A project inspired by a love of nature and history
Tenuta Monacelli: a story to tell
Located north-east of Lecce, this magnificent farm complex has a closed-courtyard design, originally comprising a Tower, a mill, animal pens, and an outside well. In later times, the building was extended, with the addition of other accommodations on the left side of the tower. A statuette protected the entrance door, while the facade was adorned with four coats of arms, indicating the families that owned the property over the course of time.
Sadly, these have been irretrievably lost, and the whole farm complex has long been subject to the ravages of time. The entrance is defended by a battlement with two embrasures.
Part of the courtyard is occupied by a large semi-underground olive-mill.
In the ancient “Platea” of the Abbey of Cerrate, dating from 1692, it is referred to as the Masseria Torricelli.
The estate then belonged to the Cigala family, barons of Castro, but in 1775, it was listed among the properties owned by the Convent of the Dominican Fathers of San Giovanni d’Ajmo, the Order of Preachers. This considerable estate included sixteen enclosures for a total area of over 320 “tomoli”, which contained 11,423 olive trees to the value of 481 “macine” (millstones), 177 holm oaks and 100 fig trees.
In addition to the payment of tithes in fruit to the Monastery of S. Maria in Cerrate, it was also subject to the payment of “erbatica” (one sheep or goat every year), “carnatica” (one piglet from every sow’s litter) and “monta” (all the cacio and ricotta cheese obtained from one day’s milking).
On the right side of the tower stands the Chapel of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, built in 1758, which was visited on March 10th, 1888 by Mgr. Luigi Zola, Bishop of Lecce. The Bishop found the altar in good order, except for the painting above it, which was in need of restoration. The chalice was good but needed to be cleaned, the chasuble restored and the missal remade; the gloria cards were in need of renewal but the linen cloths were good. A bell gable stands on the right side of the Chapel.
In 1891, the farm belonged to Signora Lucia Saluzzo, Princess of Bagnara.
In 1912, it was still the property of the Princes of Ruffo and Bagnara.
During the period of land occupation, the peasants of Surbo and other neighbouring villages invaded and occupied large uncultivated portions of this estate.
Known by the name “Municeddri”, it now belongs to Signora Annalisa Fedele Piccini, whose determined efforts have resulted in renovation of the whole masseria complex and reconstruction of the olive groves.
It is one of the sixteen farm complexes which belonged to the feud of the Abbey of S. Maria di Cerrate; the most important in terms of the type of land involved and its location. Indeed, it is situated beside the old road between Lecce and Cerrate.
It is a simple building complex featuring a monumental 16th-century tower with many battlements, including one over the entrance door. There was also a drawbridge-style door in the middle of the landing at the top of the staircase (now gone). The entire area of the courtyard is taken up by two very fine and unusual “trappeti” – underground olive mills.
In 1608, the property was owned by the Tafuri family, who sold it to Giandomenico Cigala for 7800 ducats in 1616. It was then inherited by his son Bernardino.
This huge farm complex, originally known as “GioPaulo”, included at this time, in addition to the tower-building: “eight “case terragne” (mud-brick houses), huts, well and “trappeto” (underground olive-press), “palombaro”, two gardens with common trees and oven and mill in working order”. It was an enclosed complex built around the tower, the main hub of the system and point of reference for all the various farm activities.
In 1690, Giò Cigala, probably Bernardino’s son, sold the Masseria to the Monastery of San Giovanni di Lecce for 9500 ducats.
With the abolition of ecclesiastical property, the farm passed to the State, and in 1866 was bought by Giuseppe Libertini. In a state of great disrepair, it was bought in 2000 by Signora Annalisa Fedele Piccini, who, by means of careful and non-invasive reclamation work, managed to restore the Tower and adjacent buildings to their original state.
Masseria GIAMPAOLO has regained its ancient splendour. Activities in relation to the land have also flourished, with the great olive groves, the lush Mediterranean scrub-land, and all the smells and colours of nature. It is easy to understand the strong bond that always connected people to their land here in the south.