Boutique hotel La Fiermontina is an homage to Antonia Fiermonte and the two artists who loved her. The garden shares its ancient city walls with Lecce, but inside you’ll find minimalist style, a carefully curated art collection, and a modern Pugliese restaurant. Please note, the hotel will only be available for private hire until 28 August 2020.
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A welcome bottle of local wine, and an extra gift for GoldSmiths
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £1078.72 (€1,200), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €3.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include a buffet breakfast.
The strong ties to Puglia and the impressive modern art collection are inspired by the owner's grandmother. She loved (and married) two artists, who remained best friends living across the courtyard from each other, both in love with their mutual muse.
La Fiermontina is only available for private hire until 28 August 2020.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, on-site parking. In rooms: flatscreen TV, WiFi, minibar with free bottled water, Lavazza coffee machine and sound system.
Our favourite rooms
All rooms are inspired by traditional local buildings, with large blocks of pale stone, grey or mustard seating, and crisp white bed linens. Room 7 (a Suite) has beautiful arched ceilings. The bed is the centrepiece of Room 9 (a Junior Suite), which also has a terrace that begs to be breakfasted on. For the ultimate in space and privacy, spring for the Duplex Suite with its extra-tall ceilings and private outdoor lounge.
You’ll find the delightful diminutive pool at the far side of the gardens, so it's relaxed and removed from the action of the main hotel hub.
There's no spa onsite, but guests can choose to take a massage in-suite. For head-to-toe pampering, head to sister property Palazzo Bozzi Corso (a five-minute walk away), where there are therapists with nimble fingers, a hammam and relaxation room.
Bring wide-brimmed hats, comfortable but stylish lace-up sandals, and A Room with a View to read in yours.
Outdoorsy Smiths, take note: La Fiermontina can arrange days of cycling, hiking, sailing and horseback riding if you’d like to get active between leisurely evening meals.
Bambini of all ages are welcome; baby food, extra beds and buggies are available, and most rooms are accessible by lift. There’s a children’s menu in the restaurant, and kitchen staff will happily heat baby food and bottles.
Bambini of all ages are welcome. Under-4s stay free; 5–12 year olds stay for €80–150 a night depending on the season; and 13–18 year olds stay for €150–200 from low to high season.
The hotel's interconnecting rooms are best for families: One Bedroom Suites 5 and 6 offer a sofa bed and Suites Verticale and Gelsomino give you plenty of space.
Hotel staff will happily organise a Pugliese itinerary tailored to ages and interests.
There’s a children’s menu in the restaurant, and kitchen staff will happily heat baby food and bottles.
The hotel can call in a professional child-minder with 24 hours notice (rates are available on request).
No need to pack
Big ticket baby swag: cots and buggies are available to borrow.
The charming outdoor tables are set in a picturesque courtyard. Pick a seat alfresco, amid the olive and orange trees of the hotel’s walled garden. Position yourself at a prime patio table by the bar to be close to the action.
Steer clear of anything too restrictive to make the most of meals of hearty local favourites; Mrs Smith may want to bring a light wrap for meals under the twinkling fairy lights and stars.
La Fiermontina's restaurant dishes out modern cucina povera, incorporating local ingredients (including a healthy share of seafood) and seasonal produce. All bread and pastas are made on-site by Chef Simone Solido and team; try a dish of classic orecchiette con le cime di rapa, pasta cooked with turnip greens. You can take a more casual meal in the lounge, too, where the food is equally divine. Remember to try the restaurant's sweet pasticceria leccese at least once (a day) during your stay.
An homage to the owner’s great-uncle, Pugliese pugilist and actor Enzo Fiermonte, Bar Enzo is a refurbished barn turned vintage film momento-bedecked lounge. It glitters with Tobia Scarpa gold light fixtures and the glory of a bygone era, and has an ample selection of seasonally changing wines, cocktails and liquors. When it’s warm enough, though, there’s nothing like sharing a bottle of primitivo as you lounge by the pool or in the shade of the orange trees.
Drink at Bar Enzo from 7.30am to 11pm from May to September; from 5 to 11pm the rest of the year. Twirl pasta from 7.30pm to 10.30pm, take lunch from 12.30pm to 3.30pm and enjoy the breakfast spread and lattes from 7.30 to 10.30am.
Order drinks and small snacks to your room anytime Bar Enzo is open. The full restaurant menu is available for dinner orders.
You’ll find La Fiermontina in Baroque city Lecce, smack in the middle of Italy’s boot heel.
Flights from London, Germany and elsewhere in Italy land at Brindisi Airport, 30 minutes’ drive from the hotel; arrange transfers with the hotel from €90, or book a taxi for around €60. Flights from across the Continent land at Visit a website Bari Airport (http://www.bariairport.net/), a two-hour drive from the hotel; arrange a transfer from €160.
Trenitalia services from Italian hubs pull into Lecce station, a 10-minute drive from the hotel. You can grab a taxi for around €20; transfers by chauffeur-driven car are also available.
There’s an on-site car park, but there’s really no need to drive in Lecce: bring wheels only if you’re planning to putter around the rest of Puglia, too.
Worth getting out of bed for
The Baroque centro storico of Lecce makes for history-filled walks, from the Basilica di Santa Croce and the Duomo di Lecce (open to the public after 4pm) to the Anfiteatro Romano archaelogical site. The city rounds things out with a heavy handful of rustic restaurants, wine bars and cafés, and hundreds of winding alleys. Bring Italian cooking (or at least the know-how) home with you: have La Fiermontina arrange lessons with local women and learn how to cook up cucina povera classics. Take a wine tour of Salento withPuglia Wine School, and explore some of the less known wineries of the area, where the grapes are still harvested by hand. Nature lovers will enjoy hiking along the coastal paths and through nearby small villages. For fresh-out-of-the-water seafood and sandy beaches, spend a day in nearby Gallipoli or Otranto.
For spectacular seafood and antipasti plates, walk towards Porta San Biagio to Blu Notte (2 Via M. Brancaccio, +39 0832 304286); try to snag a seat on the terrace at this local favourite. Just around the corner from Chiesa di Santa Chiara, trattoria Nonna Tetti (17 Piazzetta Regina Maria +39 0832 246036) dishes out hearty Puglian fare; try the braised wild chicory with fava bean purée. Satisfy your pizza cravings at Ciro Il Pizzaiolo, on the edge of the Piazza Giuseppe Mazzini (11 Via Centoquarantesimo Reggimento Fanteria +39 0832 279990). You’ll find 00 Doppiozero (2 Via Guglielmo Paladini +39 0832 521052) in the heart of the historic centre, with a reclaimed-wood common table and empty wine bottles repurposed as lights; try the roast beef on toasted bread, meatballs with polenta, or spinach pie. La Scarpetta is just around the corner, and specialises in modern Mediterranean dishes and classic thin-crust pizzas (45 Via Principe di Savoia +39 0832 309575).
In the warmer months, order a caffè in ghiaccio con latte di mandorla (an iced espresso with almond milk) to sip on the outdoor terrace of Piazza Sant'Oronzo-adjacent Caffè Alvino (+39 0832 246748), Or, grab a cone of gelato and stroll around the square. Go hunting for pasticciotto, a custard-stuffed pastry, or a zeppole di San Giuseppe (a swirled choux topped with vanilla and chocolate pastry cream) in Natale Pasticceria (+39 0832 1830112) on Via Tevere. At Caffè Cittadino (35 Via Francesco Rubichi +39 0832 524058) you can transition seamlessly from morning coffee to afternoon craft beer.
Go to Quanto Basta (17 Via Guglielmo Paladini +39 3470 083176) for cocktails: it allegedly has some of the best in Italy. For local Salento wine and sharing plates, Mamma Elvira Enoteca
on Via Umberto (+39 0832 1692011) is the place to be.
Mr Smith and I arrived at La Fiermontina in a rather zombie-like state after some overzealous booking on my side meant that we were up at 3.45am to catch our flight.
So it was rather nice to have our senses gently awakened by the floral scent that enveloped us as we walked through columns covered in cascading purple flowers that framed the entrance of the hotel.
La Fiermontina is a hidden-away idyll in Lecce: a 17th-century building that fuses tradition and modernity. 16 rooms, furnished with over-sized beds, pietra di trani floors and, if you’re lucky, an artwork from owner Filali’s personal collection which includes pieces by Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand and Tobia Scarpa. All that is framed by a beautiful walled garden and elegantly punctuated by 400-year-old olive trees and sculptures inherited from Filali’s grandmother, Antonia Fiermonte, after whom the hotel is named.
We were shown into our cavernous room, a junior suite, with church-like high ceilings and its own private terrace – the perfect place to relax after the sun had gone down.
The king-size bed immediately got a hug from me, its sheets so soft they were hard to tear myself away from in my sleepy state but Lecce needed exploring.
Lecce town is so steeped in history that it feels a bit like you’re on a Fellini film set; almost unreal in its beauty. We loved visiting Museo Faggiano: a private home that was meant to be turned into a trattoria until the owner made some rather unusual discoveries one day. After trying to fix a pipe, minimal excavations led to him unearthing various hidden rooms within his property including escape tunnels, the symbol of the knights of templar and various underground passages. These have now all been fully unearthed and opened to the public. We soon found out Lecce is a place full of such discoveries, from its cuisine to its cocktails (which we sampled in abundance).
Although nothing quite beat heading back to La Fiermontina, where the sun loungers waited and, even with other guests making the most of the afternoon sun, it always felt like we were the only ones there. We spent the afternoon cooling off in the pool, Aperol spritz in hand as the sun set behind the walls of our hideaway. The garden is so tranquil the only sounds you seem to hear are that of birds, a church bell and the occasional sound of a tennis ball being hit on the courts just beyond the grounds.
On our first night we decided to sample chef Simone Solido’s menu which includes both Salentini specialties and Mediterranean fusions with a focus on fresh and locally sourced produce. The restaurant – a refined dining room with an option to sit outside – has a relaxed feel, with spot-on friendly service and delicious food. Every dish we sampled felt like it had been prepared with the utmost care.
We sat alfresco amid the lemon trees and toasted the evening sun with a bottle of crisp local white wine, which got the seal of approval from Mr Smith, ever the wine connoisseur. The menu was small and concise – always a good sign. Before our starter, a chef’s special of tuna tartare was delivered to our table with a trio of breads, hot out of the oven, alongside some local olive oils. I ordered a fried prawn starter that arrived looking more like a work of art than a meal, the prawns large and juicy with crisp battered edges, followed by a pasta we shared and a salmon main – with just enough room left for dessert. Two and a half hours later, four courses and one bottle of wine down, I can say with absolute certainty that it was my favourite meal of our trip. After a short walk back to our room, I could finally give my bed the hug it deserved and swiftly fell asleep.
After a delicious breakfast sat outside in the morning sun, our second day was spent trundling down the cobbled streets of Lecce. I chanced upon a vintage boutique and left it the happy owner of a beautiful silk top. In another antique shop the owner proudly showed us his beautiful record player – we left the shop to the sounds of the Bee Gees on vinyl and smiles on our faces, finally stopping by a café recommend to us by the hotel for an iced almond-milk latte: a little pick-me-up before another afternoon sprawled by the pool.
When we first arrived at La Fiermontina we were told to ‘make ourselves at home’ – well, if my home had such attentive service, a beautiful garden and a sun-trap pool, I don’t think I would ever leave. Which was why, when we finally checked out, we waited until right the last minute to say goodbye to the little paradise we had called home for two perfect days…