Nicknamed "the Florence of the south", Lecce was once besotted by baroque architecture, and this legacy endures inside the city's storied walls. Guests who have come in search of South Italian grandeur will have their desires met on entering Palazzo Bozzi Corso, an 18th-century palazzo composed of baroque stonework in marvellous proportions. Originally the home of a Corsican marquis (who made his money in olive oil), this regal relic has today been transformed by Antonia Filali and her brother Giacomo-Fouad, of La Fiermontina hotel group, into a homestay fit for modern royalty.
Could-be earls and demanding duchesses still in need of some convincing should pass through the palm-strewn, candlelit courtyard en route to dinner where a peaceful ambience and a museum-worthy modern art collection are certain to sway favour.
This 10-suite mansion, comprised of two Classic Suites, four Aristocratic Suites and four Wellness Suites will appeal to anyone with an appreciation for art (there's a sketchbook's worth of Léger's drawings displayed in one suite alone), neck-achingly high ceilings and XXL beds. Our favourite rooms include the Blue Room, with its in-room sauna facilities and cobalt-hued stucco walls, and the Lady Astor Suite - ornate ceilings, polished parquet floors and a gargantuan smart television are a welcomed reprieve after a day of hitting the baroque pavements. Netflix and chill in a palazzo has a certain de rigueur we think. Other notable amenities include tea and coffee facilities, a complimentary mini bar and power shower.
What's for breakfast?
Rates include a buffet breakfast served in the sophisticated surrounds of the gaming room. Expect freshly baked bread and pastries, three types of cheese, local jams and honey plus a selection of fresh fruit, all of which is immaculately presented on an ornate tray that runs alongside your table. Build on the hotel's basic breakfast spread with an order of eggs any style, a macchiato espresso and a tall glass of fresh orange juice. Up the stakes again with regional bites including pasticciotto (a short-crust pastry stuffed with custard and baked in the oven) or la frisa salentina (a handmade bread baked twice) topped with tomatoes and olive oil.
How about lunch and dinner?
Aside from Murano-glass bowls filled to the brim with hard candies (they're laid on every available surface) and a caddy of cakes to nibble on between meals, there isn't exactly a robust culinary offering at Palazzo Bozzi Corso, meaning lunch is better sought elsewhere. Though there is no official dining room, guests can enjoy an intimate supper, available three nights a week, in the library. Served at 8pm, the set dinner menu, prepared by Chef Maria Carla Pennetta, focuses on moreish plates and could include anything from aubergine parmigiana to farm-fresh caciocavallo followed by cream-laced profiteroles - wine pairings are also available. With French-style parquet floors and long-stemmed silver candelabra dominating the tables, the atmosphere is suitably suave too.
Is there a bar?
From 7.30am to 11pm, you can mix yourself a drink at the honesty bar, located on the ground level of the hotel. The champagne bar on the first floor is (wo)manned for special events. Don your Gucci glad rags and perch by the chic all-glass bar unit, backed by a large abstract painting by Jacques Zwobada. If a mixologist is not on duty, take a short stroll to Bar Enzo in La Fiermontina hotel, where the barmen serve sophisticated cocktails and seasonal wines.
There isn't a pool at the palazzo, but guests are welcome to use the outdoor pool at sister property La Fiermontina. Our advice: nab a sun lounger shaded by olive trees.
Things I should know
Your car won't be parked directly on the premises but held at La Fiermontina, a five-minute walk away.
Within a short walk I can find…
Admire the lavishly decorated facades of Lecce's baroque buildings, taking a peep inside highlights such as the Basilica di Santa Croce and Chiesa di Santa Chiara. For something more contemporary, visit MAMA (Museo di Arte Moderna Antonia), which is open to hotel residents only.