The History Buff's Guide
A History of Puglia’s Charming & Traditional Masserie
If you’ve been to southern Italy or have fantasized about taking a trip to the region, you probably noticed some curious structures dotting the pastoral landscape. Throughout Puglia, large expansive properties, featuring magnificent white estates and conical huts (a-là-Dr.Seuss), appear and recede from view over each successive hill. So, what’s the deal behind these enchanting and traditional buildings?
They’re known as masseria (pl. masserie). The term is derived from another Italian word, masserizie, which means household goods or furnishings. The very definition sheds light on their historic function: Most popular between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, masserie were used as farmhouses. The smaller, conical trulli were typically used to store grain, crops, or livestock, while the principle building housed the owners and farmhands (sometimes year-round, and sometimes only during the summer months for the growing season).
It was not uncommon for these estates to take on a fortress-like appearance; defensive walls and lookout towers were constructed to deter would-be invaders, most notably pirates and Ottoman Turks. For context, the Apulian masserie are perhaps most similar to the American plantation or Spanish hacienda.
There is something charmingly contradictory about the utilitarian masserie. The arched ceilings, spacious rooms, and marble floors lend a luxurious touch to these stone and stucco structures. Many of them feature a central fireplace that once served to heat the entire dwelling. The bright interiors and white facades add a sense of the light and airy, while hints of accent colors provide a characteristic Italian warmth.
Renewed interest in the traditional farmhouses was ignited sometime in the 1990’s. A movement to restore the structures and turn them into artisanal shops, boutique hotels, B&B’s, restaurants, or museums began — and the restoration has certainly paid off.
Today, many of the messerie have been carefully restored to their former glory, with the addition of modern amenities, manicured gardens, and yes — even swimming pools.
Tourists looking for off-the-beaten-path rental accommodations need look no further than the messerie. Many of them still operate as farms, producing goods like olive oils, wines, meats, or cheeses. This gives guests the opportunity not only to eat fresh, but to support local business and experience Italian food culture first-hand. Some messerie even offer cooking classes for the more gastronomically-oriented traveller!
Perhaps another reason the resurgence has been so successful is thanks to the pastoral and idyllic surroundings on which most messerie are built. Visitors will find a sense of peace and tranquility in the gently rolling hills and verdant green valleys. Beaches and other UNESCO World Heritage Sites are also never far away.
An Unmissable Experience
Now that you know a bit about these cultural and historic landmarks, wouldn’t it be nice to holiday in one? Fortunately, you can! Booking your one-of-a-kind vacation rental at a masseria is easy with THE STELLA. Check out our curated collection of exquisite home rental properties, like Messeria Torre Abate Risi in Fasano.