Deliberately unassuming at first glance, Don Totu Dimora Storica is an 18th century palazzo that reveals itself to be a lovingly restored six-bedroom B&B once you step through the front door. Owners Mauro and Chiara Bini spared no detail in renovating this erstwhile humble building into the chicest address at San Cassiano: A ‘modern Milan in a village homestead’ is what we like to call it.
WORDS Aranya Phookan
Though it modestly bills itself as a B&B, Don Totu has all the trappings of a boutique luxury hotel with its swimming pool, gym, landscaped gardens, vaulted ceilings and spacious common areas. The décor is relaxed yet sophisticated, using a muted palette of ivory, cream and taupe, accented by ceramics from Grottaglie, natural fibers and eclectic collectibles sourced from all over the globe. The bedrooms still retain their original structure and materials but each one is distinct in its character – one room has an exposed brick wall with arched ceilings while the other is sharp-cornered with plush timber flooring and a private terrace to boot.
Don Totu embodies the spirit of la dolce vita in many ways, from its comfortable canopy beds and free-standing bath tubs to a Turkish hammam and aperitifs at sunset. But none quite as much as its elaborate breakfasts: sit under the mellow warmth of the sun in the portico as you are served fruit tarts; home-made biscuits; freshly baked bread; jams of prickly pear, blackberry, tangerine and grape; fresh ricotta; eggs and salami – all made from local produce. After that delightful meal, take a stroll through the orchard on the grounds or learn how to prepare handmade pasta and other traditional dishes with a local chef.
Located near the coast in postcard-pretty Puglia, San Cassiano may initially appear to be the kind of place one retires at… but there’s a social underbelly that’s waiting to be discovered. Fourteen localities have come together to form a collective, breathing new life to the area’s parks, monuments, archaeological sites, museums and libraries through the organisation of cultural and recreational activities. Guests can also choose to invent their own fun by borrowing Don Totu’s electric bicycles or Vespas and traversing up and down the stunning coastline; for less adventurous sorts, a complimentary yoga lesson followed by a dip in the jacuzzi could be more fitting.
Don Totu is a tender homage to a time long gone: slow in its pace, conscious in its design and food, and welcoming in its hospitality. Overall, it’s a charming slice of Puglia that keeps you coming back for more.
Each collectible inside Don Totu appears to come with its own story, starting with the Art Deco chandeliers (est. 1926) that once adorned The Biltmore Hotel in Miami but has now found a permanent home in Puglia.
With its 18 metre-long reproduction of Matisse’s iconic ‘La Piscine’ and electric-blue Gio Ponti woven chairs, the pool house could well be the centrepiece of the property.