The Puglia region of Southern Italy is renowned for its unspoilt beaches, its excellent cuisine, and its authentic white-walled Italian towns unsullied by mass tourism. But maybe its most intriguingly unique feature is the proliferation of ‘masseria’; historic farmsteads dotted across the landscape, many of which have been converted into luxury accommodation for the discerning traveller. And the Masseria Torre Coccaro – run by owner-manager Vittorio Muolo and family – ranks among the most stunning (and according to The Times one of the world’s 100 most romantic). Conde Nast Traveller also listed the Masseria Torre Coccaro among the 20 best hotels in the world, so WLL hot-footed it down to Puglia to see it for ourselves…
Originally built in 1550 by Maltan Chevaliers as a watchtower against the invading Saracens, it became a luxury hotel in 2003, and is set in many acres of stunning olive groves and fragrant orange trees. It boasts a world-class beach club (also voted by The Times as one of the top 10 in the world), as well as a beautiful heated outdoor pool area, several onsite dining options, cocktail bar, billiard room, several cosy lounges, children’s play area, extensive walled gardens and flower-covered terraces, and an AVEDA spa with indoor pool, jacuzzi, Turkish bath, and gym.
The rooms at the Masseria Torre Coccaro blend timeless elegance with rustic simplicity. Whether you stay in one of the smaller Superior Rooms or splash out on one of the many luxurious Deluxe Junior Suites (some with private pools, some set in caves), you will find vaulted ceilings, bare white-stone walls, a cool cream pallet, low-level lighting and a feeling of being ‘at one’ with the rustic landscape around you.
We had a Superior Room, with a private sun terrace backing onto a walled garden, fragrant with orange blossom, bougainvillaea and jasmine. While compact in size, it never felt cramped, and the stone walls kept us cool right through 34-degree daytimes, but also nicely cosy when the mercury dropped at night. The simple unfussiness of the design felt both modern and timeless, somewhere you could be at home rather than be too intimidated by the glamour to really put your feet up.
Whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner the Masseria Torre Coccaro is a food-lovers delight. The breakfast buffet has more exotic fruits, moist cakes, fresh breads, flavoured yoghurts, local meats, soft and hard cheeses and flaky pastries than I can either list here or comfortably attempt to consume, even with my travel companions help (though I tried my best – all in the name of reviewing of course). One of the most generous and varied of any hotel I’ve visited recently.
For lunch you’ll have to head to the waterside; either to the poolside restaurant onsite where there is a limited menu of local specialities, pasta and pizza, or take the hotel’s free shuttle service to the Torre Coccaro’s renowned beach club, where you will find the hip fish and sushi restaurant ‘Le Palme’. If you enjoy your seafood you will be blown away by the menu here, as indeed I was by my delicious Raw Seafood Platter (€27), fresh out of the ocean that day, and an accompanying delicious bottle of crisp white Verdeca (good enough to rival Puglia’s more famous Primitivo’s any day).
But dinner was the absolute cherry on the cake – or in this case the cacioricotta on the orecchiette pasta (which my travel companion wolfed down here faster than any pasta dish he’s ever eaten). The terrace restaurant – ‘Egnathia’ – at the Torra Coccaro is a fairytale beauty of a restaurant. Set under pergolas on a terrace looking out over the olive groves, on a warm evening with the stars twinkling, the candles flickering and gentle piano music playing, it could not be a more romantic setting. Many of the ingredients on the menu are grown onsite in the hotel’s extensive grounds so the menu changes seasonally, but what we were lucky enough to eat was an affectionate nod to Apulian traditional cuisine that incorporated inventive twists unlike anything else I’ve eaten in Italy. My meal of rosemary seared tiger prawns with velvet pumpkin sauce and crispy bacon (€15) and lamb leg in honey with mushrooms, barley soup, creamed black truffle and grape sauce (€22) followed by mille-feuille with Chantilly cream, poche wild berries and fiordilatte ice cream (€12) will stay with me for quite some time. With flawless service, a stunning setting, and food this exquisite ‘Egnathia’ deserves to be a destination restaurant in its own right!
Who goes there?
This is a very family-friendly venue; there were plenty of young families in attendance when we visited, and it seems to be more popular with Americans, Australians and other Europeans than fellow Brits. But it’s a great fit for honeymooning couples or those looking for a romantic getaway – just maybe avoid the (otherwise fabulous) pool area during the day if you’re after some peace and quiet (as this seemed to be peak kid-time).
Out and About
The beautiful towns of Ostuni and Lecce are an easy drive from the hotel, as are the UNESCO world heritage sites of Alberobello and Matera (setting for Mel Gibson flick ‘The Passion of the Christ’). The hotel can organise local wine and food tours, private sightseeing excursions, boat trips, horse-riding, cooking classes and there are even bikes available to explore the area in a more laid-back fashion.
But closer to ‘home’ there is, of course, the hotels own exquisite beach club – with four-poster beds on the beach and vast stretches of unspoilt white sand dunes. There is also a private golf course if you’re feeling sporty. Or for a real treat the hotels onsite AVEDA spa – housed in the underground caves where the farm-workers used to keep the animals – is excellent; I enjoyed a glorious AVEDA Elements Natural facial (1hr €90) in one of their candle-lit subterranean treatment rooms, followed by a long soak in a heated rockpool and felt like a brand new woman.
The Worst Bit:
The downside of such an obviously popular – and family-friendly – hotel is that if you’re really wanting to relax you may occasionally be disturbed by over-enthusiastic young children at the pool (or fellow dinner diners who don’t seem to have an ‘indoor voice’ setting).
The Best Bit:
Our dinner at ‘Eganthia’ – phenomenal food, a dreamy setting and feeling like the stars have come out just for us.
Superior Double rooms start at €304 per night (low season) and rise to €485 (high season), with suites starting at €428 (low season) rising to €1,587 (high season); Masseria Torra Coccaro, C. da Coccaro, 8 72015 Savelletri di Fasano (Brindisi) Puglia, Italy; T + 39 089 482 93 10; masseriatorrecoccaro.com