Villa Allegra: Our little Hilltop Shangri-La in Puglia

Less than a week ago, Orna O’Reilly and I left snowy Washington, D.C. behind in the contrail of a KLM Airbus A330 and arrived back to our little Shangri-La — a new home build, named Villa Allegra, that sits atop a hill in Contrada Cinera, a few kilometers outside Ostuni, Puglia — just as an early spring was bursting forth.

Villa Allegra | ©

Our landscaping is now in full swing, thanks to Luigi and Angelo, our agro mentors, along with finalizing with Giuseppe, our plumber, the connection of the pozzo (well) to our cistern, where water, pulled from some 340+ meters below the surface, will provide Villa Allegra with much-needed H20 to irrigate our nearly two-acre parcel, home to 80+ olive trees and a dozen or so fruit trees, along with keeping the swimming pool topped up during the long, hot and very dry summer.


Jet lag now behind us (hopefully), we’re beginning to understand why we pulled up stakes from the Veneto and headed southeast to the sun-kissed Salento, Italy’s stiletto heel, where the Adriatic and Ionian Seas embrace, rosato wines rule, bruschetta is a daily ritual and pastel-colored sunsets are the norm.


Both established and newly planted fruit trees — almond, apricot, cherry, fig, kako mela (persimmon apple), loquat and pear — along with a long row of lavender, have joined forces with the indigenous wildflowers to add bursts of color around our bright-white, humble abode with the Santorini-blue shutters that match the sky.


Life around Villa Allegra is almost too good to be true.


Borsalino w/ props SMALL | ©Tom Palladio Images


Written by The Palladian Traveler

Tom traded his hometown St. Louis Cardinals' baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and he now hangs his "capello" in the Puglia region of southeastern Italy. A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have got him into and out of 50 countries and counting, Tom fell in love with the "Bel Paese" years ago. As he notes, "I'm inspired by the beauty I find in all things that are very, very old, and reliving history, or at least meandering along the travertine and cobblestone that were laid down over a thousand years ago and just looking up and marveling at what occupies the space still today, really gets my 'Vespa' running." Tom has a good eye behind the lens and is a graphic storyteller, but he'll let you decide as he keeps his camera batteries fully charged and the posts flowing from his creative hideaway in the hills overlooking Ostuni. You can also follow his dispatches via and Anthology Magazine Ireland.


  1. It makes me happy to read this, Tom. I’m looking forward to seeing the ongoing process of house becoming home and the growth of the vines, trees, and flowers. What a grand adventure.



  2. I’m so happy for both of you, Tom. Your new home built from the ground up is beautiful, and I love following the stories attached to your new life in Puglia with lovely Orna. so happy I had the opportunity to meet her in person 2 years ago in Venice.


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