Art-filled La Fiermontina offers a sophisticated hotel stay in the historic town of Lecce, an unmissable stop on a road trip around Puglia.
Imagine a townhouse. Except this one is in the pretty baroque city of Lecce in the Apulian region of southern Italy. It's all pale sand limestone that's smooth to the touch and softly glows in the afternoon sun.
Wrought-iron Romeo and Juliet balconies look out over a tranquil sculpture garden, disturbed only by the rustle of leafy olive trees or the rippling water as a guest glides through the duck-egg blue swimming pool.
This chic "urban resort" is home for the next few days. And homely it feels, despite the super-slick interior design, muted grey colour palette and eye-catching artwork.
You'll spend hazy days wandering Lecce's lattice of gorgeous backstreets searching for the next open doorway through which you can catch a glimpse of a tiled, frescoed atrium that lurks within.
Then you'll return to La Fiermontina to curl up by the impressive fireplace, book in one hand, negroni in the other, pretending this 17th-century private home is your own.
Sixteen guest rooms are done up in dove white and slate grey, creating a Zen-like canvas that demands you slide straight into the soft slippers waiting by the bed.
A combination of contemporary, vintage and antique furniture brings character to subdued suites, while snazzy bathrooms feature free-standing baths and spacious power showers.
If it's a special occasion, book into the Antonia Fiermontina suite - the hotel is a grandson's ode to this artistic noblewoman - which is accessed via its own stone staircase and features an original star-pinnacled ceiling.
What's for breakfast?
Weather allowing, sit beneath an orange tree in the courtyard and nibble on a platter of sweet treats - warm chocolate cakes, fresh fruit, bread and honey - while waiting for eggs or garden omelette. Linger over coffee while you plan your day ahead.
How about lunch and dinner?
Make tracks for the walled garden or elegant dining room to tuck into a menu based around a "cucina povera" (poor kitchen) that sees local ingredients - think: tomatoes, artichokes, fava beans, courgettes, fennel and plenty of seafood - imagined into innovative plates. Don't miss the signature Puglian dish of orecchiette con le cime di rapa (pasta cooked with turnip greens).
Is there a bar?
Yes, both poolside and in the ground-floor dining room, but we suggest wandering through the house and plonking yourself in one of the many mid-century armchairs with your tipple of choice.
Swimming pool, parking, WiFi and a treatment room offering Ayurvedic therapies.
It would be a crime to call it an amenity, but the hotel's impressive modern-art collection is particularly notable. Inspired by Antonia Fiermontina - who married two artists, who were best friends and remained living across the courtyard from one another, despite both being in love with their mutual muse - it includes works by Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand and Tobia Scarpa.
Things I should know…
This year they've opened a sister property, Palazzo Bozzi Corso, an architectural marvel that is thought to have been built on the remains of a 16th-century palace. Rooms here are eye-poppingly spectacular, so even if you don't stay, do pop in for a nose around.
Within a short walk I can find…
Piazza del Duomo is the prettiest in town - stop by Baldo Gelato for ice cream en route.