Step Inside a Trullo in Puglia

Trulli in Alberobello, Puglia
Trulli in Alberobello, Puglia with a matching motorbike. Designs painted on the conical roof are common.

I felt like I had just stepped into the Hobbit’s Shire when I arrived in the small whitewashed village of Alberobello. Little people scampering in and out of the tiny cone-roofed houses with hairy feet didn’t appear, however. Instead, the village streets were packed with big people like myself, exploring the rows of cone-roofed trulli that proved to be anything from gift shops to restaurants. Bizarre and quirky? By all means, yes.

Surrounded by ancient vineyards, medieval castles, and white-sand beaches, Alberobello sits at the top of the heel that makes the boot of Italy. Not far from the Adriatic coast, it is understandably a magnetic tourist attraction. Read more

Splashes of Green in Pristine Puglia


Puglia enjoys a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers. As one of the hottest regions in Italy, it also has numerous bursts of lush greenery in the villages and surrounding villas. It must be the heat combined with the clean white and cream-colored stones under the bright sunlight that brings on a thirst for refreshment. Whatever the case, those splashes of greenery are simply a treat for the senses. Read more

Puglia’s Tranquil Masseria Provenzani

My first authentic taste of Puglia was at Masseria Provenzani, located north of Lecce in Casalabate. A masseria is a fortified farmhouse in the country that offers lodging. Masseria Provenzani was once a 16th century stronghold that was part of feudal properties belonging to monastic orders and still retains part of the original tower with the external staircase.

As I arrived with my group, a long driveway lead through the entrance and into a large courtyard. I found the ambience immediately unfamiliar, yet appealing. A spacious layout, splashed with bits of green and gayly decorated with vines, fruit and nut trees, gave me a taste of authentic country luxury. The fresh air and quiet solitude made it natural to unwind body and soul.


I stood inside the courtyard and admired the stately stone and brick architecture complete with wrought iron balconies. Pergolas arched gracefully with flowering bougenville and jasmine. A stairway in the center lead up to the terrace that provides a panoramic view of the Salento countryside dotted with olive groves.


A reconstructed old mill, a trappeto, stands inside the inner courtyard. It still has the animal-drawn monolithic grindstone and cast iron presses that were used for refining extra virgin olive oil.


Vine-covered pergolas line the long walkway that access several rooms. Once an old stable, the accommodations have been renovated but kept to their original design. My room was spacious and complete with a kitchenette and bathroom.


One of the delights of the masseria that we all gravitated toward was the cool and refreshing swimming pool. I loved the unique design and shape. Umbrella tables were also a welcome relief from the warm sun.


Around the masseria grounds are many old pots, archways and brickwork. A faded fresco filled a niche in the wall and vines wound up and across the stones.



Just off the kitchen is the garden where much of the food used in meals is grown and harvested. Beyond the garden are olive orchards.


Mamma Giulia, the chef imperial at the masseria, is never far from the kitchen. She sure knows how to fix delicious and authentic Puglian dishes without recipes. I especially admired how these meals have been learned and passed down through the generations. It was second nature to Mamma Giulia. We all had the chance to cook with her. What a mess we made…but it was so much fun.


The dining and sitting rooms are long and spacious with several wooden tables available for guests. Rustic interior stonework is accented with shelves of crocks along the walls under barrel vaulted ceilings.

A quiet walk and chat under the flowering pergola on a lazy afternoon easily leaves one in a state of contentment.


As can be expected, cats are never far from a kitchen. This masseria is no exception. This cat is one of several that love to mill around the kitchen door and lay about on the window sill. Of course, kitchen scraps often arrive at the door.


At Masserie Provenzani I felt away from it all and able to relax entirely. Whether imbibing in a swim and a lounge by the pool or walking the adjacent pathways among oak, carob or olive trees, it’s the perfect place to lose oneself only to find oneself again in a pleasurable state of harmony.

Join Victoria in Puglia this Fall for a Small-Group, Intimate Experience

Italy is a country made up of layers upon layers of history and culture that fuels the imagination and inspires a deep desire to understand it.


Ever since my first visit, I have returned time and again with a keen intent to probe its depths even further. In the process, I have never been tempted to take a standard bus tour. For me, I prefer to travel solo, with my husband, or with a small group of friends.

Last year I decided to sign up for Victoria De Maio’s boutique experience, Let’s Kick Up Our HeelZ in Puglia, and I’m so glad that I did. The memories we all made together will remain with me always. I can honestly say that it was one of the best experiences I’ve had yet. I loved the itinerary, meeting the locals, and coming away with a feeling that I had really got up close and personal with Puglia.

Our masseria, or agriturismo, was lovely and very comfortable. Cooking classes were taught in the huge kitchen by Mamma Giulia using fresh local ingredients that we later enjoyed at the table with carafes of delicious wine. Daily excursions were exciting and adventurous as we drove to several of the villages and walked through winding streets between whitewashed buildings, taking in the sights and eating delicious food. The sun was warm and the ocean sparkled.

Winery visits, a picnic in an olive orchard, and visits with artisans made for a genuine, authentic cultural experience within a small intimate group. There was time to enjoy to ourselves as well, to relax around a large outdoor pool or wander the gorgeous bougainvillea-covered grounds of the masseria.

Let’s Kick Up Our HeelZ in Puglia, Italy with Victoria De Maio

It is with great pleasure that I’ve had the opportunity to interview Victoria and give you an opportunity to know her better as she describes her heart and goals for her Puglia adventures. Victoria has a deep love and enthusiasm for Italy and a desire to help you have that same intimate experience.

Victoria, how did you become interested in organizing tours in Italy? Was it an “aha” moment or gradual?  

It definitely evolved and like so many things in life, a series of events and experiences converge into a new path…Years ago, I took my first tour as a solo with a large group and I enjoyed the experience. Wanting to return to Italy, a few years later I collaborated on a “small” group tour to Tuscany. This was all before the internet and so forth so it was much more labor-intensive and it was a success but, with 23 guests, it was pretty exhausting. I pretty much decided that it wasn’t for me until…

A few years later I joined a group tour company to Italy and I just loved it. After some other travels, I felt the pull back to Italy. So, a few years later I planned a month long Italy trip which included two small group tours and independent travel.That’s also when I jumped into the blogosphere with both feet and my love for Italy and writing really unfolded and flourished.

Soon after I heard about Puglia via a fellow Italophile. I’m embarrassed to say I’d never heard of Puglia but after numerous online chats and lots of research, I connected with Ylenia Sambati of YLTOUR PR. We communicated and I decided that not only could I but I wanted to do a tour again…and the rest is history! Our first tour together was in spring of 2014. There have been three more since and the next is in fall 2016. I just love it and can’t wait to go back…

How are your tours unique from others? Why would someone want to take your tours over another one?  

Unfortunately the word “tour” has negative connotations to many people. It conjures up images of huge busloads of tourists being herded from place to place, tour guides carrying umbrellas and the like. Yikes! Not at all what I wanted to do or offer…I also didn’t want a “cookie cutter” experience.

Having been on small group tours, I gleaned what I did and did not like and what I felt did and did not work well. In other words, I wanted to offer the kind of trip that I love which is a more intimate and local experience seeing and doing what most visitors never get to do or see. So, not just another “tour” but what I like to call a unique boutique experience.

Partnering and collaborating with local experts and having the benefit of their expertise and knowledge has been a key ingredient. Creating, planning and hosting our special itinerary, we strive to offer a fabulous immersion in all aspects of the local culture—the food, the wine, the traditions, the art and history, the people… 

Since the groups are small (no more than 12), the experience is very personal. It’s perfect for the solo traveler and for experienced and novice travelers alike. We take care of every detail so there is no stress. And, since it is all-inclusive AND affordable, there are no surprises, $ or otherwise! (In other words, all the benefits of a group but not the downsides of a large group!) I realize that this could be someone’s only trip to Italy and I want to make it magical and memorable.

What do you offer that others don’t?

We offer us! Everything we do is infused with our love and passion for Italy and, of course, for Puglia!  It’s also about relationships. My relationship with my partners is genuine, warm and far more than a business partnership. Guests not only benefit from our strong relationship but from their deep roots and connection with all of the locals that we visit. And now I feel that connection when I return and it’s priceless. 

Incorporating their recommendations and suggestions, we always strive to offer a well-balanced, comfortably paced itinerary. Whether it’s a cooking class, wine tasting, walking tour, visiting local artisans or the olive oil farm visit, it’s always special and fun!

What do you want your guests to experience? Please share your philosophy, and your goal.

I want people to experience “la dolce vita”, the Italy that I love! Designed around what I enjoy and want to experience when I travel, we offer authentic cultural immersion, hands-on personal attention, and the opportunity to learn about and experience the local lifestyle, art/history, major sites, etc. based upon the guidance and recommendations of those who know it best, my local partners.  

I also want to offer a “no fuss no muss” holiday where all of the nitty-gritty details that can spoil a trip are taken care of and guests can focus completely on enjoying and savoring every moment. (And by the way, we don’t pack and unpack more than once so all of our time is quality time!) Our time together is rich and enriching and aspires to evoke a true appreciation for the uniqueness of this region (as is true or every region of Italy).

Together we have created a warm and welcoming atmosphere comfortable for couples, friends and, in particular, solo travelers. In a small (no more than 10 or 12 guests) group, solos don’t get “lost” or feel like a third wheel. I like to say, “Come with friends or make new friends!”


More about Victoria: My travels and love for Italy inspired me to write a travel tip book, Victoria’s Travel TipZ Italian Style which I’m quite proud of and send to every tour guest. 

The next Puglia tour is this fall 2016 and now, I have extended this philosophy to a new tour this fall to the Italian Riviera, Liguria.  

For those who want to travel with friends or family, along with my Italy experts, we can help you ~Design YOUR Dream Trip to Italy! Choose Puglia, Tuscany, Liguria, Umbria or Sicily. 

Andiamo, let’s go!

Contact Victoria
PostcardZ from Victoria


The Little Courtyards of Puglia

One of my very favorite things to see in the little villages of Puglia are the tenderly cared for porches and courtyards of the local residents. Freshly swept and colorful, they speak volumes about the people who live there. In the photo above, a lush garden cultivated in pots line the stairways and add a sense of privacy to seating areas. The welcoming effect always causes me to stop as I’m passing by and observe. It’s not unusual for the lady of the house to come out and greet me with a warm smile and a hug. She is as tidy and impeccably dressed as her little courtyard. She is proud of her home and I heartily express my enthusiasm for her lovely garden.

Isn’t this lady of the house lovely? We couldn’t communicate much but I felt the love through her warm smile and sweet countenance. I’ve since tucked this away as one of my fondest memories.

Have you had a similar experience in Italy or anywhere else? Please feel free to share your memories…