So Just What is a Masseria?
A masseria is basically a fortified farmhouse. They are commonly found in southern Italy, particularly Puglia and Sicily. The masseria is closely connected to the concept of the Latifondo. A Latifondo (latifundium in English) is a vast agricultural estate usually given over to pasture. This dates back to when land was worked by slaves in ancient Roman times.
The landowner, usually a member of the aristocracy or bourgeoisie, kept the estate simply to get a good return from it. He wasn’t particularly bothered about the agricultural aspect, which crops were best for the particular terrain or anything like that. More often than not any innovations in farming methods passed the latifondo owners by.
The masserie (plural, in Italian of masseria) belonged to these large estates. Sometimes they were occupied by the owners themselves, but more often by the farmworkers. Depending on the area, they were occupied seasonally, the animal stalls used to store winter food and harvested crops.
The main construction period for the masserie was the 16th and 17th centuries. This was the time when the nobility colonised vast areas of the unoccupied southern Italian and Sicilian hinterland. They were given the rights to farm by the Spanish rulers who needed more grain. They build inside the existing latifondo areas long since abandoned.
You can still see many examples of these vast properties today in Sicily and Puglia, particularly in the countryside around areas of Taranto, Brindisi and Lecce.
The Layout of a Masseria.
The typical masseria was closed to the outside with the openings facing an internal courtyard. These perimeter walls also served as a fortification against any intruders and were easily defended, particularly as they had no external openings.
A large strong barred entrance door was used to enter the masseria and to allow access to carriages and carts. Living quarters were on one or more floors, with the landowner living on the upper floors and the farmworkers occupying the ground floors, which were also used for storage and garaging of the carriages. There were also various stables for horses and mules and housing for rabbits and chickens around the central courtyard.
A Masseria for the Twenty- First Century
More and more abandoned masserie are being bought up and restored to become homes or bed and breakfasts and hotels.
As a modern twist on these old buildings, you can buy a modern masseria constructed using traditional methods from local stone, but with all the 21st-century mod cons you would expect.
Click here to find out more.