A former palazzo with fragrant gardens and stone-walled rooms, boutique hotel Don Totu has everything you need to ease yourself into the south-Italian lifestyle. Lounge by the pool sipping an Aperol spritz, or escape the heat altogether in the hotel’s underground Turkish bath, which recalls the artificial grottos once beloved of the Italian aristocracy. The owners have updated the interiors with elegant yet pared back furnishings, but the overall character is still fittingly lo-fi, ensuring the historic house loses none of its old-world charm.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in is usually 4pm.
Double rooms from $186.71 (€167), excluding tax at 10 per cent.
Room rates usually include breakfast, a choice of a zero-mile buffet spread or à la carte menu. Expect freshly squeezed orange juice, bread from local bakers, home-made biscotti, fresh fruit (some from the hotel garden) and cold cuts of meat.
If you’re heading to the beach, let the hotel know roughly what time you expect to be back, as they’ll prepare refreshments for your return.
The hotel is closed from the 1 November until Easter each year.
At the hotel
Library, garden with several terraces, spa with hammam, gym/fitness studio and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: decorative fireplace, Maria Candida Gentile bath products and free bottled water.
Our favourite rooms
Every room has its own charm, but we’ve got a soft spot for the Torretta Suite. Split over two floors, it has a four-poster bed with white drapes, a regal chaise longue and a private terrace; it’s also one of the only rooms in the hotel with a wooden floor. Families will appreciate the Quad Room, which has two interconnecting bedrooms – one with a king-size bed, the other with twins.
The large pool is outside on the terrace, surrounded by fruit trees, fragrant shrubbery and slender cypresses. Sunloungers with parasols are arranged around the outside.
The spa is in what used to be the cellar, where freshly-picked olives were stored before being pressed into oil. Now, it’s home to a hammam, colour-changing shower, Jacuzzi and a fitness studio equipped with the latest Technogym equipment. There’s also a lounge area with a view of the garden – the perfect spot for your post-workout recovery.
Unless it's the height of summer, bring something to wrap up in while zipping around on a Vespa – things can get a little chilly at speed.
Don Totu’s historic character doesn’t allow for a lift, so it’s not really suitable for wheelchair users.
Children of all ages are welcome. An extra bed (€80 a night in low season; €100 in high season) can be added to one of each room type. A cot (free) can be added to most rooms, but numbers are limited, so be sure to ask when booking.
On warm days, aim for the table under the covered portion of the terrace, where you get the scent of rosemary and lavender on the air.
Don Tuto is right at the bottom of Italy's bootheel, so it gets hot in summer. Breezy linens and all things light and white should serve you well.
The hotel doesn’t have it’s own restaurant, but they can serve a casual lunch on the terrace if you let them know at breakfast. The menu includes light bites like octopus salad, pasta with mozzarella and mixed vegetables, and sandwiches made on puccia bread – a Salento speciality.
The hotel has a poolside bar, which serves from 6pm to 8pm each day. The barman can whip up negronis, whiskey sours, Moscow mules and more. At all other times, drinks (as well as home-made cakes and biscuits) are available from the kitchen, which operates as an honesty bar. Non-alcoholic drinks are free; wine, beer and spirits are available too. Apéritifs and nibbles are also served on the terrace every evening.
Don Totu is tucked away on a quiet street in the town of San Cassiano, a comune in southern Italy’s Puglia region.
Brindisi (also known as Salento) is the closest international hub. It’s well connected with Italian airports and nearby European destinations, but direct flights from the UK are few and far between. If you’re travelling from the UK or further afield, the best option is to fly via Rome or Milan. From Brindisi, it’s a 90-minute drive to the hotel. Flights and transfers can be arranged with the Smith24 Team; call 24 hours a day.
The closest station is Lecce, a 35-minute drive away. You can take a high-speed Trenitalia service from either Rome or Naples to Bari, before swapping to a regional train to Lecce.
Hiring a car makes a lot of sense; you’ll have easy access to the coast, and day trips (to the beautiful Baroque city of Lecce, for example) will be much simpler. Guests can also park for free on the street in front of the hotel. The Smith24 Team can arrange car hire.
Worth getting out of bed for
Go local by getting behind the handlebars of a Vespa, the best (and most stylish) way to explore the town. The hotel keeps two for guests to use; the rental itself is free, so you just need to cover the €20-a-day insurance rate and your own fuel. Those planning on making a break for the beach will be pleased to know the coast is a mere 12-minute ride away; pleasure drivers should ask the staff to suggest some scenic routes. In terms of nearby day trips, a visit to Lecce is unmissable. The city’s one-time mania for Baroque architecture has left its mark, earning it the nickname ‘the Florence of the south’. Many buildings showcase lavish ornamentation both inside and out – highlights include the Piazza del Duomo, where you’ll find the cathedral, the Basilica di Santa Croce, Chiesa di Santa Chiara, Chiesa dei Santi Nicolò e Cataldo and the Triumphal Arch. Nature, too, has gone to decorous extremes: just take a walk along the beach at Porto Selvaggio Regional Nature Park, a seven-kilometre stretch of green-fringed rocky coastline. Devotees of the grape will enjoy sipping their way around the Museum of Wine at the Leone de Castris winery, who were the first to bottle and sell rosé wine in Italy. Tours and tastings are available.
The hotel doesn’t have it’s own restaurant, so you’ll need to dine out – the hotel can organise taxis. In the tiny town of Surano (a six-minute drive away) you’ll find authentic trattoria La Bersagliera, where you can dine in a charming, tree-filled courtyard or amid rustic interiors furnished with antiques. The food is rich and soulful; order a selection of plates for the best experience. If, by the end of your meal, you decide that you can’t get enough of the food, owner and chef Rafaello also happens to run cooking classes bookable at Don Totu. For all things seafood, try Nonna Rosa in Muro Leccese (a 15-minute drive), which occupies a choice spot in the town’s picturesque square. The terrace is a particularly atmospheric dinner spot, with one of the town’s handsome churches acting as the backdrop. Those looking for a truly creative meal will enjoy La Farmacia dei Sani in Ruffano (a 15 minute drive), which occupies a large stone-walled room with an arched roof. The menu is concise and many plates are on the smaller side, but this is Puglian cuisine at its creative best.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this honey-hued B&B in Puglia and unpacked their locally-made Five Roses wine, a full account of their rural break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Don Totu in Puglia…
Don Totu is one of those boutique hotels that manages to pull off a bit of a conjuring trick. Standing outside, it seems quite a modest place – the only giveaway that you may be in for a surprise is the crest of arms fixed above the wooden door. Step across the threshold, however, and you find yourself in a stately 18th-century palazzo, a place of double-height ceilings, ceramic floors and a garden planted with jasmine, lavender and fruit trees. The owners have given the historic interiors a thorough but sensitive update, using stylish but stripped-back furnishings to bring out the best of the buildings ‘bones’: the walls and ceilings of honey-coloured Leccese stone. Modern comforts like a spa and WiFi have now been installed, but the old-world charm still comes on strong. There are no TV’s in the rooms, either – all the more encouragement to take one of the hotel’s Vespas or electric bicycles for a whirl round the town or along the coast. Come evening, sip on a well-earned cocktail and sample locally-grown olives on the terrace, still warm from the day’s sun.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Don Totu’s Guestbook below.
Wonderful retreat. Beautiful rooms and surrounds. We had two of the six rooms and as our intention was just to relax, we had the pool to ourselves for the bulk of the day. We ventured out to nearby towns for dinner (after the aperitifs of course) as recommended and booked for us. Others took the time to explore the region during the day and returned in time for gelato by the pool. Alessandra and David are fantastic hosts and the rest of the staff went out of their way to look after us. Unlimited non-alcoholic drinks. Very reasonably priced local wines/lunch options (try the octopus salad). Yoga/turkish baths included. Hosts able to arrange local driver on request as well.
Stayed on 2 Jul 2018
Approaching the hotel it looks deceivingly small. Pretty but not grand. On entering, again beautiful but not huge. This is what makes this hotel unique; once you are shown around you realise Don Totu has so much more to offer then you would expect from what looks like a small six bedroom hotel. Lots of hidden areas, beautiful large garden, lots of secluded outdoor space, and it felt homely yet pure luxury. We stayed in the Don Totu suite and it was perfect. Lots of natural light, large bathroom, and the soft and hard furnishings were perfect. Absolutely fabulous, unlimited soft drinks (with the hot weather, this went down a treat if you were having a lazy day by the pool). The hammam and jacuzzi are great but you do need to book your hour slot so that you can have exclusive use. We arrived at 4pm and managed to book for 7pm on the same day. We also tried the yoga and the teachers were excellent (bear in mind that my husband and I have less then basic skills). I would highly recommend Don Totu, but probably not if you haven't got a car!
Don't expect dinner at the hotel. There is no restaurant on site. They do provide a light lunch which you have to order at breakfast. They do give lots of restaurant recommendations, and there are lots of places within a 20-30min drive away.
Stayed on 29 Jun 2018
The personal service from Alessandra and Davide. There were yoga lesson in the mornings and an included aperativo at 6pm. Really liked the ultra comfortable rooms and communal spaces. Visit Nonna Rosa for some food and take a day trip to Otranto.
24 hour concierge. The staff are there from 7am until 1pm and then 4pm until 8pm. Depending on what you need this shouldn't be a problem.