“Sublime, sophisticated converted farm, with chic white décor and excellent food, set in olive groves near coastal Otranto”
With their gleaming white walls, bedspreads and chairs offset by lace-edged linen and a few carefully chosen antiques, these rooms are both sophisticated and rustic. Each has curly wrought-iron beds and curtain rails, Moroccan silverware, cream-painted wooden furniture and dark-metal bedside lanterns with clear glass. Floors are tiled in creamy stone; walls bear big black-edged mirrors and arty sepia photographs.
Bathrooms are reasonably sized and similarly stylish, with pale tiling, more honey-coloured stone and good showers (or tubs, in the suites). Own-name toiletries in big bottles and small square-cornered ribbon-tied soaps (coconut and camomile) provide delicate scents, while silk appliqué decorates the fluffy white towels.
There are 29 rooms of various shapes and sizes. The 2 Suites are huge - 4 times the size of a Classic room in fact!- and sleep 3 in comfort. There’s also a Junior Suite that’ll take 3-4. Suites all have bathtubs, as does one of the roomy Superiors. All except the Classic rooms have vaulted roofs, and some have romantic four-poster-style wrought-iron beds, these are the rooms worth splashing out on.
You can eat outside, under rush matting that slices the sunlight, or in an elegant vaulted room. Once housing cattle, today it’s enchanting, with fresh flowers, silver cutlery and Moroccan mats on white-painted tables, candlelit at night and very romantic. Produce is local and fresh, with local specialities on the set menu.
The ample breakfast buffet includes choice of coffees, fresh fruit (you can ask for fruit salad), yoghurt, cereals, bread, cold meats, cheeses and homemade seed cake, as well as Pugliese traditional friselli - dried bread that you sprinkle with water, then load with tomato salad.
Lunch (best ordered in advance) is another buffet with a spread of colourful dishes including Pugliese specialties like orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta), freshly made flans, salads and dishes from other regions of Italy.
Dinner is a set menu, which also needs to be pre-booked. Expect beautifully light antipasti, delicate pasta and risotto, followed by a second course of meat and contorni, all using seasonal local produce. Delicious as it was, we did find the choice a bit limited and unclear, and quite pricey - see Rates. The wine list offers a good selection of mainly local wines.
Coffees and sandwiches are pricey too, but free bar snacks (aperitifi) are served in the early evening until around 8pm.
Wall-to-wall white is not ideal for children and Montelauro feels geared more to couples than families. But the direct bedroom-garden access, the sandy beaches and the hulking castle make it quite popular with families, particularly in August, the Italian peak holiday season.
Both the Suites and Junior Suites have daybeds which can be used by little ones. The Junior Suites can sleep a family of 4, while Suites can fit one kid. The Classic and Superior rooms can fit an extra bed or baby cot.
Babysitting available by arrangement