10 Nights

13-23 September 2024.

Set out from Rome with Jason Mowen on a small-group adventure to the rugged stiletto heel of the Italian boot. 

Each year I make a pilgrimage to Salento, a geographic region in the southernmost reaches of Puglia. I have a little place there in Matino, a hillside town facing the Ionian Sea. According to local legend, the lower floors of the house date back to 1600, when it formed a chapel and hospital for the poor that doubled as a rest stop for pilgrims en route to Santa Maria de Leuca. I like to think of my own trips there along similar lines: journeys of discovery, with meaning and purpose, to the rugged but lovely heel of the Italian boot.

Salento is Italy but not as you know it. It’s provincial and raw, closer to Greece and Albania than Florence or Milan, and even a little Spanish in spirit. It has its own language and customs and a tough but proud history stretching back to Magna Grecia. Ask a local how they identify and it’s probably Salentino first, Pugliese second.

For me getting there, via Rome and Lecce, is half the fun. Flying into Fiumicino, a few days bouncing around the capital chasing Caravaggios, ancient sculpture and the perfect amatriciana. Dashing down to Puglia on the Frecciargento to bask in Lecce’s provincial elegance, the whole town built of soft and golden pietra leccese. And finally driving south into the Basso Salento, a rustic tapestry of towns flanked by the rocky Adriatic coast on one side, and the white sand beaches of the Ionian on the other.

I’ve put together a small-group adventure retracing these steps, from Soho House Rome to Patria Palace in Lecce and – as my own place in Matino is on the compact side – finishing at the stunning guesthouse, Il Convento di Santa Maria di Costantinopoli.

The Pursuit Of: Rome to Salento.
Palazzo Farnese facade, Rome.
Palazzo Altemps, Rome.

The Pursuit Of: Rome to Salento is a relaxed small-group jaunt that retraces these steps and takes in two distinct but compelling corners of Italy. From the exuberance of the Eternal City to the rustic beauty of southern Puglia, discover amazing art and architecture, breathtaking landscapes and fabulous food. Not to mention wonderful people. Just being around Italians – especially from Rome south – opens the portal to la dolce vita.

The Pursuit Of Italy: Rome to Salento

10 Nights, 13 – 23 September 2024

From AUD13,500 per person double occupancy

50% Deposit with balance due 90 day prior to departure

The Pursuit Of: Rome to Salento.

Day 1-5: Rome.

Forget the sea of selfie sticks between the Vatican, Colosseum and Trevi Fountain. Rome abounds in hidden delights. Check into Soho House – the first Italian outpost of the British members-club marque – next to La Sapienza university in the quirky and bohemian neighbourhood of San Lorenzo. From here we’ll explore superb, lesser-known sites, from the frescoed loggia of Palazzo Altemps to the faded grandeur of the Doria Pamphilj, with its worn silk walls and billion-dollar collection of Italian art. We’ll wander the halls of Palazzo Colonna (home of the princely Colonna family since the 14th-century), discover the frescoes of a 2000-year-old sunken dining room and hunt for fabulous Caravaggios. Think long walks and even longer lunches – including my favourite restaurant on the planet – with plenty of downtime for la dolce vita back at the House, relaxing by the rooftop pool with its 360-degree views of the Eternal City.

An exhibition at Palazzo Altemps, Museo Nazionale Romano.

Day 5-7: Lecce.

Centuries ago, the most devoted and adventurous pilgrims travelled the final leg of the Via Francigena from Rome to Puglia, to embark for the Holy Land. Today the high-speed Frecciargento gets us to Lecce in just five hours – with an espresso, spritz or glass of chianti in hand. Lecce’s beauty is on show the moment we leave the station, building crescendo-like to the town’s sublime centro storico. Check into Patria Palace, an 18th-century palazzo made over as a chic boutique hotel, overlooking the just-restored Basilica of Santa Croce. Doors leading to hidden courtyards punctuate facades in the elaborate Salento Baroque style, making Lecce’s streetscapes perfect for the passeggiata, glowing gold as the sun goes down.

Day 7-12: Marittima.

Il Convento di Santa Maria di Costantinopoli is the home of Athena McAlpine and one of the world’s most magical guesthouses, with 500-year-old cloisters and a stellar collection of textiles and tribal art. Much was assembled by Athena’s late husband, Alistair McAlpine, whose taste over the years ranged from Abstract Expressionism to policeman’s truncheons, in between building hotels in Australia, politicking in Britain and writing the back page of The World of Interiors. Alongside the museum-grade collection of weavings and tribal objects, expect to find 14 tonnes of books and massive canvasses by McAlpine’s friend, Sidney Nolan, alongside walled gardens, a gorgeous swimming pool and delicious home-cooked food. Perched between Diso and Marittima on the Adriatic side of the peninsula, it’s walking distance to one of Salento’s best swimming spots, the turquoise cove of Acquaviva, and a short drive to the region’s most charming towns and villages – including Matino – all under the radar and just waiting to be explored.

Il Convento, Puglia.
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Rome.
Door detail, Palazzo Altemps Rome.

Experience two distinct but compelling corners of Italy, from the exuberance of Rome to the rustic beauty of Southern Puglia.

The Pursuit Of Italy: Rome to Salento

10 nights, 13-23 September 2024

From AUD 13,500 per person double occupancy

50% deposit with balance due 90 days prior to departure

Carracci Gallery, Palazzo Farnese Rome.
Three Things About Matino


  • Private airport transfer upon arrival
  • Four nights accommodation Soho House Rome 
  • Two nights accommodation Patria Palace Lecce
  • Four nights accommodation Il Convento di Santa Maria di Costantinopoli
  • Breakfast plus lunch or dinner daily, including wine
  • All transport throughout itinerary 
  • Laundry (Il Convento)
  • Alcoholic beverages (Il Convento)
  • Entrance fees, taxes and local guides where required
  • Private transfer to train station upon departure

Not Included:

  • Flights to/from Italy
  • Comprehensive travel insurance (mandatory)
  • Visa or travel requirements for entry into Italy
  • Room service 
  • Massage and spa treatments
  • Laundry (Soho House and Patria Palace)
  • Gratuities
The Pursuit Of: Rome to Salento.
Home-cooked food, Il Convento Puglia.


  • A total of four guest rooms are available for single or double occupancy. They are beautiful spaces but often compact, ranging in size from 25m2 to 45m2. 
  • Upgrade to a larger room or suite from AUD150 per night.
  • Additional accommodation can be arranged should you wish to arrive earlier in Rome, or if you would like to stay longer in Marittima, pending availability.

Photo credits: Soho House Rome, Henry Bourne, Palazzo Colonna, Museo Nazionale Romano, Embassy of France in Italy and Jason Mowen.

Il Convento, Puglia.

Jason Mowen is an Australian interior designer and writer who divides his time between Murrurundi in the Upper Hunter and Matino, Puglia. An inveterate traveller, he has worked with tourism boards, luxury hotels and cultural institutions to promote atmospheric travel across the globe.

Jason is a contributor to Vogue Living, WISH and The Murrurundi Argus. His words have also appeared in international publications such as Vogue and Conde Nast Traveller, while his interiors have been published in Elle Decor, Belle and AD.

His travel style is unhurried and full of passion, seeking out beauty and interest in unexpected places and always avoiding the crowd.

A guest rooms at Il Convento, Puglia.

Terms and Conditions:

Please note, a minimum number of guests are required for the trip to proceed. You will be provided with confirmation once this number has been reached. 

If you choose to book your flight in advance of final confirmation, please book a refundable fare and/or obtain travel insurance to protect yourself against additional charges, should dates change or if cancellation occurs.

You will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit of 50% of the total booking cost, unless the booking is made 90 days or less prior to departure, in which case full payment must be paid when booking. If there is an unforeseen date change or cancellation, your deposit is refundable.

Fully comprehensive travel insurance is required for the trip. Please provide proof of insurance prior to departure.

Please note that while all efforts are made to present the itinerary as presented, we reserves the right to make any changes to the final itinerary deemed necessary, or due to circumstances beyond our control, such as flight changes, cancellations, political disturbances, natural disasters, etc.

Photographs and video recordings of guests may be used by The Pursuit Of for promotional purposes.