The heel of Italy's boot, Puglia has all the ingredients for a typical Italian holiday: sun, scenery, pasta and Campari. Yet the region has a markedly different feel to the country's richer north.
It is unassuming and rustic, the towns are unfussy, and the vibe is low-key rather than glitzy. Masseria San Domenico bridges this gap, offering a stay that is intimate and authentic, with a quiet elegance that leaves you feeling like an utterly chic (and in-the-know) traveller.
Bougainvillea-covered piazzas and comfortable rooms coupled with dramatic views of the Adriatic lend an undeniably boutique feel. It's unsurprising that this 14th-century farmhouse-turned-hotel attracts a mixture of returning Italian families, young couples and celebrities. Easily one of the most beautiful places to stay in Italy, Masseria San Domenico offers a snapshot of Puglian culture and is a superb base for exploring the region.
Nearby, the understated sister property of Borgo Egnazia is a former fortress, once home to the Knights of Malta. It hasn't lost its chivalric charm, with whitewashed walls springing up among ancient olive groves much like the Moorish towns dotted across the undulating Puglian landscape.
The 40 guest rooms are traditional but bright, fresh and spacious. Choose from a deluxe room, garden terrace abode or San Domenico suite and revel in the Tuscan villa-meets-(luxe)-monastery vibe - just be prepared for the stare of a religious portrait when you open your eyes in the morning. Furnished with traditional Italian ceramics and antique furnishings, some rooms offer garden views while others overlook the swimming pool or sea.
What's for breakfast?
Tuck into a continental spread inside or on the sunny terrace of the Sala Del Fico. There's an array of pastries, local hams and honey, as well as Italian sweet treats and hot dishes to order.
How about lunch and dinner?
The hotel grows all of its own fruits and vegetables in the kitchen garden, providing the perfect accompaniment to ocean-to-table seafood. Enjoy a Mediterranean lunch under the poolside pergola, or secrete yourself in the candlelit, vaulted dining room for a long, leisurely dinner. Room or dessert? Gelato, gelato, gelato. If you're bronzing at the hotel beach a short drive away, try La Nassa. The restaurant's top-notch crudi di mare, carpaccio and fresh salads more than make up for the its proximity to the road.
Is there are bar?
Yes. Located in the gardens, Ulivo is more for aperitivo than digestivo. Pitch up sun-kissed and refreshed to watch the sky turn gold, negroni in hand.
The hotel pool is so enormous it could easily be mistaken for the sea on the hotel website. With a spa, tennis court and golf course, the masseira gives guests little reason to leave.
That being said, we highly recommend a trip to the beach for a salty dip in the warm waves of the Adriatic. The coast is rocky and a bit rugged, but the water is so fresh and clear that it's definitely worth it.
Things you should know
Grab a seat by the pool under one of the ancient olive trees. You'll probably have it all to yourself as most guests head to the beach.
Within a short walk you can find…
Not much - you definitely need to rent a car to explore local towns such as Polignano al Mare and Alberobello with its famous trulli.