Within a tiny town in southeast Italy called Gallipoli, you will find a limestone island connected to the mainland by nothing more than an ancient bridge. This island flaunts a rollicking history, with relics of that past enduring to this day. Atlas is one of them. When owners Sabrina Cavenaghi and Luca De Carlo found the Atlas property, it was already a functioning B&B–albeit a decrepit one. The couple was already familiar with the area, as Luca’s father is from the region and his brother owns property in Gallipoli. And though they were living in Giuliano at the time, the duo was itching for a change of pace.
Luca De Carlo is a film and music video director while Sabrina Cavenaghi is an artist, so they pooled their ambitious creative instincts together to transform Atlas into a stunning holiday vacation rental we were eager to offer on BoutiqueHomes. Now, guests can have an entire B&B all to themselves! To get the inside scoop on this Italian gem, we recently chatted with Sabrina and Luca who recounted the love and care that went into their thoughtful restoration.
What was it about Gallipoli that made you want to own property on the island?
Sabrina Cavenaghi & Luca De Carlo: We started thinking that having a place in Gallipoli would be a great way of being close to family and getting to see them more often, also being in a town closer to the sea and more lively than small rural Giuliano. The choice of the old downtown historic area in Gallipoli was a no-brainer, with its beautiful old buildings and the narrow charming winding streets still populated by local families.
When you found Atlas, was it love at first sight?
SC & LDC: We bought Atlas because we fell in love with the garden being the heart of this massive old building. We saw several properties, all of them requiring an amazing amount of time and investment to turn them into a living home or a B&B. Sabrina had to leave, and one day she got this call from Luca saying, “I found it, it has a Baroque garden, you’ll love it, we get it.”
What was the restoration process like?
SC & LDC: The main aim of the remodeling was to bring back the original old elegance and simplicity of the space and its garden. Many elements needed attention and restructuring, like the terraces, in order to prevent water damage and to make them livable. We added lots of electrical, internet, security upgrades that were necessary, and then turned to the decor. Reflooring the whole living room and hallway area required removing the marble floor and substitute it with a typical traditional “graniglia” that is also present in the entrance, while most of the bedrooms have wonderful original turn of the century encaustic cement tiles. Obviously re-plastering, painting, refurbishing windows and doors, etc.
How about landscaping?
SC & LDC: We completely replanted the garden. We replaced the flowers and bushes with mint, sage, rosemary, lavender, and planted four beautiful pomegranate trees, very diffused in Salento, and tended the jasmine that was already there. Now at night, after the heat of the day, there is this wonderful pervasive perfume that reaches the terrace where we have our dinners.
Each item within Atlas, from furniture to decor, feels like it has a story. Is that true? Where do you find all of these beautiful things?
SC & LDC: The furniture and decorative elements have an individual history. We brought some from our home in Giuliano, like the shelving structures that Luca had designed in Poland while on one of his shootings, and the modern couch in one of the suites. The beds and tables in the rooms, and the tables on the terrace were made on Luca’s design. But most of the furniture, lamps and objects were bought in antique markets and reupholstered or refinished, or are finds from some of our traveling trips.
Which is your favorite piece?
SC & LDC: Our favorite element is the shelving in the living room, because it became the container of a number of objects that we love and collected over time from different places, many moved with us from home to home and now landed in Atlas.
What do you hope guests take away from a stay at Atlas?
SC & LDC: We hope our guests can experience the peacefulness of this oasis, surrounded by massive ancient walls that are embraced by the sea. The slowed down pace is imposed by the warm breeze, the flower perfumes, the sounds of the seagulls and the swallows, the muted sounds from the bustling street of charming downtown Gallipoli. We hope that our guests leave Atlas taking away memories from a past that was not our own but that belongs to the place and can be shared by everyone visiting it.
Why did you decide to transition Atlas from a B&B to a vacation rental?
SC & LDC: We opted to close Atlas as a B&B after comments expressed by some guests. They let us know how much they enjoyed their stay and how wonderful it would have been to have the place all to themselves. That was also our own experience. We just had to accept that the best way to experience Atlas is as your own palace as a whole. That is difficult when the place is dismembered in rooms allocated to people that might not be attuned to the same wavelength. We loved the time we had Atlas to ourselves with our friends, and thought that it would be great for other people to be able to share that opportunity.
What’s your next project?
SC & LDC: Our new project is a 1500’s oil mill we just bought in Nardo’, a small drive inland from Gallipoli. We want to convert it into a living art space, and in the future be able to share it with guests looking for new experiences.
To stay at Sabrina Cavenaghi and Luca De Carlo’s home, click here.