Borgo San Marco

Fasano, Puglia & Basilicata, Italy Book from Book from £132 per night

Hugely hospitable 15th-century masseria near the sea, with flower-fringed lawns, beach-style pool, ancient olive groves and atmospheric boho-chic rooms
Of all the masserie (fortified farmhouses) in Puglia, this stands out for its easy-going atmosphere, its wonderful grounds and its no-nonsense prices. Built by the Knights of Malta to guard the Adriatic coast from Saracens, it's medievally handsome: a monumental tower, cool vaulted rooms, a wedding-cake chapel. Its 90-hectare grounds offer all the space a you could need: shady lawns, a walled citrus garden and a glorious beach-edge pool, festooned with delphiniums and bougainvillea.

It's been in the Amati family for 200 years and the current owner added his own eclectic touches to the 1981 restoration, while maintaining its prized olive oil production. You'll find, in the stone-flagged drawing room, a gleaming 1950's MotoGuzzi beside the huge-wheeled frantoio (oil press); in the rustic rooms and suites scattered about the tower and outhouses, a vigorous mix of Puglian whitewash and burnt pastels, of brightly quilted stone beds and classic muslin-draped four-posters. A fun, bohemian and totally unpretentious place.

Highs

  • A wonderful arrival: past century-old olive groves, through a monumental gate and into a court dominated by a four-square ochre tower
  • Pretty but not overdecorated rooms, a mix of ethnic-chic and historic grandeur
  • Family-friendly, with a choice of suites for up to 5 people, including 2 with kitchenettes
  • Warm, generous, family-friendly staff
  • All the ingredients of a masseria - 500-year-old tower, vaulted rooms, olive groves, sea horizons - but none of the pretentions of its pricier neighbours

Lows

  • No private lido (beach area) - but miles of coast to choose from
  • Rooms in the courtyard-facing outhouses are simpler, and housed in a low barn-like building
  • Food can be slow, but wonderful if the chef himself is cooking. Bear in mind that the restaurant is closed in winter.
  • It's very popular with families so couples looking for a quiet summer break should avoid
  • Staff are sometimes a bit over-stretched

Best time to go

In summer, Puglia is extremely busy - in mid August you can barely find beach space to lay your towel - and it's way too scorchio for comfort. Come in spring (April-early June) or autumn (Sept-Oct) if you possibly can. The weather then is perfect for gentle exploration, and swimming is quite feasible until early November (though in April it's chilly).

Our top tips

Art and history lovers are in for a treat: there are some restored Byzantine frescoes within the borgo grounds - the ancient cave church that’s housing these paintings is unlocked every afternoon, but you can ask at reception if you want to go to look at them another time.

Great for...

Beach
Cheap & Chic
Family
Spa
Wedding
  • Boutique Guesthouse
  • 18
  • Restaurant (seasonal) and bar
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Concierge Service
  • Bicycles Available
Room: Vescovo twin?? Standard Room for 2-3

Rooms

The 18 rooms and suites are scattered between the main tower, some courtyard-facing stable blocks, and a couple of outhouses tucked among olive groves 200-500m from the main building.

Tower rooms are the most impressive, with tall star vaults painted earthy red or pale yellow on the side walls, and whitewashed above. Rooms in the outhouses are lower and lack the wow factor, but still spacious. Smooth cement floors are covered in thick sheepskins; ancient vaults are washed in pale plum, burnt sienna or sky blue; beds are the traditional Puglian mattress-on-a-cement-base. The feel is rustic-chic but not overly polished. All rooms have ensuite shower rooms, air-conditioning, a small TV (but no phone) and some form of terrace or patio (shared, in some cases).

Standard Rooms are straightforward doubles (suitable for 2-3), Standard Suites have a second room with up to 2 single sofabeds, which can be used as a living room or twin bedroom (suitable for 4-5 total). The 2 Suite Dependance (Isola Grande and Piccola), are set in an olive grove about 5 minutes’ away - a wonderfully isolated feel.

There are Superior Suites in the tower have lovely views, but our favourite was the Don Ferdinando Suite, which has a sunken Jacuzzi in the bedroom - great for romantics, less so for toddlers. The 2 outhouse Suite Depedance olive grove view (Falco and Volpe, 2-3 minutes' walk away) have a simple kitchen, with narrow sofas that double up as kids' beds. Handy for families, but be aware that it edges a former quarry, with a sharp drop beyond the low perimeter wall.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

The Borgo are justifiably proud of their good local ingredients prepared using traditional recipes and served fresh. Think baked pepperoni and mussels, oven-roasted sea bream with black olives, and wire-thin fricelli (durum-wheat pasta) with cauliflower. You’ll need to tell reception whether you’re going to be eating in for lunch or dinner in advance. The meals are served buffet style, so you can help yourself to a fairly wide variety of primi and secondi dishes such as stuffed peppers and roast chicken with potatoes. The restaurant is open seasonally, from the beginning of March until the end of October.

Breakfast is a simpler but more than adequate buffet, including homemade cakes and croissants, with the additional option of ordering cooked breakfasts. Two of the suites have kitchenettes, with sinks, electric hobs, basic pots and crockery - enough for breakfast, salads or heating baby food, but not much more.

If you forget to book ahead, or visit out of season, don't panic - there are stacks of good restaurants in the surrounding towns and coastline, from top-notch fish dineries to spit-and-sawdust pizzerias. There's a comprehensive list at reception, but to whet your appetite, some of the options are: a cave-restaurant in the medieval seaside town of Polignano, a Michelin-starred hideaway in the village of Ceglie Messapica, a 10-course 3-hour feast of freshness at a local agriturismo, and an acclaimed family restaurant with vast subterranean wine cellar in the trulli-town of Alberobello.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

Being just off the SS379 highway between Fasano and the sea, you're well placed to explore both the Adriatic - which has some of Italy's loveliest beaches - and the white towns of trulli country. You'll need a car, obviously, though they do have some (rather old) bicycles for local exploration. Local attractions include:

  • The museum and archaeological park of Egnazia (8km away): a 2,500-year-old Messapian port with over 2km of walls, still standing up to 7 metres high in places; plus later ruins of a Roman amphitheatre, temples and halls

  • The pristine horseshoe bays of Torre Guaceto nature reserve (30 mins' drive and a short walk); you can hike along 7km of turquoise shores and flowering maquis, passing a 16th-century watchtower and spotting wetland birds, kingfishers, tortoises and lizards

  • The more sheltered waters (if it's blowing from north or east) of the Ionian coast near Taranto; Pulsano and Gallipoli have stunning azure shallows (1 hour's drive)

  • Fasano (10 mins' drive), whose medieval centre comes alive for its Wednesday market; up the hill is Selva di Fasano, a lush beauty spot with restaurants

  • The pretty hill towns of Alberobello (best for trulli houses), Martina Franca (best for Baroque palazzi and shopping), Locorotondo and Cisternino (best for white winding alleys), and Ostuni (the loveliest of them all); all are within 20-30 mins' drive

  • Horse-riding from the agriturismo of Il Frantoio (near Ostuni)

  • Back at the borgo, unwind in the gorgeous spa, visit the property's restored byzantine frescoes or cool off in the lake-edged pool

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Swimming
  • Windsurfing

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome here, and will love the beach-edge pool with its hidden corners, the spacious grounds (all those trees - perfect for hide and seek!) and the friendly, laid-back staff. Having said that, the atmosphere is a tranquil one, so you might prefer to book a room in one of the more secluded suites (see below).

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Standard Rooms for 2-3 have space for a baby cot or extra bed, so they’re best for small families. Within this category, Isola Grade and Isola Piccola are in the secluded building 600m from the main house, while Vescovo Matrimoniale and Vescovo Doppia can interconnect (good for families with older children).


Most families will be glad of the extra space afforded by a Standard Room for 4-5, where a second room serves the dual purpose of living room and kids’ bedroom.


Suites Don Vittorio and Del Moro have space for 4 (plus a baby). Suite Don Ferdinando sleeps 3 (plus a baby) in two rooms and has a jacuzzi. Falco and Volpe are in a secluded outhouse (200m away) and have four beds, a kitchenette for preparing light snacks, and patio gardens, but those with small, mobile children may want to avoid these suites due to the steep drop over the neighbouring wall.

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement - see rates. English-speaking babysitters can be arranged if requested.

Baby equipment:

  • Cots
  • High chair
  • Pushchair available to borrow
  • Bottle warming

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

The suites with kitchenettes have basic cooking food prep facilities (hob, sink), enough to heat baby food but not much more. There is a microwave available for guests who need it. Food is available all day long, there is an early supper for children and plenty of nearby eateries.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Toddler-friendly swimming pool with shallow end
  • Hot tub
  • Outdoor playground and a large garden to explore
  • Farm animals nearby
  • Bikes

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Beaches
  • Zoo safari, the biggest zoo in Europe, is 4km away
  • Playgrounds
  • Horse riding

Families Should Know:

There are some steep steps on site, including a steep drop behind the wall adjacent to the 2 suites with kitchenettes (Falco and Volpe). The Don Ferdinando suite has an in-room sunken Jacuzzi and is not recommended for families with small children.

Distances:

  • Airport: 45 minutes
  • Doctor: 5 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 12 independent reviews from i-escape guests

7/10
Room
8/10
Food
8/10
Service
8/10
Value
8/10
Overall

Very beautiful grand place, amazing gardens which our daughter enjoyed exploring. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay - very peaceful. The young girl at reception was most helpful with advice on daily trips, and the groundsman Fernando took time out to play with our 3-year old, very lovely. Pool was gorgeous, likewise the indoor pool very toddler-friendly. The negatives would be - there was a white powder coming off the walls in our room "Fornaio" - you could not brush past a wall without having it flake off all over you. This was off-putting. We would also have liked to know upfront that there was a daily charge for a cot, this was not flagged at the beginning. It was a shame the meals were so expensive, as a result we did not try them once.

7/10,

Staff are very helpful and very friendly. There were times when it was hard to find staff but we did go out of season. The Borgo is beautiful but it is very strange that given that a car is needed to stay there, a 3 Euro payment is asked to park on a nightly basis.

7/10,

Mavie in reception was superb at helping us and giving us recommendations. Stephania behind bar was also excellent as was odd job man but the meals were exceptionally slow even by Italian standards. We ate at many other restaurants outside the hotel as well as having dinner twice in the hotel. The hotel is full of charm and character and the location is great but the bedrooms look a bit neglected.

6/10,

I came here for a rest, and boy did I get it. The staff were so welcoming, even via email before I arrived, and the rooms are very spacious, meaning I really felt at home (I was trying to travel at a reasonable cost, but was still given a suite in the tower, and was then upgraded to another for my sixth and final night). The swimming pool is idyllic, no rush for loungers at any point, and the lawned surrounds to the masseria are lovely places to read or enjoy a glass of vino once you've dragged yourself away from the pool for the evening. Having no car, I was initially worried about dining with a set price per meal, but this arrangement in fact added up to little more than my weekly supermarket shop at home, plus local wine is included, and it was a highlight of every day. You eat whatever the brilliant chef has found in season locally and feels like cooking: perfection. It certainly took me a while to learn Puglian pacing, and to get the hang of perfect pasta being merely a prelude to the main course. The bar and restaurant staff were so friendly and kind, even if I must have seemed an odd single guest, simply sleeping and reading for a week: they would marvel very sweetly at breakfast, "More books! More books!"... before wishing they could do the same. I know I will dream of returning.

10/10,

Lovely hotel in a great position to explore Puglia. Food was excellent and staff very friendly.

9/10,

Borgo San Marco is a beautiful place to stay and relax. The staff are very friendly and helpful. One minor point: wifi in reception area is very slow.

9/10,

This authentic Masseria is very quiet and an ideal base for golf, sightseeing, beach etc. The rooms are spacious and very individual. Breakfast was fresh and lovingly cooked. The fixe menu in the evening offers an excellent quality of antipasti to dessert / fruit. Authentic, Pugliese cuisine as it is still served in many families. Compliments to the owners and Staff. The stay was perfect.

9/10,

An absolutely beautiful hotel in an amazing part of Italy. The staff were friendly and efficient and the decor was charming. It was very child friendly, with lots of other children for ours to play with. The pool was beautiful. The food was amazing and very plentiful. Dinner starts late and lasts for hours though and as we ate together as a family the children did get tired. We were in one of the outhouses and I would recommend staying in the hotel itself if possible. The steep drop is steeper than we expected. The rooms are beautiful but quite rustic. Definitely recommend a drive to the Ionean coast - above Gallipoli for beautiful calm sea and also visiting Locorotondo and Alberobello

9/10,

Beautiful peaceful place, great pool, incredibly warm welcome and so helpful and accommodating for our toddler-related needs!

9/10,

We stayed at the Borgo for a second time, last year (August too) was great, now a bit dissapointed, especially our room was large but dark, old furniture, bathroom very tiny for 5 persons, often no hot water, sometimes no water at all and paint coming off walls. More clients than last year but it seemed not enough staff. The people did what they could but they seemed stressed and tired a lot of the time. But it is still a very beautiful and magical place, hope they will invest in hiring some more people (extra cook would be good too) and do a little renovation here and there.

6/10,

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Rates for Borgo San Marco