Posted: Jul 24, 2017
A Key West Realtor in Italy - Part IV
Santa Caterina, Nardò, Province Lecce

This is my 4th trip to Italy in four years.  Each trip as entertaining, rewarding and beautiful as the previous.  At every turn I am charmed by the graciousness of the Italian people and eyes wide open at the natural beauty of the land and sea.  To live amidst such graciousness and timeless beauty would be a dream.  And yet not just a dream, as property; be it apartment, villa, castle, old, renovated or new, is not out of reach.  If your dream is to live in Italy, there are properties galore from which to choose.  The purchase process is not unwieldy and, if you choose to not live there year 'round, securing and maintaining the property in your absence is not a difficulty.


My trip in September 2014 began as a 10-day tour organized by the National Association of Realtors and covered the Amalfi Coast, Capri, Rome and Florence. Afterwards, I continued on my own to Siena, Milan and the gorgeous lake regions in the north of Italy.  My trip in September 2015 focused on northwestern Sicily in the hillsides east of Palermo then on to Siena and Tuscany for 8 days. My trip in Oct - Nov 2016 toured the province of Puglia, beginning in Lecce and the southern region of Salento, once considered far western Mesopotomia.  Also included were a few days each in Ostuni, Bari and again Siena.


For 2017 I returned to Puglia, beginning again in Lecce but then to the northern region around the Gargano Peninsula plus a 4 day side trip to the ancient stone city of Matera. 


Most of my travels have been by bus or train, itself an adventure!


Triumphal Arch or Porta Napoli

The city of Lecce pre-dates the Roman era (Eta Romana).  Its glorious Old Town contains numerous historic sites; Roman amphitheater, multiple churches and magnificient archways that mark the ancient entrances to town.


My friend and Broker, Viktoria Kim has her office just steps from the historic district.  Kim is a very likeable and astute businesswoman.  She is a native of Puglia and is the Broker/License Partner of three offices for the global real estate company Engel & Voelkers.  Kim's offices are located in Gallipoli, Lecce and Bari.  Kim and her staff can find you the perfect property overlooking the Adriatic, Ionian or Mediterranean Sea, an inland property in any of the many beautiful and tranquil (and olive or wine producing) towns in Salento or an inner city apartment, rich in historic architecture and character.


Trenitalia service into southern Puglia ends at Lecce. For train and bus service south, into Salento, use Ferrovie del Sud Est.


The city of Matera, and particularly the ancient section called Sassi, is the location of some of the first human settlements in Italy.  The dwellings were literally dug into the rock of calcium carbonate, forming small pockets of living areas not more than caverns.  Today, these caverns in the Sassi have been restored and modernized and are used by guesthouses and restaurants for the thriving tourist industry.


Matera has a turbulent history of conquest and rebellion even unto the modern era when it became the first Italian city to rise up against German occupation.  While in Matera I read some stories in a pictorial history of the town that spoke of abject poverty, pestilence and disease, as recent as the 1950's and 1960's.  Yet with the combination of government and private funding Sassi is restored, Matera thrives and, since 1993, Sassi has been recognized as one of Italy's fifty-three UNESCO World Heritage sites.


Train service to Matera (for instance from Bari) is provided by Ferrovie Appulo Lucane.


Vieste and the Church of San Francesco

My Italian professoressa (nata Rimini) recommended Viesta and the Gargano Peninsula.  The area is a fabulous combination of natural and rugged beauty, land and sea.  Vieste is a coastal city with flat, sandy beaches to the south, a wide natural harbor with a public beach and abundant historic attractions.  I took a 90 minute ferry to the neighboring Tremiti Islands and had the opportunity to swim in the most delicious Adriatic.  Robin's egg blue water with 50' visibility.


I saw a few apartments for sale in the historic district of Vieste. They were promoted by Re/Max but the only Re/Max office in the region I could find is located in a town south of Vieste called Manfredonia.


Mattinata and the Sea

The small, hillside town of Mattinata is on the southern coast of the Gargano and lays about 3km in from the sea. Whitewashed buildings lay close to one another along narrow, serpentine streets. As with all the towns in the area, streets are abandoned in the afternoon.  As the sun subsides, townspeople and travelers stroll and greet and celebrate. From the top of Mattinatta, olive groves stretch in every direction. Within the groves; cattle, horses and goats graze.


The long, narrow beach is made of smooth, dark pebbles, not easy on the feet.  Wear any old shoes to enter and exit the ocean as the shoreline into the water is somewhat steep. 


There were several B&B's and guesthouses in the area but I saw no real estate that was obviously for sale. It is my experience that the practice in Italy is that most properties for sale do not display a sign. 



As with the rest of Puglia, (the region of) Manfredonia has an ancient past, beginning with the Greeks and proceeding by conquest through Romans, Turks and competing European powers.  The town is tight upon the sea as the southern edge of the Gargano mountains and hillsides are directly to the north of town.


The harbor of predominantly fishing boats is well protected and you can walk to the very end of the hook-shaped jetty. Most activity is near to the bay, but if you walk inland away from the travelers area and into the residential area like I did (and do) you'll find some excellent pizzerias and small stores selling the most delicious and just harvested figs, plums, nectarines and other fresh produce.


Trenitalia service (from Foggia) ends at Manfredonia. Continue onto Mattinatta and Vieste by bus.


Historic District Gallipoli


There is commuter air service, Alitalia, into Puglia from the excellent regional airports of Bari and Brindisi.  I have used them both.  On this trip I trained from Manfredonia to Foggia to Brindisi, spent the night at an excellent hotel in town, a 20 minute walk from the train station, and taxied the next morning to the airport and home.


Puglia is a delightful region; unspoiled in natural beauty of people and place. The Adriatic is delicious and bountiful.  The land is arid but fertile, producing an abundance of fruit and grain.  It is no wonder that ancient mariners found the region so desireable. 


If you have any comments or questions, please contact me here.


Good luck!


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