After a long drive through the dry fields of grass and olive trees in the smouldering heat of the deep South of Italy, we finally reached our destination. It’s midday and the town is almost deserted, except for a dog sleeping under a tree and its owner, a vigilant pensioner watching our every move from his bench.
Gagliano del Capo is a town that time forgot. Close to the Southern most point of the heal of Italy, in Puglia, this sleepy town (especially when half its population are away by the beach) is the home of Francesco and a house that has been in his family for centuries. Palazzo Daniele stands proud and sombre in the centre square, a fortress of a building with tall walls and a large doorway, which from the street, gives very little of what lies inside.
Francesco returned to his roots a few years ago after spending time abroad, and started to use buildings around the town for Capo d’Arte, an arts festival running once a year. Last year, he decided to open his family home as a guest house. He brought in Palomba Serafini Associati to modernise the 150 year-old property, without loosing the essence of what makes the palazzo stand out. This year, with a few more rooms added and together with Gabriele Salini, they opened as a hotel. But this is no normal hotel, this is a palace.
As we entered the courtyard, we realised this was a majestic building hiding from the town what treasures were held inside. Stairs rose to either side and the sun played its game, by casting a dramatic triangular shadow. Ancient mosaic floors, eight meter vaulted ceilings and painted murals set the scene of grandeur, like a theatre waiting to show a play. When you have such a building to play with, what is needed? well, nothing much at all. Somewhere to hang your clothes, a comfy sofa, a lamp for reading and a bed with the softest lines. The rest is superfluous.
Through the communal areas we entered the kitchen, had a chat while sipping an iced coffee, before heading to the terrace and the pool. There, under the shade of a tree, we ate Southern Mediterranean dishes based on locally harvested food.
Throughout that journey we discovered all the nooks and crannies this palazzo had hidden.
Palazzo Daniele is more than a hotel, it’s a home.