‘An A-List fantasy of peasant life’: Inside the Puglian hotel hosting the G7 summit

Borgo Egnazia
What family-run, fairy-lit Borgo Egnazia lacks in authenticity it makes up for in panache

This year it’s Italy’s turn to host the G7 conference, which kicks off today (June 13). When Boris Johnson’s government did so in 2021, it was held at the Carbis Bay Hotel, a high-end seaside resort in Cornwall.

In 2022, Germany’s choice was the stately Schloss Emlau in the Wetterstein Mountains near the Austrian Tirol.

Italy has chosen to take the leaders of the free world to Puglia for the latest in peasant-chic glamour.

Built in 2009, Borgo Egnazia is part hotel, part stage set with a village square surrounded by a maze of passageways and arches, all dripping with bougainvillaea, interspersed with citrus trees and prickly pears.

The resort’s flagship restaurant, Ristorante Due Camini, has a Michelin star, but Domingo Schingaro’s food is matched by flagstone floors and lights made from empty wine bottles – the antithesis of bling, and all very “quiet luxury”.

The pizza at La Frasca ranks as one of my top 10 wood-fired dough-based experiences and there are four other resolutely Puglian restaurants to choose from, including seafood at the hotel’s own beach club.

Borgo Egnazia
There are a number of restaurants to choose from at the hotel

Side note: Rishi, if you’re thinking of combining G7 with one of your 36-hour fasts, you might want to postpone it until your return. Because you’re going to be having burrata for breakfast.

Add marinated artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes. And some focaccia, made with Egnazia’s own olive oil. Perhaps some salami too, followed by fruit or cake, all on the traditional glaze-splattered heavy plates from Puglia.

I’ve stayed at Borgo Egnazia twice and am hoping to make it there a third time later this year, because there’s something mildly addictive about the place. Wander around and you’ll see gnarled, centuries-old olive trees around the resort have been carefully levered into position and strung with fairy lights. (Fairy lights are very Puglia.)

Fans of historical accuracy may feel that the resort’s four sun lounger-crowded swimming pools, as well as the subterranean Romanesque spa, detract a little from the authenticity, but you’ll want to ignore that.

Borgo Egnazia may be about as faithful a recreation of an Italian village as Portmeirion in Wales is but – having been to both – Borgo Egnazia is just as joyous as its Welsh cousin and has proper Italian weather in summer.

Borgo Egnazia
Borgo Egnazia: Italy's answer to Portmeirion

The staff waft around in linen but do all sorts of lovely things, including remembering which room you loved last time. The occasional hand-painted sign will let you know if you’re heading in the right direction to one of the swimming pools or restaurants, but, as the person who showed me to my room said, it’s designed to mildly disorientate you so you get pleasingly lost. (The spads who will be racing around performing shuttle diplomacy may not be totally happy about this.)

Because – for security reasons – the area around the hotel will be in lockdown, the G7 attendees probably won’t be getting the quintessential Borgo Egnazia fiesta experience, which is a bit sad.

These are generally packed with both locals and guests, along with a collection of central casting nonnas in the square expertly making orecchiette pasta, plus fire eaters and dancing horses. These are held weekly and usually based on whatever food is being harvested at the time, from cherries in spring through to chestnuts in winter.

Borgo Egnazia is still family-run. Marisa Melpignano, now in her 70s, started by turning a family farm into a hotel in 1996 – now Borgo Egnazia, with 192 rooms, is run by her son Aldo.

Ristorante Due Camini
Ristorante Due Camini, the hotel's flagship restaurant

It’s fairly celeb-y – the Beckhams have stayed a couple of times at least. Madonna and family have also checked in; Sadie Frost was in situ on my last stay. For most American guests (of which there are many), it was put on the map after the 2012 wedding of Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel – the rumour is the on-site chapel was built for the nuptials.

It’s safe to assume that Sunak and his peers will be following in the footsteps of the A-list by bedding down in the big villas near the beach. I prefer the village houses, where the white-washed rooms eschew tired hotel art for displays of artisan-friendly bristle brushes and balls of string hanging from the ceiling.

The limestone and tuffeau stone walls are left unpainted and these are very, very restful spaces, with terraces and little gardens featuring lemons and herbs to pick. The overall is like a fantasy of peasant life.

Other hotels might devote themselves to delivering goal-oriented detoxes, but Borgo Egnazia’s most popular package is the Happiness Break.

Borgo Egnazia
Restful spaces abound at Borgo Egnazia

On it, a vintage Fiat is deployed to take guests to the resort’s own farmland where they can pick tomatoes, courgettes and aubergines, before a guide will whip up a picnic meal from the ingredients and open a bottle of rather lovely local Primitivo wine.

Another part of the package is a laughter workshop in which you essentially try to learn the famously energetic tarantella dance and (spoiler alert) realise it doesn’t matter that you’re never going to master this notoriously complicated set of steps.

I’d love to think that this quest for the simple pleasures in life is why Giorgia Meloni and her government chose to hold G7 at Borgo Egnazia.

Sarah Turner travelled as a guest of Borgo Egnazia (00 39 080 225 5000; egnazia.com), which offers B&B doubles from £365.