Mrs Smith and I needed to go to Torre Fiore Hotel Masseria and we needed to visit southern Italy. I didn’t realise how significantly, of course, until we had done it. We were both really stressed and grumpy. Over-worked, a bit soggy and bloated. The usual London stuff. And the answer had been there all along; by ‘there’ I mean in Matera in Italy. Ahh, Italy. A land where nobody is over-worked, there isn’t even a word for ‘soggy’ and being bloated feels sexy.
Can I tell you about our flights to Bari first? Mundane, but it involves one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. It’s completely irrelevant to the review but I need to get it off my chest. Mrs Smith reluctantly put me in charge of booking the flights. I definitely used the sentence ‘I’m perfectly capable of organsing some flights, thank you very much’ at one point. Now, the two things you need to know about Bari are that, firstly, it’s the nearest airport to Torre Fiore and secondly, when pronounced in Italian, the name Barry becomes powerfully erotic. So, I booked flights for us both. I accidentally clicked the wrong month. I called up. Non-refundable. I had to book more tickets. Now this is the staggering part: I accidentally clicked the wrong month again. I called up. Non-refundable. I had to book MORE flights. I’m not sure how you guys roll, but I like to book at least six flights when I travel. We were now over-worked, a bit soggy, bloated and completely skint.
Grazie mille then for Torre Fiore. It’s a two-hour drive from Bari (Sexy Barry) and we were driven by Augostino. One of the nicest men that has ever lived. He didn’t really speak English and we don’t understand Italian but he talked to us all the way. I will never know what he was saying but we roughly translated it as: ‘You guys look a bit stressed, leave it with us and you’ll be dribbling, pleasure-corpses within 24 hours’.
You go straight past the middle of nowhere, turn left down a dirt track and drive through olive bushes. The hotel is a big white central building, surrounded by the bedrooms. It looks a little bit Moroccan. A more diligent reviewer would be able to tell you why that is, and perhaps even namecheck an architect. All you’re going to get from me is that it’s ‘well nice’.
The receptionist sounded German, the owner is from Toronto and the staff are Italian. It immediately felt like a raunchy version of the UN. While the world’s political powerhouses meet wearing suits in New York and discuss Baltic trade embargos, a small gathering of leaders in relaxation assemble at Torre Fiore, to discuss threadcounts and balsamic vinegar, wearing bikinis and high heels.
We were shown to our room, across the courtyard from the randy United Nations central auditorium. It was big. Really high ceilings with wooden beams. A giant bed which meant Mrs Smith and I could potentially pass an entire night without ever encountering each other. The furniture is a strange mix. Old farming equipment sits next to modernist pieces, alongside rustic chairs and a giant red headboard. It is eclectic, adding to the feeling that this place is a clash of cultures.
The only other guests when we arrived were a delightful family of mosquitos. We sat by the pool together, exchanged blood and histamines, and then got changed for dinner. Other guests started to arrive at this stage. It seems the restaurant is the place to eat in the area. As soon as we tasted the food and wine, it was pretty obvious why. Both were exceptional. Autumn, but we ate outside. I got the expressions alfresco and al dente mixed up with hilarious consequences and then we went to bed with a chocolate mousse.
If you stay at this Basilicata boutique bolt hole, you’d be a complete weirdo not to travel into Matera old town for an evening. I hadn’t even heard of this ancient cluster of cave-dwellings. It’s where they filmed the controversial Mel Gibson vehicle The Passion of the Christ. Stroll through the winding ancient alleys, church bells seem to go off every few minutes in the distance. Walk past the tiny windows and people are either debating something passionately in Italian or practicing the clarinet. 14-year-old couples stroll around the streets hand-in-hand, eating gelati and showing Mrs Smith how a real man should treat a lady. The food is epic. The wine is spiked with some sort of chemical that makes you talk very, very frankly about a future that involves spending at least two thirds of every year in Italy.
So what’s the catch? You might prefer to come here as part of a longer trip. It’s a bit too far for a couple of nights. When we told people we didn’t have a car it was as if we’d told them we were planning on travelling from place to place via osmosis. The hotel kindly arranged for Augustino to take us to-and-fro but it was expensive and the journeys seemed to take ages. Make Torre Fiore part of a week, perhaps trundling around Puglia as well, and that would be the most brilliant holiday.
If you’re reading this review it means you’re probably considering a holiday to Italy. Maybe you’re doing it because you’ve become a bit grumpy, like me and Mrs Smith. Maybe it’s your honeymoon. Maybe you’re having an affair. Maybe you’re a dedicated Mel Gibson fan who stumbled across this page during your daily Google search. Maybe you’re looking for a family holiday where you can stick the kids in a pool and get discreetly wasted on mind-boggling wine. Maybe you’re retired. Maybe you’re travelling alone. Whoever you are and whatever you’re travelling for, Torre Fiore, the sexy United Nations in Italy has got it covered. You’re going to have a well nice time.