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Only the Puglia region could still hide such a treasure of history and architecture. This former palace, which once became a monastery and is now a hotel, showcases the refinement of its owners and the know-how of ancient Italian builders through its dazzling renaissance. With a series of living rooms and patios, elegant decor, majestic volumes through which the light gently weaves and the soothing song of the interior fountain, we instinctively lower our voices and raise our eyes to allow this delicate splendour to take centre stage as it revives the senses and sharpens the gaze. The sun shines generously outside and the region is one of the most beautiful you will ever discover.
My wife, my daughter and I decided to settle in Puglia, in Nardo, after having lived in Paris for ten years in order to seek a new way of life between sea and city in a splendid region. We saw the enormous potential that this city had to offer, especially in the tourism sector. Everything was waiting to be developed. Nardo, very close to the seaside with crystal clear waters, had an exceptional heritage which needed to be enhanced. It was as if this city had been asleep for years without anyone considering its incredible wealth. This city needed to be revived and be just as recognised by travelers as its neighbours Gallipoli and Lecce. It needed selective tourism that would be sensitive to its heritage and appreciate the authenticity and calm. There is a unique atmosphere in the central square where time seems to have stopped. We accidentally discovered the monastery located in the very heart of the historic centre which nobody seemed to be aware of, not even the heirs. We were overwhelmed with emotion the first time we saw the architectural richness of the interior and imagined the restoration that could be done to revive this place. For some, this project might have seemed excessive, but for us, everything was possible.
This monastery has a very unique architectural feature. The building was originally built with the intention of it becoming a noble residence. The layout of the rooms therefore does not resemble that of a monastery but that of a palace. In the hall on the ground floor, with a ceiling height of twelve metres, 16th century decorations were carved in Lecce stone by renowned architect Maria Giovanni Tarantino. The monastery also has many frescoes which have remained intact.
This building was built in the Middle Ages (1376) as a noble residence for the Sambiasi family. After many years and successive owners, the heirs left the palace to live in Rome, at the Villa Borghese. They then decided to make a donation to the Vatican in 1676 with the clause that it be transformed into a monastery. It therefore became the monastery of Santa Teresa - of the Carmelites "Scalze" - for one hundred and thirty four years. In 1810, Joaquim Murat, procurator of the king at the time of Napoleon, had the monastery sequestrated like all ecclesiastical property. The monastery was sold to an aristocratic family of French origin and then to a nobleman, Giacinto Zuccaro. In 1972, the property was sold. After being unoccupied for several years, we were lucky to discover this place and buy it in 2016.
In addition to the classic hotel services, we offer a special welcome to our guests. We offer them a guided tour of the monastery presenting its history and the architectural particularities of the place. We personalise each suggestion for activities whether they are in the city or the surroundings. We can also organise guided tours of the palaces in the historic centre and eclectic-style villas located on the road to the sea. We can also arrange boat rentals for a trip at sea with or without a private skipper. We also organise elegant dinners in different noble palaces with a chef. On site, we offer cooking classes, wine or olive oil tastings, gymnastics, pilates classes and yoga retreats. The monastery also exhibits works of art arranged in the various communal areas.
We recommend going through the charming Masseria Brusca to buy cheese, country bread and honey. It is a building of architectural value that is worth a detour. This masseria also has an extraordinary secret garden open to the public only on an organised guided tour. We highly recommend Il Mignano in the heart of the historic centre, as restaurant in a magnificent baronal palace with a prestigious entrance under the "mignano" (private balcony) and a panoramic terrace with a view over the rooftops of the city. The menu is very good value for money and the cuisine is refined. Also in the historic centre between the cathedral and the Salandra square, we recommend two spots - a very original artisanal jewelry and local clothing shop and La Piemontese, a pâtisserie serving famous cream puffs that will delight everyone. The regional park of Porto Selvaggio, unique with eight kilometres by the sea, can be explored along the rocky coast or through the pine forest. There is a sensational view from the heights of the observation tower from the Middle Ages. It is also worth knowing that one of the most important archaeological and prehistoric sites in Europe is located within the park itself.
The Monastery regularly hosts seminars. The rooms are all located in the same building, but we also have two other structures attached to the monastery. We therefore have a total of twenty-four rooms spread over three structures, each with a bathroom, and three apartments with kitchens. The restaurant is located in a second structure five hundred meters away. If requested in advance, we offer cooking classes, wine and olive oil tastings, gym classes, pilates, yoga and more on site.
We organise yoga retreats in July.
We organise cooking classes and olive oil tastings all year round.
Whether permanant or temporary exhibits, various works of contemporary art are displayed throughout the communal areas.
Guided hikes in the Porto Selvaggio park can be organised upon request.
We offer guided tours of the monastery with a focus on the history and architectural features.