How a hotel and a remarkable woman over the years have changed – for the better – the geography and hospitality of a place in Italy: Masseria San Domenico
Text: Sofia Catalano
Far-sighted is certainly the adjective that best suits her. But also curious, dynamic, enterprising, tireless, and above all the first to have believed in exclusive tourism in Puglia. We are talking about Marisa Lisi Melpignano, the entrepreneur who, as a forerunner, revised and corrected the concept of the Masseria twenty-five years ago, in a glamorous key, but without ever distorting it. This is how Masseria San Domenico was born, in Savelletri di Fasano, a true paradise, with forty rooms and suites, where the art of receiving guests is based on ancient culture and tradition, but revisited in an international perspective. “It was my country home, the Masseria. It was one of those weekend homes where you take the family furniture that is left over, beautiful but not precious, where you receive friends, spend time with relatives, where you live your free time in serenity and joy,” says Mrs Marisa. “I decided to make it a five-star hotel and host guests as if they were at home. It was a real challenge for the area, people thought I was crazy, they laughed at me. But step by step I did it, and it was a success for everyone.” In fact, Masseria San Domenico has become a beacon, an example to be followed, which has given a lot of work to local people, and has been a driving force in changing the economy of the area.
Respecting its history, Marisa thought of hospitality as typical of a middle-class home: good food, good wine, peace, serenity, a welcoming, classic environment, colours that caress the eye, but no unnecessary or inappropriate luxury. What interested her and still interests her is above all the details: for example, all the linen is washed “in house” with special attention to perfume and ironing (an invaluable pampering). And the cuisine? All exclusively local, with recipes taken from family books: grandmother, mother, mother-in-law, and obviously with excellent raw materials, and always close by.
But the Signora is not stopping and despite the pandemic and forced closures she has other projects in the pipeline. The first is to recover an old marble factory belonged to her beloved husband Sergio Melpignano, who has always helped and supported her, and turn it into an exhibition space, also dedicated to cultural events, a significant gesture for the local community as well. And that’s not all, there is also a new addition to the Masseria, a real “gem”. A completely independent cottage: two rooms, a living room characterised by typical Grottaglie handmade ceramics, a private swimming pool and a lush garden; an oasis of beauty, peace and relaxation, for those who want extreme privacy. The last piece of a magical place where holidays rhyme with culture, history and tradition in the name of authenticity.