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The Italian Job

Meet the Paris naturists who headed south for the sun - all the way to Puglia.

The phrase ‘doing a Reggie Perrin’ might not have been a familiar one for Pierre and Martine Dutray, but the feeling certainly was. Their equivalent of Sunshine Desserts was working as human resources directors in large corporate companies based in Paris.

“For a time,” explains Martine, “we both had job satisfaction, helping to create an enjoyable and productive working environment. But as time went on, and the economic climate changed, we realised we were spending more time making people redundant and reviewing organisational structures than contributing to the well-being of employees. There had to be more to life than that.”

There was.

Having taken the decision to quit their old life and find a place in the sun, the easy option might have been to relocate to Provence or Languedoc. But in love with Italy, and naturists for more than 25 years, they decided to look at how they could help develop naturism in what Martine describes as “this beautiful country. Firstly, we narrowed down our choices to a region that offered us sunshine and warmth from April through to October. We also had other criteria: beaches, art, architecture, history, fantastic cuisine and - above all - somewhere that has remained authentic, was rich in traditions, very welcoming, and not very touristic.

“When it came to a property search, again we wanted a place with character, where we could create a quiet and relaxing family resort with a convivial atmosphere and offer hotel-standard services.”

The result? Restoring an 18th century farmhouse to build Grottamiranda, comprising 13 self-catering apartments in a quiet corner of Puglia - the ‘heel’ of Italy’s boot - which the couple opened in 2016.

Favour

“We knew from the beginning that the most challenging aspect was going to be the naturist reputation of Italy. It is not as well-known for being a naturist destination as France, Spain or Croatia for instance, and can sometimes be seen as being a little reluctant to embrace the lifestyle. But we were keen to work with the local Apulian people, and found them to be very open-minded and helpful. Contrary to popular opinion, it was also easy to get through all the administrative procedures to create a company and set up a new activity, and the Italian naturist federation played a big part in supporting us and ensuring we had the right certifications. Also in our favour is the fact that Torre Guaceto, located in a nature reserve, is just 5km away. It is not an official naturist beach, according to Italian law, but is designated as ‘tolerated’ and has been frequented by naturists for more than 25 years.”

Since opening, Grottamiranda’s reviews have been almost universally positive, with naturists from their key markets - which include the UK, France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands - all commenting on the resort’s hallmark traits of comfort, style and friendliness.

“Naturist values are based on solidarity and friendship,” Martine believes, “and it has been encouraging to receive support from the different naturist federations, in Europe and beyond. The naturist ‘world’ is relatively small, and we have been pleased with the reaction we have had from naturist travel agencies, bloggers and the media. We feel the size of the resort contributes to a cosy and convivial atmosphere: the place is quiet, peaceful and in complete harmony with nature, all attributes that many naturists are seeking. Guests at Grottamiranda can be as private or as sociable as they like: many tell us they are delighted to have the chance to get to know each other and participate in common activities if they wish. But above all, we are a tailor-made resort, and allow everyone to personalise their holiday. We can help with reservations for restaurants, organise day trips, and pass on information on the many attractions of Puglia, encouraging guests to explore the region and fall in love with it, as we have.”

Covid has obviously had an impact on business over the last year or so, but Pierre and Martine have taken the opportunity of the lockdown to open a further five accommodation units and build a new garden area. They also have confidence in the loyalty of their clientele, and as regular bookings start to return, are also planning to extend their options by organising more wellness weeks, with the emphasis on yoga, massage, meditation and pilates.

In the sun, of course.

A passion for Puglia

Not as well-known as its southern cousins such as Naples, the Amalfi coast and Sicily, Puglia (known as Apulia to the Italians) nonetheless has plenty of attractions including:

  • 800km of coastline comprising beaches, caves and natural swimming pools
  • Centuries of history with Greek, Roman, Norman and Spanish influences
  • Traditional and distinctive conical ‘trulli’ houses
  • Four UNESCO World Heritage sites
  • Fascinating cities including Bari, Lecce and Matera (European Capital of Culture in 2019)

The Grottamiranda website includes a wealth of information, photographs and videos, whilst Pierre and Martine will be delighted to share some of their hidden secrets on the region.

© PAUL ROUSE

 


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