The esteemed sport of polo is not usually associated with peaceful Puglia. Yet its ample outdoor space, scenic landscapes and plenty of ponies lend themselves perfectly to the sport, and more and more Puglians are taking an interest in this exhilarating equestrian pastime. One man, Nino Piccolo, is leading the charge in bringing polo to Puglia, having founded the Polo Degli Ulivi, whose polo field is adjacent to Masseria Torre Maizza. We sat down with Nino to find out more about what makes polo so special, who can play and how guests can play upon their next stay with us.
Why did you found the Polo Degli Ulivi?
“I have played polo all my life. Whenever I am not working [Nino is an architect living in Milan] I play polo. I love Puglia and I’ve spent countless summers there, but the only thing missing was polo, so I decided to introduce polo to Puglia and create the association Polo Degli Ulivi. Polo had never been practiced south of Rome so this was a very big milestone for me. It was a great way to combine two things that are dear to me: polo and Puglia. It was great to introduce the culture of polo to a region that did not really play it before.”
How has the response been?
“Extremely successful. I started small by organizing a tournament with other players but then the interest increased and I ended up doing numerous tournaments also featuring international players. The tournaments are great both for players and fans—they are amazing all-day experiences which also involve fun events such as gala dinners, lunches, etc. I also wanted to introduce the tradition and glamour of polo, so guests must respect a formal dress code. Ladies, for instance, are expected to wear hats and we also give out prizes for the best-dressed guests to make it even more entertaining.”
Can anyone play polo?
“We offer all types of classes: for individuals, for groups that have no experience whatsoever, and for those who know how to ride but have never played. People tend to think of polo as a very difficult sport and people that do not ride would never think of playing polo – I want to change this mindset. I often have clients that have never been on a horse before and by the end of the lesson they are able to hit the ball down the grass field. For the more experienced players, we can do tournaments or just offer them the chance to practice their game. We cater to all requests and all age groups, and welcome children from 5-6 years of age.”
What do you like about polo?
“Polo is a thrilling, fun and exciting sport which builds trust, confidence and teamwork. Hence it is a great team building activity as it produces better communication and creates unique bonding experiences. Whilst promoting teamwork, it is also a very personal sport in which the player builds a relationship with the horse that becomes his or her extension. It is also a great way to enjoy the outdoors, and Puglia is the ideal backdrop. I have played pretty much everywhere around the world, but trust me when I tell you that to play polo amongst ancient olive trees is quite extraordinary.”
Book a stay at Masseria Torre Maizza and try polo for yourself under the tutelage of an expert player. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book.