When I first stumbled upon Masseria Potenti, I was completely seduced…The idea of slow living in the breathtaking surrounds of the Mandurian countryside, nestled in a restored sixteenth century farmhouse, where the only requirements as a guest are to completely surrender to the elements, was a concept that I was drawn to find out more about. A family run farmstead, Masseria Potenti aims to inspire a complete immersion of the senses. A philosophy that triggered the concept of the boutique hotel in the first place. Guests are encouraged to indulge in slow living, slide into the natural rhythm of the day, enjoy communal dining and participate in Mediterranean inspired cooking classes that are as much about learning the importance of using seasonal, local produce as they are a chance to develop your culinary skills. What struck me most was the idea of establishing their boutique hotel was not something the family had ever anticipated. It was a decision that emerged quite organically. As Chiara Tommasino explains: It seems fate decided this life for us. It isn’t just work, but more a human experience that feeds our soul. I feel so fortunate for the encounter with the Tommasino family and the opportunity to share their inspiring story as part of my series: The Mediterranean & Me…
Tell me what inspired the concept of Masseria Potenti?
What inspired us was always the infinite love for our homeland, the Manduria area close to the Ionian Sea. We would never have imagined opening a hotel, but It was life that decided it for us. At the beginning we bought the Masseria just for hosting our friends from Milan during the summer. My parents moved there for work. My father is a psychiatrist and my mother was a lawyer. My brother Walter and I grew up in Milan, spending all the summer in Manduria, where all our relatives live. Living in Milan, a frenetic city where the chaotic life sometimes absorbs the pleasure of slow living, we always appreciated the humanity connected to our Apulian roots; the great Apulian sense of hospitality and generosity. This is why we decided to create a special place in Puglia, at the beginning to share just with our friends coming from Milan during the summer. After the first summer, friends of our friends asked to come as well and this was how everything started. And now we work by word of mouth based on our clients’ recommendations.
It seems fate decided this life for us and we are extremely happy and proud of our work, It isn’t just work for us, but more a human experience that feeds our soul.
There seems to be a natural gravitation for people wanting more soul enriching travel experiences. Particularly where they can reconnect with nature and feel the earth beneath their feet. What do you think this comes to suggest about our desire to feed the senses and nurture the heart space?
I think that what we are missing especially in the big city is human contact. The relationships between people, the recognition, the time for looking into the eyes. The humanity behind things and the taking care of people in all their diversity. This is our priority at the Masseria; to make all our clients feel at home, to tell them our story and share with them our culture. Because a trip is not just visiting a place but it is the meeting of different cultures, and from speaking to my guests I think that that is what they experience here.
Your emphasis at Masseria Potenti is for guests to immerse themselves in the: art of slow living…what do you want them to take away from this experience?
Just the sense of silence, of time and accepting nature. The sense of your own time and the pleasure of the little things that make us happy. The importance of being creative, not wasting time, postponing desires.
I imagine you’ve developed an intimate relationship with the land over the years. Tell me what this experience has come to reveal for you?
What I love about my life in Puglia is the light. It is warm, white and every day fills me with energy. My relationship with nature is expressed in continuous gratitude for a nature that keeps surprising me with its colours during the different periods of the year.
In May the fields are full of wild flowers, in June the fields are full of ripening wheat.
August is the sweet figs, September is the grape harvest and on every street you can smell the scent of grape must, October brings quinces and olives.
How does the influence of your surrounding environment fuel and enrich the creativity that is invested back into the projects at the farmhouse?
My mother and I are very creative and we both have a strong aesthetic sense.
We have different hobbies and in our work, but we are complementary.
The surrounding environment influences my mum’s floral decorations and my drawings. We love the nature and we are always inspired by it. Every day we change our floral decorations picking wildflowers in the morning from everywhere around us. I love to draw all the wedding invitations, all the menu cards and different table cloths for our guests. My mom loves to create every day new floral creations. Another place where the surrounding enters powerfully in our work is the kitchen. Another extraordinary gift that my mum has is the love of cooking. Cooking for her is the best medicine for the soul and the greatest manifestation of love for our closest ones. Her love for nature is also reflected in the kitchen where she creates delicious breads from all the herbs in our garden or exquisite tarts with fresh apricots and lavender flowers.
What have been some of your most memorable experiences shared here?
A client asks us to organize a dinner with a specific theme: Oleanders in Puglia. The Oleander deteriorates quickly, though it is one of our favourite flowers. This flower represents the South of Italy, especially the Apulian coast side. We love it for its tenacity, its warmth and resilience during our dry summer. For that occasion my mother and I in only 3 hours replicated an Oleander Apulian forest on our guests tables. I drew all the invitations by reproducing coloured spots like Oleander flowers on the sunny streets of Puglia.The event was magical, and our clients were super happy.
I think that succeeding in seeing happiness in people’s eyes is the greatest reward after a long and tiring day. There are many special encounters. I am lucky enough to meet some very special people as well, which is a great and beautiful feeling I now call these people friends.
Your paddock-to-plate approach to dining reflects traditional Pugliese cuisine with a twist. Tell me about your love for cooking, who have been your mentors in the kitchen?
My grandma always says: in Apulia you can die of everything, but never hunger! The sense of conviviality and sharing of food is part of our culture and love for cooking is something that is passed on from generation to generation.
Our mentor in the kitchen has always been our grandmother.
She makes dough every night before going to bed, leaving it to rise overnight to bake in the morning.
Bread for her was a metaphor for life. She baked believing it gave her strength, finding pleasure in cooking for her dearest family and sharing her bread with loved ones and with all the neighbours. During the week in her free time, she loves to make orecchiette, a kind of Apulian traditional pasta. Every day she makes a small portion of orecchiette and lets them dry under sun. A small quantity is enough to allow her to eat with all her nephews on Sunday lunch around a big table in her garden.
You host many events – from large communal dinners to celebratory engagements or a simple intimate dinner for two…The space you use to host these events is stunning…there’s always a lot of movement at Masseria. Given the emphasis on communal dinners, what Mediterranean inspired events are you preparing for at the moment?
Every week till the end of September we have intimate weddings for several days. Our brides come from all parts of the world. We have just had one amazing wedding with an all white theme from the Philippines. We give our clients exclusive use of the venue and plan every occasion with a personalized touch, making every event unique. Hiring the Masseria exclusively my mother and I plan to have a different theme every day with decorations and different settings. At the end of August, for example, we will have a long weekend with these different themes:
Wild crown flowers with a gypsy touch the first night, Dolce Vita Supper with the setting inspired by Federico Fellini the second night, and Vanilla theme for the wedding day.
Chiara’s Quick Tips:
What is your most memorable dining experience in the Mediterranean?
Mykonos Kiki’s tavern
Your favourite beach?
Chidro, a natural reserve nearby Masseria Potenti
Best accommodation experience?
When I was a teenager I used to go to the south of Corsica and spend several nights in the natural reserve camping. I love the memories of the nature and the sunset from my little tent.
Where in the Mediterranean are you heading to next?
I would like to explore the Tremoli islands.
Click HERE to find out more about hosting an event or staying at the stunning Masseria Potenti
Happy travels…Paula x