This past Tuesday night I attended a cultural event at the Embassy of Italy in Washington, DC. I had found out about it through Piazza Italia, Washington, DC Italian Language Cultural Group. I had joined the group some times ago, however I had not participated to any of their events yet. I am glad I did this time!
First let me tell you that I LOVE the architecture of the Embassy of Italy, not to be partial, but I think it is the most beautiful Embassy in DC.
Rizzoli New York and the Embassy of Italy had organized a cocktail reception to celebrate the publication of the book ” Masseria – The Italian Farmhouse of Puglia” .
How appropriate that I am in the process of designing a trip to Southern Italy – specifically in the Regions of Campania, Basilicata, and Puglia – for the Institute of Learning in Retirement (ILR) in Frederick, MD, where I teach few classes.
Now, you are probably looking at the book cover and asking yourself: what is a Masseria? Let me tell you just few words about it. The Masseria is a sort of fortified farmhouse typical of the Puglia region and mostly located along the Via Appia (Appian Way) – the ancient Roman road.
The Masserie originated during the feudal period. Each Masseria is almost like a small self-sufficient world within the vast land. Although they all served the same purpose – house, farm, chapel, stable – the Masseria’s typologies vary with the historical period – from seventeenth century to late nineteenth century – the geographical location, and therefore the different agricultural activities: herding and durum wheat in North-West Murgia, wine and olive in the South-East and in the Salento. Along with the Trulli – and often in conjunction to – the Masseria are the most distinctive architectural models of Puglia. They range from rustic to luxurious and each is unique. Note that the Trulli, one of the best example of vernacular architecture, in 1996 have been included in the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Centre.
Back to my evening; the event started with the book presentation that took place in the Embassy’s auditorium, which was furnished with comfortable Poltrona Frau seating – fancy! Good thing I sat comfortably, the presentation – in typical Italian style – started fashionably late. Delivering the presentation was the book’s project director, Signora Cristina Rizzo, a charming woman that appeared to prefer to be away from the spotlight.
Signora Rizzo explained that the idea of the book came from a short visit to her friend in Puglia. She said that once in the presence of this unique reality within that beautiful landscape, she immediately knew that she wanted to produce a book about it.
Signora Rizzo went on to explain that since not all the Masserie have been restored/maintained to their original conditions, selecting the Masserie to be featured in the book, had not been an easy task. The shooting of the pictures alone took 4 months.
The book is lovely. It is full of amazing photographs – by Mark Roskams – of a large number of Masserie and it also includes a well written introduction by Diane Lewis that also provides a short description of each depicted Masseria. I would have probably liked to read a little more in-depth details about the history and the stories behind the Masserie; this is, however, a beautiful coffee-table book.
After the presentation the approximately 90 attendees gathered to the central hall to enjoy red and white wine from the Puglia Region. I opted for the red and it was very pleasant; shame on me that I forgot to take note of the wine. . . too busy mingling and dispensing business cards to promote my lovely blog!
Although I was a little disappointed that Mrs. Diane Lewis was not there to present the book herself, I had a very enjoyable evening. I finally met some members of Piazza Italia, I got myself a wonderful book, and something new to share with you.
NOTE: Some of the Masseria have recently been converted into agriturismo, boutique hotels, and luxury resorts.
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