Acaya, an oasis in Salento

A resort near Lecce with centennial olive trees, smiling people and an original restaurant offer

06-09-2016
Masseria San Pietro, the restaurant inside the Aca

Masseria San Pietro, the restaurant inside the Acaya Golf & Spa Resort, just a few kilometres east of Lecce. The 4 star resort, part of the Jsh hotel collection and run by Double Tree Resort by Hilton, is an excellent solution for a short break in September, in the heart of a calmer part of Salento

It’s not that in Salento summer is yet to start, but from Lecce southwards, summer lasts longer than elsewhere. And perhaps it’s best to go now instead of August as from now until the end of October, everything is calm: if you want to pop by in the lively Baroque town, you can park even off Piazza Sant’Oronzo; the queue to get hold of a tiny plot of sand on the beautiful beaches becomes more reasonable; prices are more sensible and the same goes for the traffic on the roads connecting the heel of Italy from the Adriatic to the Ionian Sea, from north to south.

Peace becomes even quieter at Acaya, a Golf & Spa Resort a few kilometres east of Lecce, right behind the natural protected area of Le Cesine, overlooking the Adriatic Sea. The resort doesn’t directly overlook the sea and this lowers the volume further. Most of all, spaces are so stretched that every sound dies even before it reaches you: the 18-hole golf course spreads over 133 hectares with an impressive network of Mediterranean shrub (for players, it’s a par 71, requiring the use of all 14 clubs).

97 rooms and suites, each with a terrace or a patio outside

97 rooms and suites, each with a terrace or a patio outside

The rooms and suites (97 in total, sold out in August) are inside a structure on two floors which spreads horizontally, not vertically, following local architecture: a break before dinner on your patio or terrace, with the north wind blowing and often ruffling the centennial olive trees, is worth a good part of the price. What are the prices like? By reserving now, in September, the king guestroom (the most basic room) for one week is 981 euro, the double king suite (50 square metres) is twice as much. The price increases depending on the services you require: we recommend choosing the half board, so you’re encouraged to visit the beautiful area (Otranto, Gallipoli, Lecce itself, but if you wish you can also go to the magnificent Ostuni or to Borgo Egnazia).

With the deluxe family room (7 nights now cost 1,233 euros) we move to the family section: the resort suits couples looking for relax as well as fathers and mothers with one or two children. First of all because there’s a comfortable space in the room (for the limited time you’ll spend there). But most of all, there are places and activities for children too: while the kids club could be more equipped (perhaps with an outdoor area, there’s enough space) and with more staff, there are many chances to keep the little ones occupied. We have a great memory of the visit to the animal farm or the huge and well looked after swimming pool, a nice daily vent for children and adults, surrounded by enormous green expanses. Those who wish to swim far from the squalling children should not be afraid: the smaller swimming pool for relax inside the courtyards, scattered with tall palm trees, guarantees the right amount of silence to devour entire books.

The main swimming pool at Acaya, surrounded by stonewalls and centennial olive trees

The main swimming pool at Acaya, surrounded by stonewalls and centennial olive trees

But the element that strikes the most in this resort managed by young Claudio Oliva from Romagna is the staff’s kindness towards adults and children, from the waiters to the concierge to the local advisor, who can recommend anything in the area: their smiles are always on, and the same goes for their good will and their desire to go beyond the protocol of routine courtesy. This is the Hilton training, which should be used as a model even for some tired Italian hospitality.

Finally the real wellbeing is given by a large… Spa – 1,200 square metres with the classic equipment of chromo-therapy, sauna, calidarium, frigidarium, tiepidarium, emotional shower – but most of all, for us identitagolosoni – with the restaurant offer, which is not interpreted as a penance you need to remit. At ultimaspiaggia delle Cesine – a 10 minute comfortable shuttle drive from the resort allowing you to reach the blue, transparent sea Ozpetek and not only him is crazy about – you can have some great frise and creative salads, with (real) seasonal ingredients.

The restaurant offer is managed by Andrea Ribaldone, here represented by his faithful collaborators Nicola Angelini (in the kitchen) and Matteo Bertolino (in the dining room)

The restaurant offer is managed by Andrea Ribaldone, here represented by his faithful collaborators Nicola Angelini (in the kitchen) and Matteo Bertolino (in the dining room)

Yet the real bliss is to be experienced in the newborn restaurant Masseria San Pietro, inside the resort, a one kilometre walk from the rooms of the resort, along the unpaved golf paths. Milanese (now of Alessandrinan adoption) chef Andrea Ribaldone sets the restaurant offer: every day his faithful collaborators Nicola Angelini (in the kitchen) and Matteo Bertolino (in the dining room, previously at i Due Buoi) arrange a large buffet of fresh fruit and vegetables placed on ice, followed by a selection of simple, local and seasonal starters (courgettes alla poverella, prawns and legumes, a delicious capocollo from Martinafranca…) and meat of excellent quality, cooked on a scenic grill overlooking the dining room, which in turn overlooks hole 18 on the golf course. Peace.

Plus an intelligent way of standing above the chorus of mediocre restaurants, mostly offering seafood, populating the area. A good sign for a territory that is slowly learning to translate its potential effectively.


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