My family just returned from a week-long stay at Villa Cappelli in the Puglia region of Italy. We were with a group of 13 people, many of us with children (ranging in age from 5 to 13), and we all agreed it was one of the best, most luxurious, most relaxing, most delicious, most interesting, most unique vacations we ever took – one that gave us a taste of authentic, unspoiled Italy that most U.S. tourists don’t experience.
We flew directly from NYC to Rome, and then took a quick, inexpensive connecting flight to Bari, from which the Villa is a short, 20-minute drive (we rented a car at the Bari airport). For the trip home, when we were better rested, we chose to drive back to Rome, and that was an easy four and a half hour drive on the highway.
The Villa itself and its surroundings are absolutely gorgeous and bursting with rustic charm and natural beauty. The rooms are spacious, comfortable, and handsomely furnished, with modern bathrooms. The pool and garden are beautiful, and beyond the property walls, you can see miles and miles of olive groves all around, which means there is plenty of peace, quiet, and privacy here. I should mention this is also a great vacation for families with children, as the kids can run safely throughout the property, and there is much here for them to explore and enjoy.
But by far, what makes this such a special vacation, is the hospitality of the owners, Paul Cappelli, his partner Steven (both formerly of New York City), and Paul’s daughter Casey. From the moment you arrive, they go out of their way to make your stay comfortable and memorable, whether it be a welcoming glass of prosecco, an escorted shopping trip into town, or an impromptu pasta-making class in the villa kitchen. We asked them to provide dinners for our group, and these meals were a highlight of the stay for everyone. Each day, they would head to town and return with fresh fish, seafood, cheese and meat, which they would lovingly prepare with vegetables and herbs from their own garden, complimented by their home-made olive oil (essentially liquid gold—it will put you off all other olive oil for life), wine (red and easily drinkable), and liqueurs, including their own Limoncello and walnut liqueur.
Each night, our group would gather for a long, leisurely meal, sitting at a candlelit table outside by the pool, as our hosts brought out course after course of delicious, home-cooked Italian food. These meals put the ones we had in Rome to shame, and were shockingly reasonable given the quantity and quality. And then, after dinner, our hosts would join us, for drinking, singing, stories – it felt like spending time with new friends you wanted to know more about.
As much as we enjoyed simply relaxing at the villa, we also used it as a home base for some side trips to surrounding towns, where we were typically the only Americans, seeing a slice of authentic small-town Italian life. Terlizzi, the closest town, is terrific for a quick shopping trip or gelato run. The seaside towns of Polignano a Mare and Giovinazzo are right out of a postcard or fairy tale, and terrific places to swim. The beaches are rocky, but the water is clear and a deep aquamarine, and the surrounding scenery absolutely breathtaking. Friends who saw the pictures I posted couldn’t believe these places were real. We also enjoyed a quick visit to Castel del Monte, which is on Italian currency and provides stunning views of the Puglia landscape. We also took a day-trip to Lecce, (about a two hour drive), which is considered the “Florence of the South” and is known for its baroque architecture.
If I have one complaint, it’s that I wish we had stayed for two weeks. The week, while relaxed and leisurely, passed far too quickly, and now I’m trying to figure out a way for us to get back there.
As I read all the laudatory reviews about Villa Cappelli, I found it hard to believe this was such a perfect place...surely the reviews had been written by Paul and his friends. Having just returned from two weeks at the Villa, I agree totally with all the wonderful things that have been written in prior reviews...they are NOT made up! We chose Villa Cappelli to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. We had never rented sight-unseen before, and Paul responded to all my anxious e-mails in great detail and with great patience. We had 23 family members for the 1st week, and a different 22 for the second week. Ages were 2 to 75 years. From the moment Paul opened the gate to welcome us, we entered an enchanting time. Paul, Steven and Casey were the perfect hosts-always available yet never intrusive. We were delighted with every aspect of the Villa: we cooked in the marvelously equipped kitchen and swam til we were exhausted in the large pool. The children (and adults) loved exploring the garden and the olive groves. Plenty of common indoor and outdoor areas to have our large group all together, yet plenty of places to be by yourself. Paul's knowledge of and passion for the Villa and the area were never-ending, as was his willingness to share them with us. Steven cooked three superlative meals for us and Casey was helpful in so many ways. We felt like good friends, not like paying guests. Having their homemade wine and liquors and jams was really special. The pictures on the website are a true reflection of the Villa, yet can't begin to do it justice. Our family felt the same way: over and over they enthused over the Villa and couldn't believe their good fortune in being able to be there. All of us would return in a heart-beat, and we strongly, strongly recommend this wonderful place. We've encouraged Paul to use us for references. We LOVED every minute of our stay at Villa Cappelli and hope to return.
Arty and Norm Trost
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