Easy Living magazine
March 2011 issue
by Zoe Souter
"TRANQUILLITY IN ITALY
STAY When we discovered that one of our favourite family holiday companies, Tots Too, had spent the past year compiling a secret selection of discreetly child-friendly, off-the-beaten-track hotels, we demanded a preview. One place which sums up what their ‘Little Gems’ collection is all about is Masseria Torre Coccaro, a fortified farmhouse turned plush 33-room hotel on an unspoilt stretch of Puglia coastline.
With its peaceful whitewashed courtyards, dinky Aveda spa and serene rooms decked in cream sofas and local ceramics, it looks like the kind of grown-up haven that might have a ban on kids. But look a little closer and you’ll see that behind the glossy exterior there’s a wealth of diversions for little ones. Behind the cabana-lined pool there’s a tucked-away playground complete with trampoline. The popular kids’ beach club runs from June to September, but there’s a year-round babysitting service. There are also ponies on hand for rides into the countryside or down to the beach.
You can chose from rooms in the tower (originally built to defend against marauding Turkish pirates), around the cobbled square, or one of the Flintstone-esque suites hewn into the rocks. Some have their own private pools and flower-filled gardens, making them ideal family crash pads.
Food is a big draw, and the Egnathia restaurant, housed in the star-shaped vaults of the old stables, serves up organic, delicious Pugliese cuisine (much of which comes straight from the hotel’s very own verdant gardens). It should inspire the whole family to book a lesson in the brilliant on-site cooking school (kids will love Chef Cosimo’s lesson on perfect pizza: trawling the gardens for fresh ingredients beforehand, making their own dough base and cooking it up in a 16th-century pizza oven).
PLAY Jump on a bike and whizz through fields of chicory and celery to the local cheese farm, where you can see how mozzarella is made. Or cycle a few kilometres to sample fish carpaccio at the chic Pescheria Due Mari, before enjoying lunch under a tent on the soft white beach at the Coccaro Beach Club. A visit to the Olive Oil Museum is also a must, (you can try your hand at olivepicking) followed by a lunch at sister hotel Masseria Torre Maizza. Nearby, there’s the town of Alberobello, home to the historic Trulli houses with their conical limestone roofs, and the historic white city of Ostuni, with its steep, cobbled streets – try the local wines and liqueurs in Osteria del Tempo Perso, a restaurant set within the side of the hill in a natural cave.
PAY The Masseria Torre Coccaro is one of the ‘Little Gems’ collection from luxury family holiday company Tots Too. For information on their full selection of hotels, call 020 7284 3344; totstoo.com/little-gems"