Character Building: The Quirky Hotels of the South


Fairy tale trulli houses, masserie farmhouses, boutique cave hotels, volcanic vineyard villas and converted monasteries – the south of Italy is packed with weird and wonderful hotels. Best of all, they tend to be tiny boutique set-ups with gorgeously decorated rooms and spades of character.

Here are some of our favourites…

Sextantio Le Grotta della Civita, Matera

Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita, Matera, cave room

Sextantio Le Grotta della Civita is the ultimate introduction to Basilicata. It offers 18 converted sassi – just a few of a cluster of UNESCO-listed caves that make up the atmospheric hilltop town of Matera.

Once upon a time, they were traditional cave dwellings; these days, they’re gradually being transformed into boutique hotels and candle-lit restaurants. 

We recommend: leaving plenty of time for breakfast. It’s served in an eighth-century cave church.

Capofaro Malvasia & Resort, Salina

Capofaro Malvasia & Resort, Salina

Would-be sommeliers will love the Capofaro Malvasia & Resort. This hotel is plonked right in the middle of a coastal estate draped in the Malvasia vineyards that are Salina’s speciality. Its seaside spot also means that you get sweeping views of the rest of the Aeolian Islands.

We recommend: signing up to a tour of the vineyard. Or get really stuck in and have a go at pruning and harvesting the vines yourself. Either way, you’ll get to taste the fruits of your labour. 

Relais Santa Anastasia, Sicily

Relais Santa Anastasia, Sicily

The Relais Santa Anastasia is a retired Benedictine abbey that dates back to 1100. It sits in Madonie Regional Natural Park in Sicily, so expect a rural setting knitted together by vineyards. The facilities are all-modern, though, with rooms fitted out with hot tubs and flatscreen TVs.

We recommend: driving 30 minutes to Cefalu. A wander around the city’s medieval streets reveals a two-towered cathedral, atmospheric port and sandy beach.

Trulli Soave, Puglia

Trulli Soave

The cone-roofed trulli houses of Alberobello are one of the most famous images of Puglia – and you can stay right in the middle of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to hotels like Trulli Soave.

They’re surprisingly spacious, filled with an eclectic mix of shabby-chic farmhouse furniture and handwoven lace linens. Kitchenettes are on hand, or you could hop between the surrounding converted trulli that now double as stylish wine bars and cafés.

We recommend: upgrading to a Jacuzzi® room. They feature deluxe touches like your own private hot tub. 

Masseria Montelauro, Puglia

Masseria Montelaura restaurant

Masseria Montelauro is a traditional 19th-century farmhouse that reflects Puglia’s patchwork history. North African touches like copper lanterns and filigreed silverware decorate the restaurant and courtyard, plus there’s an in-house orchard.

We recommend: spending the day in nearby Otranto. This ancient Greek city has a Romanesque cathedral, a clutch of petite beaches and a fortified sea wall with a panoramic promenade.

Villa Athena, Sicily

The best thing about the Villa Athena? It’s the only hotel in Valley of the Temples archaeological park, so you’re practically a stone’s throw away from Doric gems like the Parthenon-like main temple, Concordia. You can even get there via the hotel’s private gate.

Other perks include the 17th-century architecture and a swimming pool surrounded by centuries-old olive groves.

We recommend: booking in to the hotel’s Restaurant La Terrazza degli Dei for dinner. It serves Sicilian fare with views straight over the Temple of Concordia. 

For more in the way of character hotels, check out our boutique hotel collection. You could stay in everything from Tuscan farmhouses to Amalfi Coast villa hotels.