CHECK IT OUT LA FIERMONTINA, LECCE, PUGLIA
On Monday, an elegant, resolutely contemporary boutique hotel opens in Lecce’s old-town quarter in southern Italy’s Puglia, a region rapidly finding its way on to holiday hot lists.
The 16-room La Fiermontina has been developed by Paris-based Giacomo Fiermonte, who has a particular connection to this beautiful city, which is often called the Florence of the South because of its ravishing baroque architecture. His grandmother Antonia was born in Puglia and her brother Enzo married the US socialite Madeleine Astor.
In 2000, Giacomo stumbled across a 17thcentury house and adjoining land within Lecce’s ancient town walls; he enlisted the help of local architect Antonio Annicchiarico (whose clients include the Hermes family) to design a contemporary hotel around the shell of the building’s heritage core. Soft local sandstone and traditional pietra di Trani floors feature in the monastic but thoroughly chic bed-chambers with their soaring vaulted ceilings; several have fireplaces or small balconies. The spare interiors are the work of French design firm Charles-Philippe and Christophe; the custom textiles and furniture, in soft tones of wheat and charcoal, are Italian; the bathroom products are organic; and the noteworthy art, including pieces by Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand and Tobia Scarpa, are taken from the Fiermonte family collection.
The stone walls surrounding the swimming pool and sculpture garden are softened by ancient, gnarled olive trees, effectively linking the hotel to the cobbled streets of the old town.
DON’T MISS: Exploring the beaches of up-andcoming Salento, the southern tip of Puglia and the very heel of Italy’s boot. DINING IN: Local chef Simone Solido presents refined, contemporary Pugliese fare, which includes loads of vegetarian antipasti and dishes such as corecchiette alle cime di rapa (pasta with young turnip tops). Try the ravioli pizzicati and, for dessert, tiramisu La Fiermontina or pasticciotto, a traditional Lecce pastry filled with custard cream.
DINING OUT: You are spoiled for choice in this lively town. The hotel recommends Mamma Elvira’s Enoteca or Shui for an aperitif. At Pescheria con Cottura, choose your own fish from the countertop. The tiny Il Poeta Condatino serves traditional cuisine and has a small terrace. La Torre di Merlino promises the town’s best pizza. Trattoria di Nonna Tetti, on Piazzetta Regina Maria, serves rustic local fare. And for ice cream you can’t go past Natale on Via Trinchese.
ASK THE CONCIERGE: Head to Piazza Sant’Oronzo at noon when a recording of tenor Tito Schipa (born in Lecce in 1888) plays from a gramophone placed on top of Palazzo del Municipio.
CHECKING IN: Rooms from €200 ($290), plus taxes. More: lafiermontina.com.
ALSO TRY: Drift House, Port Fairy, Victoria; Miss Clara by Nobis, Stockholm.