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I think it’s time to get away from the English weather once again, after putting up with the rain, snow and freezing cold weather, despite the fact that it’s supposed to be Spring! I’ve been forever daydreaming about escaping to somewhere warmer, being refreshed by the warm Mediterranean air and enjoying the liberating feel of a light summer outfit as I walk barefoot in the golden sand. OK, so I think I need to book my flight and make my forever dream a reality.
All packed and done, I’ve decided to head off solo to Italy, which happens to be one of my favourite destinations. This time I have chosen Bari, in the region of Puglia in Southern of Italy, alongside the Adriatic Sea. It’s naturally beloved by Italian holidaymakers but somewhat less well known around the globe. When thinking about dream destinations, everyone leans towards the ever-popular Rome, Florence, Milan, The Amalfi, and Venice, while cacti-covered, “foodie galore” Puglia remains discreet. It was a love at first sight! The Mediterranean’s luxury property, Borgo Egnazia surrounds the land of never-ending olive trees which hold the mysteries of the past in their roots, some for 1000 years. It’s where the Itria Valley stretches down into rich farmland, producing some of the best crops in Italy. Let’s not even talk about the gorgeous olive oil, most of which is produced in Puglia.
Borgo Egnazia cradles the ancient city of Egnazia, nestled between the foothills of the Apennines and the azure Adriatic. This is a landscape drenched in ancient olive groves, rosemary, bougainvillea and jasmine, where the green fairways of one of the finest golf courses in Southern Italy provide a horizon down to the traditional fishing village of Savelletri. The views from the Resort have a rich history dating back to Christ. The ancient Roman city of Egnazia is open for all to see …’Carpe Diem’ could not be more apt here, famously penned by Horace who is believed to have passed by using the still-preserved tracks of Via Traiana. Guests can follow in his footsteps as this ancient road to Rome runs through the Resort and is clearly visible at the front gates.
“Borgo Egnazia is like a living, breathing tale of Puglia, spoken by the ancient culture of the land and by the sheer beauty of its nonpareil architecture. It happens every hour of the year: you come and live your time here, and nature is powerful, peace is intense, harmony is full. It’s a place where you meet yourself. It’s Borgo Egnazia: it’s nowhere else.”
The hotel is run by the owners of Masseria San Domenico. Borgo Egnazia is positioned to become one of the leading luxury family spas and golf resorts in the Mediterranean, featuring a luxury hotel, a traditional Apulian village and 28 private villas across 20 hectares on the coast of Southern Italy. The main hotel will feature 63 guest rooms and suites; a variety of restaurants and bars; two outdoor and one indoor swimming pool; a grand ballroom and several meeting rooms; plus, a 2,000 m ² Raison d’Etre spa, designed to be one of the best in Europe, featuring a modern-day interpretation of a Roman bathhouse. There will also be 28 villas which will represent the most exclusive accommodation at the Resort; each with three bedrooms, a private garden and a swimming pool, wrap-around balconies and roof terraces. The most spectacular part of the Resort will be the Village inspired by the nearby hillside towns. A total of 72 Apulian townhouses surround the central piazza, hosting 91 beautiful one and two-bedroom suites along with private Arab gardens, balconies and roof terraces overlooking the sea. The Village will include an array of bars and restaurants as well as a swimming pool, children’s facilities, and a cooking school.
I’ve been told this property was built in 2010, but it’s hard to imagine it is only 8 years old. The mystery of the land informs the entire design of the property, which has been done to an exquisite standard. The grand whimsical lobby, known as ‘La Corte’, has an instantly calming influence, with its tall, creamy white, elegant staircases lit by flickering candle-like citronella lanterns. The scent of fig, blended with other beautifully complementary aromas is probably what I will always associate with this place, which is perfectly restful and inviting. It makes me think of a stairway to paradise, just like my dream and perfectly timed for my need to escape for a few days.
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I walk along the long candle-lit corridor to my room and the door softly opens. This mind-blowing suite seems out of this world, a sensory calm haven with everything conspiring to bless the senses – from the almond oil scent in the bathroom, the subtle lighting, textured tuffi rock walls, sheer fabrics, comforting throws, all blissfully completed by the sound of running water from the balcony. The amenities are filled with huge baskets of walnuts, mini posies of dried lavender and walls of zinc watering cans, each one as spotless and gleaming as the last. I must applaud the housekeepers for remembering every little detail in every room when I cannot even be trusted to remember my house keys at home! Everything at Borgo Egnazia was created by local designer, Pino Brescia, who clearly knows this land well, taking inspiration from the ancient town of Egnazia, the ruins of which can still be seen in the gardens. Instead of paintings, there are lengths of tied up rope hanging on the walls, piles of old books bundled together and set into crevices, a nod to Puliga’s rich farm history and respectful knowledge of its elders. During your stay in Borgo (meaning ‘village’) there are adorable little Casetas if you’d rather have a more private experience or, if you are looking to have a larger group, they can accommodate up to 14 guests in villas with private pools, each with its own private housekeeper, who also is an amazing cook!It’s so cleverly designed that it doesn’t feel like a resort, rather like a little village decorated by overgrown Bougainvillaea on the tufa limestone wall.
There is lots to do nearby and, although the hotel can arrange a hotel transfer, I would suggest hiring a car to be able to explore local areas – it would be a such a waste to come all this way and not go to nearby Alberobello, the cone-roof houses known as ‘Trulli’ or a spend a day in Lecce, known as ‘the Florence of Southern Italy’. You can get to Borgo Ezgania from Bari (you can also reach Bari or Brindisi via Ryanair – Bari is 50 minutes away by air and Brindisi about a 30-minute flight). There’s so much to do here, from olive oil making, cycling around the groves, cooking classes at Trattoria Mia Cucina, or you might fancy a vintage car driving experience from Puglia Auto Classica, where you can drive up to the mountains, along the coast with its fabulous panoramic view, then on to Alberobello.
The beautiful, so-called “trulli village” is one of the most characteristic areas of the region and holds many unique beauties and traits that are typical of this ancient city. A UNESCO site since 1996, Alberobello is called the Capital of Trulli for its monumental historical centre that counts more than 1400 trulli famous whitewashed cone-roofed houses, made completely out of limestone. This town is well known for its tourists, like me and is characterised by the presence of small souvenir shops and craftsman boutiques – did someone say “Time to shop till you drop”? There is so much choice here that you can always find the perfect gift for your family, friends (and for yourself!) knowing with each object that sense of cosiness, where you can experience the human touch alongside the local people and maybe even having a small taste of what it feels like to be Apulian. I could go on forever.
Are you thinking of bringing the kids with you? There’s a kid’s drop-in-when-you-like club, where your children will be looked after as you make the most of your stay. Their amazing staff organises cooking classes, puppet shows, and trips to see the horses and donkeys at the farm, as well as arts-and-crafts galore. It’s right next to the family swimming pool, which has a sloping shallow section for little paddlers and, what’s more, it’s heated, so it’s warm and toasty – even in October.
Borgo Egnazia is well-known for its spas. There is the Vair Spa, an almost devotional space, where therapeutics waft barefoot in taupe shade outfit, floor-trailing robes along with abundant of candles glowing in the dark. A soft, relaxing background melody is provided by an accordion, as well as birdsong and gentle waves lapping the shore. Massages are usually done with olive oil and the facials start with fresh sage leaves placed all over the eyes. Everything is simple but fascinatingly effective. The spa is early and rooted, an unexpectedly transformative sanctuary every bit as special as the hotel itself. It was a pure delight and you feel as if you have been disconnected from the real world for a few hours.
All the Borgo Egnazia restaurants are smart, with covetable splatter-ware ceramic plates and bowls. There are about six different styles guided by our executive chef, Domingo Schingaro, and supervised by Michelin star-awarded coach, Andrea Ribaldone, creating different menus using extra fresh local products, some of which are cultivated inside the property itself. Whether it’s a gourmet dinner in dim candlelight at Due Camini, an Apulian “crudo” overlooking the sea, a pizza in the open or a traditional dish of tasty “orecchiette” at La Frasca, Borgo Egnazia has a place fulfilling your every wish to discover the most authentic Apulian food. Their food was simply mouth-watering and cooked to perfection. I was totally impressed by the wine selection, which allowed me a truly joyful experience as I enjoyed it with the food throughout the evening. Everyone who works here is from Puglia and most of them speak very good English – in fact, a fair few of the staff I spoke to have worked in London hotels and we shared many stories and memories. After a full evening of eating, drinking and socialising, it was time to retreat to the Bar del Portico for a nightcap and make the most of my last evening.
This wonderful few days of retreat in Borgo Egnazia has been a healing staycation with fresh air and continuous sunshine which gradually turns into starry night. A time when you can put your mind at ease by escaping from your hectic lifestyle for a wee while. Be sure you bring a good-size suitcase with some spare space as you’ll want to bring back at least some of the local olive oil, wine and maybe even the scent of Borgo Egnazia itself. I will definitely be back for some more of this wonderful Apulian experience again in the future.
Borgo Eganzia, a five-star hotel located in Fasano, Puglia, rates from £334 for a double room.