A farmhouse turned luxury vacation rental, Masseria Petrarolo in Puglia combines rustic warmth with elegance. Nine bedrooms in the villa and pool house are set in olive and citrus groves.
How would you describe Villa Pizzorusso in a nutshell?
Villa Pizzorusso is a historic ‘masseria’ turned into a luxury holiday villa located on Via Appia Antica — the old Appian Way, which connected Rome to Brindisi — in the southern Italian region of Puglia, the ‘heel of the boot.’
Tell us a little about the history of Villa Pizzorusso please.
Masserias are one of Puglia’s two indigenous rural architectural structures, along with the conical trulli. Masserias were walled (to protect them from Puglia’s many invaders), self-sustaining farm compounds. They were an integral part of life of the region until the early part of the 20th century. The oldest sections of Pizzorusso date to the 1500s. A ‘piano nobile’ (owner’s floor) was added in the early 1800s. The Moorish and neo-classic design elements including the five cupolas, floor tile work, frescoed ceilings, and grand arched entry and windows date from that time. Villa Pizzorusso had been abandoned for over 50 years when we began its restoration ten years ago.
What made you decide on this part of Italy, Puglia?
I am from Puglia, and moved to the States for school and work about 20 years ago. It was always a dream of mine to have a home here. This dream came true when we found this place. We weren’t looking for anything quite as grand as this, but we saw this property and fell in love with it. So we decided to throw all reason out the window and figure out how to make it work.
What was your inspiration to rent the masseria to holiday guests?
We understood how ambitious this restoration would be when we saw it, and we knew it would become a different kind of project — not just for us but a holiday rental for others to enjoy as well. Villa Pizzorusso has now been our love and obsession for the almost five years.
Tell us a bit about the restoration of the villa.
We used a local architect, Mino D’Astore, and a local contractor, Salatore Medardi of Medardi SRL, a company that has specialised in historic renovations for four generations. We all agreed on what was most important — to preserve as much of the original detail of the villa as possible.
We restored the tile floors, the stone work and salvaged what we could of the frescoes in the two upstairs bedrooms. We introduced modern elements while respecting the structure and history of the house. We wanted the villa to retain its soul. We also found local antiques — at fairs, flea markets, and through family — that we could imagine could have always been there.
What has been the biggest reward about renting out the villa?
We are happiest when holiday guests appreciate the culture of Puglia and how Pizzorusso is connected with it. When people fall into the natural rhythms of the region — sun, sea, food, wine, people — they get the most out of the house and their time in Puglia.
Please tell us a little bit about Puglia.
Puglia is a surrounded by the sea (in fact two, the Adriatic and the Ionian) and holds a strategic position in the Mediterranean. Because of that position, Puglia has a complex history of invasion and occupation dating back to the 8th century B.C. The indigenous Messapian culture was overtaken by Greeks, Byzantines, Romans, Turks, Normans, Bourbons, Saracens, Dalmatian pirates and Slovenians, among others. All of these influences have created a layered and rich culture.
Puglia is the largest producer of olive oil in Italy and is the largest grape producing region. The wines of Puglia are spectacular — from the full reds (Primitivo, Negroamaro) to rosés to light fruity whites. The wheat produces some of Italy finest pastas and breads. And the seafood is always abundant and fresh. Puglia has not yet been fully ‘discovered’ and is still ‘authentic’.