PR and Marketing Manager of Dinosaur Designs, Heleena Trahanas has a discernible creative eye for objects and design. In her dual role as the co-founder of lifestyle project Alex and Trahanas, Heleena frequents the Italian region to source and develop the brand’s ceramics and linens. An emerging favourite in south Italy, Puglia is known for its whitewashed towns, coastal countryside and old towns including Bari, Lecce and Salento. In a curated guide for X-FILES, Heleena selects the most picturesque scenes of Puglia.
You travel often and beautifully. Why Puglia?
I fell in love with the region a few years ago when I stayed at Masseria Moroseta, I felt so welcomed by the warmth of the owner, Carlo, and the Moroseta family’s hospitality - it was so inspiring and very calming. I love the rugged and raw beauty of the region and the endless landscape to discover driving through different towns, losing myself. It’s an endless source of inspiration for our brand, the effortless way of living on the Mediterranean, entertaining with good, wine food and friends, living in linen and being close to the sea. The region is somewhat undiscovered compared to other parts of Italy.
Heleena's own images of Masseria Moroseta
What are the best stays, hotels or spaces to stay in Puglia?
I have only stayed at two places: Masseria Moroseta in Ostuni - they have become family; I have also stayed at the magical Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita in Matera (2 hours from Ostuni) which is situated in the labyrinth of UNESCO listed caves that were renovated using only traditional techniques and tools local to the area.
What are your top dining destinations, and your favourite dishes across breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Masseria Moroseta for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Giorgia Goggi is the head chef, she is super talented and the BEST. I love her sensibility and food ethos. She uses organic produce, as locally sourced as possible. Goggi says, “Puglia is a dreamland, you can get incredible olive oil, amazing vegetables, fruit and seafood and the best dairy products.”
Each morning, guests are served a generous and wholesome breakfast, something different every day. It starts with a juice, I tried almond juice for the first time – it’s delicious. There is always fruit, nuts and olives, dishes vary from gazpacho to torn mozzarella served with the sweetest tomatoes or cured meats, hummus served with pickled carrot on rustic bread, figs from the Moroseta garden which spans across 5 hectares of organic olive fields.
Lunch time, Giorgia would serve pasta and salad, all cooked to perfection followed by a serve of homemade goat’s cheese gelato by the pool.
Vitello Tonato - burrata, grilled apricots, cherry tomatoes, picked onions and black olive crumble, risotto with goats’ cheese, pear chutney and hazelnuts, traditional BBQ served with locally sourced potatoes and other vegetables, tart with lemon turmeric curd, berries and almond crumble. All the dishes are served on the most beautiful and unique hand painted Apulian ceramics which all bring personality to the table and are great conversation starters.
Some more of my favourites for lunch include Lido Stella for its seafood.
I haven’t been, but I have heard many great reports on Il Principe Del Mare, a cute little seaside trattoria known for its seafood.
For dinner, I enjoyed eating at Osteria Gia Sotto L’arco, Miramare Michele for a simple but delicious seaside and seafood meal, or if you’re out exploring at Polignano, a Mare Osteria di Chichibio is delicious.
What are the top activities, sights to see and landmarks?
Puglia is large region; you could spend weeks exploring. A few things I’d highly recommend is a visit to the magical town of Matera. It is a two hour drive from Ostuni and a night’s stay at Sextantio, Le Grotte della Civita is a must.
An hour’s drive south of Ostuni there is the beautiful town of Lecce. Here you will find many baroque buildings by 17th century architects, including Duomo Cathedral first built in 1114 and refurbished in 1230. You will also stumble across little boutiques such as Society and also IJO, locally made linen garments made on ancient looms.
Left: Town of Puglia. Right: Le Grotte della Civita.
A drive to Polignano a Mare makes a nice trip north of Ostuni. It is a cute seaside village with plunging ocean view and a famous beach. It can be quite touristy, so I opted for an evening visit and meandered the cobbled streets. It has famous cliff hanging restaurant called Ristorante Grotta Palazzese which has mixed reviews, but worth a stroll by if you decide not to eat there. A walk through the white city of Ostuni is a must. Also known as the white city, you can spend the day walking around and exploring as you stumble across wine bars and trattorias for an aperitivo.
Alberobello is a small town in Puglia famous for its trulli, white cone-roofed houses. I haven’t yet been, but it’s on my list. There are some gorgeous beaches further down south right at the bottom of Puglia, a beautiful one called Bagno Marino Archi – Santa Cesarae Terme which is worth exploring.
If you enjoy antique markets, a drive to Martina Franca is a must on Sunday. You could really explore Puglia for weeks, there is too much to see!
Where are the best swims in the region?
How do you get around?
A car is highly recommended, otherwise a driver to drive you from place to place.
Describe your ideal itinerary for Puglia.
At least five nights in Ostuni, staying at Masseria Moroseta, then travelling around the region exploring other towns. I’d love to also stay one day at Masseria Potenti and Masseria Trapana.
What is your insider tip for connecting with locals?
Embrace the food and culture (i.e. aperitivo hour) and you will no doubt connect.
What is the most luxurious thing about Puglia?
The slow life and Masseria Moroseta, Carlo Lanzini (owner) and architect Andrew Trotter have created the most inspiring space. They go hand in hand are the ultimate luxuries.
What are your style travel essentials?
A classic Loewe bag and designer sandals are essential!