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In order to practice agriculture, Apulia populations had to transform their territory more than other ones. Masserie (ancient farms) are the unique vestiges of this transformation, both for architectural evolution and socioeconomic organization in Apulia. Unmistakable mark of white grandeur, immersed in olive groves iridescent green, Masserie are an heritage of priceless cultural value. Rural settlements (castra – hamlets) were undoubtedly preferred by Normans even in uncultivated areas: after having fully checked up the defensive scheme of the whole region, they chose to build a fortification system. Beside Normans were religious orders, that in the same period became feudal lords and exercised control over huge portions of land, granting both spiritual and agriculture activities support to rural population.
immagineIn order to better understand the phenomenon of Masserie we must shortly refer to Royal Masserie and Transhumance, pointing how the founding of a special Customs for Sheep in Foggia in 1500 led to a distinction between “Sheep” Masserie, bound with the transfer of livestock and consequently equipped with shelters and rooms for the processing of dairy products, and “Field” Masserie, which were mainly involved in agriculture-related activities, such as the cultivation of olive groves, almond and carob trees, typical of our area.
Each Masseria is unequivocally a suburban architectural structure, i.e. built to be absolutely independent and safe enough to ensure its inhabitants: machicolations, hanging sentry boxes, secret communication trenches, slits, surrounding walls, ditches and drawbridges.
Real self-sufficient communities, the structure of the premises could be modified in case of need, even if always in full respect of the original unit, that usually were the fortified towers Alfonso V of Aragona wanted to be built along Apulian coast. Scholars have listed five generally accepted standards of Masserie: 1)Tower-Masseria; 2)Masseria with Tower, 3)Fortified Masseria without Tower, 4)Castle-Masseria, 5)Masseria without fortifications.
Even though put in a list, every Masseria has got its own special “construction liberty” that allows unique patterns for each of them as a final result, and the area of Fasano is truly rich of these majestic masterpieces.
immagineOlive mill is of great importance in Masserie of Fasano; its main feature is that of being “hypogeal”(located under the earth’s surface), i.e. entirely carved in the rock, and in some cases it is the same olive mill of ancient Rupestrian settlements around which Masseria has been built, so that Masseria itself is the natural evolution of rural populations’ lifestyle, from underground rocky hamlets to fully equipped and more logical units in Masserie.
In the last two centuries, due to the natural evolution of agrarian landscape and social - economical conditions in Apulia, and even if they remain basic in agriculture system, Masserie have known a big change of use: because of the new needs in organization of agriculture and mainly due to workforce huge mobility, they are not fully used anymore, but development of agro tourism and accommodation facilities in Masserie allow a worthy revitalization of the premises as well as the preservation of these real and true memorials to work and wisdom of men.