Don Totu Dimora Storica

San Cassiano, Puglia & Basilicata, Italy Book from Book from £186 per night

A beautifully restored 18th-century palazzo wrapped in fragrant gardens, within easy reach of beaches and the Baroque town of Lecce
From the street, Don Totu looks much like any other house in the sleepy Salento village of San Cassiano, albeit a rather smart one. But step inside and you’ll soon realise you have arrived somewhere very special indeed. First you enter the lounge: an elegant space decorated in pared-back neutrals, with soaring ceilings and opulent chandeliers. Beyond that, a series of vine-entwined courtyards and terraces open into sprawling gardens, dotted with fig and citrus trees and scented with jasmine. Venture further still and you’ll find the sparkling infinity pool, backed by a pool house with a Matisse mural across one wall.

With just 6 four-poster double rooms and suites, the vibe is intimate and peaceful throughout. Chances are you’ll start to unwind from the moment you arrive, but if not the candlelit Jacuzzi pool and morning yoga sessions will certainly help. It’s tempting to stay put and do very little, but make sure you venture out: there are electric bikes and Vespas to borrow, and friendly manager Alessandra will point you in the direction of sweeping beaches, secluded nature reserves and historic towns.

Highs

  • A loving restoration of a beautiful old building, with sophisticated rooms, enchanting gardens and lantern-lit terraces - ideal for romance
  • An underground relaxation area with a Jacuzzi pool, hammam and ‘emotional shower’, available for private one-hour slots
  • Breakfast is a cut above the rest, and there’s a free aperitivi hour daily
  • Ideally placed for exploring the stunning Salentino Peninsula, with its beaches, natural parks and Lecce
  • Wonderful service and attention to detail, from bicycles to borrow to pre-packed beach bags

Lows

  • No evening meals are served so you’ll have drive / taxi out for dinner (though there are weekly Italian cinema nights with pizza in summer)
  • Some of the ensuite bathrooms aren’t as special as the bedrooms they’re attached to
  • The neighbouring church bell chimes every quarter of an hour from early morning to late evening, but it adds to the charm
  • No TVs, radios or sound systems in the rooms – but you won’t miss them

Best time to go

Spring is wonderful, with wildflowers and balmy days, and in autumn the sea is still warm enough for swimming. July and August can be scorching, and the coast is teeming with tourists, but Don Totu makes a peaceful escape from the crowds. During summer months there are weekly cinema nights when an Italian film is shown on the roof terrace with pizza, ice cream and local wine.

Our top tips

Take time to read through the beautifully produced guide to the area, written by Mauro and Chiara and provided in every room. It covers food, nature, culture and more, and it’s packed with insider tips on what to see and do.

Great for...

Beach
Honeymoon
Spa
  • Boutique B&B
  • 6
  • Breakfast (+ lunch on request)
  • Welcome but not ideal
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Steam Room
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

Dressed in sophisticated neutrals, the 6 rooms are scattered about the house and grounds. All are slightly different, with restored period features – perhaps ornate plasterwork, vaulted ceilings or an intricately carved door. Suites are larger than Standard Rooms and have private outside space, but all rooms are beautiful - there are no duff choices. Our mezzanine Suite came with a chaise-longue and sun-trap roof terrace; another has a vast bathroom encompassing twin sinks and a freestanding egg-shaped tub. We also loved the look of the Standard Room off the main courtyard, with its exposed stone walls and giant hearth.

The refined wooden furniture comes from Belgian designer Flamant, and the four-poster beds are topped with heavenly Durelan mattresses and beautiful local linens. Placed here and there are ceramics by Grottaglie and Vietre, plus eye-catching artworks and mirrors collected on Mauro and Chiara’s travels. Bathrooms vary from room to room and some are on the small side with showers only, but all come with pretty tiles and delicately scented toiletries made for Don Totu by Maria Candida Gentile.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Hairdryer
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Breakfast, served in the courtyard, is a tempting spread of pastries, cakes, cold cuts, cheeses, fruit, savoury tarts and jams, all homemade or sourced locally. You can also choose from a menu of omelettes, hot drinks and freshly made smoothies – our cucumber, lemon and mint concoction was delicious.

If you’re planning to spend the day lounging around the hotel, you can pre-order cold lunch dishes – perhaps octopus salad, couscous or a sandwich made from local puccia bread. Your selection will be delivered to the pool house to enjoy whenever you want. There’s also a guest kitchen where you can make drinks, help yourself to biscuits and store your own snacks.

No other meals are available, but free apertivi and nibbles are served early evening. The nearest restaurants are a drive away; Alessandra will happily make recommendations, book tables and arrange taxis.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch by arrangement
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Hit the local beaches. Drive 10 minutes in one direction and you’ll reach the Adriatic coast, with its towering cliffs and plunging coves; 10 minutes in the other direction takes you to the Ionian coast, which is lined with wooded nature reserves and long stretches of sand. Beach bags with towels and water are left by the door each morning
  • Borrow one of the hotel’s electric bikes or Vespas for a gentle pootle through the local olive groves
  • Head to the pretty town of Otranto for a seafood lunch, then wander its narrow lanes to the Aragonese castle and mosaic-floored cathedral
  • Take a dip in Marina Serra’s natural swimming pool – a sheltered inlet that’s almost entirely cut off from the sea, with steps down into clear turquoise water
  • Drive half an hour north to Lecce, famed for its honey-stoned Baroque architecture and Roman ruins
  • Join one of the morning yoga sessions – just reserve a place the night before. Pugliese cooking classes and private guided tours can be arranged, too
  • Book a private slot in the subterranean relaxation area, with its hammam, Jacuzzi and ‘emotional shower’ (a unique treatment which includes hydrotherapy, chromotherapy and aromatherapy, combining colours, lights and essential oils together)
  • Or just relax by the swimming pool, watching birds and butterflies flit among the flowers

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Private guided tours
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Wine tasting
  • Yoga

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome, but the peaceful atmosphere means Don Totu is best suited to couples.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

There’s a Quad Room with a double bedroom and an adjoining twin bedroom. Most rooms can accommodate baby cots. An extra bed can also be added to one Suite and one Standard Room (on request).

Baby equipment:

Baby cot

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

Kid Friendly: The natural pool at Marina

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

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