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Masseria Gargallo, part of The Thinking Traveller's Leopard Collection

THE HISTORY OF MASSERIA GARGALLO


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After the earthquake of 1693, the southeast of Sicily was an enormous building site. Magnificent new baroque towns – including Noto, Modica, Ragusa and Scicli - were under construction, and in the countryside, farmhouses were being rebuilt and transformed into masserie, a new form of rural architecture. 

The term masseria derives from the term “masserizia”, meaning general household possessions and assets (furniture, tools and machinery, livestock and crop stores). The new masseria, therefore, were designed to enclose all these elements within one construction. Many masserie, especially those belonging to wealthy noble families, featured protective walls and defensive towers designed to keep out bandits. Thus, at the end of a day in the fields, the farm manager, the farmhands and the livestock would retire to the safe confines of their masseria.

One such fortified masseria is our villa, Masseria Gargallo, which was built at the end of the 17th century, just after the 1693 earthquake. Masseria Gargallo takes its name from its last owner, Marquis Tommaso Gargallo, who purchased the estate in the early 19th century. The Marquis (Syracuse, 1760-1843) was a poet, scholar, landowner and local dignitary, whose noble ancestors had taken part in the Crusades. When not producing well-regarded translations of Horace, he dedicated himself to his estate and civic works, founding the town of Priolo Gargallo in 1807 and establishing a school in Syracuse soon after.

 

Masseria Gargallo, which is situated a few kilometres west of Syracuse, was the focal point of an impressive agricultural estate. It boasted strong perimeter walls, a series of large storehouses gathered round stone-flagged courtyards, a monolithic millstone for pressing olives, and a winery, all of which has been lovingly preserved by the present owner.

One of the many interesting architectural elements of Masseria Gargallo is the presence of a Maltese Cross testifying to the Gargallo family’s allegiance to the Order of the Knights of Malta.

The present owner, artist and goldsmith Massimo Izzo, has brought Masseria Gargallo back to life, carefully conserving its original fabric and imaginatively reinterpreting its many charms. What we find today is an homage to Sicilian craftsmanship, an exaltation of local architectural traditions, and an exploration of how stone, wood, fabrics, lights, colours, sounds and scents may combine to create a unique, thoroughly Sicilian home.

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