Venetia van Kuffeler enjoys a wonderfully relaxing break in the splendour of Masseria La Spinetta’s traditional architecture with twenty-first century comforts
After a twelve-hour car journey down most of the length of Italy with two small children, we were desperate for a holiday. The final 10 minutes were spent easing our tightly packed rental car along dusty lanes surrounded by acres of olive trees. We were in an area of Puglia known as the Salento at the southern tip of Italy’s boot. Like a mirage in the desert, our destination appeared. Masseria La Spinetta is a magnificent villa found in 15 acres of ancient olive groves providing ultimate privacy and tranquility. Built in a traditional style, the masseria has been constructed using the local Pietra Leccese (honey coloured local limestone) to recreate the splendour of a historic masseria with vaulted ceilings and marble floors. Beautifully combining classical architecture with twenty-first century comforts, it’s cool cloisters and expansive terraces are furnished with an exotic mix of European antiques, Moorish detail and colonial furniture. After the confines of the car, it was a sight to behold.
Perfect for families and larger groups, La Spinetta can accommodate up to 12 people in rooms surrounding a beautiful inner courtyard. A large living room houses an open fireplace, satellite TV, WIFI, printer, stereo and home cinema for rainy days and those who can’t stay away from the office. Outside, the garden is complete with lush lawns, fruit trees, a pool side pergola and a large vine covered terrace providing shade for the outdoor dining and kitchen area with BBQ, dishwasher and fridge. We were invited to help ourselves to vegetables and herbs in the kitchen garden. Collecting oranges and lemons to squeeze for breakfast became a daily ritual for the children. The magnificent 18-metre swimming pool, sunken trampoline, ping pong table and bicycles provided constant entertainment for both children and adults alike.
Irene from the management company was on hand to help us, providing various concierge services like booking restaurants, tours, beach clubs, live music, wine and olive oil tasting or even a game of golf. She arranged for nannies to come to the villa in the afternoons who were a total hit with the children, which meant adults could enjoy lazy lunches followed by a snooze next to the pool.
Daily trips to the excellent food shops in the sleepy local town of Martano were a highlight. With no other tourists in sight, we became regulars at Caffé Alvino enjoying cappuccinos and cornettos (cream filled pastries), while chatting to the locals keen to practice their English. Twenty-five minutes to the north lies the fabulous baroque city of Lecce, known as the Florence of the south, and the lovely old port of Otranto, a UNESCO world heritage site, is just 15 minutes to the south. There are also endless beaches to choose from – some just ten minutes from the villa. There are large sandy beaches on the Adriatic Sea north of Otranto, and rocky coves to the south where the swimming is off platforms directly into the sea. Further afield the Tyrrhenian Sea on the West Coast from Gallipoli to Leuca has a reputation for being ‘the Maldives of Europe.’ In July and August, local beaches are heaving with sun-worshipping Italians nose-to-tail on sunbeds. We tended to go mid- to late-afternoon when the crowds were departing. One afternoon was spent on a traditional barca (wooden boat), sunbathing, swimming, and exploring the surrounding coastline and grottos. Heaven.
Once the children were tucked up in bed, we had a chef cook our supper in the house – a decadent treat. Each night, the table was groaning with goodies like bruschetta, zucchini fritti, spaghetti vongole, grilled fish, local prawns, orchietti and meatballs, zabaglione and tiramisu. Much to the children’s delight (and some of the adults too), Alessandro ‘the Pizza Man’ came to cook supper in the outdoor wood-burning pizza oven one night.
The epic car journey had become a distant memory. Off the beaten track, staying at Masseria La Spinetta was a luxurious and properly relaxing break. With so much to do, I feel like we didn’t even scratch the surface during our stay. A good reason to go back!
Flights are from London to Brindisi (1hr drive) and Bari (2hr drive) with Ryan Air and British Airways. For all enquiries Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or T: +44 (0)7766 514970 www.masserialaspinetta.com