaggia di Pescoluse, a wide stretch of sand that’s popular with holidaying Italians. For wild swimming with a dramatic backdrop, make the short trip to the Grotta Aspro, where the aquamarine water is overlooked by rugged white cliffs.
If you’re wandering around Gagliano del Capo, stop in at 24-hour gelato joint Central Bar (on Via Margherita di Savoia), where scoops are best enjoyed on the terrace outside. Soulful Italian fare can be found at Locanda del Levante, a rustic restaurant in the nearby town of Tricase (find it on Piazza Antonio dell'Abate). Choose from the vaulted dining room or one of the alfresco tables, and let the waiters guide you towards their recommendations (the menu isn’t particularly extensive, but there are several classics). For a waterfront dinner, book a table on the terrace at Profumo di Mare, a more formal option in seaside town Torre Vado.
Farmacia Balboa was a pharmacy in its former life, but these days it provides prescriptions of another sort. The cocktails here are made with organic ingredients sourced from local farms and markets, and are refreshingly wallet friendly to boot.
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 art-filled palazzo in Puglia and unpacked their books on Italian modernism, a full account of their southern Italy break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Palazzo Daniele in Puglia…
Questa casa non è un albergo – this house is not a hotel. So reads the slogan for Palazzo Daniele, and it doesn’t take much digging to discover its meaning. Since it opened its doors as a guesthouse, the 150-year-old palazzo has echoed the tastes of its two owners: Francesco Petrucci – a direct descendant of the family that have lived there since it was built – and Gabriele Salini, who also owns 10-suite Roman hotel G Rough. Enthusiastic art collectors with ties to artists in Italy and abroad, the pair have a clear idea of what the house is all about: art, design and the best kind of Italian hospitality. They invited some of their favourite contemporary artists to design furnishings and fittings for the house, using a minimalistic approach to bring out its splendour rather than muddle the design with the usual hotel trappings. Then there’s the family-style kitchen, an open room staffed by a local chef, Donata Rizzo, who prepares traditional Pugliese meals whenever you want them. There are no menus and no dress codes – you even get to choose where you want to eat.
Like his forefathers, Francesco is still very much a resident, too. If you’re lucky enough to catch him, he might just treat you to a tour of the art and architecture with some of the family history thrown in – a family that you’ll come away feeling a part of too.
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