Built right into Monopoli’s ancient seafront ramparts, hotel Don Ferrante is a labyrinthine hideaway: an elegant tangle of narrow staircases, pretty patios and vaulted limestone ceilings. With just 10 rooms, this whitewashed Puglian retreat charms guests into a slower pace of life. Linger on the terrace over fresh Mediterranean fare, slink into the dinky rooftop pool and soak up those dazzling Adriatic views.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of Prosecco served on the terrace or, from June to August, an outdoor massage for one person
11am. Earliest check-in, 2pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £309.85 (€360), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.00 per person on check-out.
Rates include a buffet breakfast of cereal, yogurt, local bread and cheeses, pastries, tarts, fresh juices and cooked-to-order farm-fresh eggs and bacon.
Startlingly white and planted with aloe and prickly pears, Don Ferrante’s terrace could give Marrakech’s blissful rooftops a run for their money. Striped deck chairs, low sofas and rattan armchairs are scattered at every corner – all idyllic spots for an idle afternoon in the Puglian sunshine. Book ahead for a tension-busting in-room massage; in the summer, an outdoor treatment area is set up on the terrace so you can drift away to the sound of lapping waves.
The hotel is closed annually in January and February.
At the hotel
Rooftop terraces. In rooms: flatscreen TV, minibar, Carthusia toiletries free WiFi (in rooms only).
Our favourite rooms
Kept cool in the summer by the thick, stone city walls, Don Gabriel is the hotel's Superior room, with views of the old town centre. Ground-floor Deluxe room San Vito has a charming little private patio. Suite Don is an indulgent treat with a fireplace, hydro-massage shower and long balcony looking over the sea. All the stone-hewn rooms are soothing and elegant, with handmade ceramics, carved-wood headboards and vaulted ceilings.
Sheltered on one side by a striking stone wall, the rooftop’s unheated plunge pool is just big enough for a refreshing dip. Set on a neat patch of grass nearby, two bright white sunloungers let guests linger and soak up the sea view.
Monopoli’s one-way streets are best explored on foot, so bring some comfortable walking shoes.
One of the Deluxe rooms on the ground floor has a bathroom adapted for wheelchair users.
All ages are welcome but with its many steps and high perches, the hotel is best suited to grown-ups. Baby cots (€20 a night) and extra beds (€60 a bed a day in high season and €70 in peak) can be added to Deluxe rooms and Suites.
In the summer, all seats on the terrace are lovely for watching the waves and savouring the sea breeze. Inside, grab one of the two tables by the window for breakfast with a view.
Embrace the Cretan vibe in this labyrinthine seafront retreat with maxi dresses and billowing white linens.
Locanda Ferrante (open from May to September for lunch and June to August for dinner) dishes up tempting Puglian cuisine on a rooftop terrace with sweeping sea views. The menu changes every month to make the most of local seafood and sun-kissed Mediterranean produce. In fine weather, the all-white sea-view terrace is hard to resist. Breakfast is served in an atmospheric 16th-century gunpowder cellar.
Head to the rooftop with a cocktail in hand, or sample robust reds and fragrant rosés from the hotel’s extensive cellar.
Breakfast is served 7.30am–11am and lunch 12.30pm–2.30pm, after which the dinner menu is available from 8.30pm–10.30pm.
A light lunch and full dinner menu are available during restaurant opening hours.
Don Ferrante looks over the Adriatic from its tranquil perch on the historic ramparts of the fishing town of Monopoli.
Bari and Brindisi airports, both a 40-minute drive away, serve domestic and international flights from across Europe.
A 5-minute drive away, Monopoli station serves Trenitalia trains from Bologna and stations along the Adriatic Railway. The hotel can arrange free pick-ups from 8am to 7pm.
Parking in the old town is restricted to residents. If you’re bringing your own wheels, drop off your bags at the hotel first. There’s free parking 300m away, and the hotel will happily park your car for you between 9am and 6pm.
Worth getting out of bed for
A jumble of whitewashed houses, ornate church spires and picturesque narrow streets, Monopoli is a delight to explore. Take advantage of Don Ferrante’s free buggy tours to get your bearings in the postcard-worthy centro storico. Stroll down to the sheltered harbour to watch traditional fishing boats bringing in the day’s catch. Follow the sturdy city walls along the coast to a pretty little cove of golden sand just below Santo Stefano castle, once the Knights of Malta’s stronghold. The hotel also runs a free shuttle to private beaches and can arrange cookery classes and wine tastings in local masserias. While in Puglia, it’s worth hiring a car to explore the glorious green-and-gold valleys and Unesco-protected sites: Alberobello’s distinctive trulli dwellings, the imposing citadel at Castel del Monte and Matera’s breathtaking cliff-clinging houses are all within striking distance.
Just outside Monopoli in the grounds of an old farmhouse, Angelo Sabatelli Ristorante (+39 0809 02396) has earned its first Michelin star.The eponymous chef plays deftly with presentation and tradition: classic egg and truffles sit alongside roast kid and sculptural desserts in an inventive 10-course menu. In the heart of the city, Piazza Palmieri (+39 0807 43265) serves spectacular shellfish, gutsy pasta, and hand-picked wine from its impressive cellar. Beautifully lit La Torretta del Pescatore (+39 0803 210390) takes on fairy-tale airs in the evenings. Built around an ancient wall tower, its terraces make an atmospheric setting for a sea-fresh feast from the daily-changing menu.
After arriving at Brindisi Airport, the idea was to find some lunch between leaving Monopoli train station and arriving at luxury hotel Don Ferrante, but as we emerged into the latter’s unlovely new-town setting, it became clear that nothing was open. No – it was aggressively closed. With an increasing sense of doom, we walked through wide grey streets and peered into dark windows. The sea could only be downhill, so we headed that way; seeing nobody, hearing nothing. Shutters were closed, hoardings down. We continued in the direction of the sea for 10 minutes before we heard it: the clatter of plates, the subtle smell of cooking. Our holiday had begun.
Soon the new gave way to the old – sandy rugged brickwork, and dark narrow streets that seem to run round in circles. We followed our noses and came to an open door, a short flight of steps down to Trattoria il Cavaliere. In a room full of fishermen, we ate pasta and seafood, and drunk wine and felt alive. At the end of the meal – and, pleasingly, every meal in every restaurant after this – we were presented with tiny custard pastries covered in icing sugar called sporcamusi; translated, it means ‘dirty snouts’. We asked the way to the hotel, and we’re told to follow the sea.
It was low season, though in the dimness of the shops and cafés, and with our bellies full, it was easy to imagine this town in summer: alight even at midnight, the beaches stretching south along the heel of Italy and small squares full of noisy excitement. Don Ferrante is easy to find because its whiteness sparkles against the blue sea at its back and the dusty houses opposite. A brief bluster of sunshine revealed the patio and its pool, two loungers stretched out ambitiously. In high season, the restaurant, in a 16th-century gunpowder cellar, is open every night serving traditional Puglian food. At a little white-clothed table overlooking the waves, we were only able to sample the buffet breakfast and their very fine coffee. We lived.
Don Ferrante has the feel of an intimate guesthouse, rather than a sprauncy hotel, in part due to its location on the narrow streets of the old town, but also because you are left quite alone. Reception is in the basement under the traditional, vaulted limestone roof - you’re handed a keycard for the front door and your room as you check in. And if, like me, you’re the kind of person who cheers at holiday rain (there was plenty) because it gives you the opportunity to go to bed for the afternoon in freshly laundered sheets, then you will have few complaints. I was happy to peer out of the window at 4pm and imagine what the tiny cacti-surrounded plunge pool looks like in August, set up for spa treatments and cold drinks.
When the sun came out, we wandered along the coast, admiring the fishing nets and horizon, then back into the town, stumbling into Madonna della Madia Cathedral with irreverent awe. Built in the 12th century, it was redesigned in the 18th, and up in the chapel is a painting of the Madonna that is reproduced everywhere in town: on posters, in tunnels, on the side of a dirty motorbike. Legend has it the painting was washed up from the sea on a raft made of huge wooden logs. These logs were then used for the construction of the trussed roof. Even more memorable though, was the Purgatorio Church. It takes less than half a glance to realise this is no ordinary place of worship – skeletons dance on the heavy, dark-wood door, skulls laugh at you from the frame. It was night when we passed by, hurrying a little through the cold looking for a drink, but we were drawn to the window by a yellow light inside. Despite the doors being locked, the mummified remains of eight local brothers are propped in glass cases, visible even in moonlight. Round the next corner, we found a bar behind another dark door, and the bustle of a crowd diffused the fear a little.
The next evening we ventured back into the new town on a friend’s recommendation, for a plate of panzerotti to share – like a small fried calzone but about 20 times more delicious – but were careful to leave room for another chance stumble, this time into Trattoria La Locanda Dei Mercanti, where a feast of raw seafood (and free pastries) left us with change from a €20 note and the top button of our jeans undone.
As a base for all this gluttony, Don Ferrante, with its serenity and the sound of the Adriatic Sea crashing against the rocks as we drifted to sleep, was perfect.