It’s by no means too late for a second act.
Massimo Fasanella d’Amore — a local of Bari, Italy, with a persona as exuberant as his identify — spent 33 years as a jetsetting exec for PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble.
However he may by no means fairly shake fond reminiscences of the holiday dwelling of his childhood: a limestone fortress on the heart of Ugento, a village in southern Italy’s Puglia area, the place his grandfather hosted him each summer season. In 1643 d’Amore’s ancestor — a lord, naturally — acquired the fortress, gorgeously festooned with ornate moldings, pointed arches and painted frescoes.
Over time, d’Amore purchased out his family members for sole possession and spent $14 million on an all-consuming restoration and renovation course of along with his companion Diana Bianchi. The four-year mission turned the dreamy (however dated) fortress right into a nine-room boutique resort with an distinctive farm-to-table restaurant and cooking college. Sister property Masseria Le Mandorle, housed in a close-by farmhouse with 12 suites, a pool and tennis courts, debuted in Might 2017. The fortress resort and its restaurant, known as Castello di Ugento, formally opened in April (from $464).
Situated within the heel of the boot of Italy, Puglia has change into extra well-liked over the previous couple of years as a less-touristed various to factors north just like the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany and Lake Como. Nonetheless, guests have a tendency to stay to the craggy coastlines of the Adriatic and Ionian seas. Till, maybe, now.
A 15-minute drive inland from the seashores and marina of Torre San Giovanni, Ugento (pop. 12,500) is a slice of workaday life. It’s a place so petite that one church’s bells resound all through, the place crooked streets are too slender for a contemporary automotive, and stumbling throughout tiny squares the place residents take their day by day walks, or passeggiate, is a captivating ritual.
The golden hours, when the solar goes down and units the creamy stonework aflame, are magical.
Like folks, buildings can have second acts, too. The 9 suites are divided between the ground-floor courtyard degree and one flight up. Beneath excessive ceilings, the luxurious but easy rooms enable the unique structure to shine by means of, from sleek arches to stone partitions 3½ to 12 toes thick, whereas including the newest conveniences, from a rain bathe to high-speed Wi-Fi and excellent cell service.
Although it’s on the heart of city and municipal indicators with a crenellated icon level to it as a landmark, the fortress had not been open to the general public earlier than. Now anybody can are available to feast on the luxurious fare at Il Nuovo Tempo dreamed up by high chef Odette Fada, who as soon as helmed Central Park South’s erstwhile San Domenico (now Marea), and native wunderkind Tommaso Sanguedolce.
Within the educating kitchen, the place Fada leads courses for Culinary Institute of America college students in addition to company who reserve a session, a glass ground permits the unique ground to stay in sight.
Fada, Sanguedolce, their employees and college students are likely to a magical walled backyard courting again to the 17th century the place herbs, fruit and veggies develop and vegetation dangle from a trellis. Company can calm down in loungers whereas inhaling the aroma of surrounding delicacies — like summertime’s fist-sized green-skinned recent figs — plucked straight from the vine. From Pugliese specialties like handmade orechiette pasta and regionally caught seafood to meltingly scrumptious burrata and decadent desserts, the meals may go head-to-head with Michelin-starred spots any day.
Within the palazzo’s upstairs, the place the d’Amore household ate, slept and entertained, ceilings are bedecked with mythological figures; the newly restored and well-lit artworks actually glow as guests’ jaws drop. These areas within the “museum wing” are usually not a part of any visitor rooms, so simply ask for a tour whereas eating — or, higher but, name forward to rearrange one.
If d’Amore is round, implore him to guide an animated walk-through; he’ll dredge up totemic tales and secret backstories of the work. The novice hotelier speaks knowledgeably and passionately about Puglia’s numerous influences due to seafarers who handed by means of or colonized the area, from the Greeks and Romans to the Byzantines and Crusaders.
One in every of d’Amore’s favourite matters: Shock discoveries made in the course of the renovations, which embrace an underground tower, water storage cistern and different proof of a good older fortress courting again to Norman occasions beneath the resort.
In an area now used for occasions — simply off the previous stables turned breakfast room the place a lavish unfold is served day by day — is a Norman fresco that would properly be from their conquest of southern Italy 1,000 years in the past.
Put merely, delights astound at each flip on this newly opened property set on a hill on this undiscovered gem of a city. One server proudly defined that the morning’s recent jams have been made partially by his mom, who works on the masseria; that’s how tight-knit the employees is.
Southern hospitality rings true in Italy, too; bidding arrivederci is like parting from household.
This text initially appeared on the New York Publish.