Sitting at Caffe Gahve on Piazza San Giovanni
Take an uber stylish holiday in an olive grove in Puglia…
At that junction where sea breezes meet olive trees lies a charming stone farmhouse in the countryside of Puglia. This delightful little place offers relaxed country ambiance with sophisticated touches in a welcoming and homey presentation. More guest house than hotel there are no formal airs here, just an honestly good earthy environment with a splash of chic.
Walking through the property one feels a sensual charge of the gorgeous natural surroundings heightened with stylish flounces. The central stone farmhouse is painted red with pale blue accents and surrounded by the local cacti plants so intricately part of the Pugliese countryside. It offers laid back formality from the ease at which my bags were taken to my room before having to be checked in at the front desk, to the communal dining offering homemade cooking, it felt very much like staying in someone’s home.
Rooms are incredibly stylish, to the point of being glossy magazine worthy. White with pale blue-grey colour scheme complete with flowing white gauze drapery around a stone four poster bed and mood lighting. It is modern country chic. Large stone wash basins in the bathroom were gorgeous, all highlighted by the blue painted wooden shutters and accents throughout. Fresh greenery, some inside large glass vases, and the whimsical decorative touches added a bit of elegance to the cozy setting. Everything was there to convey tranquility while the design concept was exhilarating it was so pretty.
The central house has a small reception desk and sitting area, shared with a small white lounge bar all decorated with local touches of delightful worn cowbells and bunches of cacti palms. The dining room was distinctly farmhouse fashionable with wooden chairs and tables painted blue and garnished by the dramatic flash of red colour from the groups of drying small tomatoes hanging from the ceiling. There was informal outdoor seating to enjoy the grounds and ancient olive tress, plus a short five minute walk to the beach and bright blue waters. The natural element is very much part of the design theme throughout the property and it is used in a playful contemporary way to create a tranquil oasis.
Half board is encouraged with breakfast and dinner served buffet style in the dining room. Breakfast is relaxed and unstructured, but dinner is served to all guests at one seating time. Food is delicious home cooked traditional Pugliese cuisine from local seasonal produce and served buffet style in three courses of Antipasti, Pasta, and the Main. You will not go hungry for sure! From the farmhouse you are in close driving range of many of the charming Puglia towns and the picturesque villages of the Valle d’itra. In the warmer months lounge by the refreshing pool, partake in golf at a neighbouring property just up the road or refresh at their near by beach club by the sea.
Masseria Cimino is sophisticated charm in the comfort of a stylish home, all the while giving attentive and kind service of being a guest. A stay here is personal and set up to accommodate a guest individually and personally. It is happily part of the landscape and is in no hurry to have you go anywhere, so stay and get comfortable.
Pros: Absolutely breathtaking setting and surroundings, personal service, and a very relaxed atmosphere.
Cons: The communal buffet dining in the evenings were not always convenient if you were tired and wanted to eat a bit earlier, or finish quickly as you had to wait for a whole group of people to finish up their first course before the next course would be served. For the most part it was all fine but if you are in need of a quick bite and then go to your room, there wasn’t that option.
Extras: The use of the 18 hole golf course at the near by resort of San Domenico. Some ancient Roman ruins boarder the property.
Masseria Cimino makes its own olive oil which can be purchased and during the harvest season you can observe the making of it.
Please note I paid for my own stay and my review is based on my personal experiences while staying at Masseria Cimino.
Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita
Step back in time… Literally. Saying that a stay at the Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita in the hill town of Matera is a unique experience would be a complete understatement. Perhaps the best way to describe a holiday at this cavernous property is to state that it is so completely part of the town it inhabits. Matera is a one of a kind destination, known for its Sassi caves and living and this hotel exemplifies this ancient way of life.
First of all this is definitely not a typical hotel in the sense it has no lobby, no formal dining room, and no communal areas. That is its charm and what makes this hotel so extraordinary. Instead there is a very open and organic plan literally part of the inside of the hill and landscape. Upon arrival there is a lower terrace where one finds a very small reception office, the breakfast cave which was a former church, both off an open terrace to join the two. From this point one goes up and down a set of steps to their own cave or room. The rooms are stand alone spaces off this pedestrian staircase with steep steps taking you from the lower terrace up past different levels of the scattered rooms. Needless to say very comfortable walking shoes and light luggage are essential here. Each room is different, varied, and inhabits its own one of a kind cave space. Some rooms have shared terraces with others have separate balconies of their own, each room is a natural cave with ancient arched ceilings carved into the rock, all depending on the original historical and natural structure.
Turning the large iron key of the heavy wooden door you already sense you are not in the modern world. Step through the door and back in time you go as the room is dark and minimally lit like a Caravaggio painting. The decor of vaulted stone space and dark wood fixtures is very sparse and spiritual. Lighting is limited to mood lighting and white pillar candles throughout give the cave a very monastical feel to it. Quite visually stunning. There is electricity to charge mobile phones and even free internet, but obviously in a place like this don’t expect a television or even a telephone, as everything about a stay here is about being as close to an authentic as possible.
A stay here is completely out of the ordinary and special yet it should be noted that certain creature comforts are missing. The lodging here is not cheap and if you are expecting plush surroundings that is not what you are paying for here. You are paying for a unique experience and the chance to contribute towards the upkeep of a historical site and way of life. For example, because of the low lighting, putting on make-up in the morning or shaving was a challenge as it was dark. And you cannot just call down to the reception should you need anything as there is no phone in the room. Also the steep steps several times a day can be tiring on a daily basis. That is not to say there are no creature comforts what so ever as there are Philippe Stark bathroom fixtures, wine or prosecco can be brought to your room, plus the absolute thrill of bathing in a cave make for an enriched experience.
A sojourn here is enchanting and even a bit mystical. While it may not be to everyone’s taste, I highly encourage you to try it as you will be enriched by the very distinct destination and you will be looked after by a caring staff. The hotel is like the town of Matera itself, rare and in its individuality quite exclusive. The Sextantio creates a total destination experience that will be remembered forever.
Pros: A one of a kind experience where you can live like the locals and be part of the historical past. Great design concept.
Cons: No amenities. Lots of steps.
Extras: The staff can arrange guided tours to many cultural destinations in the city as well as out to the countryside. Fresh fruit in the room and natural handmade shampoo and liquid bath soap.
Please note, I paid for my own stay and my review is based on my personal experiences while at the Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita.