Before I first went to Puglia I was researching the region to put together the perfect itinerary. While doing this one thing stood out. The word Masseria was thrown around like it’s common knowledge. Meanwhile, I kept asking myself: ‘What is a Masseria?’
Now that I’m back from Puglia I can tell you what a Masseria is. In the southern parts of Italy and especially the Puglia region a Masseria is a farm. It’s a collection of buildings that served the farm and produced the local goods. Let’s take a look at how they came to be and what they are used for today.
Where to find Masserias in Italy?
A Masseria is a very typical sight in southern Italy. Most of them are in the Puglia region but you can find them traveling around Sicily and Campania as well.
Typically, a Masseria is outside of town. As it serves an agricultural purpose you will find them near vineyards, farmlands, and in the countryside.
What was the original purpose of a Masseria?
Let’s find out why the Masseria was built originally. We will take a look at the origins of the name and how these farms became so widespread in the region.
Origins of the name
The name comes from the word ‘masserizie’. This word literally translates to household goods. It was used to describe these stone buildings that they constructed to store, well household goods.
Originally you would find things like grain, food, tools for the farm, furniture, and generally speaking anything that needs to be stored inside and needs to be used on a farm.
The first Masserias
Originally they are from the start of the 16th century. Puglia has a lot of uninhabited lands and a great prospect for agriculture. This means that investors and nobility from the time were naturally interested in the land.
As these wealthy people started to settle in the middle of nowhere they needed full infrastructure. This is why many of the Masseria are like little villages. You had the main home that was the landowner’s loading.
Then you had the sleeping quarters of the farmers. They could be a collection of small huts or even a bigger hut that has many rooms. Add to this the stone buildings for stockpiling and animal shelters and you’ve got yourself a Masseria.
More than agriculture
Although the main purpose was building a working farm with everyone living on the lands as time progressed so did the Masseria.
Many of the Masseria looks like a fortress from the outside. This is no coincidence. Living off the lands in medieval times was not always peaceful. The fortified walls created safety and gave the Masseria a feel of a small castle.
As the nobility in the region has money to travel and visit friends many of the Masseria was upgraded. These healthy agricultural families had the money to expand and entertain. In the areas where the land was most fruitful and agriculture prospered the Masseria started to look like a villa with lavish interiors and beautiful exteriors.
Decline and repurpose
During the downfall of feudalism and the wars, many Masseria was abandoned. Once the owner’s family left the land the villagers moved on as well.
Luckily the favorable Puglia weather and sturdy stone buildings are a good combination. Many of these farms survived and people began repopulating them in the early 20th century.
What is a Masseria used for today?
Most of the Masseria serve a tourism purpose today. As you travel the countryside of Puglia you will see the signs for rooms to let in the many Masserias of the landscape.
The most basic purpose became a simple B&B. As these farms were essentially tiny villages they can host multiple people in different rooms. A Masseria is a prime location for agritourism in southern Italy. Tourists love to visit these cute and atmospheric places and we can’t blame them.
Staying in a Masseria is awesome. Oftentimes the atmosphere is extremely romantic and it’s always very authentic to the region.
However, if you think these are some run-down old farms then think again.
Reborn and renovated
We’ve mentioned that many of the Masseria started their new life as a simple B&B in the beginning. However, homeowners and investors quickly realized the potential.
These places are often closed off due to the fortifications and walls. This means seclusion inside an extremely charming and atmospheric location. Lately, the Masseria started to take on a boutique hotel approach.
They renovate the buildings inside to give them a new feel while maintaining the charm. The exterior stays mostly the same, but the owners add nice decor and lighting to complete the romantic feel.
The interior is where the magic happens. Owners will make totally new interiors for the buildings inside the farm. They will use luxury materials and luxury furniture. This creates an end result that’s both beautiful, atmospheric, and very lavish.
Sprinkle some customized service and super friendly staff on top and you’ve got yourself a boutique hotel that your guests will love. It is true, if you want to experience agritourism at its finest then you must stay at a Masseria whenever you are visiting Puglia.
Why should you stay in a Masseria?
In short, because it’s awesome. It is one of the few places in the world where you can experience something that’s very close to a rustic medieval lifestyle. Of course, you will have all the amenities that you desire, but the location and the atmosphere are there.
They are very romantic places so we can safely recommend them to couples. There are also all kinds of Masseria hotels from the cheaper option to the full-on luxury suite. Whatever your budget is you can make an effort to find a Masseria that fits it.
Weddings in southern Italy
One more very popular use of the Masseria today is hosting weddings. Whether it’s a destination wedding for a foreign couple or a local wedding there are tons of great Masseria to choose from.
If you think about it, it’s truly a great place for a wedding. Often closed off from the public areas. Multiple buildings are available so there’s a place for the diner the dancing and even sleeping for people.
The location is romantic by default. Somehow in the modern world, these small farmhouses that are oozing with a rustic atmosphere are considered highly romantic. This is a byproduct of city living, but we can’t help it. We are absolutely in love with the Masseria as well.
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Agritourism at its best
As you can see these ancient buildings have survived the test of time. Not only that but they are used even today. When I first asked the question: ‘What is a Masseria?’ I had no idea what kind of answer I will get.
The real answer is a delight. We here at TopFlightsNow absolutely love when things like this happen. Repurposing old and defunct buildings into something new and beautiful. We are always an advocate for sustainable tourism and this is a great example.