Authentic Italy: How to discover this hidden region

There is a quieter, more authentic side to Apulia, Italy. Here’s how you can discover it for yourself with ITS ITALY, which specialises in regenerating old towns and villages…

Team Wanderlust
23 November 2022
Promoted by
Its Italy

Apulia (Puglia) is boot-shaped Italy’s heel, kicking into the clear waters of the Adriatic. Steeped in history and strewn with olive groves, it attracts many to its sparkling coastline and lush interior. But there is a quieter, more authentic side to the region. Here’s how you can discover it for yourself with ITS ITALY, which specialises in regenerating old towns and villages.


ITS ITALY is helping to regenerate some of the country’s long-forgotten buildings

Close to the heel’s arch, in Taranto province, medieval Ginosa rears up from a rocky, horseshoe-shaped ledge that dominates a green, ravine-riven landscape. Formerly named Genusium, it was established by the Greeks as an important centre between the coastal towns of Taranto and Metaponta, and its Greek influence is still notable. It is also equidistant between Ginosa Marina, a charming, sunny beach town with miles of golden sand, and Matera, the spectacular, cinematographic cave-dwelling city made famous by the most recent Bond film, No Time to Die. You can even see the remains of rock-cut settlements in Ginosa, a legacy of past inhabitants who carved homes and churches out of the land’s natural stone. Other striking landmarks include the town’s stark Norman castle, the gabled facade and belltower of its 16th-century Chiesa Madre church, and the neoclassical clocktower that looms above the Piazza Orologio in the heart of the historical centre.

Among all these wonders are a series of regenerated industrial buildings, resurrected thanks to projects by ITS ITALY, which has developed ancient mills and factories into new homes for modern residents. These offer a wonderful opportunity to enjoy Ginosa’s slow-paced lifestyle, sampling local delicacies such as dormienti – a dessert that needs to rise slowly for 15 hours before being filled with jam or gelato – or exploring art left behind by the Byzantines, such as the vividly coloured, hand-painted frescoes in the town’s rock-cut churches.

Caprarica Di Lecce

The Cathedral of Lecce dates back to the 12th century

Situated towards the base of Apulia’s heel, in the Salento area, is the oft-overlooked village of Caprarica di Lecce. It’s understandable if you’ve never heard of it. The baroque, churchstudded city of Lecce, just fifteen minutes’ drive away, and the nearby port town of Brindisi, known for its handsome harbour and imposing Aragonese Castle, hog the limelight here. But Caprarica has its charms, too, and it is surrounded by rich farmland and olive groves. It also has a long history.

Traditionally, the village was a well-known producer of olive oil. Its once-prosperous economy also owed much to tobacco production, sheep farming and stone-crushing. As a result, many interesting old buildings remain standing, including mills and factories. In recent years, an excavation by the University of Salento also rediscovered an underground olive oil mill, which is now open to the public.

Many buildings that might once have lain abandoned are currently being renovated and transformed by ITS ITALY and its sister company, ITS Lending, a crowdfunding platform that allows people to invest their money into the restoration of buildings such as these. Those who choose to come here will find plenty that appeals; the town is full of examples of its rich past, such as Kalòs, a compelling open-air museum that is also known as the Archeodrome del Salento. It details 3,000 years of history across six eras, including the Bronze Age, Roman and medieval periods. And while Caprarica may not contain as many baroque buildings as Lecce, one standout is the Palazzo Baronale, whose facade was designed in late Renaissance style and was constructed in Lecce itself.

Don’t just visit, belong

Incredible rock formations can be found along the coast at San Foca (Shutterstock)

With immersive experiences increasingly high on the menu for travellers, the desire to not simply dip in and out of a destination, but to truly get to know an area is what makes these towns so fascinating. Apulia appeals thanks to the beauty of the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic seas, its painterly landscapes, sunny climate and enticing food culture. The region has its big hitters – Alberobello, Ostuni and Lecce among them – but there are many small villages which also harbour centuries of cultural heritage and charm. They, too, often need investment and repopulation, which is where ITS ITALY steps in.

This London-based property and sustainability company was founded in 2020 with the aim of helping local people and communities by regenerating ancient properties into new homes. Focusing on abandoned buildings, such as mills and factories, which often boast alluring features such as large terraces and vaulted ceilings, they offer space, authenticity, and, crucially, the opportunity to embed oneself in the local surroundings.

Make it happen with ITS Italy

To invest in, or purchase, a property that will both further urban regeneration and result in a high social impact, join ITS ITALY and ITS LENDING for a pioneering project. Members are contributing to a lot more than just a property or a local business; through ITS ITALY, they are also preserving thousands of years’ worth of heritage.

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