An evening stroll on the rutted, silvery cobblestones of Lecce’s historic quarter led entrepreneur Fouad Filali past the ‘for sale’ sign outside a 17th century house.
The half-Italian Filali grew up across multiple continents thanks to his Moroccan diplomat father and a mother who regaled her young son with true tales of his Pugliese grandmother Antonia Fiermonte, who settled among the Surrealists in Paris during the 1930s. ‘I bought the crumbling house to reconnect with my heritage. The rest was an unexpected boon,’ says Filali pointing to the surrounding land- a rare real estate opportunity within Lecce’s Baroque city centre better known for its intimate warren of snaking lanes, punctuated with soaring churches carved out of local limestone known as barocco Leccese. ‘The property felt too big for me, so I thought ‘why not a hotel?’ For all of Lecce’s cultural attractions and access to beaches on the iconic Adriatic coast, there was nowhere decent and central to stay.’
Local architect Antonio Annicchiarico, whose nearby home for the Hermès family was near completion, was the natural choice for this project. ‘I could have hired a high profile international architect or someone from Rome or Milan,’ states Filali, his arms outstretched in confirmation of those Italian roots. ‘But only someone from Puglia could create something modern yet entirely Leccese.’
The result incorporates 16 unique private quarters featuring traditional pietra di Trani floors and the vaulted star-pinnacled ceilings seen in noble homes of the Salento region here in Italy’s southernmost region. Scattered throughout the interior are original art and furnishings from Filali’s personal collection including pieces by Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand and Tobia Scarpa. Sculptures in the private olive garden, a Fernan Léger among them, were inherited from his grandmother for whom the hotel is named.