Beautifully converted farm houses in a stunning olive grove 10 minutes from the lovely fortified port of Otranto. Rooms are cool and elegant, private garden and pool in courtyard. Short drive or cycle to Otranto and surrounding secluded rocky coves. Swathes of fresh fruits and pastries for breakfast and unbelievable selection of antipasti and pastas served at lunch.
Located conveniently and in a quiet location just off the main highway at the mid-point of Bari and Brindisi, Borgo San Marco is a Masseria uniquely restored to capture its originality as a small walled enclave. The details are exquisite without being forced or artificial and there is style. Stay on the upper levels and you can sun or read on private roof terraces or swim in the adjacent infinity pool in the gardens. There is also Borgo Aqua, a private wellness centre but it was summer, so our priorities were elsewhere. You are close to Savelletri, Torre Canne and the undeveloped beaches close to Rosa Marina. Eat in or at one of the fabulous sea-side outdoor restaurants on this side of Savelletri, it is a perfect base to explore this region of Puglia and works for couples and families.
Lovely trip of the Greek Islands and parts of Turkey in celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary. Valide Sultan Hotel was to be our treat at the end of this lovely vacation.
Front desk Bunyamin clearly went above and beyond the call of duty. Once we had checked in, he invited us to the rooftop lounge and began our visit with a detailed conversation to discover what we would like to get out of our Istanbul experience. Once armed with this information he made a number of suggestions of things to do and see during our stay in Istanbul. From his selection of a guide to take us on a historic walking tour, to his personal tutelage in negotiating with shopkeepers in the Grand Bazaar his recommendations were flawless and his personal assistance was unparalleled.
Our room, The Marmara, was gorgeous in its extravagant fabrics and detail. The views were breathtaking; either experienced from our room, or the hotel’s excellent rooftop restaurant. There is no better location in Istanbul to enjoy the views of the many historic sites including the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque or the endless ships on the Sea of Marmara entering and exiting the Bosphorus.
The staff at the Valide Sultan was equally committed to the best overall experience for their guests. This hotel is small and intimate and while there, we felt like we were part of the family. They were consistently attentive whether servicing a request for our room, or suddenly appearing with a beautiful woven shawl to ward off the autumn evening breeze on the rooftop.
Valide Sultan was indeed the jewel that capped a most memorable holiday for us.
Torre dei Preti is an agriturismo located 2km outside the beautiful coastal town of Peschici, on the north Puglian coast on the Gargarno peninsula. It's a family-run business, and owners Oscar and Lucrezia are fantastic hosts, and even more fantastic chefs.
Rooms, mostly apartment-style, are located out in the well-kept grounds, are spacious, modern and comfortable, and are kept spotlessly clean. Balconies have a view out to the ice-white buildings of Peschici framed by the blue sky and olive trees. Near to the main house is a large, well-maintained and heated swimming pool with a sun-terrace and loungers, so while Torre dei Preti is a great base from which to explore the Gargarno, it's also a lovely place to spend time relaxing.
And of course, the food, the food, the food! Half-board at Torre dei Preti is a gastronomic experience, with almost all of the food being locally sourced and expertly cooked and served with love. Breakfasts are buffet-style, with a vast array of fruits, breads, yoghurts, cheese, meats and preserves, plus juice, coffee and cake, yes, cake - and all homemade. Dinner offers a table groaning with fish, meat and vegetable antipasti, followed by a choice of primi (usually pasta or risotto) and a choice of meat or fish secondi - again, everything is local and super-fresh. If you have room after all that (which you may not, but Lucrezia will convince you otherwise) desserts are homemade and generous, or you can simply enjoy a plate of fruit and an excellent coffee. Wine, all local, is superb.
All in all a stunning find, well-priced in comparison to other agriturismi in the area - an absolute gem.
Palazzo Siena is a truly hidden gem, which I can't recommend enough. On a hot summer day we drove through the sleepy town of Minervino di Lecce. We pulled up outside a hotel that looked practically desolate. But when the doors opened, Palazzo Siena was revealed in all its glory. Opened in the summer of 2012, it's a family-run boutique hotel and a food and design haven. The owner, a chatty lady from Naples, has an incredible attention to detail and she has decorated the hotel throughout with a very sophisticated taste, blending an Italian old fashioned style with modern accessories. That doesn't mean you don't feel at home, in fact, I have never experienced a hotel that makes you feel so welcome. The patio has a beautiful swimming pool, filled with sea water, and is surrounded by comfortable sun loungers. If you sit down, I promise you that you never want to leave. Palazzo Siena grows their own food, so if you want to disappear into the shade you can grab a basket and pick figs, lemons, aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes, beans and strawberries. In the country-style kitchen you can cook your own food, unless the owner has already beat you to it and has prepared typical Puglian treats such as Friselle bread with olive oil, oregano and tomatoes. The eight individually decorated rooms are spacious and comfortable and there's not a sound from the street. This is a sleepy village, after all. The hotel is close to the crystal clear waters of Salento if all the quietness gets too much. Although the hotel comes with a price, it's a price I'm definitely willing to pay to feel so totally relaxed. And did I mention the food?
The best place to base yourself in Puglia is a trulli and I think you would be hard pushed to find one more idyllic than Trulli Stella. It's a little off the beaten track and surrounded by farmland, olive groves and locals escaping (from nearby Ceglie) to the country for the weekend. More importantly it has it's own fully equipped outside kitchen and pizza oven and if you like, Maria, the trulli's manager, will visit with her mother, and cook you an amazing meal with enough food to last you for the entire week using ingredients from the garden and the local market.
When you can bring yourself to leave the tranquility of the trulli you are truly spoilt for choice as to where you head. There's the market cafe at Locorotondo where you can pop in for a sweet cake and deliciously strong espresso, before heading into the market to buy more ingredients for cooking those long leisurely lunches in your trulli. You can join the locals doing their morning shopping in nearby St Michele, but be aware you need to be assertive in the bakery queue if you don't want all the good bread to be sold before you get your turn.
A trip to the coast is essential and Villanova di Ostuni has some of the best local beaches: crystal clear waters, acres of white sand and a sweet marina where you can choose between a glass of icy cold rose at the local bar or a gelato on the other side of the square.
The white washed, hill top town of Cisternino is not to be missed; head to Pizzeria Da Angelo for some delicious wood fired pizza, sitting down to eat among the local teenagers, young families and grandparents alike. Take a stroll after dinner to listen to music playing in the piazza, or come back during the day to explore its warren of back streets and alleyways.
Finally no trip to Puglia is complete without participating in the evening passeggiata and there is no place better for this than Martina Franca with its mixture of shops and wonderful architecture. Sit with a glass of beer in the main square and absorb the wonderfully convivial spectacle.
The Masseria Fumarola is a converted masseria, now a beautiful boutique hotel. Every room is unique in its style and decoration and trully delightful. The outside space at the Masseria is fantastic, from a drink on the terrace, al-fresco eating, to the beautiful pool and the surrounding fields. It all adds to your feeling of well being.
But most importantly, the food there is divine!! From the breakfast offering which I still dream off; the amazing cakes (you have to try the carrot cake) to the best ever antipasti buffet ever seen in my life. If I could only eat Masseria Fumarola's antipasti & cake selection, I will have reached heaven.
The whole town of Alberobello is lit up for the festival and the atmosphere is electric. From the stalls selling enormous tasty olives, to the fun fair, to climbing to the top of the hill past the quaint trulli to watch the magnificent firework display, it is all a feast for the eye. Trullo degli Alberi is on the outskirts of Alberobello with fantastic facilities to keep the whole family entertained (pool, games room and we even had pasta and pizza lessons arranged for us) and the owners will even act as taxi drivers so you don’t have to worry about finding somewhere to park during the festival.
Stay near Alberobello at the Chiusa di Chietri. As well as the excellent restaurant and pool, you can choose to stay in a genuine trulli house which is part of the hotel grounds.
The atmosphere is enhanced by the local weddings held there (judge the amount of money they cost by the size of the fireworks!
Visit Craco, an abandoned hill town that you can climb all over.
Matera is fascinating (used for fiming The Passion of the Christ).
Don't miss out Lecce, if not for the Roman ruins, for the relaxing and shady park and the fabulous Gelateria Natale!
The Lazy Toad Inn, in Brampford Speke, a village some 15 minutes drive from Exeter city centre, serves excellent food and drink at reasonable prices. Much of the food is locally sourced, including some produce raised in the Inn's own garden.
The Toad also offers accommodation, with the usual facilities, including Wifi access, flatscreen tv, radio alarm, and iPod dock.
It has an attractive interior, with a decorative emphasis upon the eponymous Toad, plenty of space between tables, and a small garden close by with tables for eating and drinking outside in good weather.
The chef/proprietors, Mo and Clive Walker, offer a warm welcome, and the staff generally are knowledgeable and cheerful. The atmosphere combines informality with elegance. It is no surprise that a number of worthwhile awards for quality food have been garnered in recent years. They are highly deserved.
Nafplio is an amazing city, the architecture especially can amaze you. It was occupied through the centuries by Venetians, Ottomans and many more and it is something you can see at the style of the buildings. You can see old Mosques standing next to neoclassical buildings. While walking to the narrow streets, it feels like living to another century! While at Nafplio, we stayed at beautiful Pension Dafni. A nice pension hidden in the streets of the old city. The room was clean and stylish and breakfast was delicious and fresh. The staff were helpful and made us feel like we were at home. I would totally recommend Nafplio as a stop and Pension Dafni the place to stay.
A delightful little B&B (only three rooms), the decor is superb (we stayed for an extended weekend in the Suite Framboise, meaning the Raspberry Suite!) with breakfast on the sunny private terrace. The hosts are really lovely and can tell you a thing or two about antiques and collectables, which was very handy as we came down to Provence also to look at antiques for our house back in England. A really lovely place to stay and not too expensive as I recall.
Set in the old part of Arles, this family run hotel is a real gem. Complete with swimming pool, and generous rooms, and a really excellent buffet breakfast. The amphitheatre and all sites of the old town are within easy walking distance. Being family run you get a more friendly service from the staff, recommending local restaurants (the hotel has no restaurant) and other useful information on the area.
A lovely little riad, in the medina, very pleasant staff. Respite from the chaos outside, and the hard sell. And a great breakfast.
DB Tbib, N° 46, Riad Zitoun Jdid Marrakech 40000 Maroc
+ 212 5 24 39 04 25
This area of marshland on the Provence region's Mediterranean coast is a wild corner of France. Teeming with wildlife, it boasts pink flamingoes, native Camargue bulls and also native Camargue rare breed grey horses, manned by troupes of traditionally dressed "gardiens" (much like cowboys). Book in to the Mas de la Fouque hotel for an impressive stay in stylish surroundings, right in the heart of the wetlands.
Marimba bands play while you enjoy either lunch or dinner under the great African sky. Shearwater offers the best one day white water rafting experience in the world and they begin the experience from the Victoria Falls Hotel grounds.
Mallet Drive, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
+263 13 44751
Google map: bit.ly/NIMyNj
Hotel, Spa and Restaurant, just outside Knutsford at Mere.
Relaxed and friendly hotel, the dinner menu is superb and easily stands comparison with the likes of Jamie Oliver and Andrew Nutter. Breakfasts are substantial; we didn't need to eat for the rest of the day!
Staff are professional, friendly and have their own personalities.
I really loved this hostel. It is not in the old town but is less than 30 minutes walk to the old town and the main sites. The place is well run, friendly and good value. They gave me a double bed instead of a single.
Calella de Palafrugell is pure Catalonia and one of the most beautiful places we visited on our tour of Spain. Like most of the proper Costa Brava it's surrounded by vertiginous hills and tiny coves which have allowed it to escape mass tourism developments. The whitewashed houses stand right on the sand and there were colourful fishing boats pulled up on the beaches when we were there. One of the best things about it is its summer festivals of Havanares (traditional songs brought back from Cuba by local sailors). The main festival is in early July but we were there in late August and every other cafe seemed to be having a Havenares session. You have to try the local drink of Cremat - flambeed rum, coffee and fruit! We stayed in the Hotel San Roc which has great cliff-top views but there are supposed to be some gorgeous B&Bs around too. (And don't confuse the village with the ugly tourist town of Calella fifty miles further South or you'll be sorely disappointed!)
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