Sense-of-Place at Borgo Egnazia, Puglia, Italy  

by Anne Dimon

Vair spa, Borgo Egnazia

You can tell you are in a special place the moment the elevator doors open to reveal the circular, candle-lit entrance hall.

And, if you’re ever fortunate enough to find yourself at Vair Spa in Puglia, southern Italy, don’t be surprised when you find your therapist barefoot. I’m told that working in the spa without shoes underlies the basic philosophy of the spa—a state of nature. The word “vair” in Italian means “truth,” and being “true” to Puglia’s history and culture is the foundation and the focus of both the spa and its home, Borgo Egnazia.

The resort, which opened in 2010, features a welcoming design inspired by the shapes, materials, and colors of a traditional Puglian village. The elegant Vair Spa features 13 treatment rooms, the beauty area with its new Nail Lab, the fitness area with the gym and heated indoor pool, the new wet area with sauna, steam bath and the ice fountain, the relax areas with the Spa Bistrò and the unique Roman Baths deep in the heart of the spa.

The heated pool is one of Vair’s signature experiences, confirming that water is considered essential to wellbeing in Mediterranean culture. I was also delighted to discover a unique feature that I didn’t expect—a small theatre used for screening inspirational movies and offering healthy-living lectures.

Vair spa, Borgo Egnazia, Puglia

Against a contemporary backdrop of white, oatmeal, and wheat, natural elements are the decorating accents, like rock, jute, stone, tree branches, stone jugs of fresh almonds still in their shells, and glass jars filled with common sea salt crystals. My visit was during the summer, and the signature item was the lemon. Cheery, bright lemons were everywhere, set out in white bowls, stone jars, and glass vases of varying shapes and sizes. The fruit displayed always matches the season, I’m told. Depending on the time of year, you’ll see pomegranates or maybe green apples.

Music playing softly in the background is “les chanson de la nature” (the songs of nature). Everything here elevates the sense-of-place sensibility including the signature treatments using local products from Puglia, Southern Italy and the rest of the country.

Borgo Egnazia, Puglia, Italy

Since my visit several years ago, Vair Spa has renovated its two-level, 30,000- square-foot “wellbeing hub” and earlier this year, Borgo Egnazia has partnered with Blue Zones to offer a series of science-based wellness retreats focused on longevity. Blue Zones are the handful of places around the world (including Sardinia, Italy) where people are deemed to live the longest. Scheduled for Oct. 19-24, the upcoming five-day Blue Zones Longevity Retreats will feature cooking classes and health-conscious meals inspired by Blue Zones research, open-air movement sessions in the Puglian countryside, Blue Zones workshops, and special evening entertainment. Shorter, four-day Blue Zones Longevity Programmes with similar activities are also available at any time of the year.

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Anne Dimon is founder/editor of Travel to Wellness and President & CEO of the Wellness Tourism Association.