Thanks to its decadent spa and luxurious interiors, Borgo Egnazia is the new cult-worthy bolthole for ceramicists to shop Apulian pottery – and throw a piece or two with a pro
Nowhere else. That’s the adage Borgo Egnazia – a bleached limestone labyrinth of cobbled lanes, cerulean pools, citrus trees, blushing bougainvillea and sun-dappled enclaves – adopted back in 2010, when the Melpignano family’s vision for an oh-so-chic party pad was first constructed between a sprawl of olive groves and the crashing Adriatic coast. And the slogan still holds true today: Justin Timberland and Jessica Biel even held their wedding here.
So where did it all go right? For starters, despite it being a relatively new ‘resort’, Borgo Egnazia’s expertly aged-butterscotch arches and expansive villa rooftops rise like longstanding Italian relics. Sympathetically designed to resemble a traditional Puglia village (borgo), the hotel is situated next to a Roman archeological site from the 7th century and immersed in some of Puglia’s prettiest rural landscapes – all of which helps to give this secluded slice of luxury a decidedly boutique feel, despite its incredibly generous proportions.
Moorish architecture and ocean vistas aside, though, part of the charm lies in its cultural odes to the elements. In the grand, glowing candle-lit lobby, for example, the first thing to greet you after the houses’s seductive signature scent (a kaleidoscopic blend of Puglian lavender, jasmine, rosemary and eucalyptus oils, I’m told) is a standout sculpture titled ‘Tree of Life’. Comprising dried olive and cherry branches and hundreds of delicately curled pages of beautifully hand-scribed pages of literature that form ‘leaves’, it’s an immersive piece that leads your eye up the spiralling fairy tale-esque staircase and immediately plugs you into what a stay here is all about: the artisan good life, with a generous splash of modern style.
Between the 63 doubles housed in the main building, and luxurious private-pool-adorned villas dotted across the grounds, Borgo Egnazia can accommodate up to 550 guests at any one time. Not that you’d know it. I arrive slightly ou in late September, but the blazing sun and cloudless strip of azure overhead pushes the temperature to a sizzling 30C by midday – yet there’s barely a toe being dipped in the glass-smooth pool. The Le Ville VIPs are, no doubt, lounging on their private rooftops and asking their very own ‘nonna’ what’s being served for lunch, but apparently there’s plenty of guests residing in La Corte – the core part of the building, which, beyond the pale-ale-coloured walls and linen-draped bed, offer views out to the intimate courtyards below.
After something less hotel, more authentic Puglian home? The central piazza’s Il Borgo, which hosts spectacular celebratory fiestas during each season, also delivers a warm wash of light-flooded fisherman-style cottages to escape to. Small but utterly charming, these sun-bleached artisan hideaways line borgo’s quiet, characterful cobbles and showcase local ceramics, rustic wooden accents and bougainvillea-framed windows.
Take one of the complimentary vintage bikes out and head for the coast, a scenic 10-minute spin that weaves its way through the resort’s perfectly polished golf course. The hotel restaurant and beach club, Cala Masciola, is the ideal spot for a palate-cleansing round of G&Ts and freshly caught seafood – think platters of salted carpaccio, seafood tartar, grilled calamari and a Mediterranean-style salt-encrusted swordfish served with oil, garlic and tomato broth.
Not exactly a pescatarian? Back at Borgo Egnazia HQ, hit La Frasca, an authentic Apulian-style trattoria, for regional fare dripping in local ‘liquid gold’ extra virgin olive oil, or taste the contemporary plates at the resort’s elegant Michelin-starred Due Camini – a next-level dining space serving modern foodie spins on traditional, seasonal dishes. Don’t miss out on harvesting for seasonal fare with the hotel’s head gardener, either, which will see you drink in olive-grove views amid the carefully curated beds of aubergines, chillies and herbs before sitting down a lunchtime feast of freshly picked tomatoes, traditional friselle bread and crisp white wine.
Like every space at Borgo Egnazia, it’s the Vair Spa’s sense of serenity that lifts the spirits first. Yes, there’s the usual soothing soundtrack, alluringly fragranced lobby and acres of glass, limestone and lemony light to contend with. But it’s the half-hidden adult enclaves, beckoning armchairs and towering tomes of stylish coffee books that make you want to hang around long after your next-gen massage/facial/scrub. Opt for an indulgent Roman Thermal Baths treatment – a cocooning experience that guides you through three unique pools of varying temperatures (tepidarium, caldarium and frigidarium) – for an 80-minute immersion that leaves you feeling cleansed, restored and thoroughly rejuvenated.
What to do
From cooking classes and watersports, to a spot of golf or tennis, there’s plenty to keep you occupied if you want to stay on-site. However, the popular pottery workshop is a must for keen ceramicists. Situated in the heart of Puglia’s iconic ceramics hub Grottaglie, Borgo Egnazia’s exclusive ceramics experience not only gives you and your pal the perfect excuse to shop for exquisite Apulian tableware (fear not: shipping is available if you amateurishly forget to bring an extra suitcase), but also offers up a unique opportunity to learn how to throw, decorate and hand build your very own clay masterpieces with the help of a bona fide Puglian pro. Step forward, Giuseppe – a master local craftsman who’ll teach you how to recreate the signature style of Apulian ‘splatter’ ceramics, let you loose on the wheel with expert direction, then ship your fired creations to you post-break for an elevated postcard you’ll (literally) be able to dine out on for decades to come. Pure pottery perfection? Workshops really don’t come chicer than this.
Back at base, why not cycle into nearby Polignano a Mare for a scoop of honey lavender ice cream, or tap up local and designer wares from the resort’s concept store, Bottega Egnazia? Stocking everything from oversized silk and linen smocks (sold expertly by glamorous staff members, who positively glide through the hotel as they model Bottega’s new-season collection) to local olive oil, contemporary Puglian pottery and artisan homeware handmade by local craftswomen, the boutique is pure shopping nirvana.
A double room in La Corte starts from approximately £283 per night on a B&B basis. The pottery workshop costs approximately £140 for a half-day trip to Grottaglie; the Harvesting experience can be booked from approximately £155 per person; the Roman Thermal Baths treatment is priced from approximately £130 per person. See borgoegnazia.com for further details or booking enquiries.
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