Time is clearly delineated in Southern Italy, Puglia being no exception. Mornings are for work: espresso is thrown down standing at countertops; conversation is staccato. Relaxation comes a little later – irrespective of tourists used to 24-hour conveniences.
Shops shutter, streets empty and the only sounds are the odd church bell, and the hum of packed beaches along the Adriatic. It stands to reason that one should adjust accordingly and relax in local luxury.
Masseria Torre Maizza sits atop Italy’s heel, in classically Puglian countryside. Recently purchased by hotel brand Roccoforte, the 16th-Century property has been refurbished with traditional values in mind.
The masseria – ‘farm’ in Italian – still embodies its agricultural heritage, with whitewashed tufo walls and hanging vines .
Indeed, walking through the property, the most arresting feature is its scent. Briny olive trees punctuate their sweet orange and fig counterparts, a touch of zest added by an outcrop of lemon trees – overlaid by heady rosemary and lavender plants that ring the pool.
Forty rooms and suites have been decorated with a simple, almost rustic hand to complement their idyllic surroundings. Four have their own pools, and most contain a small private garden with sunloungers. For dining, chef Pierangelini’s artful menus are served by candlelight in the vaulted dining room or open-air in the gardens, under the stone colonnade framing the 20-metre pool.
The curation of an atmosphere is clear: whether it be from the no-phone rule instilled pool-side, or the guest musicians, whose sounds drift across the masseria in a summer’s evening. After reading the papers over a breakfast of local tomatoes and cheese, guests may borrow a bicycle to cruise around the private villas in the area, or a set of clubs for a round at the on-site golf course. Or, simply sit by the stone-columned pool and indulge in la dolce far niente – a worthy pursuit in Southern Italy.
In the neighbourhood
For church spotters, Monopoli is parallel to none: this old-school Italian town boasts a baroque cathedral, as well as more humble edifices, around every cobblestoned corner. At its coast, octopi are piled up on the traditional gozzi – blue and red fishing boats.
Trulli, the peculiar cone-shaped dwellings in Alberobello, may be beloved now – and UNESCO-listed – but they were not so prized by their 15th-Century residents; peasants who were ordered by their Count to build homes that could be easily torn down for tax reasons.
Polignano a Mare
For that classic clifftop Italian vista, look no further than Polignano a Mare, where sea spray blasts sunbleached villas carved into the rock. After a requisite picture, head down into the bowels of the town: Grotta Palazzese is a fine dining restaurant built into the side of a cave.
From US$737 per night / roccofortehotels.com