Monday, September 30, 2013

Puglia, Italy - Masseria San Domenico

As promised, here is the guest post on Puglia courtesy of my dear friend, Cecilia Brugnoli:

Nothing is more relaxing yet overwhelming than being surrounded by centuries-old olive trees and magenta bougainvilleas while glancing at the Mediterranean Sea in the distance.

In the Puglia region of Southern Italy, the “masserie” were large agricultural centers for farming the land and preserving farm produce.  These original white clay constructions were often also a fortified refuge for the local population to escape the frequent raids in the area. In fact, the historical main building of the Masseria San Domenico dates back to the XIV century and was used by the Knights of Malta as a watchtower against Muslim attacks.

The Masseria San Domenico encompasses this historic main building, which has been restored and converted into a refined hotel, and is surrounded by 60 hectares of ancient olive trees and orchards. Over the years the initial historical hotel has grown and expanded to now include a beautiful Thalasso spa and an impressive 18-hole golf course, built among the typical local vegetation with the final holes overlooking the sea.

My favorite beach though is San Domenico A Mare. This is a private beach that the hotel (whose owners allegedly own the whole coastline in front of their property) developed most recently together with a small guesthouse with four rooms (all romantically overlooking the sea and complete with cozy fireplaces in the rooms) and a beachfront fish restaurant called “La Nassa”. 

This beach is basically a wood platform built on the rocks so it sits right on top of the sea. We enjoyed most of our beach time here, as I loved to be able to feel the sea breeze and found it to be quite relaxing and refreshing.

More recently, two more private beaches have been added to the original small hotel beach that sits on a water spring so interestingly enough when swimming here there is a mixture of cold and warm currents. This beach called “la Fonte” is right outside the main entrance and can easily be reached with a 2-minute shuttle service or with a 5-minute bike ride, which is actually quite fun! (Bikes provided by the hotel).

Lunch and dinner can be enjoyed in the outside area overlooking the main pool. No diets are allowed here, I always gain a few pounds after each stay! 

The sense of tranquility and relaxation of lazy summer afternoons, the understated luxury and the fact that, even when the place is booked to full capacity, you never feel it is crowded, are my favorite things about Masseria San Domenico and the reason we keep coming back every summer. Everything else is pretty perfect too; there is no need to rush to the pool or the beach to get seats (as there are always plenty available). The quiet and silence allows you to enjoy the sounds of nature all around and really help me to unwind, truly making my vacation experience.

The rooms in the property reflect the traditional local style and infuse a sense of understated luxury. Everything is looked after and prepared to perfection. Airy rooms with fresh linens (some have amazing balconies and terraces - like the one we had overlooking the pool), plush beds and their own olive based soaps and shampoos hand-made in the Masseria; they smell delicious by the way!

The Masseria San Domenico only allows children 12 years and older. If you have small children you can stay at their sister property Borgo Egnazia, a brand new resort close by that features various accommodation options (villas, rooms, small apartments etc.) and is catered for families: private beach with easy water access for children, babysitting service and huge playroom, daily activities tailored for small children and a cute little restaurant with tiny tables and chairs at children’s height! Apparently this place has been very much advertised in foreign magazines and, differently from the other property, guests here are mainly English/Americans and from other EU countries.

We were on a full board basis at Masseria San Domenico and I truly recommend to anyone planning a stay here to do the same for two simple reasons: the food is incredible and this way you can avoid the hassle of looking for restaurants nearby allowing you to enjoy the Masseria more. Breakfast is served both inside and outside in a small patio and is a truly Italian breakfast full of handmade cakes, pastries, yogurts, juices and jams. My favorite is the sugar free carrot and almond bundt: delicious!

The menu changes daily and includes many traditional local dishes, all hand made including different types of pastas, various types of bread and desserts. All ingredients are locally grown so you can really taste the true essence of tomatoes, figs, melons and many more flavors easily forgotten in our stressful city lives.

The Masseria is conveniently located between Bari and Brindisi in the beautiful Valle d’Itria in Puglia, Southern Italy. This makes it a perfect vacation spot that caters to all needs. In fact, the resort itself suggests a relaxing country/beach vacation, but the surroundings offer many opportunities for sightseeing and enjoying nearby charming villages, luckily not yet invaded by barbarian tourism.

Aside from the famous “trulli” of Alberobello, visiting the charming villages of Ostuni, Cisternino, Locorotondo and Polignano a Mare is breathtaking. In these tiny villages, built mainly with white clay, time seem to have stopped a few decades ago. Everything is calm and unchanged as if our modern world never happened. Bliss!

Polignano a Mare

Pin It

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

London, England - Decorex International Interior Design Trade Show 2013

There was a lot of drama in the stands at this year's Decorex International interior design home show in its new location at Kensington Palace. There were stands that rose all the way up to the ceiling, belly dancers, costumed characters, and even one stand with two floors fashioned after a London townhouse. Always a source of great inspiration, here's my pictorial roundup of the show:


Baroncelli Venetian glass lighting:

Renown fabric house Scalamandre:

Striking handmade English furniture by Villiers:

The Champagne Bar designed by Martin Brudnizki:

Stunning chandeliers by Terzani:

Orange gets me every time. Love the artwork by Bianca Smith for Tyson Ltd:

High-end furniture, lighting, mirrors, tabletop and home accessories from Aura:

Never met a black, white, and turquoise scheme I didn't like: Ecco Trading:

And So to Bed went all out with this bedouin tent complete with life-size camel, music and belly dancer:

My award for best stand at the entire show goes to the luxury tableware, decorative accessories and lighting brand, Harlequin, who created an entire two-storey London townhouse with exquisitely dressed dining tables:

Hand drawn curtains and artwork and sumptuous black and white carpeting:

Love the organic feel of pieces by Ginger & Jagger:

Rugs by Front:

 Photography with mirrored frames by Trowbridge Gallery:

A dramatic stand rising to the ceiling by The Rug Company:

Colored glass lighting by Curiousa & Curiousa:

My new friends from Cox London: designers and makers of bespoke, handcrafted, lighting and furniture:

Dressing some of the most glamorous interiors in the world are my dear, dear friends, Joe and Robbie, the duo behind Spina Design:

Another great friend of mine is Stuart Scott, who hand makes and individually signs and numbers each piece of his modern furniture, crafted in England:

Stuart Scott's new Saddle Up armchair is handmade from solid timber sourced from a local mill and features a shoulder hide seat and back. The hide is crafted by hand, edge striped, dyed and creased and comes from the traditional tanning town of Santa Croce sull’Arno, Tuscany. 

Exquisite hand painted wallpapers, fabrics, porcelain and hand carved furniture by the famous de Gournay:

Pin It