Glass embraces Puglian cuisine at the stunning Don Totu hotel

WEAVING through Puglia’s sunkissed countryside in autumn reveals its rich agricultural heritage, with swathes of crops – from olives and vines to pumpkins – and traditional trullo huts punctuating the landscape. It’s a beautiful time to visit one of Italy’s lesser-known regions with its sleepy villages and stunning coastline perfect for exploration without the crowds. Plus, it goes without saying that its super-fresh produce means Puglian cuisine is among Italy’s finest.

All of which makes taking a cookery course the ultimate way to discover the region at its best. Set in the heart of Salento – an hour from Brindisi airport in Puglia’s far south – Don Totu Dimora Storica hides itself from easy identification in the sleepy village of San Cassiano. But behind its barely-there façade lies a stunning boutique residence that mixes baroque decadence with pared-back luxury.

Pasta making

A former palace that dates back the 18th century, Don Totu’s walls are rough-hewn from Pietra Leccese stone and the space has been tastefully decorated with the owners’ eclectic collection of antiques and curiosities. The six rooms feature four-poster beds, standalone bathtubs and private terraces and each has a unique layout based on its former use. Elsewhere there’s a basement hammam, well-equipped gym and spacious jasmine-scented grounds that lead to the beautiful pool and pool house that features original artwork by David Hockney.

Swimming pool 2

Striking the middle ground between a traditional hotel and something more akin to an Airbnb, the attentive staff are there to serve breakfast in the morning before leaving guests to their own devices until mid-afternoon when ice cream is served by the pool and traditional aperitivi shortly after. This freedom to treat the space as your own adds to Don Totu’s appeal and although there’s no restaurant on-site, there are plenty of local dinner options in the surrounding towns and villages, ranging from friendly neighbourhood pizzerias to sophisticated seafood restaurants.


Unless, of course, you opt for the cookery class on offer at Don Totu. Headed up by local chef (and trained opera singer) Rafaelle, this day-long experience offers a flavourful insight into local cuisine. In the morning guests hit the road for a shopping trip, Puglian style, taking in a small-batch cheesemaker – where fresh ricotta is made daily – before heading to one of the region’s cooperatives, where, guests are guided by Rafaelle on the best seasonal ingredients.

Swimming pool

Back at Don Totu, dinner preparation begins in the farmhouse kitchen. Guests are set to work chopping chicory and courgettes, preparing salad dressings, marinating aubergine, soaking fava beans and learning the fundamentals of local dishes. The afternoon is dedicated to pasta-making, with a production line of students putting in the ground work for dinner with rapidly improving attempts of orecchiette and macaroni.

Don Totu lobby

The evening continues in the wine cellar with a journey through Salento’s excellent (and full-bodied) primitivos and negroamaros. By the time we’ve learnt how Puglia’s climate and terroir affect grape yields, it’s time for dinner, where the day’s dishes are served alongside a pianist and vocal accompaniment from Raffaele.


Beautifully paced and complemented by the chef’s good humour, it’s an inspirational and informative way to sample Salento’s cuisine and culture.

And we’ll raise a (full-bodied) glass to that.

by Ben Olsen

Rooms start from €170 per room per night B&B. Don Totu Dimora Storica  is available on an exclusive use basis year round (min stay 7 nights) and on a B&B basis from April  – October.


Tel: +39 836 992 374



Leave a Reply