Any stay at Palazzo Presta comes with a side of cachet: not only have you secured an alluring spot in the old town, but in Gallipoli, the walled centro storicois on an exclusive Puglian islet lapped by the aquamarine Ionian (well played so far). Zooming in on this stylish locale still further, your booking prowess is clear – Palazzo Presta has just 10 rooms, each dressed to seduce with destination-inspired interiors curating antique furniture, original features, sumptuous colour and decorative detail (way to go). Then there’s its rooftop bar and glossy-tiled restaurant, ensuring there’s plenty to fall for beyond the bedroom – not least its sea-lapped setting beside Purità beach (mic drop)…
Get this when you book through us:
Aperitivo (a glass of wine, beer or a cocktail each and nibbles) at the rooftop bar
Double rooms from £127.61 (€147), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.50 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include buffet breakfast and a selection of hot dishes (eggs, pancakes, avocado on toast) cooked to order.
The hotel’s interior designer, Alessandro Cesario, is the original owner of (equally stylish) Smith favourite Aethos Milan. As well as an intimate den for drinks, the hotel’s bar tucked behind the bookshop doubles as a private cinema, but you’ll need to book. Given the surfeit of seafood restaurants here, you’ll find little culinary variety in Gallipoli if you don’t eat fish.
The hotel is open from 1 April until 31 December.
At the hotel
Rooftop bar, rooftop terrace, restaurant, library, private bar/meeting space. In rooms: free WiFi, smart TV, minibar, free bottled water, beach towels and custom-made bath products.
Our favourite rooms
No requests for individual rooms can be guaranteed but luckily all 10 rooms bewitch with original details, antique furniture and clever use of colour. Superior suites Souk and El Fenn and (junior suite) Nosy Be come with original brick ceilings; we love the rich, red interiors and Juliet balcony of (superior suite) Marrakech. Book a deluxe suite for private outdoor space: all three come with a private terrace.
No pool, but you’re just a minute’s walk from favoured old-town beach Spiaggia della Purità.
As varied and international as the rooms: either harem pants, Asian silks, kimono jackets and spice-bright hues or simple, neutral threads in linen or twill.
All room types at Palazzo Presta are called suites – so if you’re after a multi-room stay, opt for a superior. Sadly this 17th-century stay is not wheelchair-accessible.
Tables at Lazzero & Caterina are in a series of adjoining rooms, some nearer the hotel lobby, some by the bar, so you’ll want to mix it up. On the stylish tiled terrace at Laurus, top table is dictated by your choice of sun or shade.
Flowing white linen and big shades for the terrazza; classic black or a timeless dress for Lazzero & Caterina. Mr Smiths should aim to up their shorts-and-T-shirt game with either longs or a smarter shirt (or both).
Lazzero & Caterina is a moodily lit restaurant and bar at street level that opens for dinner – lined in petrel blue ceramic tiles, softened with upholstered benches, wicker chairs and potted palms. The cuisine here is Italian and mostly meat free (you’ll need to love seafood) with inventive plates such as seared scallops in violet dashi broth, ricotta-stuffed squid and black fettuccine with sea urchins. It’s also where breakfast is served each morning: a buffet of continental choices – pastries, yogurt, fruit and granola – plus avocado on toast, pancakes or eggs cooked to order. At Terrazza Laurus on the roof, a menu of tapas and tartare is intended to accompany its cocktail list and features innovative plates including monkfish polpette, popcorn tempura prawns and salmon and guacamole tacos.
On the first floor an alfresco terrace is tiled in ivory, dotted with pot plants, Seventies-style rattan chairs and tables: Terrazza Laurus is foremost about cocktails – signature blends laced with innovative ingredients such as bergamot, rooibos tea, lavender, pecan bourbon or sour cherry liqueur. Puglian wines, franciacorta and champagne are yours to order by the bottle. At cool-tiled sanctuary Lazzero & Caterina, a small bar with a handful of high stools sits at the heart of the restaurant and caters to the aperitivo crowd with wine, cocktails (such as dirty margaritas and martinis) and bottled beer. For a private drink or special occasion, you can reserve exclusive use of the secret bar behind the library.
Breakfast is served 8am–10.30am and dinner, 7pm–11pm.
Available for breakfast, 8am–10.30am and for dinner and drinks, 7pm–11pm.
Palazzo Presta is in the old town of Gallipoli, on the west coast of Puglia, Italy’s southern heel.
Salento (an hour’s drive from the hotel) and Bari (two hours and 10 minutes away by road) are the nearest airports. The hotel can arrange private transfers (price on request).
Gallipoli has a train station with rail connections via Lecce. From the station, it’s only a kilometre and a half to the hotel – private transfers can be arranged from €15 each way.
Leave your wheels at the port car park 250 metres from Palazzo Presta and book a golf buggy (through the hotel) to collect you from there.
Located in a car-restricted area in Gallipoli’s old town, the hotel requests that you get in touch regarding transport ahead of arrival.
Worth getting out of bed for
Puglia has much to offer – be it coastline or countryside: in west-coast Gallipoli, you’re on the Ionian side, with beaches such as Baia Verde, a sweeping bay which runs south of the town as far as Torre del Pizzo, Lido Conchiglie and Rivabella, plus (nearest the hotel) Spiaggia della Purità. Away from the sea, this is a land of olive groves and vineyards: the negromaro grape is native here and typically used in Salento vintages including those produced in Alezio, a baroque town east of Gallipoli. The hotel can arrange bike tours to explore the area, as well as winery visits (including wine tastings and sampling local delicacies). For a better understanding of Salento’s culinary traditions, book a cookery lesson with Palazzo Presta’s chef. Gallipoli’s centro storico is home to a medieval castle, Sant’Agata cathedral and underground oil presses from Gallipoli’s days as a major producer of lamp oil – the museum at Frantoio Ipogeo di Palazzo Granafei can teach you more.
The conservatory veranda at fish restaurant Trattoria La Puritate is the place to enjoy stuffed mussels, tuna tartare, cuttlefish with garlic and tomatoes, mullet or scampi. Overlooking the sea, Il Bastione is a sky blue dining room of linened tables serving sumptuous seafood such as baked sea bream, fried swordfish and grilled Gallipoli prawns. A seafront terrace makes La Vinaigrette hard to resist: everything from carpaccio to pasta to elegant secondi showcases fresh, locally caught seafood, including lobster and octopus.
A trio of gourmet sandwich shops has landed in Gallipoli courtesy of Scafùd, where you can wash down your panino, bruschetta or salad with a glass of local wine or craft beer – its nearest outpost from the hotel is on Via de Pace Antonio.
It’s Wednesday night and, after what can only be described as an ‘adventurous’ time in Brindisi, Mr Smith and I decided we should get a taxi down to Gallipoli. During said adventure, which I’m sure when we write our autobiography will make for an interesting chapter, I gave Davide (the hotel manager) a call saying we’d be running a bit late…
By ‘a bit late’ I mean we may need to check-in at midnight.
‘That’s not a problem’ he reassures us (although I’m sure it is) and Davide didn’t hesitate to wait up. Thankfully we arrived a few hours before, I’m sure to his joy too.
The taxi, just under an hour’s drive from Brindisi, dropped us off just right at the end of the mainland bridge. Palazzo Presta is in the old town, a five minute walk from the mainland and, as we stroll the narrow streets, we see the reason Gallipoli’s direct translation is ‘beautiful city’.
Presta’s entrance was unassuming, but we rang and there he was: our saviour Davide. I have to say, there was such a juxtaposition of the hotel and its surroundings that made it stand out for us. It immediately felt like being spirited far away from southern Italy.
Inside, it’s like a world tour of interiors, each room paying homage to a different destination. Our room took us to East Asia, Japan in particular, its walls a bold blue colour, and lined with antiques that brought to life a globetrotter’s dream.
While I guess we arrived in the low-season, and it’s home to only 10 rooms, the hotel felt like ours and ours alone – there was a certain calmness and familiarity that the staff provided throughout our stay.
Once we settled down, we made our way to Lazaro & Caterina, the restaurant and bar situated on the ground floor, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mr Smith so excited about a slice of pizza in my life.
‘This is the freshest pizza I’ve ever had!’ he exclaimed.
And then, of course, there was the fish. It would be sacrilege to go to a seaside town and not eat seafood. All I can say is that after that meal, we knew that our stay was going to be memorable.
The next morning I popped out to the terrace and was greeted with a glimpse of the sea and, just below, the conversations of local nonnas sitting by their homes and stores played out. Exactly what I imagined southern Italy to be.
With Mr Smith still fast asleep, I took the time to just… breathe. I know, it sounds a bit strange, but there’s something about the wonderful Ionian sea view, and the beautiful clear sky that makes you pause.
Walking through the old town later, the pastel colours and baroque buildings were enough for us to contemplate packing up and moving here for a simpler life.
We didn’t really have a plan to be honest, we just wanted to see where the days took us. With that, I guess, we seemed to forget that restaurants shut for lunch service at 3pm. Thankfully we arrived at Amu fish restaurant in the nick of time – and managed to find ourselves a spot overlooking the sea.
While the view was breathtaking, the food also brought joy to my heart. Yes, I’m being dramatic, but I love pasta – and this was some of the best. To be honest every single meal I had on this island was just incredible.
We went back to the hotel to freshen up. The day was long, and we knew we needed to recharge our batteries for, well, pasta round two. We started our evening walking towards the mainland – its main street weirdly reminded me of LA with its palm trees and buildings. Gallipoli was more than I had imagined.
As we made our way back into the old town, we stumbled across the castle (although to be honest you can’t exactly miss it). We stopped off for some gelato at Ristorante La Vinaigrette.
The one task I had given Mr Smith was initially met with panic and blame. I’d simply asked for a vanilla ice-cream to which he panicked that he had ordered cheese ice-cream and he wasn’t going to go back to change it because he was shy, and it was somehow my fault. Safe to say, he did in fact order vanilla, and it tasted great. Turns out his 30 minutes on Duolingo had paid off!
To finish off our night in peaceful Gallipoli, we had a wonderful dinner at Il Bastione and did our last loop around the seafront. There was something so romantic and quaint about this town – no frills, no performance, just beauty in the simplest of things. Much like Palazzo Presta, really, although we really loved its frills.