When you’ve spent your life travelling around the world, there comes a time when you know where you wish to settle down, and this is what happened to the Italian Laura. After having spent the greater part of her life abroad, she was invited by friends to spend a late summer of 2010 afternoon in the tiny village of Vaste…..coincidence does not exist  and this memorable afternoon turned out to be the start of a new adventure. Wandering through Vaste, Laura was overwhelmed by the beauty of this village: reminiscent of an Italy of the sixties, as portrayed in those wonderful Rossellini films. She came upon two local ladies chatting in front of their homes….”Do you happen to know if there are any properties for sale around here?” Laura asked them. And the rest is history, for these same two ladies are now her next-door neighbours. Laura and her brother named their beautiful villa ‘La Tana del Riccio’, which literally translates as ‘hedgehog’s den’ and is derived from Laura’s family name, Riccetti (little hedgehogs).

It took an extensive renovation to turn this derelict building into the elegant guesthouse ‘La Tana del Riccio’ it now is. A technical report was drawn up and it was very telling: walls were on the verge of collapsing, foundations needed to be laid again, etc. etc. But it was love at first sight, and for over a year they worked very hard, inventing creative solutions as they went along. The result is fabulous and very elegant yet cosy……a place that makes you feel right at home, as if you’re staying with friends instead of in a hotel. There are only four suites, a beautiful and spacious common area (the Atrium) and several roof terraces: La Tana del Riccio.

All four suites are different. For instance, the Traveler’s Suite is a spacious split-level suite with a large double bed upstairs and room enough downstairs for your children to sleep in. Then there is the Stars’ Suite, which is a wonderfully spacious double room; or the Hedgehog’s Suite, which is in the basement and consequently wonderfully cool during the warm summer months. And last but not least, there is the Orange Suite, small but beautiful. It’s biggest plus is the privacy it offers because it is located on the terraces area.

In the morning, housekeeper Catia will prepare you a lovely breakfast, served in the Atrium or, weather allowing, outside on the terrace. And then it’s time to discover the Salento. This south-eastern part of Puglia is where you will find the most stunning bays and a coastal road that offers  magnificent views. The southernmost part of the Salento is Santa Maria di Leuca, which is where the Adriatic Sea meets the Ionian Sea. Otranto, also close by, with a beautiful, cobbled-street historic part and an imposing cathedral, is certainly worth a visit.

When I go out to explore my surroundings, I make sure to bring the Hedgehog Guide: a detailed list of all the best restaurants and beach resorts in the area put together by Laura. She has even managed to arrange discounts for her guests at many of the places mentioned in her guide! Upon her recommendation, I decide to go to Cantine Menhir Salento, a winery with exceptional restaurant, for dinner. Here you can sit outside in a lovely setting (for lunch or dinner) but it is is very cosy inside as well. I enjoyed one of the best meals during my stay in Puglia here, complete with accompanying wines, all included in the price. The restaurant shop offers all kinds of culinary delights, all of them local specialties, and of course you can also buy the house wine here.

After having spent the day out and about, it is lovely to come home to La Tana del Riccio and settle on one of the roof terraces. Here, you can enjoy the sun with a drink and a book, or, in the summer,  fire up the BBQ and prepare yourself a lovely meal. But be sure to also wander around picturesque  Vaste for a bit…this is where you will hear, see and smell the true Italian way of life: bickering couples, freshly made pasta, aprons hanging out to dry on the clotheslines…To quote one of Rossellini’s movies: “Viva Italia!”

Read more about Puglia & Basilicata in my blog!

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