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How to enjoy wine and carbs on an Italy holiday while keeping wellness in mind

Simon Calder’s Travel

Food, and taking pleasure in it, is inextricably linked to Italian culture. As a wine lover who has never met a carb I didn’t like, visiting Italy is fantastic – but I return from trips feeling lethargic with overindulgence rather than that post-holiday glow I had hoped for.

Puglia, in southern Italy’s rustic heel of the “boot”, is known for its sweeping coastlines, ancient olive groves, rolling wheat fields, baking sunshine and a host of Unesco world heritage sites. Famed for producing wine, olive oil and bread (it is nicknamed “the breadbasket of Italy”), its hotels are now increasingly offering a range of activities to complement the Mediterranean lifestyle. I headed there to see if I could balance my wine with my wellness, and return from holiday feeling refreshed and revitalised for once. Yes, I wanted to drink and eat my way around sea views of the Italian coast, but I was also keen to embrace the healthier side of the local scene.

My first stop was the effortlessly elegant five-star Masseria Torre Maizza, designed by hotelier and interior designer Olga Polizzi. Just over an hour’s drive from Bari’s airport, the blazing white 15th-century fortified farmhouse rises above an ancient grove of olive trees.

The room’s private plunge pool looked out onto the nine-hole golf course, with views of the sea where one can practise a swing, or simply take an easy stroll to admire the scenery, before heading to the restaurant, Carosello. Here, humble traditional Puglian fare is given an upscale twist, with organic vegetables, local cheeses and handmade pasta elevated to fine-dining dishes of intense flavour and style.

Raising the bar: A place for drinking at Masseria Torre Maizza
Raising the bar: A place for drinking at Masseria Torre Maizza (

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A lot of Italians believe the reason they remain so healthy despite all the food is the quality of their produce. The hotel’s general manager Franco Girasoli told me their chef goes to market every day at 4am to get the freshest fish and seafood, such as pearly plump scallops or the famously melt-in-the-mouth branzino. At breakfast, I sipped orange juice overlooking the citrus orchard, where the fruit had just been plucked. Nestled behind these trees was a small but well-equipped outdoor gym, and beside this the most incredible 20-metre swimming pool. Dragonflies skimmed across the surface, azure…

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