When you check in, you are handed a map. Not a map of Puglia, the beautiful region that houses Borgo Egnazia. Not even a map of Italy. It's a map of the hotel and its grounds. Immediately this conjures panic. Does this indicate that you have arrived at an impersonal immense sprawling complex where you will get lost amongst a sea of people and kids? Quite the opposite. This place feels like an exclusive adult club. You imagine a password is needed to enter the front door. A place where you assume children are shunned upon and hissed at for the sheer vulgarity of their raised voices. But they must have coined the phrase "seen and not heard" here. Because Borgo actually prides itself on being a kid friendly establishment, with oodles of activities for the mini me's. It's as though you are underwater. Snorkel on, you can see them but they are beautifully serene and silent. It may be large, but they have managed to compartmentalise each "area".
Stepping into Borgo is like stepping into an episode of Game of Thrones. If you have not yet discovered the hit TV show - it is based on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos featuring the families of several noble houses, like the Baratheons and Lannisters. Just google some images, get the box set and bear with me. It boasts oodles of cloisters, bountiful high ceilings and sweeping staircases. A noble house in itself, it may be large, but there is a sense of regality and exclusivity here. The biggest dilemma you will face here is whether you are want to be a member of the Baratheon, Lannister, or Stark family. One thing is for sure, your throne awaits here at Borgo. And not a dragon in sight.
The entire hotel is decorated in a blank canvas of creams and neutrals reflecting the 'tufo' - local limestone - that the whole hotel is built from. It is decorated beautifully with random items hanging from the walls such as baskets of grains, balls of twine, wooden ladders, alcoves with dim lights everywhere. This is what I call "setting the mood" in style. The rooms are no exception. An extension of this luscious creamy theme, the room is like an ad for a silky white chocolate. It is beautifully done with natural creams, beiges with small hints of colour dotted throughout, like boxed frames with pages of books tied up in string and hanging sets of large metal keys. Whether you are an extended set of families, a lone traveller, or couple romancing the tufo limestone, there is a plethora of choice when it comes to which type of room you need. LA CORTE rooms are in the main hotel building and perfect for the singles and couples category. IL BORGO apartments are in the central piazza great for a family and LE VILLE villas, which are three story townhouses should you decide to bring a few families and want to hang out together, offering literally an entire home away from home. Mini bars are well stocked, and if it's your birthday like it was mine, a bottle of fizz and beautiful cake awaits! Hospitality, it seems, was created here at Borgo.
The Vair Spa is like a wellness lab, and you are the guinea pig. It feels like a little cult habitats here. A happiness cult. Everyone seems deeply and genuinely spiritual and happy to be alive and in this sanctuary. The staff ooze wellbeing from every pore. They have undergone a recent concept change and it's all down to Patrizia Bortolin who is like the cult mother and Stefano Battaglia - Vair's Shaman and cult father. Wafting around in their white garb, I swear my stress levels dissipated the second they opened their mouths. This is a spa like no other. It is not just about body treatments, its about treating the mind body and soul. They offer unconventional programs like Kiuv, designed to loosen emotional and physical blocks and the spa menu boasts programs that have "Change your life" "Broken hearts" "Psycho-aromatherapy" "Knowing yourself" in their title. It's geared towards changing you from the inside out, a complete retreat for the soul. Try "FÜRE", a six day unusual sport and spa programme for connoisseurs where lively personal trainer Entoni will take you outdoors. Be prepared to lift rocks, balance on hay bales, and prance through tall grass to get your cardio fix. My personal favourite was "SPIRIT V". A turkish bath experience with a difference. Two hours based on kniepp therapy. Cold, icy and hot baths and showers for circulation bring clarity of mind. Get in and out of pools and saunas, have salty foot detoxes, then lay down on a marble table and get scrubbed, while your head gets warm lavender water poured over it like a baptism. Well, with treatments that offer 'Sword dancing', 'Musical therapy' and 'The Giggles' you really will leave here feeling re-born. This is a cult I could be a part of.
Borgo Egnazia boasts four restaurants each with a charm of its own. The main restaurant, Due Camini, is set in the main building with traditional Pugliese food. Borgo has its own farm, therefore, every dish is made from ingredients grown on their land and flavoured with spices carefully cultivated in the chef's herb garden or nearby markets. Think seared tuna in black sesame crust with a liquorice reduction, cold burrata cheese with baked cherry tomatoes. Try the piglet capocolio with baked olives and honey glazed onions, or the mackerel in olive oil from Masseria. The menu changes with the weather and the hotel is pretty much self-sufficient but anything that isn't homegrown is plucked from nearby. As for dessert, I have two words: Chocolate Ganache. Eat it and weep. Nothing compares. Apart from the breakfast at Borgo. The buffet here makes you want to wake up extra early just to feast for hours. An amazing Italian buffet with the freshest produce including every type of meat, fruit cereal, nut, egg, croissant, yogurt, cheese you can imagine!
A local pizzeria and fish restaurant called SAPOREDISALE in the nearby port of Savelletri. As with most Italians the owners are friendly and welcoming. The fish here is so fresh it melts in your mouth, in fact the razor clams came to the table alive, but didn't stay like that for long! The portions are huge and the pizza authentic. Make sure you walk back to the hotel. After a feed here you will need the exercise!
Words: Amanda Byram