Last Sunday's New York Times Travel section provided a look at Apulia, the region located at the bottom of the Italian boot. The region is more laid back and subtle than the traditional tourist destination of Tuscany, but is beginning to come into its own with more modern accommodations such as luxurious farmhouses. One of the newest such farmhouse is Masseria Torre Maizza in the town of Savelletri di Fasano. In Lecce, the centrally located Hotel Patria Palace is a good base from which to tour the city's Baroque architecture. The most recommended restaurant in Lecce is Cucina Casareccia (Via Colonnello Costadura, 19; 39-0832-245-178), but make sure you get a reservation. In the seaside town of Trani, the Hotel San Paolo al Convento has been carved out of a 15th-century convent. If you're looking for pizza, stop at the Profumo di Mare pizzeria and restaurant in Otranto. Another suggested culinary destination is U.P.E.P.I.D.D.E. in Ruvo di Puglia.
The article begins:
WE were bound for a farmhouse, and I had my doubts.
Like many seasoned travelers, I'd been burned by the promise of rustic lodging with multi-star amenities, a happy-sounding combination that often meant a working telephone in a stone chamber otherwise untouched by progress and its attendant conveniences, like reliable plumbing and regular maid service.
And the lodging in question was in the southern Italian region of Apulia, which I'd known to be an inconvenient place. I'd made work trips there in 2002 and 2003, when I was a reporter based in Rome, and had marveled at the cramped, drab airport in the region's largest city, Bari. It was fit for a Graham Greene novel, not a glossy travel brochure.
So when my friend Sylvie told me that old farmhouses less than an hour's drive south of Bari were being converted into cushy resorts, I felt more skepticism than curiosity. And when she gushed about the reputed beauteousness of the one she'd booked us into, I vowed to be charmed, not outraged, at the inevitable exposure of her gullibility. The vacation would go so much easier that way.
Early one afternoon last September, we pulled up to our agrarian idyll, and I searched in vain for any traces of a farmhouse in the airbrushed campus of smooth whitewashed buildings before us. The buildings were fringed by palm trees and latticed by tidy gravel paths. Off to their side glittered a huge, pristine swimming pool with a slatted wood deck. Beyond that, on the grounds of a sister “farmhouse,” the candlelit rooms of a full-service spa meandered through an underground cave of sorts.
We mentioned to the hotel staff that we were hungry, and within minutes pressed panini of mozzarella and prosciutto — along with glasses of inky, fruity red wine — were being placed on our table in a sleek lounge area with all-white furniture and lulling cross breezes.
This was pure luxury. It was also a barometer of what was happening in Apulia.
Check out the full article here.