ellissima!” Arriving late in the evening at the airport and feeling a little ‘jaded’, I hadn’t expected our driver Enzo to exclaim this so excitedly as we approached our destination, the fabulous Borgo Egnazia which nestles unobtrusively on the coastal plain of the Puglia region of Southeast Italy halfway between Bari and Brindisi.
To call Borgo Egnazia a ‘resort’ is to place it most unjustly in a category along with the many brash, glossy, oversized and frantic pleasure palaces which use that title. You can find these ‘palaces’ dotted all over the world, usually where there is little to enjoy outside the gates. Here, in contrast, you arrive at a classic construction, truly in tune with the area, after driving along country roads and lanes through fantastically fertile farmland dotted with centuries-old olive trees, past the important archaeological ‘dig’ at a ruined Roman town complete with an exposed section of the Via Traiana, and always in sight of the startlingly blue Adriatic Sea.
The Borgo is the latest brainchild of the Melpignano family, local farmers and land-owners for generations, who are showing that the landscape of Puglia deserves to be recognised as a holiday destination every bit as much for its legendary agricultural riches of olives, figs, almonds, citrus fruits and lavender. They have managed, magnificently, to create this culmination of nearly twenty years’ effort, bringing a complex union of first-class accommodation, cuisine and facilities perfectly able to fully satisfy the most demanding of clientele of all ages and preferences.
In keeping with the ‘local’ theme, the family engaged Pino Brescia, a talented young architect from the nearby town of Fasano, gave him the brief of what was envisaged both inside and out and waited to see what emerged from his brilliant mind. The outcome is simply sensational.
Pino took inspiration from the masseria (the classic fortified farmhouse of the area), the centro storico (historical centre) of local villages and the villas of the local gentry to create a twenty-acre area breathtaking vision of leisure in all its forms. The various buildings are impressive, fascinating and amusing. The interiors are equally inspired and perfectly in keeping with the subtly individual character of the buildings.
Families will love the picturesque townhouse accommodation in Pino’s magical recreation of an Italian village complete with winding stone-paved streets leading to a central piazza where they will find a typical trattoria, pizzeria and bar. It is in this piazza that music, singing and dance festivals take place throughout the summer season. Nearby are the spectacular villas, each spacious enough to accommodate larger families or groups of friends and each with its own private garden and swimming pool.
Where the ‘village’ ends, the fun begins! The Kids’ Club known as ‘I Trullalleri’ provides all-day entertainment and care to children from 8 months to 12 years old, placed in manageable groups depending on their age. The centre is directed by Charmaine, a most kind and caring Scot, who manages, through her team of fully-qualified English-speaking assistants, thoroughly to engage all the youngsters in age-appropriate activities. A separate club called ‘I Fichi d’India’ caters for the preferences of older children and teenagers.
While the children are being cared for, the parents can happily explore the many delights on offer - some of which are active and others less so. Outside Charmaine’s club there are two pools dedicated for family use and, initially, many parents relax here while the little ones are being cared for and entertained. When the mums and dads realise how good the attention is, many feel they no longer need to stay so close by.
In keeping with the ambience of the Borgo, the immaculate swimming pools linked by tinkling waterfalls are surrounded by lounging areas at various elevations and of varied dimensions either in the sunshine or shaded and furnished with innumerable sun beds meaning you’ve no need to rush out and stake any claims! If you’re feeling more active, the tennis courts are excellent.
In the basement of the main building, the Corte, there’s a 2000 sq metre ‘Vair’ (‘real’ in the local dialect) Spa expertly managed by Patrizia Allessandro and the team which incorporates a gymnasium, sauna, private treatment rooms and an indoor 25 metre swimming pool. There’s even a 21st century version of a Roman bath with warm, cold and hot plunge-pools! On offer is a wide range of treatments based on popular traditions, ancient natural remedies and the vital spirit of Puglia.
On the ground and first floors, the Corte also houses the reception, lounge areas, a discreet bar, first-class restaurant and stylish bedroom accommodation. ‘So what?’ you might ask, ‘that sounds predictable’. What you will not be prepared for is the calm serenity of the building you enter with its cool dimness - the ideal antidote to the bright and blazing Italian summer. The building material used throughout the Borgo is ‘tufo’, locally mined volcanic rock which mellows after quarrying from virtually white to varying shades of honey – it’s delightful but too beautiful to describe adequately in words. In the public areas, flickering lights during the day are beautifully augmented at night by a multitude of fat, white candles to guide you through the tranquillity. Don’t forget to experience the magnificent views at night from the rooftop terrace of the Corte!
Adjoining the complex is the 18-hole ‘San Domenico’ championship-standard golf course (6300 metres), considered to be one of Italy’s finest. All the challenges that you would expect and playing equipment can be hired saving that extra baggage! The staff resident to the course are on hand to give tuition to players of all skill levels.
Directly across the course, no more than a ten-minute walk away, is the private Casa Masciola beach club which is fully decked and equipped with loungers. This is where Philippo runs his operation providing drinks, light lunches and easy access to the warm Adriatic waters. A little further away, the private La Fonte beach is perfect for children – fine white sand, clear blue water and toys. For the comfort of the parents, sun beds, gazebos and a bar service are available. For the convenience of its guests, the Borgo also provides free shuttle transport to these beaches.
The ever-welcoming English-speaking reception staff make every effort to meet any request you may have, including details of local attractions, car rental, taxis, riding, go-karting, sailing, snorkelling and even cookery classes!
This ancient land is the most unspoilt and least developed part of Italy and for that reason it is peaceful, wild and beautiful. The names of its great cities – Bari, Brindisi, Lecce and Taranto – are already known even if mostly to cruise-passengers or cognoscenti of Italian football but you will be rewarded if you are able to visit its smaller towns and villages. Especially not to be missed is the UNESCO World Heritage site at Alberobello, where you will find a perfectly preserved settlement of ‘trulli’ buildings that are unique to the region - set on a low square single-storey foundation with a conical dry-stone roof. Even nearer there is a museum attached to the Roman town of Egnathia abandoned by the inhabitants 1500 years ago after repeated raids by Mediterranean pirates and undergoing excavation.
Borgo Egnazia is fully prepared to provide unforgettable holidays to its fortunate visitors of all ages. Try it – you won’t regret it.
A seven night stay on a bed and breakfast basis in a deluxe room at the Borgo Egnazia starts from £3795 up till 15 June and from £4216 between 16 June – 31 July. Price includes return economy flights from London, transfers in destination and accommodation plus a kid’s surprise gift on check-in, as mentioned for three persons - two adults and one child under 12 sharing. For more details or to book contact CHIC Locations on 020 8944 1973 or visit: www.chiclocations.com
Chic Locations is a new name but with a wealth of experience. Bringing you the best in family and spa holidays combined with a highly personalised, totally flexible, wonderfully informative and candid service where every holiday is tailor-made to suit your individual requirements. Their brochure and website offers an array of family resorts and itinerary suggestions in the Far East, Arabia, Indian Ocean and Med including the Borgo Egnazia.