PARAGON 700 BOUTIQUE HOTEL & SPA, PUGLIA, ITALY
An instant love affair with an 18th century palace led to the recent opening of Paragon 700, a unique hotel tucked away in Puglia’s beautiful White City.
An authentic Italian experience set amongst the olive groves and fragrant citrus orchards awaits 21st century travellers in Ostuni, Puglia, on Italy’s picturesque east coast. With a cluster of whitewashed Gothic, Romanesque and Byzantine architecture making up the beautiful older quarters of the town, this place is nothing short of charming, bathed in history and classic Italian styling.
When Pascale Lauber and Ulrike Bauschke found this little slice of paradise, it was supposed to be purely for relaxation’s sake. Already with numerous hotel and restaurant projects to their name, plus their successful customisation shop under their belt, opening a new business was the last thing on their minds. That was until they discovered the Palazzo Rosso – the ‘Red Palace’ in Ostuni in 2016. It was such a beautiful slice of Italian architecture they fell in love with it instantly and felt they simply had to share it, and so began a new venture for the creative duo.
The timeline is still blurry as far as the building’s history goes, but Maria Buongiorno, the conservator in charge of bringing to light the former glory of the building, is certain that the architecture of the palazzo is multi-secular. The most ancient parts seem to date back to the 1700s. There are fireplaces, stone vaults, but also frescoes that are clearly from that period. During the restoration, a wooden door with peepholes typical of 18th century cloisters was discovered. This treasure, as well as the many religious frescoes suggest that the palazzo once housed a convent.
Later, it apparently fell into the hands of Neapolitans. Several clues point to the new owners being from Naples, starting with the beautiful original majolica tiles that have brought new life to Bar 700. On the back of some of those tiles, Maria found an M stamp, the brand of a famous workshop owned by the three Massa brothers, ceramics masters of early 18th century Naples. Another clue is the colour of the building: This shade called Pompeii Red was named after the famous lost city because it was commonly found on residences as well as on the famous ruins. In the 18th century, right after the re-discovery of Pompeii, this particular red became a fashionable status symbol since the pigment was the most expensive on the market. Cladding an entire façade in Pompeii Red was therefore an ostentatious display of wealth and even more so amongst the white buildings of Ostuni.
The elegantly restored building in the heart of Puglia’s White City has been meticulously restored to boast 11 individually curated rooms to turn the palazzo into Paragon 700 Boutique Hotel & Spa, a unique hospitality offering born from Pascale’s creativity and Ulrike’s management skills. Chic and dramatic, there’s a sense of theatre in the styling and choice of materials. It’s lavish and seductive and feels every bit the luxury retreat it is.
The renovation was extensive and carried out very carefully – thank goodness for their efforts as it would have been criminal to cover up the hidden gems that were found throughout the building. The removal of several layers of green and brown paint from the inside walls uncovered beautiful neo-classical frescoes. In the 19th century religious representations were no longer in fashion and in their stead mythological beasts, playful dragons and griffins cavort along the friezes of the walls, which is where the dragon that has become the hotel’s emblem was discovered.
The Paragon 700 team painstakingly restored every inch of the former Italian palace using traditional handcrafted techniques, while injecting a splash of modern flair. French parquet flooring extends throughout all guest rooms and suites, which feature stonewashed bed linen, cathedral ceilings, and period fireplaces. Each guest room is different, some offering terraces, balconies or in the case of the Paragon Suite, a sunken bathtub and private terrace with sun loungers. Guests who fall in love with the chic interiors will be delighted to discover that they can buy select furniture and décor to take home as the ultimate holiday memento. Any sold pieces will be replaced by the boutique hotel’s stylish owners, who are always happy to find an excuse to indulge their passion for sourcing eclectic items.
The sweeping arcs and raw texture in the plastered walls catch the light perfectly, adding to the ambience and knowledge that you’re somewhere really special. Dark corners and soft rolling passageways add depth and intrigue, as though you might be exploring somewhere yet to be discovered. The introduction of modern amenities is delicate, and therefore doesn’t jar with the beauty of the building’s original features but adds to it quite harmoniously.
A Unique Decor, down to the smallest detail, repurposed monumental light fixtures, South African custom-made sofas and headboards, gazebos from India turned into bathtubs, closets and nightstands from antique fairs from all over the world. The creative association of old and new art, objects and furnishings in a very personal mix is Pascale’s trademark. Her sense of observation has been sharpened during a lifetime of travel, countless visits to international art and trade shows and local antique markets. Her vision made of worldly elegance is multicultural and original down to the smallest detail. The unique result, coherent, deeply modern and stimulating is at the root of the atmosphere that permeates every room at Paragon 700.
Standing in stark contrast to the whitewashed buildings of Ostuni, Paragon 700’s red brick façade cocoons a lush garden and swimming pool, a rare green space in the heart of the city, offering a spacious, tranquil and exclusive oasis, just a five-minute walk from the main square. The ruined walls in the private garden and surrounding the pool only add to the feel of having this slice of history all to yourself.
At the turn of the 17th century, Puglia like the rest of Italy develops many public green spaces for health and social purposes. The Palazzo, of course had to have a private one: an extraordinary garden laying, protected, behind high stone walls. A symbol of wealth and leisure, the space is enhanced by a row of Tuscan style columns forming a path towards the beautiful orange grove. This tucked away place is conducive to peaceful reading or meditation, it’s intimate and self-indulgent and is a unique and wondrous offering.
As well as a relaxing pool area, the palazzo’s former water chamber has been transformed into a unique spa offering a Turkish bath, Himalayan salt wall, multi-sensory shower and a natural whirlpool dug into the ground. Couples booking the two mezzanine-level treatment rooms can enjoy exclusive access to the spa; essentially their very own private wellness sanctuary.
In addition, Paragon 700 brings a fresh taste to Ostuni with the opening of Restaurant 700. Head chef Giovanni Cerroni, the protégé of Michelin-starred Paulo Airaudo, offers an enticing menu that celebrates outstanding local ingredients and cuisine. Open to guests and locals alike, this new venue offers an intimate dining experience, with impeccable service and the finest local vintages from the hotel’s impressive wine cellar.
They say the devil is in the detail and here it’s very much the uncovered detailing in the building’s original architecture that takes centre stage. The eclectic furniture and artwork has been selected to complement the building rather than to dominate the space with unnecessary frills and fancies, which is why it is just so perfect.