June 5, 2023

Interview with the Owner of Two Masserias in Salento, Italy

Masseria Sant’Andrea and La Torre are beautiful properties nestled in the stunning Apulian …

By A.M.A Selections




Luxury holiday villa in Puglia near Lecce | Photo Source: A.M.A Selections

Masseria Sant’Andrea and La Torre are beautiful properties nestled in the stunning Apulian countryside. The homes are ideally located a short drive from the charming town of Martano, the beautiful beach of Torre Sant’Andrea, and within 20 minutes from Lecce, lovingly referred to as the ‘Florence of the South’. The Masseria Sant’Andrea boasts 5 bedrooms, panoramic vistas of the surrounding landscape, a large heated infinity pool and immaculate gardens adorned with olive trees. La Torre is a historic estate that is comprised of beautiful gardens, a stunning courtyard, two heated pools and eclectic, vibrant interiors.

The current owners, Stéphanie and Raoul, have lovingly restored these properties to the magnificent homes you see today. We sat down with Stéphanie, to find out more about their fascinating travels, home renovations, and what drew them to this magical part of Italy that they now call home.

Luxury villa rental in Puglia with pool and Italian gardens | Photo Source: A.M.A Selections

Tell us a bit more about yourself, do you have a background in hospitality?

We are a French-born couple and owners of boutique hotels and private homes for rentals in Argentina, Brazil, France, and now Italy. After beginning our life in France managing and owning Hotel Alpen Ruitor in Méribel and a restaurant on the shore of Lake Annecy, we decided for a change of pace in the year 2000. We chose Argentina and left with our three children. Twenty-three years later, after building Estancia El Colibri, buying and renovating House of Jasmines in Salta, and owning and running a farm, we decided to establish our base again in Europe and headed to Salento in the south of Apulia, Italy.

La Torre, Luxury Salento Villa for Rent | Photo Source: A.M.A Selections
Masseria Sant’Andrea, luxury vacation villa in Puglia | Photo Source: A.M.A Selections

Where are your two properties located and what drew you to this area of Italy?

Both of our properties are located in Salento, Puglia. We were in search of a Latin place, sunny, wild, and beautiful, with good food, but above all, nice people with smiles on their faces… La dolce vita in three words.

Being close to Sant’Andrea was a significant advantage as we believe it is one of the loveliest spots on the Adriatic coast. The beautiful city of Lecce, just a 20-minute drive away, was also crucial to us.

As part of our life project, we purchased a 40-acre property and completely renovated the three existing homes. We started with Masseria Sant’Andrea, which is available for rent throughout the year. We then renovated the historic La Torre for our private use, only available for rent during the month of August.

Additionally, we began producing our own olive oil, jams, and tomatoes on our 100% organic farm.

Beautiful Gardens of Historic Villa La Torre in Puglia, Italy | Photo Source: A.M.A Selections
Terrace at Luxury Masseria Sant’Andrea in Salento, Italy | Photo Source: A.M.A Selections
Kitchen at La Torre, Salento luxury holiday villa near Lecce | Photo Source: A.M.A Selections

What were the biggest challenges you faced with the renovations?

We completed the renovations in three different phases: Masseria Sant’Andrea was renovated throughout 2020 and 2021, La Maison (a section of La Torre) was renovated in 2021, and the remaining structure of La Torre underwent renovation from the end of 2021 to March 2023.

Following this timeline, we had ample time to try, change, and adapt different contractors and artisans in order to create a nice and professional team around us. The first challenge we encountered was the language barrier, but it ultimately helped us quickly learn a fourth language. Another challenge was surrounding ourselves with the best professionals in each field. Drawing from our experience in building and renovations in South America and France, we knew exactly what we wanted and made sure to be on-site before them in the morning to ensure everything was done to our specifications. Despite not being accustomed to the level of finishing and attention to detail we desired, we had no choice but to be there and oversee the process.

After three years of hard work, we firmly believe that our Italian dream has becomeone of the nicest properties we have ever owned.

Dining Room at Masseria Sant’Andrea in Puglia | Photo Source: A.M.A Selections
Bedroom Suite at La Torre, Luxury Puglia Villa Rental | Photo Source: A.M.A Selections

Tell us about your design choices – Where did you draw inspiration from?

I worked on the design while my husband, Raoul, took care of the technical issues. For Masseria Sant’Andrea, my goal was to create a Masseria that I would have loved to rent when we first arrived but couldn’t find. Like all our renovations, I collaborated closely with local artisans and made it a priority to respect the local style.

Regarding La Torre, it serves as our private home. I wanted each space to be unique and evoke memories of the important places and countries we have lived in or loved: Brazil, Bahia, Argentina, Jamaica, France, and of course, Italy. The house tells the story of our globetrotting life. As you can see from the pictures, I prefer to have colors that uplift me in the morning.

The outdoor living area is not your typical living space. The furniture and decorations were chosen as if it were an indoor living area. In Salento, we embrace an outdoor lifestyle and frequently host friends, so it was crucial for the house to be warm and welcoming for our children, grandchildren, and friends.

Outdoor Living at Holiday Rental Masseria Sant’Andrea | Photo Source: A.M.A Selections
Beautiful Courtyard at Luxury Rental, La Torre | Photo Source: A.M.A Selections

Which is your favorite space at each villa and why?

Masseria Sant’Andrea: To be honest, I love every single part of it. The Trullo shower is a must, especially in the evening with its delicate lighting. The outside terrace is the perfect spot to hang around, read, or have a drink. I absolutely love it.

La Torre: The main courtyard and its old stone pool are stunning from morning to night.

Murano Green Leaf Lamps at La Torre, luxury Puglia Villa| Photo Source: A.M.A Selections

What design feature or furniture do you love most?

Every single piece of furniture has been sought out in antique markets and vintage shops across various locations in Italy such as the North, Calabria, and Sicily. We have also incorporated family heirlooms, ensuring that nothing new was purchased. As a result, each light and piece of furniture has its own history, contributing to the unique character of the houses.

One of my personal favorites is the chandelier in Masseria Sant’Andrea, an amazing Stilnovo piece made of brass from the 1970s. In La Maison, the guest house at La Torre, I adore my Indian feather from Brazil and my Murano green leaf lamps. As for La Torre, we have an incredible limited edition old Jaguar Type E for children, which hangs on the living room wall. Additionally, our centenary-old olive tree serves as a remarkable piece of art and sculpture that we have transformed into a shower.

Immaculate gardens at luxury rental Masseria in Puglia | Photo Source: A.M.A Selections
Stéphanie and Raoul at their Masseria Sant’Andrea | Photo Source: A.M.A Selections

Describe your idea of what a perfect day looks like while staying at one of your villas.

Waking up to the sound of birds singing, enjoying a delightful breakfast with local products in the garden, and then taking a refreshing swim in the beautiful waters of Sant’Andrea. For lunch, we love to relax at one of the Lidos or have a picnic while sitting on the wild rocks or small sandy beaches, savoring the beauty of the Adriatic coast.

Having dinner in the gardens is an absolute must.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of buying a restoration project in Puglia?

Work with locals, respect the local architecture, textures, and designs, and take your time. We are in southern Italy, so allow time for things to unfold naturally.

To rent Masseria Sant’Andrea click here or to rent La Torre for your next holiday in Puglia, click here.

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