Wylde World: Masseria San Domenico, Puglia
Report and photography by Leanne Bracey
Masseria San Domenico is one of those places that I imagine heaven to be like. This magical, grand, white-stone 15th Century house-turned 5-star boutique hotel is situated amongst ancient olive groves in the heart of the flat Puglian landscape, one of my favourite regions of Italy. A quick flight into Bari Airport from Stansted, followed by a 35 minute drive, meant that in no time at all I was experiencing my slice of paradise. I arrived by night. The final stretch along the beautiful tree-lined, softly-lit driveway felt like I was entering something very special.
I quickly established that the Masseria has an exquisite atmosphere, a special stress-free feeling. Worries? What worries! There are 40 rooms ranging from garden rooms to suites, all in different styles, but I was here for the spa. It made sense to stay in a room right next to it, so I could literally roll in and out between treatments. They are generous in space with beautiful bathrooms, huge beds and private outdoor terraces. I slept like a log each and every night. Designed in the style of an Italian home, the decor feels personal, everything handpicked and there for a reason.
I was here to sample a new package the hotel are running this Autumn, a combination of balanced Mediterranean diet, medical tests, spa treatments and exercise. Don’t be alarmed, as although the food does have a dietary angle, it’s not all doom and gloom. Far from it. Well thought-out and put together, no two days were the same; everything full of flavour and satisfying. I’ll give you a quick rundown... breakfast was taken at their ‘Sala del Fico’, a kind of Italian farmhouse restaurant serving gorgeous fresh fruit, daily handmade cakes, most of which are healthy.
Local cheeses, meats and a few warm options round up the offering. Lunch was 3 courses, chosen by the chef after my health prescription (more of which later) and served al fresco by the pool, even with accompanying wine, if I wanted it. I ate typical Apulian food; homemade pasta (in small portions), homemade tomato sauce, grilled meat, fresh vegetables of the season and even a sweet treat at the end. Dinner is served in the San Domenico restaurant; a large, vaulted room with a grand fireplace that used to press olive oil, now a grand dining space offering up more healthy choices with produce from the Masseria’s own land.
There’s a cosy, very Italian-feeling bar and lounge area that has en eclectic and personal ambiance. I don’t know if I lost any weight but I know I left feeling lighter. (TIP: book a lunch at the Masseria Le Carrube, where the vegetarian buffet on a Sunday is incredible. Shaved fennel with orange, olive oil and seeds was so simple but a stand-out for me. Also with things like red rice and peas, ricotta and parsley, fresh Paulina cheese and beautifully made Pasterilla all concocted by Chef Massimo Santoro. Seriously genius.)
Fused with the well-thought-out diet is a quick, painless but in-depth Biologic Nutritional Consultation. I was wowed by the results – no yeast for me, as it inflames my body more than anything else, a low metabolism (must do more exercise!) and a pretty bad consumption of water amongst other things. The test allowed me to take a view of my health and what I needed to do to prevent osteoporosis (which I could be prone to) and other ailments. The results work in unison with the kitchen to tailor-make a diet throughout your time at the Masseria. The trip is well worth it for this test.
The next stage of the programme is time in the spa. Hooray! It’s a small, boutique space that blends well with what the Masseria is about. A heated thalassotherapy pool, Kniepp routes and steam area might seem quite small but it’s treatments are cutting edge and forward thinking. The new sculpt-and-shape programme felt like a never-ending carousel of treatment after treatment... a mineral seaweed wrap and massage to improve blood circulation left my legs feeling lighter, especially after the blasting with a hose for cellulite busting. A ‘remodelling’ session with the use of Cinetic lift expert aparatology that blasted through some more of my cellulite and really did improve the appearance and feel of my skin. Then there was the sculpting oxygenating treatment, which further helped my skin tone and fatty tissue deposits were melting away. Results lasted a few days but I’ve never smoothed down my legs so much. Still, it’s not all just about lying around. I rather enjoyed an aqua fitness session in the Thalasso pool (not an easy thing to do when all your body wants to do is float). I swam in the epic-sized outdoor saltwater pool and relaxed in the jacuzzi to let everything sink in and I could cycle by sea whilst being enveloped by the gnarliest and oldest olive trees in Italy.
I was able to get out and about thanks to the close proximity of the nearby photogenic towns of Ostuni and Polignano a Mare. These villages are well worth a visit; pretty, quaint, typically Italian and Insta-worthy. Perhaps lunch at Masseria Le Carrube could be tied in with a trip to Ostuni? The hotel are certainly able to organise transport.
The beauty of a stay at the Masseria, even just for a few days, was just the sheer ability to recharge at fairly quick speed. I relaxed by the sprawling outdoor pool, I floated weightless in the Thalasso pool, I was pummelled and preened. I was served delicious food in pristine surroundings by top-class waiters and enjoyed the huge bedroom, with enough room for a small family. Every day I was there, I was excited and fully relaxed. And when it came to leaving – I’m not going to lie – I’d already figured out a place to hide in the room so I could stay.
Sculpt and Shape Programme at Masseria San Domenico includes accommodation in double room in deluxe category, all food, treatments, use of sauna, steam room, cromo-aromatic shower and gym facilities. A Biologic Nutritional Consultation can be added to the package for €150 per person
Hydro Cryotherapy Sessions can be added for €70 per session per person
Available from 21st October to 30th November 2018 from € 815 per person (individual occupancy supplement € 275)