Secret Italy. Part 1. Apulia

Luxury Travel Tips

And Italy again! Yes, I have a special weakness for this country. And it seems to me that many of the readers understand me very well. This time we will talk about Puglia.

Even for many Italians, Puglia has long remained a remote and mysterious place. Isolated for centuries by bad roads, its inhabitants could only admire the sparkling waters of the Adriatic Sea: somewhere out there, just beyond the horizon lies Greece. But now this 200-mile-long peninsula (the heel of the Italian “boot”) has suddenly become a fashionable and popular holiday destination all over the world.

Central Puglia has a lot to offer. Romantic hotels – but in fact, just country houses, among the locals called a word masseria (fortified medieval farm-fortresses). Breathtaking views of the valleys from trulli (conical stone houses, which are the trademark of the region). Food and wine that you will not find equal in the whole world. Beautiful beaches. And the finest examples of European baroque architecture located in Martina Franca and Lecce.

Unlike the rest of Italy, Puglia has its own unique rural character. Arriving here from Naples after an easy four-hour drive on smooth modern roads (and, of course, with indelible memories of the Naples garbage spirit), I found a huge shady garden that immersed me instantly in an atmosphere of dream and beauty. Biscuit-colored, half-stone walls are hidden in the shade of silvery olive groves, as well as fields of artichokes, tomatoes, and fennel. And as the trip to Puglia continued, my first positive impression only intensified. Moreover, there was not a day when I ceased to be surprised at the unsurpassed hospitality of the Apulians (many of whom, by the way, speak good English). These people truly take pride and pleasure in helping foreigners and enthusiastically recommend their favorite restaurants, obscure museums and good picnic spots.

I strongly advise you to spend a week or two in Puglia. Settle into one of the beautiful masseria between Savelletri de Fasano and Ostuni (most of the strongest sights of Puglia are accessible by car from this point), then go to Lecce, three or four days in which you will bring real joy.

The main airports of Puglia are located in Bari and Brindisi and are connected by regular flights to Rome, Milan and other Italian cities. Italians prefer to visit Puglia in the summer, when hot days and cool nights make it a classic seaside destination, but for those more interested in traveling than on the beach, May-June and September-October are ideal times.

And now the specifics. First, I lived in Masseria San Domenico.

Late in the afternoon I arrived at Savelletri di Fasano, located on the coast; a warm honey light illuminated the delightful 15th-century tower at the center of this beautiful masseria. And the olive groves surrounding the hotel created the feeling of a tiny island of calm. Today the San Domenico is the most famous luxury hotel in Puglia, offering a combination of international comfort and relaxing rural scenery. (By the way, the most famous hotel in the area, Il Melograno, has now turned into an unattractive place with surprisingly indifferent service.) Later, as I watched the full moon rise over the Adriatic Sea, I was seized with a desire to stay here indefinitely. But I wanted to see as much as possible!

All 50 San Domenico rooms have cool limestone floors, and furniture is a mix of authentic antiques and reproduction fragments. Wrought iron lamps with ruffled silk shades provide a soft reading light, and beds are covered in fine Frette linen linens. I stayed in one of the junior suites (at no. 162) overlooking the olive groves, with a small private terrace and views of the Adriatic Sea (if this room is not available, ask for no. 152, you won’t regret it either).

The hotel’s restaurant, bar and breakfast room are housed in an old stone farmhouse next to the masseria itself. The main hall of the restaurant is a beautiful space with vaulted ceilings, which was created in the early 18th century as a room for the production of olive oil. Here, on cool evenings, a fireplace is lit under a massive chimney.

The menu offers well-prepared local dishes such as pasta orrechiette (literally “little ears”) with broccoli and slices of beef with parmesan and arugula.

The bar is a very cozy place, furnished with light chairs and lush sofas. (Cigar smokers will find a humidor and separate smoking area here.)

The nearby breakfast room, filled with sunlight, is the perfect place to start the day. Be sure to try the pear-shaped carmoza affumifi cata (double-smoked mozzarella) cheese and homemade jam. At noon, lunch is served by the pool, and pizza, pasta, salads and sandwiches are served on shaded tables.

There is also a thalassotherapy center where you can take a spa treatment package with salt water and seaweed, as well as use the indoor pool, heated to 100 degrees for “aqua aerobics”, to develop flexibility and mobility. Other recreational activities include a fitness center and floodlit tennis courts.

However, the main activity in San Domenico is an 18-hole golf course located on the Adriatic Sea with magnificent views from any point.

In summer, San Domenico becomes a favorite vacation spot for wealthy Romans and Milanese, who often come here with their children and nannies. (There’s even a separate children’s pool.) During the off-season, the hotel gets quieter and more international: Britons, Swiss and Germans have long succumbed to the charms of Puglia.

One of these days I vow to return and tell you about a couple more hotels in Puglia. And also about Lecce, of course! If I suddenly dig in, leave me a comment with a reminder. This is really what I would like to tell you. See you!

I FULFILL THE PROMISED AND CONTINUE THE TALK ABOUT APULIA! >>

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