MASSERIE – RURAL LUXURY
Vacation on the farm? Yes, something like that. However, the masserie of Puglia turned into hotels combine the rustic living experience with the amenities of a five-star residence.
June 2021, Reading time: 15 minutes
Very top: Masseria Alchimia, exterior view, photo: Cosmo Laera. Middle: Lounge at Masseria Moroseta, photo: Salva Lopez. Top: Restaurant La Corte, Masseria Calderisi.
“A little more wine, signori?” The young waiter has noticed in passing that the glasses are almost empty. He brings the dessert menu and recommends the citrus mint ricotta. With the espresso afterwards, he puts homemade cantuccini on the table. Later, he says goodbye with a cheerful “a domani.” Because one thing is clear: most of the guests who have eaten on the courtyard terrace of the La Corte restaurant today will also come tomorrow. And the day after. La Corte is part of Masseria Calderisi, a brand-new retreat in Puglia: 24 rooms and suites in an estate built in 1658 in the hinterland of the Adriatic coast. Driving along the gravel driveway to the estate, the first thing you see is the fortified tower of the masseria, which was designed to protect the original inhabitants from pirates, Saracens and bandits. Next to it are the annex, where hay used to be stored, and a chapel, which is part of the good manners of the large historic farms in the region. Other buildings that served as stables, tool sheds and storage are grouped around it. Today, the former stables house five spacious, light-filled suites, while another building features a detached guest villa with pool. La Corte restaurant’s tables are set in the vaulted former hay warehouse and on the terrace out front. “We spent a good year and a half renovating,” says Jutta von Braunmühl, “doing almost everything ourselves, supported by local businesses and craftsmen, with their traditional skills and know-how passed down from generation to generation”.
Masseria Calderisi in the colors of the Tricolore: green, white, red.
Masseria Calderisi was already up for sale when Munich-based Jutta and Max von Braunmühl spent their first vacations in Puglia almost two decades ago. The estate was empty when they got married 15 years ago right next door in the Masseria Torre Maizza and spent their vacations there every summer thereafter with their daughters. “We have always flirted with a masseria, for us as a family, as a second home,” says Jutta von Braunmühl. But Calderisi, with its various buildings, eight hectares of land and around 140 ancient olive trees, seemed a few numbers too big for that: “We kept looking, didn’t find anything suitable, and then finally bought the masseria after all.” However, it was no longer to be a vacation home, but a hotel.
A new generation of chicly designed country inns has recently been attracting spoiled vacationers to Puglia. Although the landscape between Bari and Brindisi has always been considered particularly attractive, appealing accommodations have long been sought in vain. And what good are enchanting baroque towns, grandiose restaurants and a coastline that is exciting not only in summer if there are no hotels that match the rural charm of the region?
Masseria Calderisi, the L’Uliveto suite.
Only about 20 years ago, most masserie were active as farms. Then the first inventive farmers came up with the idea to switch to agriturismo and offering guests a vacation as simple as it was rustic. At that time, only two of them were really beautiful, comfortable and expensive: Masseria Torre Maizza and Masseria Torre Coccaro, both owned by Vittorio Muolo, who comes from an hotelier family in the region. He was the first to recognize the gap in the market and practically single-handedly launched a new trend.
The whitewashed rooms at Masseria Torre Coccaro feature canopy beds and seating areas upholstered in bright colors, and the gardens are filled with bougainvillea, jasmine and cacti. There’s the New York Times and WiFi. In the restaurant, sea urchin and oven-braised sea bass are brought to tables covered in white linen. Coccaro includes an equestrian facility, an 18-hole golf course, and a beach club that easily rivals the hip establishments of Saint-Tropez. The complex offers all the amenities of a luxury hotel, yet remains a working farm with nearly 1,100 olive trees, some of which are thousands of years old, from which 4,000 liters of the finest extra virgin olive oil are extracted annually.
Masseria Torre Coccaro, exterior view and room.
The neighboring Masseria Torre Maizza is even more noble. Vittorio Muolo once snatched it from under Giorgio Armani’s nose and created a second, smaller 15-suite hotel, which was recently taken over by British cult hotelier Rocco Forte and reopened in May 2019 after an extensive redesign. Because by now it was also known abroad: The combination of urban chic and rustic simplicity is well received and there are enough people who are willing to pay upscale prices for rural idyll. The next transformation is already eagerly awaited: The hotel group Cheval Blanc, which belongs to the luxury group LVMH, has secured a masseria not far from the white town of Ostuni and is developing a 12-room project there that will certainly raise the standards of the hotel industry in Puglia and its prices.
Top: Masseria Torre Maizza, Pool, photo: Rocco Forte Hotels. Below: Masseria Moroseta, exterior view, photo: Salva Lopez.
Also near Ostuni, Masseria Moroseta opened in 2016. The special feature: It’s new and shows how beautifully modern architecture can echo the historic masseria style with its ancient building techniques and materials. Owner Carlo Lanzini and British interior designer Andrew Trotter created a minimalist-purist, partly rustic and decidedly casual six-room hotel with a spacious pool. The rooms and suites, the lounge and the veranda, where you eat at a communal table, can be reached from a central courtyard. A staircase leads to the roof terrace with a sensational view over the hotel’s own five hectares of olive groves and out to the sea, which is only ten kilometers away.
Masseria Alchimia, room detail und exterior view. Photos: Cosmo Laera, Toni Anzenberger
But not every masseria is expensive. The gleaming white Masseria Alchimia, located not far from the sea just behind the pretty fishing village of Savelletri shows that it can also be different. The 700-square-meter property from the 18th century belongs to Caroline Groszer, who bought it from a farmer in 2006 along with three hectares of land for 400,000 euros. She says she looked at 40 properties at least; this one had been abandoned for 30 years at the time, but was in good shape and ideally suited to being divided into individual residential units. Paying guests have eight vacation apartments of different sizes at their disposal. The studios are equipped with designer furniture, and each has its own entrance, kitchenette and outdoor seating area. As with many of the hotel masserie, attention has been paid to environmental friendliness: Solar panels generate electricity, rainwater is collected, and all lamps are fitted with energy-saving light bulbs. Guests have to do without a pool, restaurant and spa, but the German signora has so many great tips in store that when you leave, you almost inevitably say, “We’ll do the rest next time”.
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24 chicly designed rooms and suites, XXL pool and restaurant with creative regional cuisine. The interior presents itself as a stylish mix of self-designed and locally made furniture, Moroccan rugs, colorful tiles from southern Italy and pillows covered with Pierre Frey fabrics. Plus: spa and beach club. Double room from 380 euros incl. breakfast, masseriacalderisi.com
Masseria Torre Coccaro
Beautiful, Arabian-style property in a rambling 16th-century farmhouse with many terraces, romantic rooms and suites, restaurant with terrific cuisine, and a lovely Aveda spa. Highlights include both chic private beach clubs and cooking classes in the chapel. Double room from 304 euros incl. beakfast, masseriatorrecoccaro.com
Masseria Torre Maizza
Cool white walls, bright pink bougainvillea, shimmering turquoise pool, and lots of greenery – this 40-room-and-suite masseria is among the region’s most beautiful. The decor skillfully combines old and new, and the deluxe rooms and suites have private terraces. Guests can look forward to a private beach, a golf course and very good cuisine. Double rooms from 780 euros incl. breakfast, roccofortehotels.com
Photo: Rocco Forte Hotels
Contemporary interpretation of the masseria concept. The four double rooms and two suites impress with their light sandstone floors, bathrooms with vintage tubs, private gardens or terraces. Chef Giorgia Goggi serves daily changing, very delicious menus made from local ingredients. The complex also includes two villas, which are rented as a whole. Double rooms from 180 euros incl. breakfast, masseriamoroseta.it
Photo: Salva Lopez
Just a few minutes’ drive from the sea, guests have eight vacation apartments of varying sizes at their disposal. The studios are furnished with designer furniture by Arne Jacobson, Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen and Philip Starck. The Alchimia Collection includes a townhouse in Fasano, an attic apartment in Ostuni, and a round house (trullo) and a cube house above Fasano. Masseria-Studio from 69 euros, alchimia-collection.it
Photo: Cosmo Laera