Rifling through a magazine or travel blog, I often fall headfirst in lust with their idyllic picture postcard holidays, longing to be transported to their little piece of paradise.
It’s not that we haven’t had some stunning trips abroad, it’s just that sometimes there’s a catch. That award-winning hotel with the leaky tap that you lie awake all night cursing, the trendy loft apartment with the drum’n’bass obsessed neighbours…that type of blot on the perfection.
But then we arrived at Masseria Alchimia in Italy and suddenly we knew where these travel-perfect-people find their fix. For a picture proof intro - this is the view as we drew up to the entrance gates for the first time. I haven’t even had to Photoshop in extra trees or colour in the clouds.
We’d booked the ground floor family suite for four nights of pure unwind– a bedroom with ensuite bathroom and light therapy bath (more on that later) and an adjoining kitchen/living area with extra toilet (bonus, no shoving Mr B’s razors and whatnot aside to make way for my vat of toiletries) and two single beds, both rooms opening onto our private terrace. A private terrace with a hammock hung between the apricot trees no less.
The Masseria is, as ever in my accommodation must-haves, designed with interior styling in mind and our room was awash with my favourite palette of neutral greys and whites.
Once a girl’s school apparently, it has been lovingly transformed into a 10-bedroom boutique house by German owner Caroline evident from her flair for design and cultural influences intertwined with Italian living. The emphasis is on the house aspect. It’s not a hotel in your usual sense – you can’t order food and there’s no communal area but instead a daily room cleaning service (plus mineral water refills in the fridge) and staff are on hand should you need the odd request such as restaurant reservations.
One of the many reasons I love hotels more than self-catering is that you’re paying for someone to tidy up your mess. Yup, on holiday I can make believe I'm rich and carefree and know that once a day a genie will come into the room and transform it into a habitable heaven. Throw into the mix a toddler with a penchant for toy cars, Lego mountains and a crumb-dropping habit to make my inner OCD quake, I was ecstatic when we arrived back after our morning outings to a spotless crash-pad once again.
Outdoor space at the Masseria is in abundance. Do a 360 turn and all you can see is endless Italian rustic outdoors to walk and singalong to the crickets. For breakfast supplies we took a stroll lizard-hunting along a dirt track next to fields of olive trees and an unidentified vegetable crop to the neighbouring house where they have farm shop selling fresh breads, fruit and veg and plenty of calorie-laden homemade titbits. The eggs are so fresh the owner went out to the chicken coup to collect them for us.
Back at the house we had our garden terrace to unwind which became our go-to when Mini B was having his lunchtime nap whilst we meanwhile cracked open a bottle of prosecco, I put my head in a bag of chocolate biccies and lay horizontal with Mr Kindle. Pure heaven. And of course we could nibble the fresh apricots which kept dropping at our feet.
With Mini B in tow, we’d booked the only ‘family’ room on offer. The house doesn’t scream “Families R Us” which I secretly loved (I’m not trading in my boutique holidaying for Centre Parcs just yet thanking yee) and made Mini B quite the celebrity, much to the downfall of the couple next door on a romantic mini break.. Caroline had ensured there was a changing mat, high chair, cutlery and bag full of toys ready and waiting for us, not to mention both a travel cot in our bedroom and a child safety net on one of the single beds in the adjoining living area. Obviously we went for the single bed option thanks to my refusal to a share room with an alert toddler or risk letting him sleep in our bed for the next ten years.
The light therapy bath has a programme of colour changing lights to get your disco on whilst you soak. We didn't get a look in and it took us a minimum half hour of bribery to coax Mini B out of it.
If you do want to shatter the peace and drag yourself away from apricots, olives and cricket serenade, hiring a car is essential - you can't buy a bottle of prosecco without one. We had a few near divorce moments due to the Italian penchant for not using an indicator, strolling out in front of moving cars and generally not abiding by any obvious road laws. But we made it and the Masseria is a direct and simple hour drive from the airport on the motorway. We didn't venture far once we were there though. We couldn't be bothered in all honesty but I recommend a visit to Monopoli, a 20 minute drive away and a beautiful historical town with fabulous restaurants, gelato parlours and plenty to while away a few hours. Just don't try and negotiate parking in the centre where it's restricted to local bods only (or reverse into a wall like I did...).
It became a bit of a joke just how many times Mr B and I uttered the word “idyllic” during our stay, if ever there was a better medicine to recharge your batteries or revive tired minds, I’d like to see it. Here exists the perfect balance of tranquility.
We booked Masseria Alchimia through i-escape With Kids. Rooms start from 150 Euros