If you want an assured luxurious retreat in Puglia, a part of Italy which can be sometimes down-at-heel (excuse the pun), then the exquisite Borgo Egnazia is for you. Situated between Bari and Brindisi among the olive groves, this white-washed gated haven is set back from the sea, next to their own eighteen-hole golf course. It’s a welcome sight after a 45-minute drive from the airport past the endless tenements which line the Adriatic coast.
Borgo Egnazia looks as if it has been there for centuries when in fact it was built in 2010 by a local award-winning architect, Pino Brescia. Entirely made from traditional tufo limestone, the result is the appearance of a local village.
It’s the brainchild of former investment banker Aldo Melpignano who also owns the boutique San Domenico House Hotel in Chelsea, as well as the neighbouring Masseria San Domenico in Puglia. Melpignano’s empire is rapidly expanding from what began as a holiday home for his family into an empire of five-star retreats.
Interiors are cool and dark, candles light your way and cream curtains fall lusciously to the ground. The decoration is simple, chic and elegant. References to local agriculture and history decorate the walls and there is a delightful absence of club chill music. You couldn’t ask for anything more tasteful and calming.
It also boasts a holistic spa with extraordinary treatments such as psychomatic naturopathy and hydrotherapy all drawing on Puglian treatments and traditions.
Mr Legris and I stayed in the main house; downstairs there is a breezy bar and a formal restaurant, Due Camini, where you can sample delicious local cooking (and Puglian cuisine is to die for). Nearby restaurants are a must, particularly Locanda D Martume in Fasano, run by a chef trained in London, and Osteria del Porto in the nearby fishing village of Sallietri.
Outside, the two huge swimming pools, each with a different vibe, are probably the most inviting I have ever swum in. The space has been so cleverly broken up that even if the hotel were full you wouldn’t see too many people, simply because the estate is vast: each of the 29 private villas has its own pool.
The cleverest thing about Egnazia is the distinct separation of those with families from those who want peace. The family area with its own large pool is quite a distance from the main house, which means you needn’t hear darling Leo throw a tantrum over his pizza. There are also plenty of activities to occupy your little treasures, and staff are child-adoring and patient.
Melpignano clearly has seen an opportunity to develop his brand of luxury in a developing region. I was energised by this beautiful place and I will certainly return, as it is an easy jaunt with British Airways from Gatwick.
Borgo Egnazia has elegance, sophistication and relaxation. Puglia is the next big thing and Melpignano is at the helm of its success.
British Airways have direct flights to Bari three times a week