A ‘delectable sanctuary’ in Puglia, where the bandits once roamed

Nigel Tisdall paid a visit to Masseria Torre Maizza, a lavishly-refurbished hotel in an all-too-often neglected part of Italy.

When the English adventuress Janet Ross set off for Puglia in 1888, she was advised to leave her gold earrings at home as it was ‘very likely’ she would be ‘captured by brigands and murdered’. Banditti were common in this once-impoverished region (the heel in the boot of Italy), which is one reason its fertile, olive-studded fields are sprinkled with fortified farmhouses known as masserie.

Some have now been converted into charming boutique hotels, including the five-star Masseria Torre Maizza in Savelletri di Fasano, which opened two months ago following a €6 million transformation by Rocco Forte Hotels.

As I laze beside its enormous heated pool framed by stone pillars and rampant vines, I find myself fascinated by a magnificent dragonfly cruising the blooms on a vivid cascade of purple bougainvillea. Who has the time for such treasured moments? Answer: guests with the sense to check into this delectable sanctuary created by Olga Polizzi.

Masseria Torre Maizza

Here, sturdy white walls are paired with elegant olive-green woodwork and joyful ceramics; breakfast is reached down an arcade scented with jasmine and citronella. All 40 rooms on this 37-acre estate include a private garden looking onto a nine-hole golf course. If you like a vista, book the Torre Suite crowning the main building. And yes, it’s quite safe — desirable, even — to wear your best jewellery.

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Elegant Resorts offers four nights at Masseria Torre Maizza from £1,500 per person, including return flights, breakfast, transfers and UK airport-lounge passes — see www.elegantresorts.co.uk for more info.

Food and drink

If you don’t stay in the Torre Suite but want to relax with the views, there’s a roof terrace that’s perfect for sipping a glass of Primaronda rosato on as the sun sets over an army of centuries-old olive trees.

Dinner in the Carolsello restaurant, set in the former stables of the Masseria, follows effortlessly — Asparagus and turmeric risotto was faultless, as was sea bass baked in an Apennines of salt.

Masseria Torre Maizza

Things to do

  • Admire Puglia from the sea on a complimentary trip aboard Leonardo I, a 49ft fishing boat that cruises the coast with time for a swim.
  • Book a guided cycle ride through the countryside, with stops to taste farm cheeses and learn the secrets of a good olive oil.

  • Drive inland to Alberobello, a World Heritage Site that’s home to 1,500 trulli — small round houses with a conical roof.
  • Take the free shuttle to the hotel’s private beach club to relax by the sunny Adriatic.
  • Learn how to make orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta) and parmigiana di melanzane in a cookery class with head chef Luigi Barletta.
  • Indulge yourself in the tranquil two-room spa, where treatments use Mediterranean oils, flora and herbs.