Puglia, as a region, is very diverse . Historically, it was know as ‘Le Puglie’ – the Puglias. One of the things I love is that each little town has it’s own character, and its own signature dishes, which could be completely different from a neighbouring town further inland or closer to the sea.
Often people fall in love with the place where they have had an idyllic holiday and so look for property there, but there may be other places which they love just as much and which may be more suitable. People tend to holiday in the same areas – in lesser known areas you will almost certainly get a better price and your property will increase in value more quickly.
There may be characteristics of your chosen area which you don’t notice on your holiday but which come into play when you own a property which you want to visit year round. The most obvious thing is what time of year you visit, or want to visit in the future. The town which you loved on your October holiday may be unbearably full of tourists from May to October for example. Conversely, the buzzy lively town you loved in July may be completely dead in the winter months.
Lacking inside knowledge is often a problem as well. I would never buy in San Vito dei Normanni, Carovigno, Francavilla or Oria for example. Prices are lower there for a reason. Historically there was lots of organised crime and smuggling around Brindisi. What little is left today is centred on those areas. Ostuni, Fasano and Ceglie are also affected to a lesser degree. You will notice that houses in these areas have bars on the windows and, perhaps because of this, burglaries aren’t significantly higher than anywhere else. The statistics show that ‘crimes associated with money from unknown sources’ are 75% higher than elsewhere in Puglia though. The same is true of Ugento, Monteroni di Lecce and, to a lesser extent, Copertino and Galatina further south.
Where you look also depends on the type of property you are looking for. To understand the kinds of property available in Puglia and where to find them you need to understand some of the history.
The Valle D’Itria and outlying areas such as Monopoli have always been more fertile and less arid, due to the hills, than the flatter South. (Further South there are exceptions, like the area around Alessano). In the higher, cooler, areas such as Alberobello and Locorotondo there is even pasture and in Monopoli, for example, you always see fields of vegetables and even crops growing in the same enclosures as olive trees. Because of this, historically, all classes of people made a living, however basic, from their own, or tenanted land. So, in these areas, you find a variety of country properties, from the basic trullo to farm houses of all sizes up to the largest Masserie (essentially manor houses, some fortified). In the towns you often have a medieval centro storico with humble, whitewashed dwellings, often like little towers, often only one room per floor, with the odd, grander merchant’s house or noble palazzo. Outside this there will often be areas of 19th century houses and then a more modern sprawl. To some extent the medieval areas of towns like Monopoli, Polignano and even Ostuni are so well preserved because they were not invaded by the Saracens and razed to the ground or subject to major natural disasters. Further South you often have historic centres with predominantly 17th or 18th century houses.
As you go further South you get less old properties in the countryside.South of Ostuni the main crops were tobacco, olives and grapes – all involving seasonal work on the land. So you get plenty of large, important country dwellings, such as Masserie – built by the land owners, maybe with space for seasonal workers to live on site, but ordinary people were more likely to live in towns. Finding a country dwelling earlier than the 1950s, which isn’t a Masseria or a grand country house can be done, but the prices are higher than further North due to the scarcity value. There are some exceptions to this rule (see recommendations below)
In the towns, however, the choice of properties is much wider than further North and the prices lower. You also get old houses in towns with gardens or courtyards, something almost unheard of further North (unless grand and expensive). There are also town centre houses with roof terraces, often with spectacular views of the town.
The other historic fact to consider was that Puglia was subject to invasion and pirate raids for hundred of years, and for that reason properties were largely built inland or, in the case of seaside towns, within walls. For this reason, finding historic properties on the sea is almost impossible. Within walking distance of the sea yes – in towns such as Monopoli and Polignano in the North, or Santa Maria al Bagno, Santa Caterina, Santa Maria de Leuca, Gallipoli or Otranto further South but these are relatively expensive and you can expect the towns to be unliveable in in July and August. By contrast the historic centres of the more developed towns, such as Polignano, may be completely dead in winter, as most of the properties are holiday houses or bed and breakfasts. Monopoli, sadly is going the same way, with many historic centre bars and restaurants closing in the winter (those outside the historic centre remain open though.)
Other seaside towns may have historic properties, but, again, be too quiet in winter months.
I will focus on newer properties, or land for building in a later article, this time I am focusing on historical or ‘character’ properties.
So what can you buy and where ? Here are some recommendations…
House/flat in a town within walking distance of the sea and amenities ( if you are happy to avoid possibly July and definitely August and rent out then instead)
Within 45 minutes of an airport:
Polignano (tend to be smallish, tower like and expensive) 200-450 2 bedrooms including work
Monopoli as above in centro storico but the area just outside (zona murattiana) is nice and quieter (would be my choice every time): around 150-250,000 including work for a two bedroom.
Santa Maria al Bagno/Santa Caterina – Nardò: largely edwardian properties (rarely come up) 90-150,000 (1110 per sqm) 90-150,000
Santa Maria de Leuca (90 mins from airport)
In a town withn a 10-15 minute drive to the sea
Ostuni (15-25 minutes) very very touristy in summer months
In the countryside within a 20 minute drive to the sea (trulli, farmhouses, Edwardian)
In the countryside within a 30 minutes drive to the sea
Locorotondo – trulli, farmhouses,
Laureto – trulli, edwardian summer houses
Martina Franca – trulli, farmhouses.
In the countryside within a 15- 20 minutes drive to the sea. Large grand Edwardian houses or Masserie
Well restored properties of any type (priced accordingly). Not that there are none further south, but fewer.
Monopoli, Ostuni, Locorotondo, Martina Franca,
If you are prepared to travel an hour from the airport, don’t mind a laid back quieter feel (though still good restaurants and local shops) and love the sea
Santa Maria DI Leuca
Alessano (also good for countryside properties)
Coriglianoo d’Otranto (good for countryside properties)
Castringnano del Capo
Best safe investment
Fixer uppers in Monopoli countryside (unrestored as little as 130,000 restored 350 plus) – increasing shortage of suitable properties though.
Fixer uppers anywhere in Valle D’Itria countryside where pool permission is likely to be given
Fixer uppers in Nardò (supply running out, prices going up and there is a shortage of well restored properties)
Anything historic in Salento Countryside (shortage)
Worth taking a punt on
Almost anywhere in the Salento (town or country) to restore within a 30 mins drive of the beach and 45 minutes from the airport, excluding Ugento and Monterone di Lecce for reasons already mentioned and Gallipoli (also somewhat dodgy and way way too touristy)