Follow in the footsteps of Lecce’s great families at Palazzo Bozzi Corso, where 18th-century splendour is intertwined with modern art and design. A few minutes’ walk from the Duomo and Basilica Santa Croce, this 10-suite mansion offers you the chance to step back in time, living life as it was enjoyed by the city’s cloaked and feathered elite. Baroque stonework and a palm-strewn courtyard provide aristocratic grandeur on the outside; high ceilings, parquet floors and marble bath tubs deliver la dolce vita within. The rooftop pool is alluring for lazy soaks, but the hotel's in the city’s historic heart, too, putting many of the best bars, restaurants and boutiques within easy reach. Or, if you’d rather escape for the day, have the concierge arrange an indulgent cruise on Salento’s glittering waters.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £439.62 (€495), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include a buffet breakfast of freshly-baked bread and pastries, local jams and honey, fresh fruit and smoked salmon.
Ask the concierge to arrange a private chef for a romantic meal in your suite.
At the hotel
Garden, honesty bar, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV; minibar; tea- and coffee-making kit; free bottled water; Akka Cappa bath products.
Our favourite rooms
It’s hard not to swoon over the Aristocratic Suites, the most historic of the hotel’s rooms. These grand apartments have period features like marble fireplaces, ornate ceilings and polished parquet floors, giving them a stately character that’ll have you feeling like royalty in no time. If you can, ask for a suite on the top floor so you get the best of the views.
Idle for a while on the roof terrace, dipping in and out of the pool and keeping a chilled glass of wine to hand. Guests can also use the larger outdoor pool at sister property La Fiermontina, a five-minute walk away. It’s in the hotel’s manicured gardens, surrounded by clipped lawns and sunloungers shaded by olive trees.
Take a time out with a soothing treatment at the hotel's elegant spa, where there's also a hammam and a relaxation room.
Don’t forget swimming gear to be seen in – the hotel's rooftop pool is one for posing by.
The hotel isn't suited to wheelchair users – there are steps at the entrance and no specially adapted rooms.
All ages are welcome, but there aren’t many facilities for children, making the hotel best for adults. Babysitting is available; three days’ notice is needed when booking. The Lady Astor Suite interconnects to suit a family.
In season, the gardens are the loveliest for a romantic meal.
Adopt the locals' casual elegance.
Breakfast and dinner are served daily in the gardens or the Art Deco dining room. The chef hails from Salento and recreates regional dishes using fresh market-sourced ingredients. The hotel frequently holds special themed dinners too: on Mondays, a Palazzo in Pizzica feast is held in the hotel's historic atrium (entertainment is provided by local dancers); on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, the Tour of Italy gives guests a taste of Italy's best dishes from tip to toe; and on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the Mille e Una Notte dinner sees the garden sparkle with candlelight. Snacks are served by the pool, too.
You can mix yourself a drink at the honesty bar any time from 7.30am to 11pm. If you’re after the expert touch, politely request a cocktail from one of the staff – a few have mastered mixology. Or stroll round to Bar Enzo at La Fiermontina, where the barmen serve sophisticated cocktails and seasonal wines.
Breakfast is served from 7.30am to 10.30am, dinner from 7.30pm to 10.30pm.
Palazzo Bozzi Corso is in the Baroque city of Lecce, about 10 kilometers from Puglia’s eastern coast.
Brindisi is the closest international airport. It’s well connected with Italian airports and nearby European destinations, but direct flights from the UK are few and far between – your best flying via Rome or Milan. It takes around 40 minutes to drive to from the airport to the hotel; transfers can be arranged for €60 each way.
Lecce’s station is a 10-minute drive from the palazzo. Hop on a high-speed Trenitalia service in Rome or Naples, travelling as far as Bari, where you can change to a local service to Lecce.
You’re unlikely to need a car in Lecce, which is compact enough to see on foot. Villages like Ostuni and Polignano a Mare are well worth seeing, however, so your own set of wheels will come in handy for day trips. If you do bring a car, be aware that there’s no onsite parking at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
There’s not a huge amount to do at the hotel itself, mostly because the owners wanted to preserve the palazzo’s historic character and grand proportions. Guests come for the grandeur, peaceful atmosphere and modern art collection, which includes museum-quality sculptures. The concierge will happily take you on a tour of the building or arrange experiences like private dining with a personal chef. Beyond the hotel, the historic centre awaits. Lecce’s one-time mania for Baroque architecture certainly left its mark, earning it the nickname ‘the Florence of the south’. Many public buildings have lavishly decorated facades – highlights include the Basilica di Santa Croce, Chiesa di Santa Chiara 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. Sip your way around Salento with the Puglia Wine School, exploring some of the region’s smaller wineries, where the grapes are still harvested by hand. For first-rate seafood and fine sandy beaches, spend a day in nearby Gallipoli or Otranto. Talk to the hotel's valet team for the best driving routes and sights to see further afield.
For excellent pizza and pasta, try Torre di Merlino, which has arched stone ceilings and a shady terrace overlooking attractive Baroque buildings. The dining room at Trattoria Le Zie may look a bit like your grandmother’s sitting room, but this family-run restaurant is known for serving some of the best Puglian cuisine in the city. The staff are all women – le zie means aunt, after all – and are more than happy to guide you towards a few of their favourites on the menu. Switch things up with dinner at Nazionale, a modern, moodily-lit restaurant decorated in dark hues. Start with a cocktail at the sleek bar before tucking into their refined, mod-Puglian cuisine.
Having garnered rave reviews ever since it opened, hip cocktail bar Quanto Basta is widely regarded as the best in town. Owner Diego and his team are excellent hosts and first-rate mixologists, so if you can’t decide which of their creations to go for, let them pick for you – you won’t be disappointed.
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 palazzo in Puglia and unpacked their Puglian olive oil, a full account of their Baroque city break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Palazzo Bozzi Corso in Puglia…
It’s not easy to stand out from the crowd in Lecce, where most of the buildings were hewn from honey-coloured sandstone and worked on by master masons. But then Palazzo Bozzi Corso isn't the sort of hotel that comes about by taking the easy route. This 18th-century palace was bought by the team behind another Lecce mainstay, La Fiermontina, who set about a painstaking restoration project. Ceilings were plastered and parquet was polished, but every care was taken not to harm an inch of its history. The ornate façade, arched entrance and marble staircase are as grand as they were in the days when dukes came to stay, but they’re now complemented by high design from the current age – grey velvet armchairs, sculptural lamps and sofas with a mirror-like sheen. Better still, you can pick and choose just how much of each era you want: for maximum heritage, go for one of the Aristocratic Suites. If you prefer the sound of a private sauna and bubble-like armchairs, then the Wellness Suite is the one for you.