Insider's Guide to Spas
Vair Spa, Borgo Egnazia


Borgo Egnazia

Bernard Burt

Tapping into traditions of healing, Vair Spa at seaside resort Borgo Egnazia is a Roman holiday for 21st century sybarites.

Borgo Egnazia breaks new ground in Puglia, on the southern Adriatic seacoast. Amid olive trees, an ancient Apulian village appears. But this borgo, meaning village, only opened in 2010. Indoor and outdoor swimming pools, golf and beach options, add to the luxury of all-natural spa treatments. Olive trees shaped into grotesque sculpture by the seawind welcomed me to the Apulia region. Little did I expect to be immersed in olive oil at Vair Spa. An excellent moisturizer, olive oil infuses massages, facials, and food at Borgo Egnazia. For a fresh taste, drizzled on gelato! No wonder it’s called Apulian gold.

No big resorts, chain hotels, or massive holiday camps line this rugged seacoast. Borgo Egnazia takes its name from a Roman settlement, but the architecture, materials, and colors are inspired by a typical Apulian village. With the San Domenico Golf Club seaside spread across the road, you enter another world. Dazzling white, built of local limestone (called tuffa), the village looks like it has been there forever.

Conceived by a local family to celebrate Puglian heritage, the rustic atmosphere, baskets of lemons and apples, hundreds of candles, quickly relax visitors. Guest rooms—all white—have stone walls and furniture, canopied beds, private garden or balcony, bathroom with shower and tub, and a sophisticated TV system.

Vair’s 14 programs blend local traditions and a certain magic . . . This adds wings to a brave and poetic project, an amazing spiritual-alchemic spa, a beautiful location blended with nature, culture, and traditions.

Messages from the past add an air of mystery. Bundles are tucked into alcoves, pages flower on an olive tree, become sculpture under glass. Designed by local artist Pino Brescia, they whisper “remember.” The 50-year-old designer worked with traditional craftsmen on every detail of Borgo Egnazia, beginning when he was 36, and he still creates special events there.

Descending to Vair Spa, the elevator opens on a two-level spiritual place of healers and wellness-motivated therapists. “Vair means ‘truth’ in the local dialect,” explains spa director Patrizia Bortolin. Charged by owner Aldo Melpignano to offer unique treatments and surprising experiences, Patrizia brought together her team of 17, including a Sicilian expert in trauma recovery, Stefano Battaglia, named the “Shaman,” Gianni, a musician-psychologist, Giuseppe, artist-actor doing dance therapy, and dedicated therapists who discovered every muscular knot accumulated on my long flight. With 12 treatment rooms, relaxation lounge, yoga studio, and hydrotherapy pools, Vair takes spa to a new level.

Vair’s 14 programs blend local traditions and a certain magic. From modern exercise equipment to Roman baths, a sauna and Tukish steam room, manicure and pedicure area, you are guided gently in this 2,000-square-meter sanctuary. Programs lasting three to five days are personalized to make deep connections. English is spoken by the locker-room attendant, as well as therapists wearing Roman garb. This adds wings to a brave and poetic project, an amazing spiritual-alchemic spa, a beautiful location blended with nature, culture, and traditions.

Borgo Egnazia offers three types of accommodation: La Corte, the main building with 63 rooms; the Borgo village center surrounded by 92 houses; and 29 villas with gardens and pools. All include breakfast, a vast array of farm-fresh specialties displayed on white wooden tables amid a fashion show of Italians on holiday. There are six restaurants, including trattoria Mia Cucina (where the Melpignano cook prepares orecchiette pasta and other regional specialties) and gourmet Due Camini offering wine pairings. Bike rentals, tennis, and excursions to a cheese-making farm are on offer.

Located between Brindisi and Bari, Borgo Egnazia provides airport transfers (fee). Budget airlines Ryanair and Easy Jet fly from Rome, Paris, and the UK in about 90 minutes; Lufthansa connector Air Dolomiti from Munich.






Bernard Burt

Bernard Burt

Health challenges led spa historian Bernard Burt to Canyon Ranch in Arizona, inspiring his 1986 book "Fodor's Healthy Escapes" for Random House. The co-author of "100 Best Spas of the World" (Globe Pequot), his byline has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, American Health, Spa Management Journal, and on Based in Washington, DC, Burt is chairman emeritus of the Washington Spa Alliance and founding director of the International Spa Association.