Masseria San Domenico
- Adults Only
- Boutique Spa
- Day Spa
- Personal training
- Pool – Indoor
- Pool – Outdoor
Masseria San Domenico has been standing proudly in the middle of the Puglian countryside since the 14th century, when it was first used as a watch tower by the Knights of Malta; subsequently it evolved as a working farm and olive press.
Located just 500 metres from the windswept Adriatic coastline, the estate is spread over 60 hectares of ancient olive trees and orchards. It’s well within driving distance of picture perfect Puglian towns and villages such as Alberobello, Lecce and Polignano a Mare; a perfect haven for a wellness weekend.
San Domenico’s two-storey spa covers 2000m sq, and houses an indoor seawater pool, 18 treatment rooms, and a gym. The skylight roof can be retracted in the warmer months, and upstairs from the light and airy pool is a relaxation area with a ’tisaneria’, where you can help yourself to a variety of teas.
Highlights include a Kneipp hydrotherapy bath, thalassotherapy treatment areas, including a jet massage room, a hydrobike room and a mud treatment room.
- Kneipp water therapy pool
- Indoor seawater pool
- 18 treatment rooms
- Mud treatment room
- Thalassotherapy treatment areas
- Relaxation areas
- Hydrobike room
The Masseria has 40 rooms and suites of varying sizes divided between the main building which houses the spa, and a second building which dates from the 17th century.
Styles of decor vary between the two, but are uniformly comfortable and elegant, with marble floored bathrooms, colourful furnishings and antique furniture. Think rustic-luxe.
Check out: 11:00 AM
San Domenico offers typical specialties from the region, with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients. Vegetables and produce such as fruit and olive oil are grown or produced on San Domenico’s own land – fresh fish and shellfish are sourced locally.
La Nassa seafood restaurant and the ‘Al Fresco’ pool restaurant are also open during the summer months.
Facilities and Activities
- Tennis courts
Flights to Bari with Ryanair cost from £45 return from London. Other airlines which serve Bari include Alitalia and KLM and you can also fly from Manchester and Birmingham.
If it’s peace, quiet and an abundance of nature you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place. Tucked away off the coastal road which runs from the nearest airport, Bari, after an hour’s drive you’ll turn up a long, stony driveway thickly lined with olive trees. These stretch as far as the eye can see: seventy acres of them, producing – in a good year – 30,000 litres of high-quality oil, used in the restaurant, in the hotel’s own-brand toiletries, and in some of the beauty treatments.
The Masseria San Domenico started life in the 14th century as a solitary building, used as a watchtower by the Knights of Malta, then evolved into a working farm which also produced olives. Opened as a hotel in 1996, it’s a comfortable, charming, five star property, with three, light-coloured stone buildings housing the 40 rooms and suites, two restaurants, a gym, an indoor and outdoor pool, and thalassotherapy spa.
Decor is best described as elegantly rustic; the vaulted stone ceilings of the main restaurant arch over huge wooden sideboards filled with colourful porcelain statues, plates, and serving dishes, while bedrooms are decorated in neutral tones with brocade-upholstered furniture in tasteful shades of gold, green and red.
The grounds are ripe for strolling, filled with fruit trees – from orange to pomegranate – hardy oak and olive trees, and plenty of varieties of the cacti which flourish in this often-arid climate, particularly the prickly pear (from which the chefs make rather delicious juices and desserts). You can cycle through the shady groves, or take a day trip to one of the nearby picture-perfect towns or villages, from Alberobello (home to those cute cone-roofed dwellings known as trulli), Lecce (famous for its churches) or the beach resort of Polignano a Mare.
San Domenico’s two-storey spa covers 2000m sq, and houses a sizeable indoor seawater pool (heated to 38oC), 18 treatment rooms, and a gym. The skylight roof can be retracted in the warmer months, and upstairs from the light and airy pool is a relaxation area with a ’tisaneria’, where you can help yourself to a variety of teas.
At pool level is a Kneipp hydrotherapy bath, where you walk through alternate troughs of warm, then cold water to boost circulation, while off to the side are several thalassotherapy treatment areas, including a jet massage room, a hydrobike room, mud treatment room and a room containing a hydromassage bath.
Downstairs, as well as the gym, are the rooms used for massages and beauty treatments, from facials to shiatsu. The spa uses products by Carita and Thalgo, as well as their own olive-oil based products. It’s all efficiently run by capable, experienced therapists, most of whom speak excellent English.
As part of San Domenico’s new Sculpt and Shape programme (see below for more details), I undergo the Thalgo sculpturing oxygenating treatment, which is aimed at reducing celluite. This involves the application of a warming body mask – Soin Sculpteur Haute Precision – onto the ‘problem areas’ (that’ll be the hips and thighs, then), which provides a hit of pure oxygen aimed at penetrating tissue and encouraging better blood flow and lymph drainage.
The cream is applied warm, and actually heats up as the oxygen gets to work. I’m wrapped up and left for 8 minutes while my legs get hotter and hotter (a good sign, apparently, though they do at certain points feel like they’ve been scalded…), then it’s removed with a damp cloth.
Afterwards, my knowledgeable therapist, Monica, firmly massages each leg separately with Refining Corrective Concentrate, targeting thighs, hips, and even my bingo wings, to encourage blood flow and drainage. The skin certainly looks smoother and firmer afterwards, and I even feel lighter, with somewhat of a spring in my step.
Hydrobike – you are immersed in cold water (15-18oC) and the action of pedalling helps burn brown fat.
Algotherapy warm seaweed wrap – good for toxin drainage, and anti-inflammatory.
Thalgoceane – immersion in hydromassage seawater bath, where jets help toxin drainage.
Aqua gym session – cardio exercises in the seawater pool to increase resistance and go easy on joints.
Carita tecnoled remodelling – ultra sound and lumino therapy help a serum become absorbed into the body to smooth cellulite.
The 2-3 day Sculpt and Shape programme uses a combination of diet, exercise and targeted treatments to help tone and smoothe the body and reduce cellulite. And boy did I need it, after a week-long trip to South Carolina spent mostly eating barbecued meats, items covered in melted cheese, and a LOT of carbs. I felt bloated, heavy and lethargic, and couldn’t quite do up my favourite jeans.
As this takes place in Italy, my main fear was that pasta was banned – thankfully, that’s not the case. The Masseria works with nutritionist Dr Agostino Grassi (a dead ringer for Jeremy Irons) to create dishes according to the principles of the Mediterranean Diet, which is rich in olive oil, grains, grapes, almonds, vegetables and seafood. As such, it incorporates pasta (grains), and even wine (grapes) is allowed. Result.
Meals consisted of delicious dishes such as seared tuna with greens, Puglian orchiette pasta with cima di rapa (local turnip tops), and even almond parfait; all prepared in such a way that I never felt hungry during the whole experience.
The treatments were a mix of relaxing (I dozed off after having warm seaweed smeared all over me then cocooned in a massive bit of tissue paper) and stimulating – boy, did I find the hydrobike tough! Firstly, there’s the cold to contend with – the bike is placed in a chilly bath, with water temperature hovering at around 15oC – but that’s the whole point. Your body apparently burns brown fat more efficiently if it’s cold. It’s a bit like doing a spin class in the Arctic, but I felt a sense of achievement afterwards (the faster you pedal, the warmer you get).
Alongside the treatments, I also did a morning Pilates class (outside in the autumn sunshine, next to some flower beds, which made it much more tolerable). I did struggle with this, even though it’s mainly stretches, but that’s purely down to being incredibly unfit. Much easier was an Aqua gym session in the seawater pool with energetic instructor Fabio, who kept his class motivated through a lot of uncoordinated splashing about.
At the end of two days, I’d lost 1.7lb, and felt slimmer, lighter, and happier; plus it’s easy to upkeep the principles of the diet at home.
Destress – to bring harmony to body and mind.
Anti-ageing beauty – to fight signs of ageing.
Purify – to detoxify the body.
For Him – a programme targeted at men’s wellbeing.
Mediterranean Remise en Forme – a 7 day programme combining the healing benefits of the Mediterranean lifestyle with fitness and holistic activities.
My ‘thalasso’ suite was located directly above the spa, which made it ultra-convenient to pad up and down there clad in a white fluffy robe and slippers, neatly avoiding other guests. It had a separate lounge area, with TV, work desk, sofa, and a balcony overlooking the main courtyard; a white marble-floored bathroom with bath and separate shower; a loo off the hallway; plenty of wardrobe space; and a spacious bedroom with double bed and writing desk.
The bedlinen and towels are all decorated with the Masseria’s crest, which makes it feel like you’re staying with royalty. Furniture is upholstered in tasteful shades of green, gold and dark red.
On arrival, I was left a gift pack of own-brand overnight cream, facemask and body lotion, and a healthy dinner had been thoughtfully prepared and left in the room as it was quite late by the time I checked in.
As mentioned earlier, I needn’t have worried that having to adhere to the Mediterranean Diet was going to result in deprivation. Dr Grassi oversees all the menus, not just those which are part of a spa package, and works with the chefs to ensure all dishes are tasty, as well as being balanced.
A typical lunch at il Fico consisted of pesto taglierini with julienned courgette and clams, seabass with an almond crust served with broccoli, chicory and green beans; and almond parfait for dessert. Dinner one night was a thick, hearty, pureed lentil soup with shrimps, followed by ravioli stuffed with ricotta and served with cubed tomato and onion, with pomegranate for dessert. All served with delicious local wines, from a light, fruity red called Camarda Brindisa Rosso, to a refreshing organic rose, Parco Petrullo.
Take the opportunity to explore the incredible scenery beyond the hotel; half an hour away is the seaside town of Polignano a mare, carved into the cliffs, with a pebbly beach which is lapped by most startling turquoise water.
Take a stroll around the main square, sit at a cafe and enjoy the local caffe speciale (coffee, cream, amaretto and lemon peel – amazing), or treat yourself to lunch at Grotta Palazzese, set in the natural caves which have formed in the cliffs.
Further afield is the pretty town of Alberobello, home to the largest concentration of trulli, those distinctive dwellings with a cone-shaped roof, while to the south is Lecce, known for its beautiful, baroque buildings.