Autumn in the land of olives (photo gallery)

Although our luxury hotel, Borgo Egnazia, had wonderful views of the Adriatic Sea, it was actually a fair distance from the hotel to the beach and the village — just the right expanse for a lovely morning bike ride.

The older an olive tree is

The older an olive tree is

Although our luxury hotel, Borgo Egnazia, had wonderful views of the Adriatic Sea, it was actually a fair distance from the hotel to the beach and the village — just the right expanse for a lovely morning bike ride.

As we peddled along the edge of the road, we passed enormous olive trees and fields filled with workers busy harvesting fresh romaine lettuce and other vegetables.

We stopped and watched as they carefully stretched microfibre nets on the lower branches of one of the larger olive trees as part of the harvesting process. Olive trees are abundant in southern Italy and about 60 per cent of the extra virgin olive oil produced in the country comes from Puglia — the best of which is harvested by hand using nets.

The rich clay-based soil and the temperate climate are likely responsible for the region’s long history with olive production, but at least one local legend blames the church. According to our tour guide, in ancient times when a person committed a serious sin, it was a common practice for the priest to require the individual to plant an olive tree as penance. The fact that there are more than 85 million trees in the region may indicate that a lot was going on a few hundred years ago.

After riding along the front of the property for a short while, we decided to take a short cut along a service road that cut through the 18-hole San Domenico Golf Course.

Golfers also tend to rise early, but late autumn is low season and the course was relatively quiet on that particular autumn morning.

The golf course provided a wonderful vantage point to photograph our hotel, which looked like a Moorish castle in the distance behind us.

As we entered the village, we road along the waterfront and stopped for a long while to watch the fishermen preparing their vessels for the day. Although tourism has provided a new source of income for many locals, fishing remains an important industry in this small village and the harbour is alive with activity every morning.

We had planned to make a stop at the beach club affiliated with our hotel, but checking our watches we realized that we had spent so long observing the goings on in the fields and at the harbour that we were going to have to make a difficult decision — the beach or breakfast.

Because I love food, breakfast won out. Since we had biked all around the countryside, we felt like we’d earned it.

Borgo Egnazia

Borgo Egnazia is one of the newest and most luxurious hotels in the whole of southern Italy. Opened in May 2010, it lies mid-way between Bari and Brindisi, the two major international hub cities in the southern corner of the country.

It is really more of a resort than it is a hotel thanks to its many amenities, which include a state-of-the-art wellness centre and spa, three restaurants, a beach club and a professional golf course, where guests get a discount on green fees. It is surrounded by gardens and olive groves and its beach club sits of one of the most beautiful stretches of beach on Puglia’s Adriatic coast.

The word “borgo” is Italian for “village” and this posh retreat resembles a traditional Puglian village with a collection of cream-coloured tufa-stone buildings set on 49 acres of olive groves and farmland surrounded by rock walls.

The use of local materials and designs gives the development a sense of place and you get the feeling it has been in this spot for a long time, even though it is brand new.

On the inside, it is decorated with cream-coloured linens and various artfully displayed found objects such as stacked newspapers, rusty keys and books bound with string.

Lantern-lit hallways wind through the borgo and lead you to restaurants, gardens, two large pools and the Roman-bathhouse inspired wellness centre.

Perhaps the best indication of the quality of a particular accommodation is the level of service it offers. On the morning of our bike ride, a hotel staff member we had spoken to the evening before was up and had the bikes ready to go. He was incredibly helpful in offering suggestions as to where we might go and what could be seen in the area nearby.

The resort also offers supervised children’s activities led by English-trained nannies and a complimentary shuttle to its beach club.

The onsite signature restaurant Due Camino, which means “two fireplaces,” has a seasonal local menu and food prep is supervised by Michelin-star chef Mario Musoni. There is an exceptional regional wine list and a sommelier to assist with recommendations.

A cooking school allows guests the opportunity to learn to master some of chef Musoni’s excellent local dishes and take a little of the region home to their own kitchens.

If you go:

• Autumn rates at Borgo Egnazia start at 215 euros per night. A variety of specials and packages are on offer during the autumn season, including a free night promotion where you stay three nights and pay for two, golf packages, and a unique olive harvest package that lets you discover the art of oil making in the traditional Puglian way. The olive harvest package includes two nights accommodation, along with excursions to experience the harvest and production of olive oil, oil tasting, spa treatments and cooking classes and costs 595 euros per person.

• To get to Borgo Egnazia, you would fly into either Bari or Brindisi and then rent a car. There are several flights from Rome to either city daily. The resort makes a good upscale home base when exploring the nearby tourist cities of Alberobello and Ostuni.

• For reservations or information, visit or call 39-080-225-50-00.

Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email: or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.