Whilst in yet another lockdown, I've been dreaming of travel more than ever, as well as looking back at some incredible trips I've taken in the last couple of years. One I remember particularly fondly was to the magical Masseria Torre Maizza, A Rocco Forte Hotel, a picturesque Puglian hideaway that combines utter luxury with a charming family feel...
History and Luxury Combine
Among the many things that I loved about this property was the fascinating story of its past. The hotel is set within a 16th-century historical watchtower and arched outhouses, while the estate's olive grove is thought to have trees that are over 1,000 years old! Pilgrims and monks would seek refuge inside the fortified walls of the masseria centuries ago, and even today it retains that sense of serenity and sanctuary - I felt so relaxed from the moment I arrived. As you walk around, you can simply see the history throughout - from the spa located in an old olive mill to the stunning swimming pool surrounded by elegant columns. Of course, this sense of history is artfully combined with the five-star luxury that is expected of Rocco Forte, a beloved brand of ours at Elegant Resorts. Headed up by Sir Rocco Forte, the brand embraces the exceptional eye for detail of the Forte family, with many members involved in different aspects of the hotels.
Interiors That Inspire
Remember I said that lots of Sir Rocco Forte's family members are involved in making the hotels so superb? Well his sister, famed interior designer Olga Polizzi, personally handled the décor decisions when the brand acquired the property in 2018, and I absolutely adored the elegance and sheer sophistication of the rooms and suites. Each one had an individual style, vaulted ceilings, beautiful textiles and local handicrafts - such as wicker furnishings and stunning ceramics - as well as either a private terrace or its own swimming pool. I particularly loved the Torre Suite, a stunning two-bedroom option with a huge furnished terrace with incredible views over the surrounding countryside, towards the Adriatic Sea.
Yet another Rocco Forte family member oversees the wellness here, daughter Irene Forte, also a world-renowned beauty entrepreneur and wellness director who is known for her products that celebrate her Italian heritage and commitment to sustainability. Created with organic ingredients grown in Sicily - olive oil, nuts, herbs and more - and special mineral water from Sicilian mountains, these products are used throughout the treatments on offer at the stunning spa. Yoga can also be arranged on the terrace, and I enjoyed a serene session one morning. Surrounded by Bougainvillea trees, the scent of pine trees and overlooking the pool, I can't think of a way I'd rather start the day.
Surroundings to Celebrate
Puglia is a seriously special part of Italy, which getting increasingly known as a must-visit spot. With this in mind, the Rocco Forte family are passionate about not just providing a beautiful place to stay, but also want guests to experience the delights of the destination. The region is THE place for the best Italian food and wine, and as well as the hotel's own exceptional eateries that embrace local produce, you can easily discover more amazing restaurants nearby. Surrounded by rolling countryside, the hotel is located inland, though it is just a 20-minute cycle ride (via complimentary bike found in each room) or quick shuttle bus to the hotel's beach club, a stylish oasis with a wonderful restaurant serving fresh fish of the day, as well as offering seafront massages and watersports. There is also a complimentary boat trip on offer from nearby Savelletri, allowing you to swim in a private cove and explore the whitewashed town of Monopoli.
During my stay, I visited Polignano a Mare, an absolutely beautiful coastal town with winding historic streets and a gorgeous seafront. After gazing up at the clifftop town from a boat and feasting on a fabulous seafood for lunch, it was quite clear why this has been nicknamed the 'Amalfi of Puglia'. If all that wasn't enough, after visiting a local cheese farm that makes a range of Italian favourites, we also visited the UNESCO-listed town of Alberobello, known for its iconic cone-shaped Trulli houses. These striking dwellings are so unique and steeped in history, and I was lucky enough to have lunch at a local family's home. The hospitality was like nothing I've ever experienced, and it was amazing to sample a range of traditional dishes from the area.