ISSUE 3  |  Italian Renaissance

For Rent: A Revived 16th-Century Farmhouse in Puglia

January 20, 2015 12:00 PM

BY Justine Hand

Back in 2006, a San Francisco–based Italian-American couple set out to find an Italian retreat near her native city of Bari. After an exhaustive search, and the failed purchase of a modest home, they chanced upon one of the area’s many decaying masseria, fortified farmhouses that dot the Puglia region. Despite the compound’s “horrible state of repair,” the couple fell under the spell of Villa Pizzorusso‘s Romanesque architecture and Arabic detailing and never looked back. Reviving the centuries-old structure with the help of local architect Cosimo “Mino” D’Astore took three years. Now fully restored–and furnished with style and restraint–it’s available for rent by the week, six bedrooms, swimming pool, and orange grove included.

Above: The central courtyard of the villa is entered via a grand archway. When it was built in the 16th century, farmers and livestock would file through the portal each evening, seeking protection from marauding Turks and other invaders. Photograph via Designtripper

Above: Under the vaulted ceiling of the masseria’s former stables, the salone provides a communal gathering, cooking, and eating area with an open kitchen and seating for 16.

Above: The owners designed the interiors of Villa Pizzorusso themselves. Avid foragers, they gathered furnishings from all over via, Italy’s equivalent of Craigslist. The result is an eclectic mix of custom built-ins (by Mino), local antiques, and contemporary finds that pay homage to the building’s past and present. In the salone, the generous dining table is made from Balinese teak that the owners’ son found for them; Mino designed the base. The chairs are Spanish and came from the same local design shop as the B&B Italia sofa.

Above: The antique regional pottery on display, including a Puglia piece that the owners came across in a vintage shop in Hawaii. Photograph via Designtripper

Above: Old meets new(er): In the courtyard, the original Romanesque fortification from the 1500s abuts the “piano nobile” (noble’s quarters), built in the 1700s.

Above: Upstairs, the piano nobile retains original Moorish details, such as the ornate tiled floor and arched doorways. Photograph via Designtripper

Above L: In the upstairs bath, a Spoon by Agape bathtub offers a memorable view. Above R: Now faded, the original frescoes are still visible in one of the four upstairs bedrooms.

Above: Very carefully edited, the interiors of Villa Pizzorusso consist of a few choice pieces, selected to enhance the architecture. Photograph via Designtripper

Above: The villa’s grounds are equally impressive and include olive and citrus groves, an outdoor eating area (with a working, 500-year-old, outdoor oven), and a 25-meter (82-foot) swimming pool. Photograph via Designtripper

Above: More rustic but no less grand, the lower-story bedrooms have star-vaulted ceilings and stone floors. The owner’s signature pared-down furnishings, include a Thonet bentwood rocker.

Above L and R: Part of Villa Pizzorusso’s charm lies in its combination of sweeping vistas and more intimate nooks.

Above: Another alcove provides spaces for writing and repose. Photograph via Designtripper

Above: While the owners strove to keep the renovations as authentic as possible, they did make a few concessions for modern comforts, such as an updated kitchen and baths, as well as the night-lit pool.

Above: Villa Pizzorusso sleeps up to 14 people in six bedrooms. Weekly rentals start at $5,600 during the low season: January to mid-March and October 24 to December 12. For full details and reservations, go to Villa Pizzorusso, and e-mail for availability.

Dreaming of a trip to Italy? Here are a few more luxury accommodations to tempt you: