Behind its butterscotch walls and A-list fanbase, this luxury resort preserves a near-perfect picture of Puglian life: honest food, authentic spa treatments and artistic tributes to the elements
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 out of season in early October, 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.
In search of some sea air, I 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. Ahead, sunbathing guests lounge on crisp-white day beds while model-like waiters top up chilled glasses of lightly blushed rosé and point out salt-soaked wooden stairways leading down to the ocean.
I take a shaded seat at the hotel restaurant and beach club, Cala Masciola, and breath in the views – stripes of emerald, azure and cobalt blurring artfully following a palate-cleansing round of G&Ts. Freshly caught seafood is the signature dish here, and we soon embark on a culinary cruise of the Med, devouring a plate of fresh fish carpaccio, seafood tartar and Mediterranean-style catch of the day, a 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.
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. I opted for the full sensory experience, allowing the treatment to be dictated by the fragrances I was drawn to. It sounds gimmicky, but there’s science to back up with method and I left the massage feeling lighter, brighter and infinitely better perfumed.
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, a visit to a local trulli in Alberobello is highly recommended for a culture fix and beautifully creamy burrata.
You can also bike your way into the nearest town, 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. But be warned: designer prices will wildly up the cost of your stay, so don’t be too seduced by the covetable displays.
Rates range from approximately £230 per night, based on two sharing. Return flights to Bari, Italy, from London cost from approx £75 with Ryanair; the hotel can arrange for an airport transfer when booking.